Michael Murphy

Marine - HMS Sirius


The young Michael Murphy doubtless had an adventurous streak as he abandoned his trade of cordwainer - a leather worker, or shoemaker – for a career in the Royal Navy.


For his time he was a relatively tall man of 5ft 8ins, thin faced and of dark complexion, with grey eyes and dark brown hair. He was born in Wexford, Ireland most probably in February 1758 so was about 21 years of age when he enlisted in the Portsmouth Marines as a private on 3 July 1779. (Records of 16th September 1808 give his age as 50 years and six months.) Between 1780 and 1783 he saw service in the West Indies where the sun and heat and colour must have seemed as far removed from the mists of Ireland as it was possible to be. In 1785 he was back in Britain, serving on the Portsmouth guardship Ardent.


He was a Private from the 41st Company when he joined HMS Sirius at Portsmouth on 24th February 1787 as part of the ship’s marine complement. He was No 22 in a list of 23 Marines which included a Second Lieutenant, a Sergeant, a Corporal and a ‘Drum’. Also on board was Samuel King from the 50th Company who was to become a dear friend of Michael’s. The Captain was Arthur Phillip.


The British Government had begun assembling what would become known as the First Fleet at the beginning of 1787. The Sirius was one of two Naval ships, the other being the Supply. There were three stores ships – the Fishburn, Golden Grove and Borrowdale, and six convict transports, most of which had been black slavers and consequently conditions below decks were cramped and unsavoury, to say the least. These ships were the Alexander, Scarborough, Charlotte, Lady Penrhyn, Prince of Wales, and Friendship.


The assembled fleet set sail at dawn on a pleasant Sunday morning, 13 May 1787, after many delays, travelling via Tenerife in the Canary Islands where they broke their journey briefly, to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil where they arrived on 4th August, a journey of 12 weeks. After a month at anchor there re-provisioning the ships and collecting various seeds and plants for food crops in the new colony, they departed for Capetown and the Cape of Good Hope. They arrived in October and again spent a month resting and taking fresh food and water on board, as well as further useful plant material. They set out on their final long leg of the journey on 12th November, and reached their destination some eleven weeks later, the ships arriving between 19th and 23rd January 1788. They began offloading on 26th January, now celebrated as Australia Day.


Later that year, on 30th August, Michael Murphy, Private Marine on board His Majesty’s Ship the Sirius, Captain Arthur Phillip Commander, No on the Marine List 22 ………. made, declared and published  his last will and testament in favour of his “beloved friend Samuel King”, in the presence of John Hunter 2nd Captain and John Palmer, Purser. Michael was illiterate, so he ‘signed’ with his mark. 


The following year, on 5th June, Michael was discharged from the ship’s books to the Port Jackson detachment. He continued his service career, doing duty on board the Gorgon while she was in port, from 31st October to 11th December 1791, joining the NSW Corps on 6th April 1792 and serving his five years until April 1797. On 6th April 1798 he received a land grant of 60 acres on the Georges River in the district of Bankstown, at a rent of 1 shilling per year commencing after 5 years, and eight months later, in January 1799, he and Stephen Gilbert shared a grant of 200 acres, also in the district of Bankstown at a rent of 2 shillings per year commencing after five years. This grant was subsequently cancelled when Lieutenant Matthew Flinders was granted 300 acres on 1st January 1800 including the Murphy-Gilbert land which he purchased from them.


A new century had dawned, and Michael rejoined the Corps on 6th February 1800, becoming a member of the 102nd Regiment in which he served in Van Diemen’s Land until the Corps was recalled in 1810. At that time he applied for transfer to the 73rd Regiment, but was instead transferred to the NSW Veteran Company and remained in VDL. At this time he was about 52 years of age.


It is not known how, when or where Michael Murphy and Hannah Williams met, but it is assumed that their relationship began some time soon after she arrived in the Colony in December 1801. Their first child, Ellen, or Ellinor, was born about 1803, and their second, another daughter named Elizabeth, in 1804.


Also in that year a new settlement was established by Colonel Paterson in Van Diemen’s Land, at Port Dalrymple. Michael, as a member of the 102nd Regiment, went on the Buffalo from Port Jackson to Port Dalrymple, accompanying the Lady Nelson, Integrity, and Frances. It is highly likely that Hannah was one of the contingent of convicts which also made the journey; there were 74 convicts in all but it is not recorded if they were male or female.  Certainly she was with Michael, as the births of their subsequent children attest.


Twelve months after their arrival in VDL, Colonel Paterson wrote to Earl Camden describing some of the difficulties they had encountered, and indicating that he considered these to be largely overcome. Buffalo had brought “a proportion of such stores and provisions as could be spared, 120 ewes, 2 rams, 6 cows, 2 bulls, 1 mare, and 1 horse: 50 prisoners were also sent.”  Some five free settlers also arrived, allotments were chosen and measured out and “everyone exerted themselves as much as possible.” Unfortunately many of the blocks proved to be unsuitable for cultivation – the lots on the hillsides produced poorly and those on low ground were subject to flooding. Col Paterson recommended that, as the first settlers, they be compensated for their losses by being granted better blocks on the banks of the Tamar River.


It was quite common in the early days, when ministers of religion were few and far between, for couples to commence their life together until such time as it was possible to have their union formalised. This was probably the case for Michael and Hannah. On 10th March 1811 Michael Murphy and Hannah Williams, both of Launceston, Port Dalrymple, were married after banns by Robert Knapwood MA. Both signed with their mark, and the witnesses were Maj Commandant G A Gordon, and ? Kenny. On that day their daughters Ellinor, Elizabeth, and two more, Mary and Jane, were baptised. There were two more children – a son, Michael, reportedly born about 1812 and baptized at St John’s Launceston on 13 March 1814, and Maria, born circa 1814.


From this time on there is some doubt about the exact movements of Michael. As previously noted, he transferred to the NSW Veteran Company and is recorded as serving back in New South Wales, at Parramatta, between 1814 and 1816, and at Emu Plains until his death in 1823. A land grant of 100 acres was made to a Michael Murphy at Parramatta in 1809 – whether this is the same man or not is unclear. There are various other records of land held by Michael Murphy - in October 1816, 35 acres at Appin; in 1820, 81 acres by grant plus 50 purchased at Parramatta. There was at least one other Michael Murphy in the colony at the time, so some of these parcels of land may not have been ‘our’ Michael’s.


Michael died on 10th January 1823, aged 63, and was buried the following day at St Matthew’s, Windsor. The transcribed death certificate supplied is made out in the name of Archibald Murphy. Researchers who viewed the original document, or a photocopy, stated that the name was abbreviated and that there is a strong similarity between that for Archibald and that for Michael. There are no records of an Archibald Murphy.


Submitted by

Gayle Thomsett FF Associate # 2038.1

Jeff Thomsett # 2038 FF Nathaniel Lucas, Olivia Gascoigne and Michael Murphy


References    (Cited in general order of use. Details of all not available.)


1 Mollie Gillen The Founders of Australia – A Biographical Dictionary of the First Fleet Library of Australian History, Sydney 1989  p 259

2   Extract from the Muster Rolls of HMS Sirius  May 1787 – February 1788 PRO Reel  6030 Mitchell Library.

3   P McKay ed. A Nation Within a Nation – The Lucas Clan in Australia  2nd edition  2004

4   Photocopy, Will of Michael Murphy. Public Record Office  ADM48/58

5 R J Ryan, BA ed. Land Grants 1788 – 1809. A record of registered grants and leases in NSW, Van Diemen’s Land and Norfolk Island   Australian Documents Library, Sydney  Griffin press Ltd

6   D Beddoe  Welsh Convict Women  copy in Soc Of Aust Genealogists Library, Sydney. P64

      Also,   HO 11/1 PRO Reel 87 (UK researcher)

7   Muster 1811, Port Dalrymple VDL PRO reel 77, Mitchell Library.

8  Ida Lee FRGS  The Logbooks of the ‘Lady Nelson’ with the Journal of her first Commander Lt James Grant, RN  Copy in State Library of Tasmania  p 318

9   Marriage certificate M Murphy & H Williams  1811

10  Baptism record Michael Murphy (Jnr) 1814

11  Death of Michael Murphy, PRO reel 418, WO 12/11229  1823

12  Transcript death certificate ‘Archibald’ Murphy

13  Hobarttown Gazette Saturday August 1, 1818. No 114



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