Murphy, Francis (1809-1891) (DNB00)

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MURPHY, Sir FRANCIS (1809–1891), first speaker of the legislative assembly of Victoria, son of Francis D. Murphy, superintendent of the transportation of convicts from Ireland, was born at Cork in 1809, and educated in that city. Proceeding to Trinity College, Dublin, he studied medicine, and eventually took his diploma from the Royal College of Surgeons in London.

In June 1836 he arrived at Sydney, and was on 1 Jan. 1837 placed on the staff of colonial surgeons as district surgeon for Bungonia, Argyle county. Becoming interested in agricultural operations, he resigned his appointment in 1840, and settled at Goulburn on a large station, where he became the chief grain grower in the county. He was a magistrate for the district. In 1847 he removed to Port Phillip, and took up land on the Ovens River in the Beechworth district, farming about fifty thousand acres at Tarawingi.

On the separation of Victoria from New South Wales in 1851, Murphy entered public life as member for Murray in the legislative council. In November 1851 he was appointed chairman of committees. In 1852 he sold his properties, and, going to reside at Melbourne, devoted himself to politics. He was active in promoting improvements ; the Scab in Sheep Prevention Act was due to him, and he pressed in 1852-3 a reform of the state-aided education, which was adopted much later. In March 1853, under the new road act he was appointed chairman of the central road board, but was at once re-elected for the Murray district, and for short periods during 1853 and 1854 acted first as chairman of committees and again as speaker. In the same year he was a member of the commission on internal communication in the colony. In the debates on the Constitution Bill he showed marked judgment and moderation, and when in 1856 an elective legislature was inaugurated, he entered the assembly as member for the Murray district, resigning his post on the road board. He was at once elected speaker of the assembly by a considerable majority. In 1859 he was unanimously reelected speaker for the second session, and in four subsequent sessions he held the post through the stormy times of McCulloch's contests with the upper chamber [see McCulloch, Sir James]. He was knighted in 1860. Different estimates have been formed of his tenure of the chair during this critical period. Rusden is unfavourable, viewing him as too pliable in the hands of the government; the general contemporary opinion seems to have credited him with firmness and tact.

In the election of 1871 Murphy was defeated in the contest for Grenville, which he had represented since 1865. In the ensuing session, after considerable debate, the house passed an act to present him with a sum of 3,000l. in consideration of his services as speaker during fourteen years. In 1872 Murphy was elected by the eastern province to a seat in the upper house, which he retained for four years without taking a very active part in its discussions. In 1877 he retired into private life, and visited England, where he resided some years.

Murphy was in 1861 a member of the commission on the Burke and Wills expedition, and in 1863 chairman of the league directed against further transportation. He was chairman of the National Bank of Australasia and director of other companies.

Murphy died on 30 March 1891, at his residence, St. Kilda Road, Melbourne, and was buried in Boroondara cemetery. In 1840 he married the daughter of Lieutenant Reid, R.N., a settler in his neighbourhood. He left six daughters and three sons, one of whom was a member of the legislative assembly of Queensland.

[Melbourne Argus, 31 March 1891; Mennell's Dict. Austral. Biog.; Victorian Parliamentary Debates, passim.]

C. A. H.