John Murphy [Fr.]

1753-1798; a leader of the United Irish forces in Wexford during the Rebellion of 1798; ord. 7 DD, Seville; served as asst. priest [curate] at Boolavogue, 1785; at first resisted the Rebellion but joined in when parishioners houses were burnt down by the Yeomanry; established a camp on Vinegar Hill; failed at the battle of Arklow; whipped, tortured, beheaded, and burnt in a barrel of pitch by the yeomenry afterwards; he is the ‘brave Father Murphy’ of the ballad “Boolavogue” written in the first centenary year by Patrick Joseph McCall [q.v.]. ODNB

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J. J. O’Meara, Lecture on Father John Murphy and ’98 (Dublin: Sealy, Bryers and Walker [1898]); see also Barry O’Brien, Portraits in Leadership (Fermoy: Éigse na Mainistreach 1980); Nicholas Furlong, Father John Murphy of Boolavogue, 1753-1798 (Geography Publ. 1991) [reviewed in The Irish Times, 7 Dec. 1991 - see infra].

See also Cheryl Herr, For The Land They Loved (Syracuse Press 1991).

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Boolavogue”: ‘God grant you glory, Father Murphy, / and open heaven to all your men; / The cause that called you may call tomorrow / In another fight for the Green again.’ (See Loreto Todd, The Language of Irish Literature, 1989.)


At Boolavogue as the sun was setting o’er the bright May meadows of Shelmalier
A rebel band set the heather blazing and brought the neighbors from far and near
Then Father Murphy from old Kilcormac spurred up the rock with a warning cry
“Arm, arm,” he cried, “For I’ve come to lead you, for Ireland’s freedom we’ll fight or die.”

He led us on against the coming soldiers and the cowardly yeomen we put to flight
’Twas at the Harrow the boys of Wexford showed Bookey’s regiment how men could fight
Look out for hirelings, King George of England, search every kingdom where breathes a slave
For Father Murphy of County Wexford sweeps o’er the land like a mighty wave.

We took Camolin and Enniscorthy and Wexford storming drove out our foes
’Twas at Slieve Coilte our pikes were reeking with the crimson blood of the beaten yeos
At Tubberneery and Ballyellis full many a Hessian lay in his gore
Oh, Father Murphy, had aid come over, the Green Flag floated from shore to shore.

At Vinegar Hill o’er the River Slaney our heroes vainly stood back to back
And the yeos of Tullow took Father Murphy and burned his body upon the rack
God grant you glory brave Father Murphy and open heaven to all your men
The cause that called you may call tomorrow in another fight for the Green again.

By Patrick Joseph McCall [q.v.]; available at online; accessed 23.09.2023.

Irish Times, review of Nicholas Furlong, Father John Murphy of Boolavogue (1991): ‘an enigmatic figure [...] loud in his protestation of loyalty ... he turned against [the govt.] almost overnight and emerged as a natural military leader ready to fight to the bitter end. Perhaps he was a secret United Irishman all along. ... The ’98 outbreak ... grew around Fr. Murphy and the UI gravitated towards it in order to control it. Had they chosen Fr. Murphy rather than the aristocratic Bagenal Harvey, things might had taken a different turn.’ [Q. auth.]

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