William Martin Murphy

1844-1919; 21 Nov., b. Bantry, Co. Cork, son of a building contractor; ed. Belvedere College, Dublin; he built churches, schools, bridges, as well as railways and tramways in Britain, Africa (Gold Coast), and S. America; leading shareholder in Dublin United Tramways Co.; Nationalist MP for St. Patrick’s, Dublin 1885-92; opposed Parnell and supported Healy (therefore a member of the ‘Bantry Band’); fnd. Irish Independent, having first bought 3 Dublin newspapers, 1905; prop. Evening Herald; fnd. Sunday Independent the following year, and refused knighthood; owned Clery’s and Dublin United Tramways; Dublin employers against Larkin, leading to the Lockout of 1913; answered Yeats’s poem on the miscarriage of the Lane benefaction in “To a Wealthy Man” with a letter in his own paper under the heading (Irish Independent, 17 Jan. 1913); criticised by Yeats in a letter to the Irish Worker (1 Nov. 1913), responding in his own paper, leading the opposition to the Lane benefaction; wrote The Home Rule Act 1914 Exposed (1914); recruited for British Army in World War I; appears as a character in James Plunkett’s Strumpet City, and bête noir of Irish socialists; one of his daughters was loved by Bill Beckett, Sam’s father, while a son was in love with Susan Manning; both matches were forbidden by their respective parents; d. 25 June, Dublin. DIB DIH WJM

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Thomas J. Morrissey, William Martin Murphy [Life and Times No. 9] (Hist. Assoc. of Ireland 1997), 93pp.; reiss. as Do. (UCD Press 2011), 123pp.

See also Conor Cruise O’Brien, ‘Passion and Cunning: An Essay on the Politics of W. B. Yeats’, in A. N. Jeffares & K. W. Cross, eds., In Excited Reverie (1965), rep. in Passion and Cunning and Other Essays, NY: Simon & Schuster 1988), pp.8-61 - for extensive comments on Yeats's antipathy to Murphy and the latter's role as financial head of the Bantry Gang, with Timothy Healy as its political head (pp.23-27.)

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A. N. Jeffares, commentary on the Poems of W. B. Yeats (London: Macmillan 1984), gives an account of Murphy’s answer to Yeats’s poem “To a Wealthy Man”, written from “Paudeen’s point of view” and identifies Murphy with ‘one who [...; &c.]’ in “To A Friend Whose Work has Come to Nothing” (Jeffares, op. cit., p.112). Further, ‘the fumbling wits, the poor spite’, may refer to Murphy’s attack on Yeats’s first poem in the Lane controversy, in which Murphy had replied to Yeats’s reference to “Paudeen’s pence”: ‘I may here remark that, generally speaking, benefactors have to depend upon posterity for the erection of public monuments to their memory ... If “Paudeen’s Pennies”, so contemptuously poetised a few days ago in the press by Mr W. B. Yeats, are to be abstracted from Paudeen’s pockets, at least give him an opportunity of saying whether he approves of the process or not ... Speaking for myself I admire good pictures and I think I can appreciate them but as a choice between the two, I would rather see in the city of Dublin one block of sanitary houses at low rents replacing a reeking slum than all the pictures Corot and Degas ever painted.’ (Irish Independent, 17 Jan. 1913) [note var.: 18 Jan.; Jeffares, op. cit., p.114]. Jeffares also draws attention to a headnote in the poem “Paudeen” where Yeats alludes to Murphy’s reply [as above] and underscores the phrase ‘Your old enemy, an old foul mouth’, in “To a Shade” as referring to Murphy (Jeffares, p.106-13 [note errata, supra]). See also Yeats’s letter on Murphy in the Irish Worker (1 Nov. 1913): ‘[t]he first serious opposition [to the Lane gallery] began in the Irish Catholic, the chief Dublin clerical paper, and Mr William Murphy the organiser of the recent lock-out and Mr Healy’s financial supporter in his attack upon Parnell, a man of great influence, brought to its support a few days later his newspapers The Evening Herald and The Irish Independent, the most popular Irish daily papers. He replied to my poem “To a Wealthy Man” (‘I was thinking of a very different wealthy man’) from what he described as ‘Paudeen’s point of view’, and ‘Paudeen’s point of view it was’ (rep. in Responsibilities, Poems and a Play; cited in Jeffares, op. cit., 1984, p.114.) See Notes, infra.

George Dangerfield, The Strange Death of Liberal England (rev. edn. 1972), pp.254-66, gives account of the duel between William Martin Murphy and Jim Larkin, citing Tim Healy as a close friend of Murphy.

A. N. Jeffares, W. B. Yeats: A New Biography (London: Macmillan 1988), p.191f.: ‘W. B. Yeats’s antagonism towards Murphy, whom he viewed as the epitome of the new vulgarian Irish middle class which ‘made its first public display during the nine years of the Parnellite split, showing how base at moments of excitement are minds without culture.’ Further details of the clash resulting in “September 1913”’ (q.p.). Jeffares also adverts Conor Cruise O’Brien’s demonstration that Archbishop Walsh intervened on Murphy’s side of the Lock-Out struggle.

Felix M. Larkin, ‘“A Great Daily Organ”: the Freeman’s Journal, 1763-1924’, in History Ireland (May-June 2006), pp.44-49: ‘William Martin Murphy seized this opportunity [created by the limited production capacity of the Freeman's Journal] thus presented to him. In 1905 he transformed his paper, the Irish Daily Independent, into the modern Irish Independent, at half the price of the Freeman - a halfpenny, instead of a penny - and with a more popular format and a less partisan editorial. In effect, he copied what Lord Northclifee had done in London in 1896 when he launched the Daily Mail, the first mass circulation newspaper in these islands. The new Independent was an immediate success, and its circulation would grow steadily to about 100,000 copies per day by 1915.' (p.47.)

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Denis Gwynn
(Life of Redmond, 1932), describes Murphy as ‘enterprising employer with autocratic views’ in his account of the Lock-Out Strike (p.240).

Arnold Wright, Disturbed Dublin: The Story of the Great Strike of 1913-1914 (London: Longmans 1914), was commissioned by William Martin Murphy to put the employers’ case.

Paudeen’s Pence?: It is necessary to identify more clearly the poem by Yeats that Murphy responded to in his own letter ‘from Paudeen’s point of view’ - whether “The Gift”, “To a Wealthy Man” (which was addressed to Lord Ardilaun, not Murphy) or “Paudeen’s Pence”.

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