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William Murphy (1919–1988)

by Brett J. Stubbs

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James Patrick Murphy (1914-1988) and William Murphy (1919-1988), mineral sands mining entrepreneurs, were born on 25 January 1914 and 16 June 1919 respectively, first and fourth of eight children of Irish-born William Murphy, police constable, and his Queensland-born wife Agnes Mary, née Scanlan. Both boys were born in Brisbane, Jim at Red Hill and Bill at Teneriffe. They and their brother Thomas Joseph (1915-1999), born on 10 June 1915, also at Red Hill, were educated from 1926 at St Mary’s Christian Brothers’ College, Ipswich.

Bill attended Queensland Teachers’ Training College and in 1936 was appointed a teacher in the Department of Public Instruction. Jim, an electrical contractor at Coolangatta, married Kathleen Murphy, a clerk, on 19 November 1938 at Our Lady of Victories Catholic Church, Bowen Hills, Brisbane. In 1939-40, while installing equipment for a mineral sands mining company at Cudgen, northern New South Wales, he recognised the potential of the deposits, took up his own leases, and went into the mining business in partnership with his wife. The firm, known as Tweed Rutile Syndicate, produced its first mixed rutile-zircon concentrate in 1943. In 1949 Tom joined the company, which was re-formed in December 1951 as NSW Rutile Mining Co. Pty Ltd.

On 4 July 1949 at the general registry office, Brisbane, Bill had married Monica, née O’Brien, formerly Hammond, a widow and a flat-proprietress. Having taught at several Brisbane and country schools, he resigned in 1952 to work with his two brothers in the mineral sands business. He was divorced in 1960 and on 7 May that year at St Columba’s Catholic Church, Wilston, Brisbane, he married Patricia Waugh, a clerk-typist.

Early in the 1960s the Murphys expanded their business to include new leases elsewhere in northern New South Wales and in Queensland on Curtis, Fraser and Moreton islands. Central to their strategy was the acquisition of reserves of ilmenite, an impure but much more abundant form of titanium dioxide than rutile. Murphyores Inc. Pty Ltd was formed in March 1963 to advance the family’s Queensland interests. It sponsored work by the division of mineral chemistry, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, aimed at developing a process to upgrade ilmenite to the equivalent of natural rutile.

A new company, Murphyores Holdings Ltd, was formed in December 1967 to acquire the two existing companies. Jim Murphy was appointed chairman and Bill managing director; Tom became a board-member. A public share offer was made in March 1968, but the brothers retained a majority of the shares. In 1970, after the sale of most of the company’s New South Wales assets, mining and milling operations ceased at Cudgen. That year Jim resigned because of ill health; Bill succeeded him as chairman and continued as managing director. Also in 1970, the company entered into agreements with Mitsubishi Chemical Industries Ltd in Japan for the commercialisation of the patented Murso process for upgrading ilmenite, and with a joint-venture partner, Dillingham Constructions Pty Ltd, for the mining of the Fraser Island leases. Mining began in 1975 but terminated abruptly when the Commonwealth government revoked export approvals for minerals extracted from the island after the end of 1976. This effectively rendered valueless Murphyores’ major asset. The legality of the government’s action was unsuccessfully challenged in the High Court of Australia. The company eventually accepted a meagre $1 million in compensation in 1984.

Undefeated, early in the 1980s Bill Murphy transformed Murphyores into a land development company. Tom retired as a director in 1982. In November 1984, after Pivot Investments Pty Ltd acquired a controlling interest, Bill was replaced as managing director, but he remained chairman until 1986, then continued as a board-member of Pivot Group Ltd until his death. Establishing the mining exploration companies Augold NL and Zapopan NL, he was founding president of the Minerals and Energy Club of Australia. He died of haemochromatosis on 22 November 1988 at Clayfield, Brisbane, and was buried in Nudgee cemetery. His wife and their son survived him.

Jim Murphy was for many years principal shareholder of Murphyores. Divorced in 1975, on 18 November 1976 at St Paul’s Presbyterian Church, Brisbane, he married Alice Frances Small, née Meadows (d.1986), a divorcee and an investor. He died on 9 July 1988 in South Brisbane, and was buried in Allambe Garden of Memories cemetery, Nerang. The two sons and two daughters of his first marriage survived him. Tom Murphy died on 12 July 1999 at Scarborough, Queensland, and was cremated. His wife Dorothy Katherine Crosser Craig, whom he had married on 23 August 1947 at Holy Rosary Catholic Church, Windsor, Brisbane, and their son and two daughters survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • W. Morley, Black Sands (1981)
  • Murphyores Holdings Ltd, Annual Report, 1968-85
  • Sunday Mail (Brisbane), 9 Feb 1986, p 34
  • Courier-Mail (Brisbane), 25 Nov 1988, p 5.

Citation details

Brett J. Stubbs, 'Murphy, William (1919–1988)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2012, accessed online 24 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (Melbourne University Press), 2012

View the front pages for Volume 18

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

William Murphy, c1968

William Murphy, c1968

State Library of Victoria, H38849/3136

Life Summary [details]


16 June, 1919
Teneriffe, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia


22 November, 1988 (aged 69)
Clayfield, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

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