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Murphy, Edwin Greenslade (Dryblower) (1866–1939)

by Arthur L. Bennett

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986

Edwin Greenslade Murphy (1866-1939), by Dease Studio

Edwin Greenslade Murphy (1866-1939), by Dease Studio

National Library of Australia, nla.pic-an23479575

Edwin Greenslade (Dryblower) Murphy (1866-1939), journalist, was born on 12 December 1866 at Castlemaine, Victoria, tenth child of Irish-born Edward Murphy, plasterer and clay modeller, and his English wife Ellen, née Greenslade. He had five years schooling at South Melbourne—his handwriting remained almost illegible—before going to work for his father in City Road. He spent some time in Gippsland and then used his pleasant tenor voice to join the chorus of the Gilbert and Sullivan operas being presented by J. C. Williamson. Murphy was attracted to the gold discoveries in Western Australia; he carried a swag 350 miles (563 km) from Perth to Coolgardie, arriving in 1894. He did a little dryblowing at Fly Flat, and enjoyed the nightly sing-songs around pub pianos.

Murphy helped Billy Clare to launch his Coolgardie Miner, contributing a weekly gossip column, including jingles, using the pen-name 'Dryblower'. This originated when a friend sent one of his rhymes to the Sydney Bulletin, saying that it had been written by a local dryblower; Murphy used the name for the rest of his life.

He went north-east to the new find at I.O.U. (Bulong) where, with two mates, he struck a rich patch at the end of 1894, dollying gold worth about £2000 (a tidy sum for penniless prospectors). With one of the mates he set off in March and floated the mine, the Esmeralda, in London. It slumped and he came home, but soon returned to England where he wrote for financial and social papers and helped to expose the hoaxer Louis de Rougemont before conducting him on a lecture tour.

In London Murphy enjoyed the theatre, especially Gilbert and Sullivan operas, in which he sometimes sang; he sent articles home about 'Fogopolis', as he called the city. On 25 September 1895 at Hackney Register Office he married Emma Eleanor Lowndes, daughter of a retired builder, and returned to Australia at the time of the South African War. Inspired by English patriotic fervour, he wrote a song, 'Hands Across the Sea', which was set to music by George Snazelle, a popular operatic figure. Returning to parched red soil from lush England, 'Dryblower' wrote 'The sun is flooding this gasping globe with myriad miles of flame'.

His crisp, humorous writing won him a job on Kalgoorlie's weekly Sun, where his chief regular feature was 'The Mingled Yarn'. After a few years he moved to Perth's Sunday Times, his 'Verse and Worse' column containing gems of satire. As co-proprietor with J. E. T. Woods, in April 1905 he founded the penny Sporting Life, to print racing news; it only ran for a year and Murphy returned to the Sunday Times where he had to write so as 'to make profits for MacCallum Smith', the owner. He also produced a column on theatre. Murphy continued this work for over thirty-five years, occasionally missing a column when, as he said, celebrating unduly.

'Dryblower' wrote local content of songs for visiting musical comedy companies; when in 1908 the American fleet arrived, one of his lines, 'We've Got a Big Brother in America', was repeated widely. In World War I Murphy worked indefatigably for patriotic causes and his poem, 'My Son', inspired by his son Harry's enlistment, was greatly admired. Like many Australian humorists of the period Murphy responded to and encouraged popular sentiments of racism and jingoism.

He published a novel about Coolgardie, Sweet Boronia, in 1904. Four years later his Jarrahland Jingles appeared; it was one of the first books of substantial verse published in Western Australia and contained a preface by C. W. A. Hayward that applauded Murphy's 'playful banter' and 'stinging satire', but Hayward noted that much of it was 'quick pressure work' and gave only two poems real praise. Murphy's verses became better known than those of any other Western Australian writer and in 1926 he published Dryblower's Verses.

Public men feared his lampooning pen, which did not deter him from running in 1934, unsuccessfully, as an Independent candidate for the Senate.

This exuberant raconteur was thickset and ginger haired with an aggressive turned-up nose; he was drawn by a cartoonist in 1907 with full drooping moustache, thumbs stuck boastfully in his waistcoat, straw boater and tight stove-pipe trousers. He died of cancer at East Perth on 9 March 1939, survived by his wife and three sons of his five children; 'Dryblower' was buried in the Anglican section of Karrakatta cemetery, having left an estate of £288.

Select Bibliography

  • V. Courtney, All I May Tell (Syd, 1956)
  • B. Bennett (ed), The Literature of Western Australia (Perth, 1979)
  • A. L. Bennett, Dryblower Murphy—His Life and Times (Perth, 1982)
  • Bookfellow, 30 May 1907
  • Daily News (Perth), 9 Mar 1939.

Citation details

Arthur L. Bennett, 'Murphy, Edwin Greenslade (Dryblower) (1866–1939)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/murphy-edwin-greenslade-dryblower-7702/text13485, published in hardcopy 1986, accessed online 3 September 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986

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