Murphy – the ‘Sea Battlers’

History of the Irish name Murphy. Image copyright Ireland Calling

The Irish surname Murphy is the most popular in Ireland and it’s also widespread across America and the UK.

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In fact there are more Murphys in America than in Ireland. There are also several Murphys in Australia.

The name means ‘Sea Battler’ and derives from the Gaelic names MacMurchadh and O’Murchadh.

Other variations include O’Morchoe and MacMurrough.

The name O’Murchadh is believed to date back to the 8th century when Ireland and parts of England were invaded by Vikings. It is likely that it is the Vikings that gave the Murphys their ‘Sea Battler’ name.

Came from all over Ireland

The O’Murchadhs lived in Wexford, Roscommon and Cork while the MacMurchadhs came from Sligo and Tyrone.

Murphys from Cork are likely to have descended from the O’Murchadhs, while Murphys from Ulster would have descended from the MacMurchadhs.

Murphy accredited chieftain working as a farmer

The Murphys were once kings of Leinster and their dynasty still lives on today. The accredited chieftain, or ‘O’Morchoe’, is currently a farmer in Wexford.
The motto on the Murphy coat of arms is ‘Fortis Et Hospitalis’ which means ‘Brave and Hospitable’.

Murphy name became Anglicised

In the early 18th century it had become difficult to get work in Ireland if you had an Irish sounding name. Most families Anglicised their names by using more intuitive English spellings and dropping prefixes such as ‘O’ or ‘Mac’.

By the end of the century, around the time of the 1798 Irish Rebellion, many families reintroduced their ‘O’ or ‘Mac’ prefixes to assert their Irish heritage. However, for whatever reason, the Murphys didn’t take this action.

Famous Murphys throughout history

Dermott MacMurrough became King of Leinster in 1126 but the High King of Ireland removed his crown in 1167 when it emerged that he had abducted the wife of another king 15 years earlier.

Father John Murphy

MacMurrough fled to Wales and later came back with an army consisting of Welsh and Norman soldiers to reclaim his kingship.

He is seen by some as a traitor to Ireland as he invited English soldiers into the country. However, others say that he only did this because he was trying to take back his crown and had no idea that King Henry II would try to seize power in Ireland.

All the Murphys in Wexford are thought to have descended from Dermott’s brother, Murrough.

Father John Murphy was a priest who led troops in Wexford during the 1798 Irish Rebellion.

Patrick Murphy was born in 1801 and grew to be the tallest man in Europe at 8ft 1’.

Shaun Murphy was born in Harlow, England in 1982 and became the snooker world champion in 2005.

Murphy’s Law

Murphy’s Law states that ‘Anything that can go wrong will go wrong’. It is named after Edward Murphy Jr, who was an American aerospace engineer. Murphy is said to have used the phrase when he was attempting to develop a new g force measurement device and found his designs didn’t work.

He blamed his assistant for not fitting the equipment correctly. He actually said something along the lines of: “However many ways there are to do something, you can trust that guy to find the wrong way.”

The phrase was simplified and then called ‘Murphy’s Law’ by other members of the team who used it in a more positive way as their code to ensure that every possible check had been made. More about Murphy’s Law

Have you also heard of Muphry’s Law?

Video histories of popular Irish names

Irish names and their meanings

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