Castleknock College Union
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Adam Reynolds Murphy, class 1856

Pioneer in Queensland, Australia

Dec 15, 2016
Adam Reynolds Murphy, class 1856 -

Adam Reynolds Murphy, back row fifth from left, circa 1891


The 1935 Centenary Roll has it that Adam Murphy was with us at Knock 1854-56 but omits any detail of his home town, and as we don't believe any of his kin attended Knock, that is the last we would expect to hear of him. We were thus then delighted when his third great-grandnephew, Paul Judd, made contact.

Paul tells his story.


Adam was the youngest of eight children born to Adam Murphy and Ellen Comerford who were married 2 Feb 1826, and all of his siblings were baptised in St Mary's Cathedral, Kilkenny, but not Adam, as he was born in Ballinasloe, Galway. His father was a banker and perhaps had been posted there by that time.

Adam was also the only one of the siblings to attend Castleknock College, and thereafter he followed a sister Anna Maria down to Australia to seek his fame and fortune. This is a road well travelled by many subsequent past pupils of Castleknock College but Adam surely must have been in the vanguard of your alumni who chose to emigrate to this part of the new world.

Shortly after his arrival in Sydney, Adam set out for North Queensland as a land pioneer. This was incredibly challenging and dangerous work that involved exploring the uncolonised parts to stake out claims and then trade them on to pasture farmers who followed. Many pioneers lost their lives in this endeavour for there was no infrastructure or back-up to support them, so illness, disease, hunger and notoriously snake bites took their toll.

We know concerns were had about Adam in this regard, as his by then married sister, placed the following in the Queensland Police Gazette 18 July 1866:

INFORMATION is requested respecting Adam Murphy, who left Sydney about thirteen months since for Queensland. He is a Kilkenny man, aged about 24, 6 feet high, brown hair, blue eyes, good looking, well educated. This inquiry is made at the instance of his sister Anna Maria Bramwell, Regent street, Sydney.

obit-adam-murphyYou'll note the nod to Castleknock College with reference to “well educated” and this was to stand him in good stead for on his return from Northern Queensland, Adam took to teaching in Toowoomba which is 125 km due west of Brisbane.

It was there he met Charlotte Maria Theresa Meagher who was head teacher at the girls school. They married in 1879 but the following year she died of consumption; without issue. In 1883, now resident in Brisbane, he married Ellen Gertrude Sullivan and they had three boys, who all predeceased him, and two girls.

By then Adam had returned to the land, but now as a civil servant in the Lands Department, so this time registering the claims that others were staking. The above photograph from the 1931 paper captures Adam and his colleagues in 1891.

Adam died 12 February 1904, aged 63, and lies buried in Toowong Cemetery, Brisbane. He had certainly made his mark in Australia and the great and the good attended his funeral as witnessed in the attached Obituary notice from the Darling Downs Gazette, which once again makes a notable call-out to Castleknock College.

If you ever find yourself passing Toowong Cemetery, then do doff your cap in honour of a pastman who trail blazed the way to Queensland many years ahead of you.