Michael J. Murphy

Life
1913-1996; b. Liverpool of Dromintee, South Armagh parents; taken to Armagh, 1922, and raised in Slieve Gullion district; left school at 14; farm labourer and freelance writer, RE and BBC broadcaster, working as folklorist for Sam Hanna Bell, contributing his expertise on S. Armagh; issued At Slieve Gullion’s Foot (1940); approached by Séamus Ó Duilearga, and joined Irish Folklore Commission 1942, later joining the Folklore Dept., UCD; issued the perennially successful Mountain Year (1964; 2nd edn 1975; rep. 1987), dealing with the folk-life of Slieve Gullion, South Armagh; also Men on the Wall (1956); lived at Walterstown, Co. Louth; retired, 1983; d. 18 May 1996; bur. Slieve Gullion, from Darver Church, Castlebellingham; Tribune obituary was written by Bo Almqvist 26 May 1996. DIW FDA

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Works
Collections
, At Slieve Gullion’s Foot (Dundalk: Dundalgan 1940) [var. 1941 DIW]; Mountain Year (Dublin: Dolmen 1964; 2nd edn. Dundalk 1975), and Do. [rep. edn.] (Belfast: Blackstaff Press 1987), ill. by Wendy Robinson; Tyrone Folk Quest (Belfast: Blackstaff Press 1974, 1983); Now You’re Talking: Folk Tales from the North of Ireland (Belfast: Blackstaff 1975); Mountainy Crack (Belfast: Blackstaff 1976); My Man Jack, Bawdy Tales from Irish Folklore (Dingle: Brandon 1989).

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Commentary
Sam Hanna Bell
, ‘A Banderol’ [Introduction], The Arts in Ulster (London: Harrap 1951), writes: ‘Michael J. Murphy, a writer from the mountainous district of South Armagh, has made adequate and pleasant use of the old tales he learnt as a child and those he has since uncovered in his research for the Irish Folklore commission. It is satisfying to know that to-day this lore is being gathered by men and women with diligence, perception, and patience, for, with the modernisation of agricultre, the old lingering songs and tales, like lonely thorn bushes and tumbled gables, are being cast down, ploughed under, and lost.’ (p.16.)

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References
The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing
, gen. ed., Seamus Deane (Derry: Field Day 1991), Vol. 3, selects ‘Return of the Boy’ [958-65]; REFS & REMS, 939 [exploit persistence among Irish people of gift of anecdote, idiomatic flair, comic tradition, real-life ‘characters’ ... that strong oral element that Frank O’Connor recommended in the short story]; 942 [astonishing how much history has been packed into such small fictions], 1036 [relationship between rural Protestant and Catholic in Ulster]; Bio-Bibl., 1132 [as above].

Belfast Central Public Library holds At Slieve Gullion’s Foot (1940); Culprits of the Shadow (1955); Hard Man (1950). University of Ulster Central Library (Morris Collection) holds At Slieve Gullion’s Foot (Dundalgan Press 1942).

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Notes
Patricia Craig excluded Michael Murphy excluded from her Ulster prose anthology (The Rattle of the North, Blackstaff 1992) as being ‘folksy and chimney-cornerish’ [vide Alexander Irvine, Rx.]

Literary Reading: One of his last public occasions was to share a literary week-end of Irish literary readings with Edna O’Brien, Jennifer Johnston, and others, at Coleraine (organised by Professor Robert Welch, Chair of English).

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