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Daniel Murphy (1815–1907)

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Daniel Murphy (1815-1907), Catholic archbishop, was born on 15 June 1815 at Belmont, County Cork, Ireland, son of Michael Murphy and his wife Mary, née McSweeney. Educated at a local seminary and Maynooth College, he was ordained priest on 9 June 1838. Refused permission to go to Australia with Dr W. Ullathorne, he volunteered for missionary service under Dr John Fennelly, vicar-apostolic of Madras; he reached India in 1839 and was sent to Hyderabad. In 1845 Rome agreed to Fennelly's request for Murphy as his coadjutor bishop. Murphy went to Rome and thence to Ireland where he was consecrated on 11 October 1846 at Kinsale. Nominated vicar-apostolic of Hyderabad he served until 1864 when he resigned because of ill health and returned to Ireland.

Murphy was named bishop of Hobart Town and with his nephew Father Michael Beechinor as chaplain sailed for Melbourne in the Great Britain. He arrived at Hobart in April 1866 and was installed on 6 May. Despite opposition from his predecessor, Bishop R. W. Willson, he was followed in October by another nephew Father Daniel Beechinor and by his sister Mother Superior Frances Murphy and four other Presentation Sisters. In 1867 Murphy authorized the first issue of the Tasmanian Catholic Standard, devoted to the defence of the Holy See, and began the fight to retain state aid. He organized massive petitions against the state aid commutation bill which received the royal assent in 1869. Instead of an annual grant of £3466 the Church was given £23,106 for permanent endowment. After the withdrawal of state aid to denominational schools he built up a system of education. In the early 1870s he strongly objected to the direct tax on Catholics for support of public schools. He fought to establish the Christian Brothers' St Virgil's College but it was not opened until 1911.

In 1869-71 Murphy attended the Vatican Council in Rome and voted for papal infallibility. In 1877 he appealed for funds to rebuild St Mary's Cathedral after its 'utter instability' had been exposed. In 1868-80 Daniel Beechinor had charge of the cathedral and was succeeded by Father P. Gleeson, another of the bishop's nephews. After the shooting of the Duke of Edinburgh in 1868 Murphy had tried to calm sectarian passions by preaching against Fenianism. In July 1879 when the Canadian lapsed priest, Charles Chiniquy, lectured in Hobart, Murphy was praised by Governor Weld for preventing bloodshed. He persuaded a large gathering of armed Catholics in the Domain not to march to the Town Hall which was guarded by Orangemen; instead they escorted the bishop home. In 1882 he made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and visited Rome.

In 1888 Murphy celebrated his golden jubilee as a priest and was granted the title of archbishop honoris causa. On 12 May 1889 Cardinal Moran conferred the pallium on him. Autocratic, stubborn and devious, Murphy was opposed by fourteen of his twenty-two priests when he tried to have a bill passed giving him sole control of church property. He had four nephews who were priests in Tasmania and was often accused of nepotism. In 1892 he again visited Rome and tried to have Daniel Beechinor appointed coadjutor but after petitions to Rome from his priests Bishop Patrick Delaney was appointed in December 1893 to assist the ageing 'nephew-ridden' Murphy.

A fine horseman, Murphy was also an astronomer. In 1892 he impressed the Australasian Science Association Congress meeting in Hobart with his paper on solar phenomena and their effects and in 1895 addressed its Brisbane congress on the conservation of solar energy. Courteous and endowed with lively humour, he frequented Government House. In 1896 he celebrated his episcopal golden jubilee. He died at Low Head on the Tamar mouth on 29 December 1907 and was buried at Hobart.

Select Bibliography

  • P. F. Moran, History of the Catholic Church in Australasia (Syd, 1895)
  • M. Beechinor, Memoir of Archbishop Murphy (Launceston, 1916)
  • J. N. Molony, The Roman Mould of the Australian Catholic Church (Melb, 1969)
  • W. T. Southerwood, Planting a Faith in Hobart (Hob, 1970)
  • Votes and Proceedings (House of Assembly, Tasmania), 1867 (19, 38), 1873 (79), 1875 (61)
  • Australasian, 31 Oct 1896
  • Argus (Melbourne), 30 Dec 1907
  • CO 280/387.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

'Murphy, Daniel (1815–1907)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1974, accessed online 18 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, (Melbourne University Press), 1974

View the front pages for Volume 5

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Daniel Murphy (1815-1907), by unknown photographer

Daniel Murphy (1815-1907), by unknown photographer

Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts, State Library of Tasmania, AUTAS001125882845

Life Summary [details]


15 June, 1815
Belmont, Cork, Ireland


29 December, 1907 (aged 92)
Low Head, Tasmania, Australia

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