Dictionary of Irish Architects 1720 - 1940

Building contractor and entrepreneur. William Martin Murphy was born in 1845, the eldest son of DENIS WILLIAM MURPHY DENIS WILLIAM MURPHY , builder, of Bantry, Co. Cork, by his wife Mary Anne, daughter of James Martin of Castletownbere, Co. Cork. He was sent to Belvedere College in Dublin at the age of thirteen and on leaving school became a pupil in the office of JOHN JOSEPH LYONS JOHN JOSEPH LYONS , simultaneously attending lectures at the Catholic University. The death of his father in 1863 forced him to return to Bantry to take charge of the family business and complete various contracts on which his father had been engaged. He expanded the business so successfully that in the 1870s he moved its headquarters to Dublin.(1) By March 1881, when he applied for membership of the Institution of Civil Engineers of Ireland(2) he had become involved in the promotion and construction of tramways and was director of the Dublin United Tramways Company. After visiting the United States in 1895 he pressed for the adoption of traction by electricity rather than by horses, and the system was rapidly electrified. By 1901, according to the Irish Builder, the Dublin United Tramways Company had provided Dublin with 'the most complete and up-to-date system of electrical street traction in the British Empire'. As well as being the prime mover of the development of the Dublin tramway system, Murphy was also responsible for the construction of railways elsewhere in Ireland(3) and of tramway systems in Belfast, Cork, England, Scotland and Africa.

In addition to his contracting activities Murphy was a co-founder of the Dublin department store, Clery & Co. and the proprietor of the Independent,(4) Evening Herald and Irish Catholic newspapers. From 1885 until 1892 he was Member of Parliament for the St Patrick's division of Dublin. He was the originator and chief promoter of the Irish International Exhibition of 1907 but refused a knighthood from Edward VII in the same year. As a leading business man in the city, he was one of the chief opponents of the workers during the Dublin strike of 1913.

Murphy died in 1919.(5) He had married in 1870 Mary Julia (d. 1900), daughter of James Fitzgerald Lombard, of South Hill, Co. Dublin, by whom he had four sons and three daughters.

ICEI: elected associate, 6 April 1881;(6) council member, 1900.(7)
RSAI: elected member, 1 July 1874, having been proposed by JOHN SWAN SLOANE. JOHN SWAN SLOANE. (8)

Addresses: Work: 39 Dame Street, <=1881->=1918.
Home: Dartry, Rathmines, <=1883 until death.



All information in this entry is from Jones's transcripts from two unnamed sources, one of which is probably the Belevedere College magazine, and from the biography in E. Macdowel Cosgrave, ed., Dublin and County Dublin in the Twentieth Century (1908), 127, which is illustrated with a portrait photograph. Another photograph accompanies an article on the Dublin United Tramways Company in IB 43, 19 Dec 1901, 967.

(1) He does not appear in the Post Office Dublin Directory for 1875, but is possibly the 'William Murphy, architect' who, in November 1875, had charge of the arrangements for receiving Foley's Grattan statue and mounting it on its pedestal in College Green (see IB 17, 15 Nov,1 Dec 1875, ?,339).
(2) ICEI membership applications, II, 90.
(3) Jones lists the Wexford & Rosslare, Clara & Banagher, West Clare, Mitchelstown & Fermoy, South Clare, Tuam & Claremorris, Skibbereen & Baltimore and Bantry Extension railways.
(4) IB 47, 14 Jan 1905, 29.
(5) This is the date given by Jones; however his second unnamed source gives the date as 1921.
(6) TICEI 13 (1879-81), ?.
(7) TICEI lists of officers.
(8) JRSAI 13 (1874,1875), 151.

Author Title Date Details
Bielenberg, Andy 'Entrepreneurship, power and public opinion in Ireland;  the career of William Martin Murphy'
2000 Irish Economic and Social History 27 (2000), 25-43.