Patricio Murphy

From Bere Island to Argentina

One of the reporters covering the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam for the BBC was a Patrick (Patricio) Murphy, who had made the journey to the Netherlands from his new home in London, England.  Born in Cordoba, Argentina, the series of events that brought Patrick to Europe had started almost half a century earlier when two brothers, left their small thatched cottage on Bere Island, in the late 1870s to begin a journey that would take them to the farthest reaches of the southern hemisphere, not knowing if they would ever see their family, or their island home again.

Murphy family

John and Patrick Murphy were from a family of nine, born to parents Ellen Casey from Filane, Castletownbere and John Murphy from Bere Island.  John, my great-grandfather, was the couple’s first child and was born in January 1852, his brother Patrick arrived two years later in February 1854.  John and Ellen reared their family in a small stone cottage on the eastern end of the island.  The brothers were born into a country still recovering from the effects of the Famine, and when they were old enough, like many before them they made the decision to emigrate.    While many of their fellow Irishmen were seeking a new life in Boston or New York, the brothers decided to head further south, to Argentina.

New life in Argentina

We know little of how John and Patrick Murphy travelled to Argentina, but the journey was arduous, records show that it could take a minimum of two months, and sometimes up to five months.

John and Patrick settled in Cordoba, a city in central Argentina about 700km northwest of Buenos Aires. The brothers started working on the railroads, major development of the rail network in Argentina occurred between 1870 and 1914 and it would eventually become the tenth largest rail network in the world.

After working in Argentina for some time, John decided to head north to America, and worked in the silver mines of Nevada, moving onto Butte, Montana and eventually returning home to Bere Island to marry and raise a family.  Patrick stayed in Argentina, and in 1883 married a Mary Sullivan, who had been a neighbour of his in Bere Island and had emigrated to Argentina with her brother.

Patrick and Mary had six children, Juan, Patricio, Miguel, Sara, Ana and Guillermo.   Patrick continued to work on the railways as a machinist and later became head of the workshops.  He died suddenly on September 9th 1903 at the young age of 48.  His obituary in a local paper reports that he was so well thought of by his colleagues on the railway that they were given the day off to attend his funeral.  It reported that his funeral procession occupied ten blocks, and as the coffin passed the Nuestra Señora del Pilar Church, the church bells rang in his honour. The president of the Cordoba Labour Circle read a eulogy, praising Patrick for being an honest worker and an exemplary father, finishing with the words “rest in peace our dear friend Murphy.”

Patricio Murphy from La Nacion to the BBC

Patrick’s second son Patricio, who also went by the name Patrick, was just 15 when his father died.   On leaving school, he began a career in journalism, writing for La Nacion, the country’s leading daily paper which is still in print.  By 1913 Patrick left Argentina to emigrate to Europe, he continued to write for La Nacion, reporting for them on the First World War, and then joined the BBC.

Interviewing W T Cosgrave and  Eamon De Valera

Patricio  was appointed a correspondent with the BBC’s Latin America service.   During this time he made his first visit to his father’s native land, Ireland, interviewing both President W T Cosgrave and Eamon De Valera.  A postcard which he sent to family mentioned that while in Ireland he had travelled to Cork to kiss the Blarney Stone, but sadly never made it as far as Bere Island.  He is pictured with Eamon de Valera, and in a twist of fate, it transpired that when De Valera was brought to Ireland as a baby, the stewardess responsible for his family’s cabin on the liner was a Maggie O’Sullivan from Bere Island.  Patrick would also make aviation history, by being one of the team who accompanied the Argentine aviator, Pedro Zanni, on a round-the-world flight.  Patrick acted as a translator for the team, and reported on the challenge.

Final resting place

Patrick died in London on March 21st 1963 aged 75 and was laid to rest in Hampstead Cemetery, in north London.  His plain heastone, marking that he was born in Cordoba Argentina.

Patricio Murphy with Eamon de Valera.
Jenny Murphy
Patrick Murphy Snr
Jenny Murphy
Patricio Murphy with Argentine aviator Pedro Zanni on a round the world flight.
Jenny Murphy

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