People Australia

  • searches all National Centre of Biography websites
  • searches all National Centre of Biography websites
  • searches all National Centre of Biography websites

Browse Lists:

Cultural Advice

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website contains names, images, and voices of deceased persons.

In addition, some articles contain terms or views that were acceptable within mainstream Australian culture in the period in which they were written, but may no longer be considered appropriate.

These articles do not necessarily reflect the views of The Australian National University.

Older articles are being reviewed with a view to bringing them into line with contemporary values but the original text will remain available for historical context.

William Alfred (Billy) Murphy (1858–1929)

This article was published:

William Murphy, n.d.

William Murphy, n.d.

(Michael) William Alfred ‘Billy’ Murphy (1858-1929) master mariner, merchant and politician 

Birth: (according to most sources) 3 March 1858 in Formby, Liverpool, England (Wexford, Ireland, according to his marriage certificate) eldest son of Michael Murphy (c.1830-c.1890), Irish-born marine superintendent, Cunard Company, and Annie, née Jones. Marriage: 9 April 1889 in Paddington, New South Wales, to Ada Annie Southern (1858-1944) . They had two daughters and three sons, one of whom died in childhood. Death: 11 October 1929 in Fremantle, Western Australia. Religion: Anglican 

  • Educated at Liverpool Institute, England, and in Montreal, Canada. Trained as a European buyer with Fordan, Marsh & Company, Boston, United States of America in 1873. Went to sea.
  • Arrived in Sydney in 1879. Returned to England in 1884 and qualified as a second mate. Later secured certificates as first mate in Sydney, and master in England.
  • Was for some years on the Wesleyan Missionary barque John Williams and the New Guinea missionary schooner Harrier. Left the sea in 1889 settling in Balmain, Sydney, where he was briefly a draper.
  • He helped to found and was secretary of the Mercantile Marine Officers' Association of Australasia, NSW branch, in December 1889. Member of Labour Defence Committee in 1890 and during 1891 strike. Founding secretary of the Balmain Political Labor League (PLL) and a member of the Balmain Labourers’ Union.
  • Elected as a PLL member of the NSW Legislative Assembly for seat of Balmain NSW on 17 June 1891. One of the “non-solidarity” parliamentarians who declined to sign the pledge to support the party platform and the decisions of the majority of the caucus, he was defeated as Protectionist candidate for Balmain North on 25 July 1894.
  • Member of the executive council of the Australasian Federation League in Sydney in 1894-1896. Moved to Western Australia by February 1897. Initially worked as master mariner and undertook marine survey of Cockburn Sound in 1900. Worked as customs clerk in 1900 and as an appointed Justice of the Peace in April 1907. Was mayor of Fremantle from October 1907 to January 1910, and 1911.
  • Elected Member of the Legislative Assembly for Fremantle as an independent ministerialist (Liberal) in a by-election on 9 June 1910. Was defeated for Fremantle by a Labor opponent on 3 October 1911 in an election which saw Labor triumph in a landslide and take office under John Scaddan.
  • During World War I both his surviving sons — Sydney Arthur Murphy (1893-1926) and Hubert Allan Murphy (1895-1956) — enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force. Syd was wounded at Pozieres, in France, and his right arm was amputated. He received a military pension on his return to civilian life. Hubert was gassed in late 1918. Murphy senior was a proponent of compulsory military training, president of the All-British Association, Fremantle, and in 1916 and 1917 was a prominent campaigner for conscription.
  • He was resident magistrate in the Fremantle Police Court. He was an official visitor to the gaol in Fremantle and a committee-member of the Fremantle Businessmen’s Association. Member and sometime organiser of the Ugly Men's Voluntary Workers’ Association of WA, Fremantle branch, established in August 1917 of which he was honorary secretary until his death. President of Fremantle Literary Institute for three years. In November 1920 he nominated in a Fremantle municipal council election. Prominent in development of South Beach as a pleasure resort.
  • In poor health after an operation in December 1925, he confined his activities to charitable societies such as the Infant Welfare Association of WA, the Silver Chain Nursing League committee, the ‘Uglies’ and the Fremantle Bowling Club with which he’d been associated since its infancy.
  • According to one obituary he was “bohemian and jovial figure”.
  • His wife was active as lady mayoress, and later as member of the executive of the hospital committee and of the 44th Battalion Trench Comfort Fund and with her husband executive member of the WA Association of Soldiers’, Sailors’ and Nurses’ Relatives.

C. N. Connolly, Biographical Register of the New South Wales Parliament 1856-1901 (Canberra 1983) p 242; G. C. Bolton & Ann Mozley, The Western Australian Legislature (Canberra, 1961); David Black and Geoffrey Bolton. Biographical register of members of the Parliament of Western Australia, volume one 1870-1930 (Perth, 1990)), p 149; Daily Telegraph (Sydney) 3 July 1891, p 3:

Additional Resources

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

'Murphy, William Alfred (Billy) (1858–1929)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 2 March 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012