b. 1837 Cahir, County Tipperary, Ireland. d. 04/04/1893 Darlington, County Durham.
Michael Murphy (1837-1893) was born circa 1837 in Cahir, Tipperary to Michael Murphy, a local blacksmith, and his (unknown) wife. He had at least one sibling, a younger sister named Mary. Little is known about his early life until 1855, when he started his army career. On 27 August 1855, Murphy enlisted in the 17th Lancers at Cork. The 17th Lancers, however, were still at the Crimean War, having lost most of their complement in the Charge of the Light Brigade in the previous year. As a result, Murphy started his training with the 16th Lancers at the Portobello Barracks, Dublin.
On 22 May 1856, Murphy attached to the 17th Lancers, who were now en route from the Crimea, via Ismid in Turkey, to help contain the early stages of the Indian Mutiny. It seems he intended to catch up with his regiment in India. Something must have affected this plan, since on 18 October 1856, he joined the 2nd Battalion Military Train (later the Royal Army Service Corps and nowadays the Royal Logistic Corps) instead.
In March 1857, Murphy left the Curragh Camp and boarded the steamer Calypso at Dublin bound for Woolwich. On 28 April, he embarked for Hong Kong. On reaching Indonesia, the battalion was diverted to Calcutta on news of the Indian Mutiny. They arrived in Calcutta on 27 August, and after a series of moves were deployed to relieve Lucknow. The battalion was subsumed into the Azimghur Field Force on 29 March 1858. On 15 April 1858, Murphy was in position at Nathupur, near Azimgurh, in north-east India. During the fighting, Murphy and Private Samuel Morley were severely wounded while defending an injured comrade, Lieutenant Hamilton, adjutant of the 3rd Sikh Cavalry. Hamilton died from his injuries the next evening, but for his actions Murphy was awarded the Victoria Cross. His citation appeared on 27th May 1859, and he received his medal at Windsor Castle on 4th January 1860.
After the Mutiny, he was promoted to Sergeant and stayed with the Corps until it was disbanded in 1870. He then transferred to the newly-formed Army Service Corps in 1871. It was only six months after joining the regiment that Sergeant Murphy made the biggest mistake of his life.
On 26th January 1872, a civilian, James Green, was stopped by Farrier-Major Knott at Aldershot with a wagon loaded with oats and hay. Green stated that Murphy had given him permission to remove the goods. Murphy and Green were then arrested for theft. At the trial at Winchester, Green was acquited and released, but Murphy was convicted and sentenced to 9 months' hard labour at the House of Correction for the county of Hampshire. On 5th March, a court order was made for the forfeiture of Murphy's VC. Murphy was one of 8 men in history who were asked to forfeit their VC. This order was later rescinded, though Murphy's medal went missing before the forfeiture, despite him wearing it to every day of the trial.
When he was released from prison, he returned to serve in the 7th Hussars, but increasing ill health saw him discharged in 1875. He moved to Northumberland and worked as a blacksmith. Coincidentally, he moved into a cottage in Blackwell, near Darlington, owned by a benefactor, Sir Henry Havelock-Allan VC. Murphy died in Darlington on 4th April 1893 and was buried beneath a gravestone erected by Havelock-Allan in North Road Municipal Cemetery, Darlington. His medals are held by the Royal Logistic Corps Museum, Camberley, Surrey.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: ROYAL LOGISTIC CORPS MUSEUM, CAMBERLEY, SURREY.
BURIAL PLACE: NORTH ROAD MUNICIPAL CEMETERY, DARLINGTON, COUNTY DURHAM.
Michael Murphy's medals including VC on display at the Royal Logistics Corps Museum, Camberley, Surrey. (Picture: Thomas Stewart)