Francis Murphy (Australian bishop)

The Most Reverend
Francis Murphy
1st Roman Catholic Bishop
Province Adelaide
Diocese Diocese of Adelaide
See Australia
Installed 22 April 1842
Term ended 26 April 1858
Predecessor New Diocese
Successor Patrick Bonaventure Geoghegan
Ordination 1825 (Priest)
Consecration 8 September 1844 (Bishop) in St Mary's Cathedral, Sydney
Personal details
Born 20 May 1795
Navan, County Meath, Ireland
Died 26 April 1858(1858-04-26) (aged 62)
Adelaide, South Australia, Australia
Buried St. Francis Xavier's Cathedral, Adelaide
Nationality Irish
Denomination Roman Catholic Church
Parents Arthur Murphy and
Bridget Murphy (née Flood)
Occupation Roman Catholic bishop
Profession Cleric
Alma mater St Finian's College, Navan;
St Patrick's College, Maynooth

Bishop Francis Murphy (20 May 1795 – 26 April 1858) was an Irish-born Roman Catholic priest and first Catholic Bishop of Adelaide, in Australia.

Early years

Murphy was born at Navan, County Meath, Ireland, eldest son of Arthur Murphy, brewer and distiller, and his wife Bridget, née Flood.[1] Murphy was educated at St Finian's College in Navan, then the diocesan seminary and Maynooth College. He was ordained deacon in 1824 and a priest in 1825; he worked for four years at Bradford and for about seven years at St Patrick's, Liverpool, where he met Dr William Ullathorne who enlisted Murphy for the Australian mission. [2]

Murphy arrived in Sydney in July 1838 and his influence was immediately felt in the diocese. There was much sectarian feeling in Sydney, Murphy proved to be an able defender of his Church. In November 1840, when Bishop John Polding left Sydney on a visit to Europe, Murphy was appointed vicar-general of the diocese during the bishop's absence. On 8 September 1844 Murphy was consecrated first bishop of Adelaide at St Mary's Cathedral, Sydney. In the following month went to Adelaide, calling in at Port Phillip where he officiated at the first Pontifical High Mass celebrated in Melbourne.[1]

First Bishop of Adelaide

When Murphy began his work in Adelaide, he did not have a church, school or presbytery; and only one priest to assist him. At this stage he was advised that a Mr W. Leigh of Leamington, England, had given over £2,000 for the use of the Adelaide diocese. This money was invaluable at the moment, and though the adherents of the church were few in number and their means were mostly small, in less than two years there were three churches, and an additional priest had arrived. In common with the other sects the Roman Catholics were allotted a small government grant for five years from 1846, and in that year Murphy visited Europe, returning in 1847 with two additional priests. In 1849 Murphy felt it necessary to renounce the government grant on account of the conditions imposed with it. The gold rush to Victoria in 1851 very nearly emptied Adelaide and the diocese was in great difficulties. One of the priests, however, followed his flock to the diggings, and succeeded in raising £1,500 which was spent on land as an endowment for the diocese, and soon afterwards Mr Leigh presented it with a farm of 600 acres (2.4 km2) near Adelaide.[3]

Murphy was untiring in his work, travelling and preaching in all the settled parts of the colony, and his diocese gradually prospered. At the time of his death there were 21 churches and 13 priests. His amiable character led to his being asked on more than one occasion to act as mediator when difficulties arose in other dioceses, and while on a mission of this kind in Tasmania in connexion with the unfortunate differences between Bishop Robert Willson and Arch-priest Therry, Murphy contracted a severe cold which developed into consumption (tuberculosis). He died at Adelaide on 26 April 1858 and is buried in St. Francis Xavier's Cathedral, Adelaide.[3]

Murphy was a tall, active man, simple in manner and tastes, and though sometimes hasty tempered, had a kind nature. He had a good voice, was an excellent preacher, and was eminently fitted to be the pioneer bishop in a colony where his co-religionists were comparatively few in number.[3]


  1. 1 2 Osmund Thorpe, 'Murphy, Francis (1795 - 1858)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Vol. 2, MUP, 1967, pp 269-270. Retrieved 2009-10-27
  2.  Boase, George Clement (1894). "Murphy, Francis (1795-1858)". In Lee, Sidney. Dictionary of National Biography. 39. London: Smith, Elder & Co.
  3. 1 2 3 Serle, Percival (1949). "Murphy, Francis". Dictionary of Australian Biography. Sydney: Angus and Robertson.
Catholic Church titles
New title Bishop of Adelaide
Succeeded by
Patrick Bonaventure Geoghegan
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