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Bennett (Barney) Murphy (1888–1964)

by R. C. H. Courtney

This article was published:

Bennett (Barney) Murphy (1888-1964), teamster, farmer and soldier, was born on 19 June 1888 at Geraldton, Western Australia, son of Andrew Murphy, farmer, and his wife Emma, née Snowdon. He was educated at Chapman Valley, near Geraldton, to about fourth grade and after leaving school worked as a teamster and farmer in the Murchison and Gascoyne areas. He trained teams of camels, horses and donkeys but is particularly remembered for a team of large camels (said to be the best in the Murchison district) which he trained for carting copper from the mines around Meekatharra.

Murphy left his team at Peak Hill to be sold and joined the Australian Imperial Force as a private at Blackboy Hill on 2 June 1915. He was tall, active, a keen athlete, a horse-breaker and champion roughrider. He enlisted as Bernard Francis Murphy and used this first name for the rest of his life, though he was usually called Barney. He embarked from Fremantle on 22 July for Gallipoli with the 2nd Reinforcements for the 28th Battalion. After the evacuation of Gallipoli and training in Egypt the battalion was transferred in March 1916 to France. During the next twenty months Murphy fought with the 28th in France and Flanders through the battles of Pozières, Bullecourt, Messines and Passchendaele and was promoted corporal and sergeant in October 1916. In March 1917 he was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for gallantry, especially for volunteering to lead dangerous patrols. His coolness and daring were again recognized in December when he gained valuable information during scouting patrols and was awarded the Belgian Croix de Guerre.

In January 1918 Murphy volunteered for a special mission with Dunsterforce (British Army) which was to serve in Persia, Russia and Armenia. Selection for the contingent was confined to outstanding soldiers and Murphy was one of the twenty Australian non-commissioned officers sent to England for training. He served with Dunsterforce until March 1919 and fought in actions at Kermanshah, Hamadan, Kazvin, Zenjan, Takan Tepe, Sain Kala and Miandoab. On 6 May 1918 he was in a small party covering a withdrawal at Samkaleh and because of his courage and determination the enemy attacks were beaten back. For his part in this action and for aiding a wounded officer when practically surrounded by enemy troops he received a Bar to his D.C.M.

Murphy was discharged from the A.I.F. in June 1919 in Perth. With little money and without a team of horses or camels he worked as a horse-breaker and station-hand near Carnarvon. In 1922 he acquired land under the soldier-settlement scheme and established Erong station. That year he trained a number of prize racehorses including the first official winner of the Landor Cup. On 30 January 1924 he married Ethel Maud Trenaman at Christ Church, Nannine; they had three sons and a daughter. In 1944 Murphy leased Madoonga station, purchased it a few years later and lived there until retirement in 1952. He sold Erong in 1948 and bought the adjoining property, Kalli; both properties were managed separately by his sons Bernard and Stanley until 1974 when Madoonga was sold.

Barney Murphy retired to a small property at Armadale which he worked as a hobby farm. He also pursued his interest in horse-racing and joined the Western Australian Turf Club; he had been a member of the Murchison Race Club while living at Madoonga. In 1959 he moved with his wife to St James, a suburb of Perth. He died on 3 December 1964 in Hollywood Repatriation Hospital and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • H. B. Collett, The 28th (Perth, 1922)
  • C. E. W. Bean, The A.I.F. in France, 1918 (Syd, 1937)
  • West Australian, 9 Dec 1964
  • war diary, 28th Battalion, AIF (Australian War Memorial)
  • private information.

Citation details

R. C. H. Courtney, 'Murphy, Bennett (Barney) (1888–1964)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1986, accessed online 16 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (Melbourne University Press), 1986

View the front pages for Volume 10

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