Murphy, Sir Francis (1809–1891)

Born at Cork in Southern Ireland; educated at Trinity College, Dublin, and the Royal College of Surgeons in London.

He came to Sydney in June 1836 and in January of the following year was appointed surgeon for the district of Bungonia, near Goulburn. Three years later he gave up his profession to take up farming, growing wheat in the Goulburn district. In 1844 he leased 50,000 acres near Beechworth for a sheep station.

When Victoria became a separate colony in 1851, he entered the Legislative Council as member for the Murray Boroughs and was made Chairman of Committees. When responsible Government was achieved in 1856, he gave up a squatter’s life, sold his station in 1857, and settled permanently in Melbourne. Elected to the Legislative Assembly, he was chosen as Speaker, having given an undertaking, which the other candidate refused to give, that he would take no active part in any of the house debates.

He held the Speaker-ship continuously for 15 years, his Knighthood going with it. As Speaker he exercised a beneficial influence during the long quarrel between the two Houses in 1864-1868, not without having to endure strong criticism from some quarters. When he failed to secure re-election, the House voted him £3000 pound grant and in 1872 he became a member of the Legislative Council until 1876. The following year he retired into private life and died in Melbourne on 30th March, 1891.

His services to the colony were not inconsiderable. He combined with his political duties those of Chairman of the Central Road Board; was a member of the Commission on the Burke and Wills expedition and served on the Council of Melbourne University from 1853 to 1878. He was a strong believer in voluntary military service and held the rank of Major in the East Collingwood Rifles.

In 1864, at the request of the New Zealand Government he acted as one of the Commissioners to determine the site of the capital of that colony.(2)

Murphy Street North Melbourne was named in his honor.

Sir Francis Murphy had a very distinguished life and died at his home on St. Kilda Road in 1891.

During the last 15 years he lived in comparative retirement, he was very comfortably off.(3)

(1) Parliament of Victoria photographic archives.
(2) Northern Advertiser, 10/12/1970 and from The Australian Encyclopaedia.
(3) Sydney Morning Herald, 31/3/1891, Page 5.