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Société des Missions Africaines –Province d'Irlande

MURPHY Anthony Louis né le 16 août 1914 à Scramogue
dans le diocèse d'Elphin (Irlande)
serment permanent le 18 juin 1938
prêtre le 12 décembre 1938
décédé le 2 avril 1999

1940-1947 missionnaire au Liberia
1948-1979 missionnaire au Nigeria
1979-1984 diocèse d’Elphin, travail pastoral
1984-1999 Cork, retiré

décédé à Blackrock Road, Cork, le 2 avril 1999,
à l'âge de 84 ans


Father Anthony Louis MURPHY (1914 - 1999)

Anthony Murphy was born at Scramogue, Co. Roscommon, in the parish of Termonbarry & Curraghroe, in the diocese of Elphin, on 16 August 1914. He died in St. Theresa's nursing unit, at SMA. House, Blackrock Road, Cork, on Good Friday, 2nd April 1999.

Anthony (known in the Society as 'Tony' but as 'Louis' to his family in Roscommon) was the youngest, and also the seventh son in succession, of a family of eight boys and three girls born to Michael Murphy and Margaret Ann Beirne. Michael Murphy was a teacher for forty years but had retired as Principal at Curraghroe National School before Tony enrolled there in 1919 when the new Principal was his brother, Edward, the eldest of the family. Another brother became a Franciscan under the name, Father Anthony, dying in Cork in 1975. It was during his years at Curraghroe school that Tony made his first contact with the Society.

He was going along one day in a donkey and cart when a car came around the comer and the driver asked directions to Curraghroe school. The driver was Fr. Tom Hughes SMA., a native of Hollymount, Co Mayo, and he was visiting the school in search of candidates for the priesthood. When Tony indicated that he would be interested, Fr. Hughes told him to write to the Sacred Heart College, Ballinafad, Co. Mayo, the S.M.A. Juniorate. Tony was accepted into Ballinafad by Fr. John Levins in September 1929. A year later he was promoted to the senior-cycle secondary college, at Wilton, Cork, where he excelled in Irish and Latin. It was during his time in Wilton that his father died, though a mix-up in communications prevented him from attending the funeral. After matriculating in 1933 Tony commenced his noviciate and study of philosophy in the Society's house at Kilcolgan, Co Galway, in the autumn of 1933 and, two years later, on 30 June 1935 he was admitted as a member of the Society. Tony received his theological formation in the Society's major seminary, at Dromantine, Co Down, between 1935-1939. He was ordained a priest by Bishop Edward Mulhern of Dromore, in St. Colman's cathedral, Newry, on 18th December, 1938, one of a group of eleven ordained on that day. He celebrated his first Mass in St. Anne's Church, Scramogue, where he was assisted by Fr. John Feeney, a classmate from Curraghroe National school.

In the summer of 1939 Tony's superiors appointed him to the vicariate of Monrovia, in Liberia. Liberia was arguably the most difficult mission field in Africa. Before the SMA. took charge in 1906, three missionary expeditions to that Black Republic (established in the early 19th century by freed slaves from the U.S.A.) had foundered. This was the mission which had been entrusted to the Irish Province of the Society on its erection in 1912 and which was to exact a heavy toll on personnel over the years. The outbreak of the World War delayed Tony's departure for his mission and, while waiting for a sea passage, he engaged in fund-raising for the Society in the West of Ireland. In February 1940 he set sail for Liberia, arriving in Monrovia, its capital city, on Palm Sunday, March 17th, one of the rare occasions when Palm Sunday and St. Patrick's Day fall on the same date. Bishop John Collins, the vicar apostolic, posted Tony to St. Patrick's secondary school where he taught Mathematics and English. Nine months later he was transferred to Sasstown mission, on the Kru Coast, which was the cradle of Catholicism in Liberia. Tony spent almost three years in Sasstown, serving the remainder of his long first missionary tour in the adjacent towns of Grand Cess and Cape Palmas.

Tony came to Ireland on his first home leave in July 1945, returning to his mission in August 1946. Sixteen months later his health broke down and he was invalided home. He spent the next few years recuperating. These were unhappy years for him and, as he colourfully described it later in life, he was 'going around like a stray duck'. Eventually his health improved and the doctors gave him permission to return to Africa. His assignment, given him by the Provincial, Patrick M. Kelly, was to the vicariate of Asaba- Benin, in Nigeria. Tony was to spend the next thirty years in this region, which he witnessed grow into the dioceses of Benin City (1950), Warri (1964), and Issele-Uku (1973). Tony's first posting, given him by Bishop Patrick J. Kelly - a man he greatly admired - was to the town of Kabba where his parish priest was Bob O'Regan. Tony applied himself diligently to pastoral work in a new country and, in particular, got down quickly to wrestling successfully with the undulating tones of the local Yoruba language. Tony's interest in languages was quite extensive and apart from several African languages, Greek and Hebrew, he was also fluent in Irish, and Spanish. His interest in the latter language was nurtured by his friendship with a Spanish family during his time in Monrovia.

After four years in the Kabba-Okene area, in 1954 he was transferred to Benin City, headquarters of the diocese, where he was to spend the next nineteen years. Here he was appointed to the staff of the Major Seminary where he later became Rector. When the Major Seminary was moved to Ibadan in 1956, Tony became the founding superior of the Minor Seminary in Benin. Some years later Maurice Maguire succeeded him as superior although Tony remained on the staff until 1973. At that juncture he resumed his pastoral duties in the newly-erected Issele-uku diocese, starting in Obuluku and moving in 1974 to Ogwashi-uku where he spent five years. During these years ill-health was beginning to sap his generous spirit and he had to leave Nigeria in 1959.

After a period of convalescence Tony took up a temporary appointment in his native Scramogue and for the next two years enjoyed, as he later put it, 'being a prophet in his own parish'. In 1983 he was transferred to Kilglass and a year later moved to Mullaghmore for a short spell. Tony was seventy years old when his SMA superiors indicated that he had earned a well-deserved retirement. And so, in 1984, he came to the SMA community in Blackrock Road, Cork. After a short time it became obvious that Tony's would be a very active retirement. A long-time Legion of Mary activist, Tony devoted himself to encouraging Legion groups in Cork city and county. He soon became a well-known figure as he relentlessly and often single-handedly preached the Legion message in season and out of season. Occasionally he took time out to pursue his interest in music and treated his colleagues in Blackrock Road to impromptu concerts on the concertina, the violin and the mouth-organ. He also pursued the apostolate of the pen, writing frequently to local and national newspapers in response to what he saw as deviations from accepted norms, especially in matters of faith and morals.

Tony was in relatively good health throughout his retirement. He was one of the few members of the Province to reach his 60th year of priesthood, celebrating this milestone (Diamond Jubilee) in December 1998. Shortly afterwards he travelled home for the Requiem Mass and burial of his sister-in-law, Margaret. However in the following months his health declined gradually and he died peacefully in his own community, being the first confrère to part this life in the newly-constructed nursing wing named after St. Theresa.
He is buried in Wilton cemetery.