Richard Murphy (1927-2017)

1927- [Richard William L. Murphy]b. 6 Aug., Milford House, nr. Stroule, Co. Galway [var. Co. Mayo], son of Sir William Lindsay Murphy, colonial-service officer, Mayor of Colombo in Shri Lanka, and later Governor of Banamas (succeeding the Duke of Windsor), before settling on a virgin estate in S. Rhodesia in 1950; his maternal grandparents living at Rectory, Oughterard, Co. Galway - viz., Lucy Orsmby, later celebrated in “Woman of the House” (Sailing to an Island, 1963); ed. Baymount Prep. School, N. Dublin; spent his eight summer at Rosleague, an ivy-clad among trees Letterfreck Quay, the property of Mrs. Browne (a Twining of the tea firm), rented to his father on leave Ceylon in 1935; sent to Canterbury Cath. Choir School [King’s], and evacuated to Cornwall during the war; moved to Wellington Coll., where he was unhappy - being berated for lack of patriotism by World War I veteran school-teacher;
took refuge in poetry; spent summers with his mother at Milford and encouraged by Sarah Stokes, acting as a private tutor to the Murphy children during the war; also encouraged by Robin Gordon-Walker and T. S. Dorsch, both teachers at Wellington; he visited the Quantock Hills by bicycle at 17; took a Demy, being listed with K. Tynan, and entered Magdalen College, Oxford, initially because C. S. Lewis taught there, and became his tutor for a time; sang in New College choir; disaffected from academic life, and returned to Milford in his second year, renting a cottage at Screebe, by the Camus River, in the shadow of Lacknavarna; attempted a tragedy based on the story of Judge Lynch of Galway, who hanged his own son for murder; returned to Oxford and eventually graduated (BA, 1948);
entered Dublin literary society and was cheated by Patrick Kavanagh, who promised the book in return for the price of The Great Hunger and then reneged, 1950; returned to Connemara in April 1951; won AE Memorial Prize in 1951; meets J. R. Ackerley (ed. Listener), Harold Nicholson, Clive Bell, and others; settled at Rosroe, nr. Killary; bought Pookaun [i.e., Púcán] from Pat Concannon, source of the story for “Cleggan Disaster” - occasioned by the storm of Oct. 1927; contrib. “Voyage to an Island” to The Bell (Dec. 1952) - later printed as a pamphlet (Sailing to an Island, Dolmen 1955); took British Coucil post as Dir. of English School, Canea, Crete, 1953-54; his poem “Voyage to an Island” rejected by MacNeice (BBC) but passed by Nicholson to T. S. Eliot; entered Sorbonne, living at College Franco-Britannique; 1954; there met Patricia Avis, dg. of wealthy S. Afrikaner ship-line owner (Johannesburg), and wife of Newcastle lecturer Colin Strang, and friend of Kingsley Amis and briefly lover of Philip Larkin in Belfast; recorded talk on W. B. Yeats;
purposely supplied evidence of adultery in St. Guenolé, Brittainy, to instigate divorce proceedings, and then married; travelled in Greece; signed ante-nuptial contract in Athens (Brit. Embassy); m. Caxton Hall, Westminster, 3 May 1955; settled at Quay House, Rosroe [Killary Fjord]visited there by Richard Selig, Charles Montreith; settled in the Cleggan area of Connemara, 1961, where he ran two Galway Hookers, the “Ave Maria” bought in summer 1959 (built in 1922) and restored by himself; visited by Ted Hughes with Sylvia Plath, JR Ackerly, and others; and contrib. “The Key” (for Seamus Heaney) in which he celebrates the walled garden at Milford to a series of BBC talks called “Writers on Themselves” (1963; pub. 1964);
ferried visitors to Inishboffin until 1964, when he sold the boats; divorced Avis, 1959; won the Guinness Poetry Prize in 1962; met Sean Ó Riada at a London poetry reading in 1962 and visited him at his house on Galloping Green, Stillorgan, Co. Dublin; issued Sailing to an Island (1963), containing the title poem as well as “The Last Galway Hooker” and “The Woman of the House”, a portrait of his grandmother Lucy Mary Ormsby, an Anglo-Irish woman - rendering the title-phrase affectionately ironic (viz., Gl. bean an tí); built a house at Cleggan using granite from abandoned houses in the area; the poem becomes the subject of a controversy about versification and diction in the Times Literary Supplement;
winner of Poetry Book Society Choice; winner of British Arts Council Award, 1967, and 1976; issued “The Cleggan Disaster”, commemorating events in October 1927 and told from the point of view of Concannon, a survivor blinded by the storm; gave lectures and readings in American colleges incl. Pacific Lutheran Coll., Washington State, 1985; remarried and divorced, with a son and daughter; issued The Battle of Aughrim (1968), a historical poem attempting a reconciliation between national and religious strains in his own background in the context of the Williamite War; broadcast on BBC3 with Cyril Cusack and others, 1968 [as infra]also “The God Who Eats Corn” (1968), a longer poem about his father offering a critical outlook on European colonialism in Africa (‘a pyre kindles under Pax Britannica’);
purchased High Island (‘fissile and stark’), and built an austere cottage on it, 1969; appt. Visiting Professor of Poetry, Princeton Univ., 1974-75; Murphy becomes the subject of a a special issue of the Irish University Review, 1977, including an essay by Seamus Heaney emphasis the ‘sense of place’ in his account of the ‘groundplan’ of Murphy’s imagination; Murphy built a beehive hut on Omey Island in the 1980s, a place of resort characterised by a hexagonal supporting pole and a hexagonal table around it which ‘calmed [him] with a sense of concentricity and gave me the centripetal energy [he] needed to sit down and write’ (The Kick, p.309.
travelled to Ceylon [Shri Lanka], 1988; returning to Killiney, Ireland, having adopted two Shri Lankan boys and provided for their higher education; maintains supportive relationship with a wider community in Shri Lanka; gave his family home to his dg. Emily, who subsequently moved to S. Africa; his Collected Poems were published on 4 October 2000; issued The Kick (2001), a volume of autobiography covering friendship with W. H. Auden, Robert Graves, Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath, John McGahern and Cruise O’Brien and questions of poetry, sexuality and class; invited poet at Yeats International Summer School, 2007; his Irish childhood was made the subject of The Other Irish Travellers made for the BBC by his niece, Fiona Murphy (2012); issued The Pleasure Ground: Poems 1952-2012 (2013); latterly divided his time between Durban, S. Africa where his dg. Emily lived and his home in Shri Lanka where he died on 30 Jan 2018, with Emily at his bedside. DIW DIL OCEL FDA G20 HAM OCIL

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Poetry collections
  • The Archaeology of Love (Glenageary [Dublin]: Dolmen Press 1955), 28pp. [22cm.; ltd. edn. of 200 copies bound in quarter linen].
  • Sailing to an Island: A Poem (Dublin: Dolmen 1955), [8]pp., 8° [ltd. edn. of 35 copies; copy 22 in BL; copy 29 in TCD Lib.; first published in The Bell, December 1952 as “Voyage to an Island”].
  • The Woman of the House: An Elegy [in memory of Lucy Ormsby, by her grandson] (Dublin: Dolmen 1959), [2] 10, [4]pp. [first published in The Listener, May 1959; read on BBC 3rd Programme, 17 May 1959; ltd. edn. of 250; 25 special copies; ded. to Lucy Ormsby, 1873-1958; ill. - devices on t.p. and cover by Liam Miller; copies at Glasgow UL, TCD Lib., ULRLS [London]variants from broadcast noted in pencil by Grattan Freyer - ?TCD copy; see extract].
  • The Last Galway Hooker: A Poem (Dublin: Dolmen 1961), 12pp. [ltd. edn. 500; ill. - device on t.p. & wrapper by Ruth Brandt], and Do. [2nd edn.] (Dublin: Dolmen 1962), 15, [1]pp. [with map; ltd. edn. 1000; 8°]
  • “Epitaph on a Fir-tree”, in Poets in Public (Edinburgh International Festival 1965) , 32pp., ill. [ports.; with Betjeman, Martin Bell, R. S. Thomas, David Wevill, Ted, Hughes, Peter Porter, Jon Silkin, Charles Causley, Hugh, Thomas Kinsella (“Remembering Old Wars”), Norman MacCaig, W. H. Auden (“Miranda’s song”), Stevie Smith, and George Barker.]
  • The Battle of Aughrim (NY: Knopf 1968), 74pp. [23cm.]also as a reading [disc] (1968)
  • The Battle of Aughrim; and, The God Who Eats Corn (London: Faber 1968), 64pp. [23cm.; [see extract].
  • Sailing to an Island (London: Faber 1963, 1968), 63pp. [see contents];.
  • The Battle of Aughrim & The God Who Eats Corn (London: Faber & Faber; NY: Knopf 1968) [q.pp.].
  • Niches (Dublin: Gallery Press; Mass. Deerfield Press Nov. 1978), [6]pp., ill. by Timothy Engelland [ltd. edn. 250 signed copies; publ. simultaneously]
  • Care (Amsterdam: Cornamona Press 1983), 44pp. [ltd. edn. 200; 26cm.; No. 13 of 15 bound copies held at Cambridge UL].
  • Beehive Cell ([S.l.]: Shadowy Waters Press 1985), [3]pp. [16cm.; colophon: ‘Taken from the author’s book The Price of Stone, which is to be published September 1st 1985, by Wake Forest University Press’; ‘150 copies ... for distribution to participants in the XXIII Annual Meeting of the American Committee for Irish Studies [ACIS], April 1985’].
  • The Price of Stone (Madely, Hereford: Five Seasons Press 1985), [56]pp. [ltd. edn. of 115 copies in slip-case]; Do. [enl. edn.] as The Price of Stone and Earlier Poems (London: Faber & Faber 1985), 92pp., and Do. (Winston-Salem: Wake Forest UP 1985), xii, 190pp. [being New Selected Poems, as infra].
  • The Mirror Wall (Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Bloodaxe 1989), xx, 64pp., ill. [4pls., some col.]and Do. (Dublin: Wolfhound Press 1989) [same details].
  • The Pleasure Ground: Poems 1952-2012 (Dublin: Lilliput Press; Newcastle upon Tyne: Bloodaxe Books 2013), 288pp.
Collected Poems
  • High Island: New and Selected Poems (London: Faber 1974), 48pp.[see contents]
  • High Island: New and Selected Poems (NY: Harper & Row 1974), x, 188pp. [incl. parts of Sailing to an Island", and the full text of Battle of Aughrim and High Island vols.].
  • Selected Poems (London: Faber & Faber 1979), 63pp. [20cm.]
  • New Selected Poems (London: Faber & Faber 1989, 1990), 189pp. [ded. ‘to Emily and William’; first publ. in USA as The Price of Stone and Earlier Poems, Winston-Salem: Wake Forest UP 1985].
  • Collected Poems 1952-2000 (Oldcastle: Gallery Press 2000), 235pp. [ded. ‘for my sister / Mary / and in memory of her husband / Gerald H. Cookson’; Contents, [7-12]Notes, 232-35; incls. photo of the Ave Maria and Púcán Galway hookers (p.15) [see contents - as attached]; Do. [another edn.] (Wake Forest UP 2001), 226pp.
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  • The Kick (London: Granta 2002), vi, 379pp. [see extracts]
  • Three Irish Poets: John Montague, Thomas Kinsella, Richard Murphy (Dublin: Dolmen Press 31 Feb. 1961), [8]pp. [ltd. edn. 250; offered for sale at poetry reading, with announcement of reading in black and red; t.p. design in red from a woodcut by Tate Adams first used in John Montague’s Forms of Exile (1959)]
  • ‘The Pleasure Ground’ in The Listener LXX, No. 1,794 (15 Aug. 1963), p.237.
  • [with Jon Silkin and Nathaniel Tarn], Penguins Modern Poets (Harmondsworth: Penguin 1965), 112pp.
  • ed., Contemporary Poets of the English Language (New York 1970) [incls. John Montague, et al.]
  • Richard Murphy: “Sunup”, “Jurors”, “Granite Globe”, “Double Negative”, “Lullaby”, “Stormpetrel”, “Travelling Man”, in The New Review (Sept. 1974), pp.46-48 [Poems].
  • ed., The Mayo Anthology: Journals, Memoirs, Stories, Essays, Poems & a Play (Castlebar, Co. Mayo: Mayo County Council 1990), 191pp. [22cm.]
  • ‘Seven Poems and an Interview with John Haffenden’, in London Magazine (March 1980), rep. in Haffenden, ed., Viewpoints: Poets in Conversation (London: Faber & Faber 1981) [incls. Heaney, Kinsella, Muldoon, Richard Murphy, Paulin, et. al.]
  • “Grounds” [poem], in Times Literary Supplement (1 Nov. 1996), p.4.
  • [with Lucas Myers, Dido Merwin] contrib. recollections as appendix to Bitter Fame: A Life of Sylvia Plath, by Anne Stevenson [New edn.; prev. London: Viking 1989; Penguin 1990] (London: Penguin 1998), xviii, 413pp., ill. [16pp. of pls.].
  • Penguin Poets, No. 7: Richard Murphy, John Silkin, Nathaniel Tarn (Harmondsworth: Penguin 1968) [details]
  • also, contrib. to Anne Stevenson, Bitter Fame: A Life of Sylvia Plath, with additional material by Lucas Myers, Dido Merwin & Richard Murphy [1st Mariner Books] (London: Viking, 1989; Penguin 1990), xvi, 413pp. [rep. Boston: Houghton Mifflin 1998).
  • “Brief Encounters”, in Granta, 75 (Autumn 2001), q.pp. [online].
  • with Shirley Kelly, ‘The Ambition to Write a Poem is Enough to Kill It’, in Books Ireland, 250 (2002), pp.151-52.
  • The Poets’ Chair: Readings and Interviews with Ireland’s Poets from the National Poetry Archive, Vol. 6, intro. by Declan Kiberd (Dublin: Poetry Ireland [2008]), 1 video. [Nuala niŽ Dhomhnaill, Richard Murphy and Gabriel Rosenstock].

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Bibliographical Details

Penguin Poets No. 7 [being] Richard Murphy, John Silkin, Nathaniel Tarn (Penguin 1968), incls. The Cleggan Disaster [11; see extract]Epitaph on a Fir-tree [21]The Philosopher and the Birds [on Wittgenstein at Rossroe, 22]The Poet on the Island [on Roethke, 23]The Woman of the House [In memory of my Grandmother Lucy Mary Ormsby, 25 - see extract]Girls at the Seaside [29]Connemara Marble [30]Droit de Seigneur [31; see extract]The God Who Eats Corn [33-39; To My Father William Lindsay Murphy - see extract].

Sailing to an Island [poems by Richard Murphy / Faber paper covered editions] (London: Faber 1963, 1968), 63pp. [ded. ‘To Mary and Gerald Cookson’. Part One: “Sailing to an Island”, “The Last Galway Hooker”, and “The Cleggan Disaster” [22-33; see extract]. Part Two: “The Woman of the House” [‘in memory of ... Lucy Mary Ormsby ...’: 37-41; see extract]“Auction”; “Epitaph on a Fir Tree”; “Girl at the Seaside”; “To a Cretan Monk in Thanks for a Flask of Wine”; “The Netting”. Part Three: “The Philosopher and the Birds”; “The Poet on the Island”; “The Progress of a Painter”; “Connemara Marble”; “Droit de Seigneur”; “The Travelling Player”; “The Drowning of a Novice”.]

High Island: New and Selected Poems (London: Faber 1974), 48pp.[20cm.; ded. ‘For Emily’. Contents: “Seal at High Island”; “Little Hunger”; “Lullaby”; “Largesse”; “Jurors”; “Walking on Sunday”; “Travelling Man”; “Song of a Corncrake”; “Ball’s Cove”; “The Writing Lesson”; “Coppersmith”; “Double Negative”; “Pat Cloherty’s Version of The Maisie” [25-27; “Firebug”; “Mullarkey”; “Brian Boru’s Well”; “The Reading Lesson”; “Nocturne”; “Sunup”; “The Fall”; “Granite Globe”; “Gallows Riddle”; “The Glass Dump”; “High Island” [43-44]“Traveller’s Palm”; “Stormpetrel”.]

Collected Poems /Richard Murphy (Oldcastle, Co. Meath: Gallery Press 2000; rep. 2003), 235pp.- see Table of Contents as attached. Note; a special limited edition of 125 copies was issued by Gallery Press on 11 Oct. 2000 in specially bound copies with the author’s signature, of which 15 copies were reserved for author and publisher and copies 1-110 were offered for sale. Adams Auctioneer offered one with an estimated price of €250-350, being No. 74, as part of the Tim Vignoles Collection on 14 Dec. 2015 [see Adams - online; accessed 28.05.2023.]

Richard Murphy, Collected Poems 1952-2000 (Gallery Press 2000; Wake Forest UP 2001), 226pp.

“Sailing to an Island” and poems arising from the years 1952-1962

“Sailing to an Island” [19]
“Wittgenstein and the Birds” [22]
“Auction” [23]
“Girl at the Seaside” [24]
“The Archaeology of Love” [25]
“To a Cretan Monk in Thanks for a Flask of Wine” [27]
“Epitaph on a Fir-tree” [28]
“The Woman of the House” [29]
“Droit de Seigneur” [33]
“The Last Galway Hooker” [35]
“Drowning of a Novice” [40]
“Travelling Player” [42]
“Theodore Roethke at Inishbofin” [44]
“Connemara Marble” [46]
“The Cleggan Disaster” [47]
“Grounds, 1959” [57]
“Rosroe, 1955” [58]


“The Battle of Aughrim” / 1962-1967 and “The God Who Eats Corn”, 1963

“The Battle of Aughrim” [61]

1. NOW

“On Battle Hill” [61]
“Green Martyrs” [62]
“Orange March” [62]
“Casement’s Funeral” [63]
“Historical Society” [64]
“Slate” [64]
“Inheritance” [65]
“Christening” [66]
“History” [67]


“Legend” [68]
“St Ruth’s Address to the Irish Army” [69]
“Martial Law” [70]
“The Sheepfold” [70]
“Mercenary” [73]
“Dragoon” [73]
“God’s Dilemma” [74]
“Planter” [74]
“Rapparees” [75]
“St Ruth” [77]
“The Winning Shot” [78]
“Sarsfield” [79]
“Men at the Castle” [80]
“Luttrell” [81]
“Prisoner” [81]


“The Wolfhound” [83]
“The Reverend George Story Concludes An Impartial History of the Wars in Ireland” [84]
“Luttrell’s Death” [85]
“Patrick Sarsfield’s Portrait” [86]
“Battle Hill Revisited” [88]
“The God Who Eats Corn” [89-98]


“High Island” and poems arising from the years 1968-1974

“Seals at High Island [99]
Little Hunger” [101]
“Lullaby” [102]
“Walking on Sunday” [103]
“Omey Island” [105]
“The Writing Lesson” [106]
“Coppersmith” [107]
“The Fall” [108]
“Firebug” [110]
“Traveller’s Palm” [111]
“Stormpetrel” [113
“Gallows Riddle” [114]
“Largesse” [115]
“The Reading Lesson” [116]
“Walled Up” [117]
“Travelling Man” [118]
“The Glass Dump Road” [119]
“Song for a Corncrake” [120]
“Corncrake” [121]
“Sunup” [122]
“Jurors” [123]
“Double Negative” [124]
“Pat Cloherty’s Version of The Maisie” [125]
“Brian Boru’s Well” [128]
“Ball’s Cove” [130]
“Granite Globe” [131]
“Ardilaun” [132]
“Nocturne” [133]
“Woman Marooned” [134]
“High Island” [135]


“Care” and poems arising from the years 1974-1984

“Moonshine” [139]
“Care” [140]
“Trouvaille” [142]
“Mary Ure” [143]
“Shelter” [144]
“Scythe” [145]
“Niches” [147]
“Swallows” [148]
“Stone Mania” [149]
“Husbandry” [150]
“A Nest in a Wall” [151]
“Tony White” [152]
“Tony White at Inishbofin” [153]
“Bookcase for the Oxford English Dictionary” [154]
“Circles” [155]
“The Afterlife” [156]
“Morning Call” [15 7 Sea Holly” [158]
“Quays” [159]
“Arsonist” [160]
“Elixir” [161]
“Altar” [162]
“Displaced Person” [163]
“Visiting Hour” [164]

Sri Lanka” and Poems of 1985-1992

“Mangoes” [167] ]
“Orphanage” [168]
“National Hero” [169]
“Sri Lanka” [170]
“National Tree” [171]
“Double Vision” [172]
“from The Mirror Wall]
“Kassapa” [173]
“You who remain ...” [173]
“Beyond looking brilliant ...” [174]
“From Hunagiri Temple ...” [174]
“The wet monsoon ...” [175]
“As a woman I’ll gladly ...” [176]
“Sigiriya,” [11 January 1987” [176]
“They came here, looked around, and went ...” [178]


The Price of Stone 1981-1984

“Folly” [181]
“Lead Mine Chimney” [182]
“Portico” [183]
“Nelson’s Pillar” [184]
“Wellington Testimonial” [185]
“Georgian Tenement” [186]
“Gym” [187]
“Knockbrack” [188]
“Ice Rink” [189]
“Carlow Village Schoolhouse” [190]
“Roof-tree” [191]
“Red Bank Restaurant” [192]
“Little Barn” [193]
“Connemara Quay” [194]
“Birth Place” [195]
“Queen of the Castle” [196]
“Liner” [197]
“Planter Stock” [198]
“Family Seat” [199]
“Rectory” [200]
“Letterfrack Industrial School” [201]
“Baymount” [202]
“Canterbury Cathedral” [203]
“Choir School” [204]
“Suntrap” [205]
“Gate Lodge” [2o6]
“Milford: East Wing” [207]
“Carlyon Bay Hotel” [208]
“Wellington College” [209]
“Oxford Staircase” [210]
“Convenience” [211]
“Lecknavarna” [212; see]
“Killary Hostel” [213]
“Waterkeeper’s Bothy” [214]
“Kylemore Castle” [215]
“Tony White’s Cottage” [216]
“Pier Bar” [217]
“Miners’ Hut” [218]
“Hexagon” [219]
“New Forge” [220]
“Cottage for Sale” [221]
“Horse-drawn Caravan” [222]
“Old Dispensary” [223]
“Chalet” [224]
“Prison” [225]
“Wattle Tent” [226]
“Newgrange” [227]
“Friary” [228]
“Beehive Cell” [229]
“Natural Son” [230]

Notes & Acknowledgements
[ This listing of the contents of Collected Poems (Gallery 2000; Wake Foreset 2001) can be viewed in a separate window. ]

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  • Maurice Harmon, ‘New Voices in the Fifties’, in Seán Lucy, ed., Irish Poets in English (Mercier 1972), pp.185-207.
  • Edna Longley, ‘Searching the Darkness: The Poetry of Richard Murphy, Thomas Kinsella, John Montague, and James Simmons’ in Two Decades of Irish Writing, ed. Douglas Dunn (Manchester: Carcanet Press 1975), pp.118-53.
  • Maurice Harmon, ed., ‘Richard Murphy Special Issue’, Irish University Review, 7, 1 (Spring 1977) [contribs. incl. Seamus Heaney, J. G. Simms, Mary Fitzgerald, et al., with 7 poems by Murphy; see contents].
  • Maurice Harmon, ed., Richard Murphy: Poet of Two Traditions [Interdisciplinary Studies] (Dublin: Wolfhound Press 1978), 128pp., ill. [maps & plans].
  • Julian Moynihan, ‘The Battle of Aughrim: A Commentary’, in Irish University Review, 13, 1 (Spring 1983), pp.103-13.
  • Terence Brown, ‘Poets and Patrimony, Richard Murphy and James Simmons’, in Across the Roaring Hill, The Protestant Imagination in Modern Ireland, ed. Gerald Dawe & Edna Longley (Belfast: Blackstaff 1985), pp.182-95 [esp. pp.182-90.]
  • Joseph Sendry, ‘The Poet as Builder: Richard Murphy’s The Price of Stone’, in Irish University Review, 15, 1 (1985), pp.38-49.
  • Joseph Swann, ‘The Historian, The Critic and the Poet: A Reading of Richard Murphy’s Poetry and Some Questions of Theory’, in Canadian Journal of Irish Studies, 16, 1 (July 1990), pp.33-47.
  • The Snow Path, Tracks 10 [“Special Richard Murphy Number”; ed. John F. Deane] (Cypress Downs: Dedalus Press 1994), 138pp. [see contents]
  • Rand Brandes, ‘A Shaping Music: Richard Murphy’s The Price of Stone’, in Poetry in Contemporary Irish Literature, ed. Michael Kenneally [Studies in Contemporary Irish Literature 2] (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe, 1995), pp.190-203.
  • John Wilson Foster, ‘The Landscape of Three Irelands: Hewitt, Murphy and Montague’, in Contemporary Irish Poetry: A Collection of Critical Essays, ed. Elmer Andrews (London: Macmillan 1996), pp.145-68.
  • T. Dewsnap, ‘Richard Murphy’s Apologia: The Price of Stone’, in The Canadian Journal of Irish Studies, 22, 1 (1996), pp.71-86.
  • Thomas Kinsella, ‘For Richard Murphy’, in Metre, 10 (2001), pp.128 [available online].
  • Declan Kiberd, ‘Richard Murphy and Casement’s Funeral’, in Metre,  10 (2001), pp.135-37 [available online.]
  • Robert Greacen, review of The Kick [inter al.], in Books Ireland (Sept. 2002), pp.202-04; p.204.
  • John Montague, review of The Kick, in The Irish Times, Weekend (24 Aug. 2002) [infra].
  • Patrick Crotty, ‘What a Strange Boy You Are’, review of The Kick and Collected Poems, in Times Literary Supplement (4 October 2002) [see extract]
  • Ben Keatinge, ‘“My Form is Epicene”: Sexual Ambiguity in the Poetry of Richard Murphy’, in Essays In Irish Literary Criticism: Themes of Gender, Sexuality, and Corporeality, ed. Deirdre Quinn & Sharon Tighe-Mooney (Lampeter: Mellen Press 2008), q.pp.
  • Bernard O’Donoghue on “Pat Cloherty’s Version of The Maisie” by Richard Murphy, in Irish University Review [Special Poetry Issue, guest ed. Peter Denman] (Sept. 2009) [see extract].
  • ‘Richard Murphy’, Writer in Profile, RTE 1, 9 Sept. 1992, 9. 20p.m.

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Bibliographical details
Irish University Review, 7, 1 [“Richard Murphy Special Issue”] (Spring 1977): CONTENTS: Maurice Harmon, Introduction: ‘The Poet and His Background’ [7] Harmon, ‘Biographical Note on Richard Murphy’. Pt. II, Seamus Heaney, ‘The Poetry of Richard Murphy’ [18] Richard Murphy, Seven Poems [31] J.G. Simms, ‘The Battle of Aughrim: History and Poetry’ [36] Michael Herity, ‘The High Island Hermitage’ [52] Anthony Wilde, ‘A Note on the Stormpetrel and Comcrake’ [70] Jonathan Williams, ‘A Glossary to The Battle of Aughrim and The God Who Eats Corn’ [73] Mary FitzGerald, ‘A Richard Murphy Bibliography’ [104]. Also contains seven new poems. Note: Heaney remarks that Murphy is ‘closer to the staccato and stress of Anglo-Saxon poetry than to the melody and syntactical complexity of the Spenserian tradition. (pp.18-30.)

The Snow Path, Tracks 10 [“Special Richard Murphy Number”; ed. John F. Deane] (Cypress Downs: Dedalus Press 1994), 138pp. CONTENTS: ‘The Art of Debunkery’, Review of Philip Larkin’s High Windows, pp.87-96; ‘Address to the International Writers’ Conference in Dublin on 20th June 1991’, pp.97-101; ‘On Writing The God Who Eats Corn’, pp.102-08; ‘The God Who Eats Corn’, in pp.109-15. Also commentaries: Rand Brandes, ‘Drafting The Price of Stone, Richard Murphy’s Manuscript for Beehive Cell’, pp.62-68; Eamon Grennan, ‘Sense of Place for Richard Murphy’, pp.85-86, and Joseph Sendry, ‘The Poet as Interpreter, Richard Murphy’s The Mirror Wall’, pp.116-138.

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Ted Hughes (on The Battle of Aughrim): “Every line is unique and wrought, somehow organic, yet the whole thing is simple. The plainest statements have an almost plastic life and solidity. And the final effect is of a formal beautifully sustained music of essentials. This kind of poetry, which is nowadays so terribly difficult to write, reminds us that poems too must take their final test of health in the world of action.” (Review notes on inside back of dustjacket to High Island (1963) .

Seamus Heaney, ‘A Sense of Place’ (Ulster Museum 1977) - quotes Murphy on his Connemara sojourn of 1951, as retaled in his BBC broadcast of 1964 [as infra], and remarks: ‘To wish you could talk like somebody else is to seek to begin again with a new identity. It seems to me that Murphy exchanged the stewardship of his inherited pleasure ground for the stewardship of his chosen art; his “masculine energy” was directed to the mastery of a way of life among boats that would make him an initiate among the “truly Irish“, and directed also to the mastery of the craft of poetry that would enable the rebirth of the self as an artist. As an artist, he is impersonal and in control. The contents of his mind, the drift of his feelings, the conflict of his loyalties and recognitions are all materials to be worked and the poem will have to be a vessel sturdy enough to take the strain of conflicting Irish winds. As Irish artist, both the pleasure ground of the elemental landscape, with its indigenous inhabitants, and the pleasure ground of the ancestral estate, with its colonial ethos, are to be his theme.’ (1977, p.22; rep. in Preoccupations, 1980; quoted in Elsa Meihuizen, in ‘Richard Murphy: a Life in Writing/Richard Murphy: ’n lewe as skrywer’ - a bilingual article in Literator: Journal of Literary Criticism, Comparative Linguistics and Literary Studies (Dec. 2006 - see Find Article online).

Shirley Kelly, ‘The ambition to write a poem is enough to kill it’, interview with Richard Murphy, in Books Ireland (Summer 2002), pp.151: relates that kick of the title was administered by Murphy to an octogenarian Aunt Bella, on being urged to offer polite good-bye; another administered to him under the table by Sylvia Plaith while dining with Ted Hughes in Murphy’s house, and the third adminstered to him by a grandson in S. Africa. Encouraged by Dennis O’Driscoll to write his life in 1924 when he read his notes, kept since the age of forty; gf. a teacher in Carlow village, became maor of Colombo in Ceylon; his mother had an Anglo-Irish pedigree that included Charles II, William the Conqueror and Geoffrey Chaucer; b. Milford, his maternal grandparents’ estate; lived in Ceylon to eight; briefly in Connemara in 1935 with siblings (incl. br. Christopher) on his father’s return; ed. Baymount Castle, Dubloin, and as chorister at Canterbury Cath. Choir School; discovered writing ‘as a way of expressing emotion’ in letters home; proceeded to Wellington; rebel against military ethos; immersed in Chaucer, Spenser and Shakespeare; studied at Oxford under C. S. Lewis; rejected academia in favour of poetry; ‘All my thinking and reading was tending towards that conclusion. It seemd to me at the time that a poet was the greatest thing you could be. There was an assumption, to my mind erroneous, that poetry was higher art form than prose, and also it seemed ot me the most difficult thing to do. I relished the challenge.’ Returned to Ireland after two years in Oxford; ‘became convinced with religious intensity that the poetry he wanted to write would be written in Connemara’; settled in derelict cottage beneath a waterfall, November [cont.]

Shirley Kelly (interview with Richard Murphy, Books Ireland, Summer 2002) - cont.: threatened with consignment to Ballinasloe Mental Asylum by his mother, then in the Bahamas with his father, who was serving as Governor; completed his degree (second class) and joined his family, working as his father’s personal assistant. Murphy speaks of his father’s alarm and disappointment at his career choice and writes, ‘to be honest I suppose there was an underlying assumption on my part that I could always be rescued if things didn’t work out’. Parents retired to Rhodesia a year later; Murphy reviewed poetry for the Spectator; winner of AE Memorial Award, 1951; studied French civilisation at the Sorbonnne on a small allowance from his father; met Patricia Avis, dg. of S. Africa businessman; Avis subsidised the publication of his first collection from Dolmen (The Archaeology of Love, 1955); purchased Ernest Gébler’s house in Wicklow, where he started farming; Emily b. 1956; divorced 1957; settled in Connemara with Emily, 1957; developed reputation as ‘laureate of Protestant gentry’; restored Galway hooker; offered trips to tourists and entertained poets in the winter, incl. Theodore Roethke, Plaith and Hughes, then living nearby by with Assia Wevill at Roundstone; took temporary place at Colgate Univ., through good offices of John McGahern, 1971; subsequently taught at Bard College, Iowa Univ., Virginia and Syracuse’ left West of Ireland following the death of a close friend in 1976; Mirror Wall inspired by return to Shri Lanka in mid-eighties; arranged from a number of young Sri Lankans to receive third-level ed. in Ireland; has an ‘extended family of Sir Lankan protegés living and prospering in Dublin’ (Kelly); divides time between S. Africa, where Emily lives with two children, and home in Leixlip; hasn’t written any poetry for years.

John Montague, review of The Kick, in The Irish Times, Weekend (24 Aug. 2002): ‘The notebooks of Richard Murphy have become legendary, slender cahiers bought in Gibert on the Boul’ Mich’, and filled with the poet’s delicate script. Was one mentioned in dispatches, and, if so, what did he say? Since few of us would be travelling to Tulsa University, Oklahoma, where they are housed, this filleted version, with its balance of literary gossip and wry observation, is welcome both to his contemporaries and the general reader. I always felt that if Richard could confront his ambivalence - sexual and political - in a direct way, he would surprise us all.’ Identifies André Gide as a ‘main influence’; speaks of ‘thicket of genealogy’; remarks that Murphy recounts how Montague’s first wife, being a counttess, used to refer to him [Montague] as “my handsome Irish peasant” and how Montague consulted her on the point and finds that she had found him goodlooking enough but not a peasant but recalled Murphy’s once lamenting ‘the historical irony whereby someone of his background was saddled with the name Murphy, while I, an Ulster Catholic, rejoiced in the Shakespearean name of Montague!’ Recounts the various ‘kicks of the narrative’ (Aunt Bella, Sylvia Plaith, &c.), and quotes a definition the the title-term: ‘meaning a boy that the monitor fancied; but any thrill, pleasure or excitement, not necessarily sexual, could in our jargon give one a kick. the guilty kick I got at night made me hunger for purification through history, literature and music ...’. Montague remarks that the book could also be called Knife in view of several incidents incl. the handsome Cretan who repels advances with one. Further, ‘Compared to the comic wickedness of George Moore, another writer of the landlord class from County Mayo, Richard seems less comfortable with the memoir form, his confidences at times almost halting. [...] And in this intriguing but sometimes enigmatic memoir, them is a similar mixture of intimacy and reticence. A door seems to appear in the wall, only to close abruptly as you stand on the threshold of understanding.’ Finally calls it ‘a lively and even brave account of a rich and complicated life, though perhaps it could have been separated into two or even three volumes. [... &c.]’ [p.6.]

Patrick Crotty, ‘What a Strange Boy You Are’, review of The Kick and Collected Poems, in Times Literary Supplement (4 Oct. 2002), pp.26-27: [...] In fact The Kick is haunted by suicide. A former schoolmate kills himself because of the pressures of being homosexual in the 1940s, Patricia Avis’s brother crashes his plane because he can’t come to terms with the death of his wife, Patricia and the actress Mary Ure usher themselves out of life with alcohol and barbiturates, an American geology professor with whom Murphy has arranged a house swap cuts his throat in the woods. The stoicism which helped the poet avoid such a fate himself is evident throughout the book, not least in its cool, pellucid style. The poetry is similarly characterised by self-possession, by a fastidious quality which has struck some commentators as classicism and others as a species of desiccation.’ (p.26.) ‘The adage about the Anglo-Irish being at home only on the Irish Sea seems inadequate to the complexities of Murphy’s case (and he has in any event been considerably more at home on the Atlantic, where he made his living and many of his poems out of running two Galway hookers between Cleggan and Inishbofin). In some respects, the poet seems decisively “Anglo-”, with a family more directly and lastingly implicated in the British imperial project than the great majority even of aristocratic Irish Protestants. He displays an unironical pride in his lineage throughout The Kick, claiming “as ancestors on his father’s side Charles II and his mistress, Lucy Walters, through the brother of Patrick Sarsfield”, and on his mother’s Geoffrey Chaucer and William the Conqueror. (“Could you believe it?” he asks of the latter name, and it is difficult to tell whether or not the question is rhetorical.) In other respects, however, Murphy’s outlook is characterised by a far-reaching egalitarianism, and his long record of practical work with fishermen, builders and itinerants in Co Galway has breached “the demesne walls of [his] mind[”] and given him an intimacy with the lives of what Flann O’Brien called the Plain People of Ireland such as few writers of comparable background have achieved.’ (p.27.)

Patrick Crotty (‘What a Strange Boy You Are’, in Times Literary Supplement, 4 Oct. 2002) - cont.: ‘Again and again in the memoir of Murphy expresses doubts about his own lack of inspiration, about the constructed, assembled character of his poems: “To me poetry would never come naturally, as a gift. It would have to be made.” Yet, if the poems of Sailing to an Island are seamed and caulked like the boats they celebrate, their sturdy architecture makes them as bouyant today as they were forty years ago. The early work constitutes more than a mere poetry of action and the outer life, of the ways of death and survival of North Connemara fishermen; its narratives of storms and endurance have a frairly obvious further level of significance in their metaphorical application to the emotional sphere, to the endless struggle over a mutinous self. / At times, however, too much in Murphy’s poetry remains implicit: it is almost as if he is too well bred to be obvious. The oblique commentary on American colonialism in Vietnam which Ted Hughes valued in The Battle of Aughrim must remain undetectable to less robustly speculative readers. [...]’. Crotty praises Hughes for faithfully reproducing John McGahern’s remark that he could feel no more that “cold admiration” for that sequence because it was written too much “from the outside”. concludes of the Collected Poems that ‘together they form a unitary achievement, a life’s work truer, broader and deeper than criticism has suspected.’ (See full-text version in RICORSO Library, “Criticism > Reviews”, via index, or direct.)

Bernard O’Donoghue on “Pat Cloherty’s Version of The Maisie” by Richard Murphy, in Irish University Review [Special Poetry Issue, guest ed. Peter Denman] (Sept. 2009): ‘[...] “Pat Cloherty’s Version of The Maisie”, ten years later, although it is thematically continuous with these three poems, its language and poetic manner are totally different. It represents a major innovation, despite the familiarity of its subject within Murphy’s corpus. Murphy’s circumstances in the interval between the two books had changed, by making his westward move more decisive. When he bought High Island in 1969, he built an austere cottage on it that could be inhabited for the summer months, in the footsteps of the medieval monks who had settled more permanently along the Atlantic coast on such islands, including this one. Like “The Cleggan Disaster”, the poem draws on a received narrative; but it is clear from the start that it will draw on it much more directly. The story this time comes from Pat Cloherty, another Cleggan friend of Murphy, recounting not his own experience but the loss of a hooker called The Maisie in 1884, as described in local narrative. There is an immediate irony here: the substance of the poem is Cloherty’s telling - his ‘version’ - as the title indicates, which is as prominent as the events it is relating. The irony is that the voice and personality of the teller are more evident here in this narrative than in Concannon’s description of his own experience. In a ‘version’, the language is foregrounded, in a way that the rather Conradian narrative of the Cleggan poem did not need to be. And, formally structured though the poem is, Murphy purports to present the language unmediated.’ (See full-text version in RICORSO Library, “Criticism > Journals > IUR”, via index, or direct.)

Michael Longley, ‘The lifelong devotion of Richard Murphy’, review of The Pleasure Ground: Poems 1952-2012: ‘Way back in the 1960s, when we were just beginning to spread our wings, the poets of my generation looked for inspiration to the first collections of our immediate Irish predecessors, John Montague, Thomas Kinsella and Richard Murphy. We were eager to learn what makes a line and how a stanza is built; how far the iambic pentameter can be stretched. In Richard Murphy’s milestone collection, Sailing to an Island, three narrative pieces, in particular The Last Galway Hooker, The Cleggan Disaster and the title poem, released a new kind of music, melodious enough but also open to narrative waywardness and matter-of-fact detail. [...] Much of Murphy’s loveliest work is to be found, I think, in High Island, poems of the years 1967 to 1973, loose limbed and open throated. Is there a finer bird poem than Stormpetrel? [...] The Price of Stone is for me Murphy’s least winning collection. Its dogged anthropomorphism is sustained over a suite of 50 sonnets in which various buildings associated with the poet’s life soliloquise – from Nelson’s Pillar to Letterfrack industrial school, from a waterkeeper’s bothy to Newgrange and a beehive cell. There’s something too predetermined here, a lack of surprise, too few “gasps”. / I much prefer the psychic desolation of the amorous, sometimes homoerotic poems in High Island (especially the exquisitely tender Sunup and The Glass Dump Road, which faces into the darkness of child abuse); the compassionate portraits of poverty and dispossession; the concentrated energy of the animal psalms; the delicate syncopations of Pat Cloherty’s Version of The Maisie, a fugue-like masterpiece that brilliantly conceals its artfulness.’ (See full-text version in RICORSO Library, “Criticism > Reviews”, via index, or direct.)

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See Collected Poems (Gallery 2000) > Table of Contents - as attached - including “Sailing to an Island” (1964), “Seals at High Island” (1974) and “Newgrange” (1985).

Battle of Aughrim (1968), ‘To whom will the land belong / This time tomorrow night?’; ‘although we have no home in the time that’s come, / Coming together we live in our own time.’ (Quoted in Gerald Dawe, ‘Living in Our Time,’ review of Selected Poems, in Linen Hall Review, Summer 1990, pp.42-43.) Note remarks: ‘I remember driving through the village of Aughrim rightin the centre of Ireland, and feeling a sense of desolation in the place. The battle fought there on Sunday 12 July 1691 was the last and bloodiest in a war that established the Protestant ownership of land in Ireland for almost the next two centuries.’ (The Kick; quoted in Robert Greacen, review, in Books Ireland, Sept. 2002, pp.202-04; p.204.)

The Sheepfold” [from The Battle of Aughrim, 1968]

On Kelly’s land at Aughrim, all is the same
As the old people remember, and pray it will be,
Where his father grazed sheep, like all before him.

Mullen the herd, propped by a fallen tree,
His mouth scabbed and his cheeks pitted by pox,
Blows on a reed pipe a fatal melody.

Ripe seeds are bending the tall meadowstalks.
He stops, when the sun sparks on a cuirass,
A goatskin drum across the sheepwalk tucks.


Buff-coated horsemen jump the walls, and press
The bleating flock, while Kelly pleads for pay:
“By the Holy Virgin, give us gold, not brass!”

Raw lancers goad their footsore ewes away
With rancid udders drained by thriving lambs:
“Do you grudge men food who fight for you?” they say.

Soon they reach camp, where flies hover in swarms
On entrails at the bivouacs, and they smoke
The meat on spits, lice crawling in their uniforms.


Farmer and herd follow with crook and stick,
Their grey slack tweed coats tied with twists of straw,
Reeking of wool and sour milk and turf smoke,

Up hill through hedgegaps to an ancient rath
Embanked by hawthorn, where the Catholic flag
Blazoned with Bourbon lilies for St Ruth

Float white and gold above a deep red bog,
And here they halt, blessing themselves, and kneel:
“Christ make the Frenchman pay us for our flock!”


Inside, they see a hand with a swan quill
That writes and writes, while powdered clerks translate,
Quoting with foreign voice the general’s will:

“Children, I bring from France no better aid
To toast the image-wreckers on hell fire
Than my own skill to lead your just crusade.

“It is your duty, since I wage this war
For your souls’ sake, to lose your flock, but win
A victory for your conscience and my honour”.


“Give back our fleeces!” begs the shepherd, then
St Ruth’s head rises: “Foutez-moi le camp!”
Guards clash steel halberds, and the natives run.

Through glacial esker, by the river Suck
They choose the bog path to the richer camp
With tongues to talk and secret prayers for luck.

All day packhorses laden westwards tramp
Trundling bronze cannon behind casques of shot,
While eastwards, armed with spite, two traitors limp.


The Danish mercenaries they chance to meet
Standing in hogweed, sheltered by a ditch,
Assume they’re spies, with no one to translate,

So fetch them to a grey house, where the Dutch
Commander who serves England’s Orange king
Shakes hands, and gives them each a purse to clutch,

While a blond adjutant runs off to bring
The gunner Trench, who’ll need their eyes next day,
When the cold cannon mouths start uttering.

from Collected Poems (Oldcastle, Co. Meath: Gallery Press 2000) - available at Poetry International [online; accessed 14.09.2023.]
Other poems at Poetry International - “Moonshine” (1985), “Newgrange” (1985), “Sailing to an Island” (1964), “Mangos” (2000) - all accessed at 14.09.2023.]

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The Cleggan Disaster / Off the West Coast of Ireland, 1927” (in Sailing to an Island, 1963):

‘Five boats were shooting their nets in the bay / After dark. It wa cold and late October. / The hulls hissed and rolled on the sea’s black hearth / In the shadow of stacks close to the island’; ‘He had respect for the sea. He gave away / A share of his catch at the Cleggan markt. / No one who asked for a feed of fish and was refused. On Bofin island, he loafed on land, / Dozed the sterile winter dreaming of boats, / But in summer wanted neither food nor sleep / While he gave his strength seriously to the sea.’


‘The wind began to play like country fiddlers / In a crowded roon, with nailed boots stamping / On the stone cottage floor, raising white ashes. / The sea became a dance. He staggered to the floor / As the music unleashed him, spun in a circle. / Now he was dancing round the siege of Death: / Now he was Death, they were dancing around him / White robes dancers, with crowns and clubs, / With white masked faces, and hands like claws / Flaying his eyes,as they clinched and swung. / He was holding the rope as the dance subsided. // While he lay there stunned, he remembered the sea / In the tar-melting sunlight, dry weed on the thwarts, / The gills of mackerel tight in their meshes, / Hot stench of dead fish in the bailer, / And the planks gaping wide, and the thole-pins screeching, / The lines like lathes grooving the gunwales / While the depths yielded up the scared John Dory. / He would never say, like that cripple on the quay, / He wished he had not wasted his life on the sea.’


‘Lanterns shafted from the gates of the fish-store / Freshly that night cleaned for a ceilí. / Bodies of fishermen lay on the floor in boxes, / Blood on their faces. Five had been found / By troops of searcher on shingle and sand. / Over the bier, with one hand cupping a flame, / An old man was looking at his drowned son.’


Years later: ‘Where are the dances in the houses / With porter and cakes in the room / The reddled faces of fiddlers / Sawing out jigs and reels, / The flickering eyes of neighbours? / The thatch which was neatly bordered / By a fringe of sea-stones / Has now caved in.’


‘Why does she stand at the curtains / Combing her seal-grey hair / And uttering bitter opinions / On land-work and sea-fear, / Drownings and famines? / When will her son say, “Forget about the disaster, We’re mounting nets today!” [End.]

Penguin Poets, 1968, pp.11-20; New Selected Poems, London: Faber & Faber 1989, pp.31-41.

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The Woman of the House”: ‘Through our inheritance all things have come, / The form, the means, all by our family: / The good of being alive has given through them, / We ourselves limit that legacy. // The bards in their beds once beat out ballads / Under leaky thatch listening to sea-birds, / But she in the long ascendancy of rain / Served biscuits on a tray with ginger wine. // Time can never relax to this again, / She in her phaeton looking for folk-lore, / He writing sermons in the library / Till lunch, then fishing all the afternoon.’ (Penguin Poets, 1968, p.31.)

Droit de Seigneur”: ‘A groom was saddling his mare in the stable / While a redcoat stumbled down the loft ladder / Buttoning his tunic, followed by a girl / Who ran to the kitchen. The yard lantern / Yellow the stirrups and buckled leather / On the mare’s girth as he combed her down. / The master was for hunting the Ribbonmen: // A secret band, swearing oaths by moonlight, / Refusing to pay tithes or rent ot the landlord, / Who battered on lonely doors after midnight, / And wore round their sleeves a white riband. / He called it his duty to commit these rogues / To the jury of gentlement at Galway Assizes. / Saving property went with saving souls.’ [&c.] (Penguin Poets, 1968, p.31.)

The God Who Eats Corn”: ‘“To do some good for this poor Africa” / Was Livingstone’s prayer, but not the Founder’s dream. / Towards gold and diamonds, the Pioneer Column / Trekked at the bidding of a childless millionaire. // They came with ox-wagons, claiming a treaty, / To the king’s kraal, his great indaba tree, / With charming letters from Queen Victoria: / There the chameleon swallowed the black fly. // In dusty dorps they slept with slave-girls // On farms they divided the royal herd. / In stifling mine-shafts the disarmed warriors / Were flogged to work, their grazing-grounds wired. // So now at white homesteads, the coffee steams / On creepered verandahs. Racial partners / Do not mix in wedlock sons and daughters. // The white man rides: the black man is his horse.’ [...] ‘To each black man, his ten acres for millet; / To each white, his three thousand of grass. / To gospel of peace preached from the pulpit; / From the hungry fields the gospel of force’ [...] ‘His Governor’s helmet stowed in a teak chest, / He called back Homer after fifty years’ / Damp decay in the West of Ireland: / He retired into the sunlight on a thousand acres.’; ‘The shout of “Boy!” from the dinner table / Long after their exodus will be recalled: / The black man hanged for a white woman’s “rape”, / For loving a Negro, the fair girl hanged.’’ ‘While he recalls the Iliad by heart / The B.S.A. police hold rifle drill. / A pyre kindles under Pax Britannica. / Black politicians school themselves in gaol.’ (Penguin Poets, 1968, pp.33-39.)

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Rosroe, 1955”: ‘Horny sheep were encroaching, / On our marriage bed / And wild goats rampaging / IN and out of my head, // As I woke in a mystery / To the slang of gulls / On a barren promontory / Humanised by animals. // Across the bay a waterfall / Applauded the rising sun / As my homecoming salmon / Spawned in your otter pool. // Now I watch you walking / Perfectly alive / And hear your talking / In the heyday of our love, // As I prepare to die / Long after you are dead, / Remembering how hard and why / Those hooves trampled.’ (Collected Poems; printed in The Irish Times, 7 Oct. 2000.)


Look where I’m stuck the wrong side of Lough Fee:
Bad road, no neighbours, in the squally shade
Of a bleak mountain. Yet you took to me
When young. What made you seek my solitude?

Did you need my poor virgin concrete shell
No family cared to live in, just to write
Poetry, worshipping my waterfall,
Abased in loneliness by lust at night?

Still flowing steadfast in a flagstone cleft
Of stunted alders clinging on, it pours
With resonant gravity, bringing the gift
Of widespread raindrops crafted to great force.

Hearing that strong cadence, you learned your trade
Concerned with song in endless falling, stayed.

The Price of Stone; rep. in in Collected Poems, Gallery Press 2000, p.212. [See note on place-name Lecknavarna place-name in Notes, infra. ]

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“Killary Hostel”

The young have redressed my slated history
Nailed to this wild coast in the famished past
On a deep ocean inlet, and restored me
As their last outpost of folksong and feast.

Mackerel swim through my windows at high tide.
You blotted a blank page of lyrical youth
With epic faults in my loneliest interlude,
Hooked here in boyhood on the Tir na nÓg myth.

Didn’t you follow that exiled Austrian
Who stood on my murky lane with a walking-stick
Drawing diagrams for the birds to explain?
Sea-urchins mocked him with folkloric tricks.

He left, in my turf-shed rafters, a small sign
To question all our myths.... Dear Wittgenstein.

Collected Poems, pp.2113.

Connemara natives in 1951: ’These people lived on five or two-and-a-half acre holdings, and we loved them better than our own relations, or the children at the rectory parties we had to attend. They were truly Irish, and that’s what my brother and I wanted to be ... Stones, salmon-falls, rain-clouds and drownings had entered their minds, loaded with ancestral bias. Their manners seemed more natural than ours, and their voices used tones that rasped excitingly against the hymn-tune harmonies we were used to. We wished we could talk like them.’ (“Writers on Themselves”, BBC 1963; pub. 1964, pp.65-66; quoted in Elsa Meihuizen, in ‘Richard Murphy: a Life in Writing/Richard Murphy: ’n lewe as skrywer’ - a bilingual article in Literator: Journal of Literary Criticism, Comparative Linguistics and Literary Studies (Dec. 2006 - see Find Article online).

Murphy as reviewer: ‘The Empty Tower at Ballylee’, review of sundry works published in 1962, incl. W. B. Yeats: Explorations Yeats; J. M. Synge: Collected Works, Vol. I: Poems, ed. Robin Skelton; The Dublin Diary of Stanislaus Joyce, ed. George Harris Healey [q.source]: ‘Rhetoric ruined Yeats’s prose. While Explorations contains documents necessary for the historical understanding of his verse and his verse plays, the pomp and the stilts of the writing seem no longer admirable. One wearies of the striving continually towards a prose style he never quite reaches. While the cadences are sometimes as good as those of Pater or Wilde, the sentences are overburdened by images that only his verse could carry. “Without fine words there is no literature,” he comments. The effort he put into his verse is seldom felt, while the effort he put into his prose is. “I shall, I think, have to cast away the hope of ever having a prose style that amounts to anything.” In his later years, for example in the extracts here printed from On the Boiler (1939), the rhetoric loudened into a rant, full of the clattcr of his right-wing politics’; Murphy remarks that the edition ‘would have been more acceptable with an index and editorial notes.’ On Synge: ‘[H]is peculiar “folk” style [... ], based on the trick of translating not only the metaphor of Irish but its word order into English, is marvellously effective in the plays, but let nobody think that people ever spoke the language that Synge wrote. His genius lay in imagining that they did, and getting his audience to accept this.’ On Stanislaus Joyce: ‘This self-consciously destructive journal, written by a boy of 20 who already felt doomed to be his brother’s whetstone, is as cutting as a butcher’s knife, and in its scathing resentments gloweringly funny.’ [Private scrapbook of BS; English provenance of review indicated by Liberty’s of Regent St., London advertisment on verso of broadsheet page.]

The Kick (London: Granta 2002): ‘I sometimes wondered how I had been born as a boy in our family rather than as the son or the less fortunate daughter of a Sinhalese or Tamil coolie. The key to it all seemed to be that we spoke English, through which we had direct access to God through our prayers. We used to hear our father reading aloud from the Bible at St Peter’s Church in the Fort every Sunday morning. I assumed that our language was God’s and that He had chosen me to be the person I was because my parents had prayed for me to be born, as I had prayed for Edward. It seemed obvious that praying in Sinhala or Tamil achieved poorer results. On a little globe that Nanny had given me, she pointed out that we ruled a third of the world. In return for our privilege, God expected us to behave well, work hard, do our duty and set a good example. / The natives of Ceylon, we were assured by our parents as wellas by Nanny, ought to have been grateful to us for having brought them the benefit of our language and civilization. We had saved them from the cruelty they had previously suffered for hundreds of years under the Dutch and the Portuguese and their own despotic kings. Though my father was able to speak and read both Sinhala and Tamil, we children were taught nothing about the resplendent island’s ancient Buddhist culture. / And among those who spoke English, my family believed, none spoke it as well as the Anglo-Irish, who provided Britain with her best army officers and civil servants. Though the English might laugh at us for being Irish, and the Irish resent us for being English, England needed us to win her wars through our courage and rule her colonies with our sense of justice. / Merely by virtue of the rank my father had earned - since we had no wealth, not even a house of our own - we lived at the top of society in one of the richest crown colonies of the greatest empire on earth. We deluded ourselves into thinking our empire might last longer than the Roman because it was founded on better moral principles. Ceylon had one of the highest rates of literacy in Asia. My father [35] had advanced the cause of eduction, particularly of women, in all the outstations where he had served; and he approved of the ultimate aim of leading the colony towards independence.’ (pp.35-36.)

The Kick (London: Granta 2002): ‘As we sailed through a short narrow channel to a little inner harbour, watched by a group of fishermen on the quay, I felt we were arriving among descendants of people long ago marooned on an island where they lived in the fear of God and believed in miracles, travelled on horseback, and lit their houses with oil lamps and candles as we had done at Milford during the war ... I had been trying for more than a year to reach a mythical island in a poem based on a legend. Now I had really landed on an island where men had turned their seafaring lives into legends they recounted to each other in the island’s only pub ... Two men I met there ... were to influence my poetry, not only with their legends but their style ... Pateen Clogherty ... broke into song, a ballad ... about the loss with all hands of a hooker called the Maisie on St. John’s day in the year of his birth ... Already I had been grasped by the hand of an ancient mariner called Pat Concannon, who had begun to tell me a story that would take years to finish ... As he began to draw me into his legend, it caught my mind with a drowning man’s grip and would not let go. In future I would be drawn back to the island to learn more about legends, seamanship and the art of storytelling before being able to write a poem in honour of his courage and the island fisherman’s way of life/’ (The Kick, p.141-42; quoted in Elsa Meihuizen, op. cit., online; accessed 08.078.2011)

The Kick (London: Granta 2002) - on Writing “The Battle of Aughrim”: ‘I was trying to come to terms with my own army heritage, and with not having served in the war that was brought to an end by the bomb on Hiroshima on my eighteenth birthday. That heritage accounts for the coolness of tone and the demythologizing ironies of the poem ... The poem grew slowly, because organically, from bits and pieces of my life and reading in Ireland between 1962 and 1967, not as a setpiece epic about a battle in the seventeenth century. My underlying wish was to unite my divided self, as a renegade from a family of Protestant imperialists, in our divided country in a sequence faithful to the disunity of both.’ (p. 220; quoted in Elsa Meihuizen, in ‘Richard Murphy: a Life in Writing/Richard Murphy: ’n lewe as skrywer’ - a bilingual article in Literator: Journal of Literary Criticism, comparative linguistics and literary studies, Dec. 2006 - available online; accessed 08.07.2011).

The Kick (London: Granta 2002): ‘A little research was to prove that my ancestors, like those of most people of Irish descent, had fought on opposite sides. I learned that Patrick Sarsfield [...] was my mother’s distant uncle. My stance was anti-triumphal, anti-militarist ... the poem grew slowling, because organically, from bits and pieces of my life and reading in Ireland between 1962 and 1967, not as a set-piece of epic about a battle in the 17th century. My underlying wish was to unite my divided self, as a renegade from a family of Protestant imperialists, in our divided country in a sequence faithful to the disunity of both. The poetry was to occupy a no man’s land between music myth and history.’ Also recounts an eccentric meeting with Desmond O’Grady. (q.p.; extract in The Irish Times, Weekend, 18 May 2002; cover feature.)

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Peter Fallon
& Seán Golden, eds., Soft Day, a Miscellany of Contemporary Irish Writing (Notre Dame UP; Dublin: Wolfhound Press 1980), ‘Enigma’, ‘Care’, ‘Swallow’, ‘Trouvaille’, ‘Mary Ure’, ‘The Price of Stone’.

Maurice Harmon, ed., Irish Poetry After Yeats: Seven Poets (Dublin: Wolfhound Press 1979), 231pp., includes selection.

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Seamus Deane, gen. ed., The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing (Derry: Field Day 1991), Vol. 3, selects from Sailing to An Island, ‘The Last Galway Hooker’; from The Battle of Aughrim, ‘Casement’s Funeral’; from High Island, ‘Seals at High Island’, from ‘The Little Hunger’; The Price of Stone, ‘Moonshine, from ‘The Price of Stone’, from ‘Wellington Testimonial’, from ‘Ice Rink’, ‘Natural Son’; BIOG, 1432 [as above].

Patrick Crotty, ed., Modern Irish Poetry: An Anthology (Belfast: Blackstaff Press 1995), selects “Sailing to an Island” [150]“The Poet on the Island” [152]from The Battle of Aughrim: “Casement’s Funeral” [153]“Seals at High Island” [154]“Stormpetrel” [155]“Morning Call” [156]from The Price of Stone: “Roof-tree” [156], “Convenience” [157], “Kylemore Castle” [157], “Natural Son” [158].

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The Battle of Aughrim was broadcast by BBC3 in 1968, with Cyril Cusack, Ted Hughes, Cecil Day-Lewis, Niall Tóibín, and Margaret Robertson among the readers; a 50-min. recorded version was issued by Claddagh Records in 21 Sept. 1968.

Maurice Harmon refers extensively to Richard Murphy in ‘New Voices in the Fifties’, Seán Lucy, Irish Poets in English (Mercier 1972), pp.185-207, citing an autobiographical writing called ‘The Pleasure Ground’ in The Listener LXX, No. 1794 (15 Aug. 1963), p.237 in which the poet refers to his grandfather’s estate in the west of Ireland, writing, ‘the whole garden was surrounded by an Anglo-Irish wall, a great wall of pride and oppression, liberally overgrown with romantic ivy ...’.

Theodore Roethke, his friend, is the object of the dedication of ‘The Poet on the Island’ and spent some time in Galway, receiving clinical treatment in Ballinasloe.

The Kick (2001): acc. to Granta, Murphy ‘writes about the most painfully delicate issues, including his own ambivalent sexuality [...] and with an affectionate lack of sentiment about the Protestant gentry from which he comes.’ (Granta 2001). The Granta editor was Neil Bolton.

Note: Murphy was encouraged the write the book by Dennis O’Driscoll (AN Source). Sections dealing with the author’s sexual preferences were deleted at the suggestion of friendly readers. (AN Source).

Kith & Kin: A maternal g-gf. named Mulvany was an engineer charged with constructing the Grand Canal, c.1830, marrying a Miss Fowler, a poor relative of Rt. Rev. the Hon. Charles Dalrymple Lindsay, 3rd son of Earl of Balcarres, Bishop of Kildare and Dean of Christ Church Cathedral, whom he (Mulvany) found fainting from hunger by the canal at Portobello in Dublin. (The Kick, p.23.)

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Francis King, review of Playing the Harlot, or Mostly Coffee, by Patricia Avis (London: Virago 1996), in Spectator (10 Aug. 1996), writes of the posthumously published novel: ‘For Avis in her energetic but largely unsatisfying sex-life, there were, as this novel makes amply clear, two profound pheromones: intellectual or literary eminence and homosexuality. The pheronome which too often excited her menfolk was her wealth. This wealth enabled her, the dg. of a Dutch father and an Irish mother, to leave her native South Africa for Somerville College, Oxford, where she took a degree in medicine, to abandon all thoughts of pursuing a medical or any other profession except that of unsuccessful writer, to travel widely, to dish out cash to her often impecunious and greedy men, and to establish herself with her second husband, the poet Richard Murphy, in Ireland in an attractive Regency period lodge, Lake Park, previously owned by Edna O’Brien and Ernest Gébler.’ Further: ‘The portrait of Richard Murphy, transmogrified in the book from poet to sculptor, is hardly a flattering one. Nor is that of Conor Cruise O’Brien. ... All her men eventually plucked, gutted and trussed her.’ The novel and review include more detailed reminiscences of Philip Larkin, with whom Avis had an affair in Belfast leading to an abortion [recte miscarriage?].

See also Patricia Craig, review of same (Times Literary Supplement, 19 July 1996, p.21), noting that Edmund Crispin (pseud. of Bruce Montgomery) is a minor character in the novel. Avis was born in b. South Africa and lived with her first husband, Colin Strang, in Belfast. She published her own magazine, Nonplus, in Dublin and d. by suicide in 1977 (see First Flush, Books Ireland, Sept. 1996.)

Note: Avis was Irish by birth; her mother was an O’Malley. She lived at Wilton Tce with her dg. Emily together with Simon and Meiert (b. 1951, South Africa), the two children of Peggy Mulcahy whose early death in South Africa was quickly followed by her husband'’s suicide in 1956, when Avis, their paternal aunt, became their guardians. (Peggy Mulcahy was the sister of John Mulcahy who published Hibernia.) While living in a flat on Wilton Place, Avis edited Nonplus, an avant-garde magazine mixing mix of poetry, short stories, reviews, and political commentary in which she published work by Brian O’Nolan, Paddy Kavanagh and others.

Avis famously gave succour to Patrick Kavanagh when he fell into the Canal. In the Wilton Place household was also Desmond Williams, the UCD historian - though officially retaining an address on Wellington Rd., while Sean McBride and Noel Browne were frequent visitors, along with literary men. Thomas Kinsella was a near neighbour on Baggot St. Avis had read Medicine at Oxford, where she arrived at 16 and became the youngest woman to qualify as a doctor. Her poems were published in The Listener. Her novel Playing the Harlot was rejected at the time of writing and published by Virago after its re-discovery in the papers of Richard Murphy in an American University. (Information in emails received from Meiert Avis, May 2008.)

[Note: The Ricorso editor shares with Meiert Avis the view that a separate page for Avis should be created in the website and this is a promissory note - pending only time and opportunity for basic research of a long-delayed initiative. 20.05.2014.]

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Patsy Strang/Avis/Murphy: ‘If Larkin ever “found” himself, then it was in Belfast, of all places, that the happy discovery was made. He was free of his family, and among the college staff, he made friends who opened for him new vistas of freedom and fulfillment. In particular he was taken with Patsy Strang, née Avis - later she would marry the poet Richard Murphy - the wife of a lecturer in the philosophy department. Larkin was fascinatined [Andrew] Motion writes, by the “food-providing, drink-pouring, dog-loving, occasionally pipe-smoking ‘tall, rather gawky brunette’ Patsy Strang” [Life of Larkin], and they embarked upon an affair which, one surmises, offered Larkin his first real glimpse of what could be had beyond the spiritual and sensual limits which his background, and his own cramped personality, had imposed on him. / Patsy was one of the many women whom Larkin depended upon [...].’ (John Banville, review of Anthony Thwaite, ed., Collected Poems of Philip Larkin and First Boredom, Then Fear: Life of Larkin, by Richard Bradford, in New York Review of Books, 23 Feb. 2006, see further under Banville, infra.)

Fisher priest: The ‘fisher priest’ and ‘canon’ mentioned in The Last Galway Hooker is Canon Conroy, so identified in Copy B of the volume held in Aberdeen UL. A tipped-in Irish Times cutting in same relates to the poet’s fishing enterprise [sic] (See COPAC online; accessed 07.07.2011.)

Bogs of Ireland: Murphy shares in the critical perception of the Irish bog as a feature of the landscape which figures for the Anglo-Irish as a topographical barrier and a measure of hostile distances - ‘God was fallen into ruins on the shores of lakes / Peasants went on milking or delving dikes / And landlords corresponded with landlords across the bog’. (“God’s Dilemma”, in The Battle of Aughrim [sect.], in New Selected Poems, 1985, p.62.) The landscape also harbours ‘raparees’ who burn down the ‘limestone hall’ of a ‘noble family’ and shelter in the pine-wood, but occasionally meet with death on the gallows - ‘[t]he highway trees [...] Where seventeen rot / Who was caught last week in a cattle raid’ (“Raparees”). The section of that name begins ‘Out of the earth, out of the air, out of the water [...]’ and ends ‘At the whirr of a snipe each can disappear / Terrified as a bird in a gorse-bush fire / To delve like a mole or mingle like a nightjar / Into the earth, into the air, into the water.’

Lecknavarna [1]: Lec na bh-Fearna (flag-stone of the ferns) in Irish. On the Galway Library “Places” website [online], the location is given as the S. shore of Lough Fee, bounded in the East by Bunnouen and Lettershanbally, in the South by the Kylemore and in the West by Limnaheltya. It is identified as the property of Trinity College, Dublin - hence called ‘college lands’ (See results.)

Lecknavarna [2]: On the Likeplace website [online], the visitor is invited to tell what it is like to live there - using a series of ratings, 1-5, for Law and Order, Economy and Jobs, Schools, Local Services, Sense of community, Cost of Living and General Opinion [see results]. No rating has so far been contributed.

Lecknavarna [3]: Lecknavarna and Letterfrack are cited in adjacent entries of Brian Mitchell’s A Guide to Irish Churches and Graveyards (available at Google Books - online; accessed 09.07.2011.

Lecknavarna [2]: Murphy’s sojourn at Lecknavarna is discussed by Elsa Meihuizen, in ‘Richard Murphy: a Life in Writing/Richard Murphy: ’n lewe as skrywer’ - a bilingual article in Literator: Journal of Literary Criticism, comparative linguistics and literary studies (Dec. 2006)- online]. (All the above accessed 08.07.2011; see p.2.)

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