Patrick Murphy – Ganger, Prospector and Bushman

Mrs Felix 'Ann" Murphy. She arrived in Fremantle in 1862 on the ship the Mary Harrison after 5 months at sea.

Mrs Felix ‘Ann” Murphy. She arrived in Fremantle in 1862 on the ship the Mary Harrison after 5 months at sea.

One of the volunteers who assist me with researching the people on the Miners Memorial, Eric Chamberlain, came across the following story which I thought would be of interest. Patrick Murphy was a well know bushman and prospector in his own right, but it was his parents who first interested me in his  story.

His parents were Felix and Ann Murphy, Ann and her daughter were the first white woman to arrive in Coolgardie. On 27 Sep 1892 the family arrived at Bayleys (Coolgardie). In fact it was Miss Murphy that was to be the first of the two to set foot in the town as the waggon driver that brought them to town had fallen from his seat and been crushed by the wheel. While Mrs Murphy looked after him, Miss Murphy was dispatched to Bayleys for help. So she was the first white woman to set foot in the town. Some years later they were both presented with a gold watch to remember the occasion. as well as several nuggets and pieces of jewellry. These are still with the family.

Patrick arrived in Coolgardie in 1899 after the death of his wife that same year. She was Ellen Mary nee Howlett, who was from Norwich in Norfolk England. They had married  in Northam, Western Australia, in 1886 when she was 18 years old.  She died as a young mother on 16 August 1899 in Southern Cross, Western Australia, at the age of 31, and is buried there with her baby, Patrick John MURPHY aged 5 weeks.

Coolgardie Miner 15 Oct 1936

Ellen and Patrick had the following children:-

Victor Hugh Howlett MURPHY b1886 – 1966
Edward Basil MURPHY b 1887 – 1955
Lily Gertrude MURPHY b1890 -1891
Norman Felix MURPHY b 1892
Patrick John MURPHY b 1899 – 1899

Poor Patrick, then aged 36, and a widower of only a year, and with four young children, was to meet a terrible fate. He had only just the Thursday before, assumed the position of Ganger on the Goldfields Pipeline:

On the 19 Oct 1900 an Horrific Accident Occurred.   Kalgoorlie Western Argus :  23 October 1900
Patrick Murphy, ganger, eldest son of Mr Felix Murphy, the well known storekeeper, of Coolgardie, met with a fatal accident Friday. It appears that Mr Murphy was engaged in blasting work, which he had been used to for a considerable time on the Coolgardie, pipe track. While in the discharge of his duties he fired a hole, standing back in case of accident. He stood back about 40 yards, when a piece of rock precipitated itself in the direction of Mr Murphy and struck him, completely severing his skull from the base, bringing death instantaneously. The young man; who was a widower, was removed to the Government Hospital, where an informal inquest was held, which will be resumed next week.

Coolgardie Miner Friday 26 October 1900, page 4

Coolgardie Miner 26 Oct 1900

Coolgardie Miner 26 Oct 1900

Yesterday afternoon Mr E. P. Dowley, Coroner, held an inquest in regardsto the death of Patrick Murphy, which took place at Calooli on October 19th. Adam Boyd, laborer, sworn, deposed that he was working on the pipe line, about four miles from Coolgardie, on October 19. About 9 30 a.m. that date Patrick Murphy, the deceased, charged a hole with gelignite and set fire to the fuse, but the shot did not go off. The deceased then put a charge of powder in the hole. It exploded and raised a stone in the air. The deceased and witness had retired 45yards from the charge. Witness was 5yds in front of deceased, and on turning round saw him fall. Witness saw a great wound on his head, and his hat was about 6ft away. Witness put his hat on his head, thinking he was dead. About 4min or 5min elapsed between the charge being fired and the event just related. Bushes had been put over the hole to prevent the stones from flinging. There was no movement made by the deceased after his fall, The brains of the deceased were scattered around. The deceased, before charging with powder, said he was determined to shift it.
His death was evidently caused by the stone falling on his head, though witness did not actually see it fall on him, although he watched two stones flying in the air. Two stones were lying within a few feet of the corpse, but bore no traces of blood. The deceased was in good health, and sober.  The deceased’s hat was cut through when witness picked it up. Donald McNeil deposed that he was working at the pipe track on October 19 with deceased and previous witness. After lighting the fuse, the deceased, Boyd, and witness walked away about 50 paces. Witness, after the explosion, heard something fall, and the deceased struck to the ground. His head was split, and he was quite dead.

A good deal of debris fell around them. After deceased fell, there was not even a quiver of the body. The hole was 8ft in depth, and in a trench about 3ft 6in below the surface of the ground. The powder was put in out of a billy can, and was not measured, The deceased had charge of the powder and fuse, and charged and fired all holes. Police constable Edward Michael Dalton deposed that on arriving at 11,30 am October 19, he saw the deceased lying on the ground on his left side, with his face flit on the ground. His left arm lay over his body and in his left hand was a box of wax matches. His brains were protruding, A quantity of stones was lying on the ground. He measured the distance between the body and the hole, and found it to be 47 yards. Death appeared to have been instantaneous. He brought the remains in to the morgue. The jury found that the deceased met his death at Calooli, on October 19, by being accidentally struck upon the head by a stone, as the result of an explosion, and that no blame was attachable to anyone.

From the death certificate for Patrick:-
Reg:- Coolgardie 102/1900, Patrick MURPHY, Labourer, aged 35yrs, Verdict of the Coroner that he was struck on the head by a stone as a result of blasting, no blame attached to anyone. Father:- Felix MURPHY (Storekeeper) Mother:- Ann McLARTY, Married to Ellen HOWLETT in Newcastle WA at age 20yrs, Children:- Richard 14yrs, Basil 12yrs, Norman 6yrs, Grace 4yrs, Rosie 2yrs, 1 male deceased. Buried in the Roman Catholic Section of Coolgardie Cemetery.

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My name is Moya Sharp, I live in Kalgoorlie Western Australia and have worked most of my adult life in the history/museum industry. I have been passionate about history for as long as I can remember and in particular the history of my adopted home the Eastern Goldfields of Western Australia. Through my website I am committed to providing as many records and photographs free to any one who is interested in the family and local history of the region.

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