The Murphy Family of Brandy and Water Creek

Catherine Anne Hicks nee Murphy (1856-1938) was the only daughter of John Murphy and his wife Bridget McKay. There were also four sons who all appeared to have been coal miners. Catherine’s brothers included

  • John Murphy (1851-1902) married Elizabeth Quinn ( – 1898) – there were 3 children
  • Thomas (1851-1897)
  • Michael (1854-1943) married Ellen Barrett (1856-1903) – there were 9 children including Edward Peter Murphy who died in France in WW1 in 1916, and another Clyde Reginald Murphy who survived his WW1 service in France. Both had worked in the mines before enlisting in WW1.
  • Edward (1860-1900)

In 1857, Catherine’s father, John, was one of many subscribers for a National School at nearby American Creek (Figtree) – not surprising given he was the father of five young children. American Creek is, like Brandy and Water Creek, in the Allen’s Creek Catchment. Other subscribers names are recognisable as old pioneering families – William James, John Buckland, Elias Organ, John Garrett, Thomas Garrett, Michael Fishlock, R Benjamin, B Rrixon, R Osborne, H Osborne, John Rixon, W W Jenkins, A Thompson, F Derragh, etc.

The Cabbage Tree Forest at American Creek & Brandy and Water Creek was considered quite picturesque in the 1860’s – see Illustrated Evening News – August 5 1869 – though most of that forest has long since disappeared.

1858 was a foment of political electoral activity with many residents putting their names forward in support of their desired candidate – John Murphy was listed on the Figtree Committee for Mr Osborne – with many similar names to the subscribers for a National School in American Creek.

Later in 1858, John was again a signatory, this time to a letter in support of John Plunkett, at the time of his abrupt dismissal from the National Board of Education. ( Note – There were Plunkett’s in the family tree of his son-in-law George Hicks, specifically in the family of George’s sister Annie Broadhead nee Hicks – another avenue of future research ?)

From November 1864, John was a regular lobbyist for repair of the Brandy and Water Creek Road (later also known as Stones Road) – April 1865 – by December 1866 the Central Illawarra Council was resolving to repair road. However by May 1869, John Murphy was again pursuing repair of the road- also January 1870, with the road still a hot topic in September 1877.

In January 1892, a John Murphy (Catherine’s father or brother ?) was objecting to the Central Illawarra Council’s rating of an unoccupied cottage at Gillan’s Farm, presumably in the Kembla area ? Again it is uncertain, in February 1895, which John Murphy was lobbying for a polling booth at Kembla, for the Central Illawarra Council elections – Mr H Graham’s Bakery was selected as the site ultimately.

In May 1899, there was a funeral notice for the mother of John, Michael, Edward and Kate (Catherine ?) Murphy – no mention of their father John Murphy nor their brother Thomas Murphy, believed to have died in 1897. However the date of their father’s passing is not known.

A year later Catherine’s brother, Edward, had passed away in 1900, after a long illness.

Catherine’s brother John Murphy was one of the 96 victims of the horrific explosion that was the Mount Kembla Coal Mine Disaster of 1902.  A notice regarding his estate was placed in the Illawarra Mercury of October 11 1902.

He is commemorated on the Mount Kembla Disaster Monunment which was originally at Keira St Wollongong, before being moved to the Wollongong Rest Park, and then ultimately to the Mount Kembla Anglican Church graveyard.

John‘s wife Elizabeth Quinn  had died several years earlier, so their 3 children : John, Elizabeth and Thomas, were left as orphans. Initially they were in the care of a maternal aunt, but following her death they were taken on by their sole surviving paternal uncle Michael “Mick” Murphy, who sought in the courts to be their guardian in April 1905 Mick Murphy, a Mt Keira miner was, by this time, and would continue to be a long time resident of Eurara in Murphy’s Lane area of Gwynneville, whilst sister Catherine Hicks lived far away up the NSW north coast.

Catherine’s brother, John Murphy and his wife Elizabeth Quinn are buried near to each other in the Roman Catholic Section of the Wollongong General Cemetery in Kenny St Wollongong.

In August 1906 a young boy miner, Edward Murphy suffered a crush injury to his finger at Mt Keira Mine – possibly he was the son of Catherine’s brother Michael “Mick” Murphy.

Mick’s son Edward Peter Murphy (S/N 3875 – Service Record) enlisted in WW1 and served in the 55th & 17th Battalions before being killed in action in the Fromelles, also known as the Fleurbaix, campaign in France on 20.7.1916, whilst serving with the 55th Battalion. He was buried at Eaton Hall Cemetery near Rue Petillon near to Armentieres – gravestone can be seen here – more on the war graves.  Note – he is not one of the Lost Diggers of Fromelles who were buried in mass graves, who have been the focus of research by military historian Lambis Englezos.

Note – His service record has his death as 20.7.1916, however ADFA has it as 19.7.1916. Information from Edward’s ADFA entry “He was killed on the 19th (one of the first to meet his death in the attack on German lines) at Fromelles. He was killed by high explosive fire. From the nature of his wounds I should say that his end was instant and painless. I especially noticed that there was no look of pain and suffering on his face, and noted it in my diary.‘”

An article on the Australian War Memorial web site describes it as the worst night in Australian military history.

Edward’s death was reported in the Illawarra Mercury of August 22 1916, and also in the Sydney Morning Herald on August 22 1916.

He is also commemorated on the Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour at Panel 161 – it appears that he died at Fleurbaix  Fromelles (more – see Fleurbaix’s destroyed church) – as did others serving with the 55th Battalion.

Arriving in France on 30 June 1916, the battalion entered the frontline trenches for the first time on 12 July and fought its first major battle at Fromelles a week later. The battle was a disaster, resulting in heavy casualties across the division.

Edward Murphy’s brother Clyde Reginald Murphy also served in WW1 in the 13th, 45th and 62nd Battalions (S/N 5128 – ADFA entry & Service Record) – he also served and was wounded in France several times, including a severe gun shot wound to his back, plus suffered trench foot, however he  survived the war and left for Australia on 12th May 1919.

Arrangements will also be made to have Private Edward Peter Murphy  and Private Clyde Reginald Murphy included on the Illawarra Remembers 1914-1918 website – an initiative of Wollongong City Council, Shellharbour Council and Kiama Council in partnership with the Illawarra Family History Group.

Catherine’s husband George Hicks died in 1930, followed by Catherine in 1938 (1, 2), leaving her brother Michael as the only living member of the Murphy siblings from Brandy and Water Creek. Mick celebrated his 86th birthday at his Murphy’s Lane Keiraville home in April 1940, his 87th birthday in April 1941. Following his death in September 1943, the Mayor of North Illawarra Council made note of his passing. See also Family Notices – Thanks – repeated, and Obituary.


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