Tom Cunningham – Belfast – April, 2007.

The Diary of Piers Murphy – 1st cousin of Catherine Marmion.

The first of Canice O’Mahoney’s articles dealing with the history of the Murphy family of north Louth appeared in the County Louth Archaeological and Historical Journal of 1974; the second article dealing with a diary kept by a member of the family appeared in that of 1997.

Irish families until recent times when naming their children repeatedly used the same Christian names generation after generation. To depart from this naming pattern, unless there was a good reason for doing so, was regarded not only as a break with tradition but a disloyalty to those who had gone before. Christian names common within the mother’s family were acceptable but only if sparingly used and given to younger members of the family.

The Murphy family held to this tradition. In almost every generation we find a Piers, Catherine, Henry, Esmay, Jane, Bridget and an examination of the family tree will reveal others.

To distinguish those bearing the same name and their relationship to one another To facilitate name recognition and to determinate family relationships I have included the family tree used in ‘The Genealogy of a North Louth Family’. The Piers Murphy who kept the diary is marked with an ‘X’ and Catherine Marmion’s mother, Bridget, is underlined.

The diarist was a son of Henry Murphy and his wife Jane Clinton. Catherine’s mother Bridget was his aunt thus making Catherine a first cousin. To complicate things further a glance at the family tree will show another Murphy brother marrying a sister of Jane Clinton – two brothers marrying two sisters.

The diary does not add much more to the history of the Murphy family than that previously outlined in ‘The Genealogy of a North Louth Family’. We do however find mention of a Mrs. and Miss Digby. A Mrs. Digby had been mentioned in the ‘Cumberland Letter’ written to Catherine following her return to America after visiting Ireland in 1839. In the letter Mrs. Digby was described as Catherine’s aunt – presumably she was another sister of Bridget’s. A number of Digby families are to be found, for the period in question, living in the nearby counties of Meath and Westmeath. Some of the Digby men served in the British Navy and at least one was a minister in the Church of Ireland.

The diary covers a four year period beginning in 1858, approximately ten years after the end of the ‘great famine’. Economic conditions had gradually improved during the 1850s and this is reflected in the lifestyle described in the diary. The farm although small by American standards, close on 150 acres, was much larger than the average Irish farm of the period and allowed the family to enjoy quite a comfortable lifestyle. They frequently entertained family and friends on a grand scale. On a Sunday in June, 1859, forty guests sat down to dinner. Shooting parties and passers by were often invited in on the spur of the moment and offered refreshments.

Piers engaged in mixed farming, growing wheat, barley, oats, hay and clover, together with potatoes, turnips and cabbages. He also kept pigs, sheep, cattle and several draught and riding horses. In his garden he grew rhubarb and gooseberries, these he shared out among his neighbours. Mixed farming in those years was fairly labour intensive and he describes one occasion when he had twenty five men reaping and tying oats in the ‘Big Meadow’. Such a scene inspired many a poet and artist!

When not labouring on his farm he was caught up in the social whirl of a close knit community. Weddings, christenings, funerals and visits to family friends were a regular occurrence. Fair days, markets, auctions and calls on the blacksmith all made demands on his time. He kept a number of jaunting cars. One in particular he appears to have been rather proud of and on a Sunday afternoon together with the ‘Mrs.’ and friends he would go visiting.

He appears to have been the ideal neighbour. Having completed his harvesting he would help his neighbours to draw home their crops or take in a winter’s supply of turf. Neighbours going or coming from Liverpool were driven to or collected from the Liverpool boat at Dundalk.

Several Devlin names crop up in the diary. We know from another source, which I will let you have at a later date, that Catherine’s father Laurence together with a Mark Devlin from Newry took advantage of a lull in the French war to travel, in 1803, to the French city of Rouen. While there they purchased the townland of Aughnagon, outside Newry, from a member of the Garvey family. This townland had been in the possession of this family from at least the seventeenth century. In the early eighteenth century, due to the restrictions imposed on Catholics by the penal laws most of the Garvey men left Ireland and settled in Le Havre and Rouen were they prospered as merchants. This family was also related to the Marmions.

By a deed of conveyance, dated 1811, Mark Devlin leased part of the above townland to a neighbour. His wife was a party to the lease and named as Catherine Murphy. I had originally suspected she was a sister of Laurence but on reading the diary I now believe her to be a sister of Bridget and the Catte Murphy named in the family tree. If this is correct the Devlins named in the diary were close relations of Piers.

Having taken several ‘weak turns’ Piers called on his doctor in 1860 and was told to take any kind of drink he wished to strengthen him and of course when the good doctor spoke of drink he had alcohol in mind. Piers promptly took his advice and promptly treated himself to a half glass of whiskey – the first he says in twenty years. Would the doctor have charged for this advice? It certainly did Piers no harm for he lived for another sixteen years and died in 1876, aged seventy eight, a highly respected and much loved member of the community.

Further information on the family of
   Catherine Murphy, wife of Arthur Marmion.

To date we know that Catherine Murphy was the daughter of Laurence and Bridget Murphy of Newry, Co. Down, Northern Ireland. She had at least one brother also called Laurence and a sister called Anne Jane.

A family settlement drawn up in 1819 by Catherine’s father was witnessed by, among others, a Piers Murphy of Lowertown, County Louth. Lowertown is only a short distance removed from Newry and close to the town of Dundalk. The deed of settlement which was lodged with the Registry of Deeds in Dublin contained no clue as to the relationship of Piers Murphy to the Murphy family of Newry.

The recent discovery of an article in the 1974 journal of the County Louth Archaeological and Historical Society, written by Mr. Canice O’Mahony, is devoted entirely to the history of Catherine’s maternal family, the Murphy family of north Louth. Mr. O’Mahony is also descended from this family.

We now know that Catherine’s parents were both Murphy. This article is an important discovery, the type of find that researchers of family history seldom ever come across. It was previously overlooked because the title ‘The Genealogy of a North Louth Family’ offered no clue as to the family in question.

It makes for fascinating reading, containing as it does not only a detailed family tree but much useful information on the social and economic history of the period. Piers Murphy turns out to be Catherine’s uncle, a brother of her mother Bridget.

William Carleton, the famous Irish novelist, when he left home to seek his fortune in Dublin, stopped off at the home of Piers Murphy and for a brief period was tutor to his children whom he found delightful to teach. Unfortunately his relationship with Piers was less harmonious and they parted not on the best of terms. Carleton did however in his autobiography describe the Murphy home, the well stocked farm, and all the trappings of wealth which accompanied it. Piers could best be described as a ‘gentleman farmer’.

Following the defeat of Napoleon in 1815 Irish agriculture experienced a severe downturn. Farm produce prices which had been high during the French wars
drastically declined and farmers such as Piers unless they could diversify quickly were bound to suffer. This he attempted to do and bought a tan yard in Newry but success appears to have eluded him and he ended his days living in a small house in Dundalk.

To return to the family tree; Piers and Catherine’s mother Bridget were two of the fifteen children of Piers Murphy senior and his wife Kitty Smith. Catherine had three first cousins who emigrated to Australia – Bridget, Annie and Esmay (a Christian name peculiar, as was that of Piers, to this family). Catherine, as we know, also emigrated to New South Wales. This journey, in those years, was extremely hazardous and not one to be undertaken by the faint hearted. It would be interesting to know if the four girls travelled together, either way we can only stand in admiration of them – these were formidable women!

The family tree shows another Catherine Murphy marrying a Marmion. She was a first cousin of  Arthur Marmion’s wife Catherine and she married a Nicholas Marmion of Dundalk. She would have been one of the Murphy children tutored by William Carleton. If this couple had any family they are not named.

Catherine’s mother Bridget may also have had an uncle, a bishop. The patriarch of the family is given as Patt Murphy of Drumlerry, near Oldcastle in Co. Meath. In a book entitled ‘The Diocese of Meath in the Eighteenth Century’ written by Patrick Fagan and published by Four Courts Press in 2001 a chapter is devoted to Dr. Patrick Plunket, bishop of Meath, 1779-1827.

Patrick was born the son of Thomas Plunket Esq., a well to do merchant, and Mary Murphy the daughter of a Patrick Murphy Esq., of Drumlyzzey, Co. Meath. Fagan believes this may be a mistake for Drumlerry and goes on to say that since both families were termed Esq., they were apparently not far removed from the gentry.
An examination of the family tree reveals that Patt had a daughter called Maria and among his other children one called Patt who had a home in Dublin. Bishop Plunket it is recorded regularly, on his visits to Dublin, stayed with his maternal cousins ‘the highly respectable family’ of Murphy of Braymount in Summerhill parish.

While we cannot say conclusively that Dr. Plunket is maternally descended from Catherine’s great grandfather Patt Murphy of Drumlerry the evidence does seem to point to it.

I wish to thank Mr. Noel Ross, Hon. Editor of the County Louth Archaeological and Historical Journal for permission to post this material and other material which is to follow on the ‘marmionfamilytree’ website. Nor should we fail to recognise the scholarship of Canice O’Mahony whose investigative skills unearthed the family history and made it available for future generations.
Family History for Catherine Murphy - wife of Arthur Marmion
The Diary oF Piers Murphy of County Louth