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Surname:  O'Murphy
Branch:  O'Murphy
Origins:  Irish
More Info:  Ireland

Background:  Murphy is much the commonest surname in Ireland: birth registration statistics indicate that of, a population of 4 millions, no less than approximately 55,000 are Murphys. The name, with which the prefix O is never used nowadays, may be either O Murchadha or Mac Murchadha in Irish (See MacMurrough, below). It arose independently in several parts of Ireland: there are, for example, indigenous septs so called in counties Tyrone and Sligo, both these are unimportant in comparison with the great Murphy clan of Leinster. This was centred in Co. Wexford. The Chief of the Name is O'Morchoe, an otherwise obsolete form in English. Birth statistics indicate that Murphy is the place in Co. Carlow. The surname, however, is even more numerous to-day in Munster than in Leinster, particularly in Counties Cork and Kerry. This Munster sept, which is associated particularly with the barony of Muskerry, Co. Cork, is said to be a branch of the Kinsella section of the Wexford clan. Their arms, however, are quite different from those of the Wexford Murphys. The Ulster sept of Murphy mentioned above as belonging to Co. Tyrone is still numerous but is now more common in the adjacent county of Armagh, where in fact it is first in the statistical list.

A chief named Flatherty O'Murphy is recorded in the Annals of Tir Boghainne, I.e. the modern barony of Banagh in Co. Donegal, so that it will be seen that the Murphys were and are widespread in Ulster also. As might be expected in the case of a name as numerous as Murphy the references to prominent persons of the name in the Annals are frequent throughout the centuries, both of the Leinster and the Ulster septs, for the most part to chiefs and soldiers; but there are others, e.g. Domhnall Dall Ua Murchadha "chief sage of Leinster" who died in 1127. Passing on to more modern times a few names may be selected to illustrate the extent to which the Murphys have contributed to the political and cultural history of the nation. Wexford produced the best known of these: the two Catholic priests who lost their lives in the 1798 Rising - Rev. John Murphy (1753-1798) and Rev. Michael Murphy (1767-1798).

Of the many Co. Cork Murphys who have distinguished themselves we may mention John Murphy (1700-1770), better known as Sean O Murchadha na Raithineach, last chief of the Blarney bards; Canon Jeremiah Murphy (1848-1915) and Most Rev. John Murphy (1772-1847), Bishop of Cork, both of whom were remarkable not only for their scholarship but also for the extraordinary fine libraries, including Irish manuscripts, which they possessed. Marie Louise O'Murphy (1737-1814), beautiful daughter of an Irish soldier settled at Rouen, was an influential mistress of Louis XV. Her features are immortalized in many paintings by Boucher, whose model she was. John Murphy (1755-1836), was a famous sea captain; James Cavanagh Murphy (1760-1814), first a bricklayer, later an architect, was a leading authority on Spanish, Moorish and Portuguese architecture; and finally there was William Martin Murphy (1844-1921), business magnate and leader of the employers in the great Dublin strike of 1913. The Ulster Murphys have been less prominent: Arthur Murphy (1727-1805) was an actor and dramatist of some note; Rev. James Gracey Murphy (1808-1896) was a Hebrew scholar; and Patrick Murphy (1834-1862) was remarkable for his immense height, being eight feet one inch tall. Many Murphys of Irish emigrant families have also been outstanding in various phases of life in America and Australia, and appear in the regimental lists of the Irish Brigade in the service of France.

Motto:  Fortis et hospitalis, Brave and hospitable.
Arms:  Quarterly, ar. and gu. on a fess sa. betw. four lions ramp. counterchanged three garbs or.

View the Heraldry Dictionary for help.

Murphy is by far the most frequently found surname of Irish origin with well over 50,000 bearers of the name in Ireland alone. This name is derived from two distinct Gaelic septs. The first of these was O'Murchadha and the second was MacMurchadha. The name is taken from words that translate as 'sea warrior'. Murphy is only very occasionally rendered as O'Murphy or MacMurphy. Other variants of this widespread name include Murphey, Murfee, Morphy and O'Morchoe.

There were septs in Counties Tyrone and Sligo but by far the most important sept was located in Leinster Province, and especially in County Wexford. A sept is similar to a clan, and refers to a group of people who inhabited the same locality and who shared the same name. In modern times the name has become even more associated with the Munster Counties of Cork and Kerry than its originating County of Wexford. The Munster sept of Murphy is a branch of the Kinsellas who also hail from the Wexford Murphys. The northern Murphys are today most often found in Counties Tyrone and Armagh.

It is impossible to discuss the origin of the Murphys without also mentioning the MacMurroughs. The most famous (or infamous) was Dermot MacMurrough who was partly responsible for the Strongbow Anglo-Norman invasion of 1170. Dermots grandfather was Murchadha whose original sept split into three branches giving the MacMurroughs, the Kinsellas and the Kavanaghs. His brothers are the origin of the O'Morchoes and MacDavie Mores, who changed their original names to Murphy and Davis respectively. All of these families are most associated with County Wexford.

The Wexford Murphys held territory in the barony of Ballaghkeen, formerly known as Hy Felimy from one of the sons of Eanna Cinnseallaigh, the fourth century ruler of Leinster. Their chief seats were located at Morriscastle, Toberlamina, Oulart and Oularteigh. The last chief to be elected by the ancient Gaelic method of tanistry was Murtagh who in the year 1461 adopted English law entitling him to leave his lands and property to his descendants. His ancestor Donal Mor O'Morchoe was overthrown at the end of the sixteenth century and his lands confiscated. The Murphys of Oularteigh retained their lands and remained there up to modern times. A Tipperary branch of the Murphys had their land confiscated by Cromwell.

Famous Murphys throughout history include Domhnall Dall Ua Murchadha who was 'chief sage of Leinster' in the year 1127. Two Catholic priests were killed during the Wolfe Tone 1798 rebellion, they being Rev John Murphy (1753-1798) and Rev Michael Murphy (1767-1798). Sean O'Murchadha (1700-1770) was the last chief of the Blarney bards in Cork. Marie Louise O'Murphy (1737-1814) was a daughter of an Irish soldier at Rouen and became mistress to Louis XV. Patrick Murphy (1834-1862) was remarkable for his height of eight feet one inch. The Ladys Well brewery that produces Murphys Stout was founded in 1856 by James Murphy. William Martin Murphy (1844-1921) was the leader of the employers against the strikers in Dublin in 1913. Michael Murphy (cir 1837-1893 in County Tipperary) was an Irish recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest British award for gallantry. Audie Murphy (1924-1971) was the recipient of America's highest award known as the Medal of Honor and remains one of the most decorated soldiers in US history.

Over the centuries the name Murphy has been spread by emigration to England, Australia, Canada, America and beyond with the influence of bearers of the name being found in every sphere of life.

Name Variations:  O'Murphy, Murphy, Morchoe, Murfie, Murfree, Morfie, Morfey.

One or more of the following publications has been referenced for this article.
The General Armory; Sir Bernard Burke - 1842.
A Handbook of Mottoes; C.N. Elvin - 1860.
Irish Families, Their Names, Arms & Origins; Edward MacLysaght - 1957.
The Surnames of Ireland; Edward MacLynsaght - 1957.

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