Peter ‘Duff’ Murphy (1806 – 1878), born in Dublin, arrived in Sydney as a transported convict in 1827. In 1838, he was assigned as a convict servant to Patrick Leslie, a pioneer and settler. Murphy accompanied Leslie on expeditions to the Darling Downs in 1840. He later performed duties of District Constable at Moreton Bay, leading to his promotion to Chief Constable. In 1842, Murphy married Catherine Thompson in Sydney. Of their eleven children, five survived to adulthood. Peter Murphy died on 6 April 1878 at Charters Towers aged 72.
Murphy was born in Dublin to a working-class, Roman Catholic family. At the age of 16, he was apprehended for the first time for theft of clothes. The outcome of this trial is unknown. However, on the night of 3 June 1826, Murphy was again indicted for burglary and felony. He was found guilty at Dublin City on 21 June 1826 and sentenced ‘to be transported for life’.
Murphy was transported on the convict ship Countess of Harcourt and arrived in Sydney on 28 June 1827 after a 134-day journey. In 1838, he was assigned as a convict servant to Patrick Leslie who led exploratory expeditions to the Darling Downs region of Northern NSW. First explored by Allan Cunningham in 1827, Patrick Leslie, accompanied by Peter Murphy, pioneered pastoral settlement within the area of the Darling Downs in 1840.
During this expedition Leslie recounted in his diary:
When I was at Falconer’s Plains, and about starting to look for the Downs, Murphy was the only man I had with me, and not liking to compel him (a convict) to accompany me, I told him what my intentions were—viz., to go out to look for the Darling Downs, and to take only one man with me, and I asked him if he was willing to go, telling him I left it entirely to himself. He looked at me, and said: ‘Go with you sir? I would go to … with you!’ I said I did not intend to go there at present, but was well pleased to have him to go out with me on my little expedition.
This area was known to the Kitabel people as Tamamareen, meaning “where the fish nets were burnt in a grass fire”. By the time Leslie and Murphy explored the surroundings, finding ways to cross over the Range, Murphy reportedly resided alongside a creek to herd sheep and cattle. The locality was thus renamed Murphys [sic] Creek, which blossomed into a lively engineering and industrial community with the construction of Toowoomba Range Railway Crossing in the 1860s.
Murphy was praised for his assistance to Patrick Leslie, helping him to secure a ticket of leave for Moreton Bay on 13 June 1842. Yet, for the duration of the year, he resided in Port Macquarie where he successfully performed the duties of District Constable, eventually leading to his promotion to Chief Constable at Moreton Bay. Most of the cases prosecuted by Murphy were property offences and offences against good order such as drunkenness or indecent exposure.
On 29 November 1842, Peter Murphy married Catherine Thompson at St Mary’s Roman Catholic Church, Sydney. They had five surviving children — Margaret (1844), Elizabeth (1846), Peter (1848), John (1850) and Edward Joseph (1853) — but five boys and one girl died in infancy.
By the time Murphy and his family reached Brisbane, Moreton Bay was open for free settlement. He purchased 2 allotments at Kangaroo Point (Lots 27 and 32) when land was put up sale in 1842.
On 31 December 1846, Murphy received a conditional pardon, allowing him freedom of movement in all parts of the world, except the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.
In 1853, Murphy was twice charged with being drunk. As this was a repeat offence, he was fined, leading him to resign from the police force following the hearing.
Peter ‘Duff’ Murphy died on 6 April 1878 at Charters Towers aged 72.
Anastasia Dukova, Constance Schoelch and Jan Richardson, ‘Peter Murphy (1806 – 1878)’, Harry Gentle Resource Centre, Griffith University, 2018 (updated 2023), https://harrygentle.griffith.edu.au/life-stories/peter-murphy/.
Peter Murphy or Duff per Countess of Harcourt (1827).
Peter Murphy per Countess of Harcourt (1827), Ticket of Leave for Moreton Bay, No. 42/1526, 13 Jun 1842.
Peter Murphy per Countess of Harcourt (1827), Conditional Pardon, No. 48/390, 31 Dec 1847.
Peter Murphy married Catherine Thompson, 1842, Reg. No. 1266/1842 V18421266 91.
Peter Duff Murphy [sic], died 6 April 1878, Reg. No. 1878/C/1472. .
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