|

Historian loved the region he wrote about

PUBLISHED AUTHOR: Historian John Murphy wrote about South Gippsland with passion.

NICHOLAS John Murphy died 12 months to the day after his wife of 68 years, Kathleen Murphy.
He left the world on June 1, 2019, aged 95, after a short illness.
He was buried a year to the day after Kathleen’s burial after a service at St Laurence O’Toole’s Catholic Church, Leongatha – a church John had worshipped in, in which he was married 69 years ago, in a town he wrote the history of, and near the high school where he was educated.
His life was marked by hard work and love of the verdant pastures of South Gippsland, devotion to family, to the Catholic Church, to learning and to the Leongatha community.
His parents Nicholas and Aileen, with their two daughters Mary and Aileen, moved to Leongatha in 1921 and later bought 80 acres at Leongatha North, which they named Rubybank.
John’s older brother Richard was born in 1922 and he was born in 1924. Three other daughters followed: Kathleen, Margaret and Carmel.
There was a dairy on the property and his father also cultivated onions.
John finished primary school at Leongatha North and was at the high school in Leongatha from 1936 to 1938.
He started work on January 1, 1939, three weeks before his 15th birthday, after obtaining a position as a postal clerk at the Leongatha Post and Telegraph Office.
In early 1941, after a short stint at the Wonthaggi office, he obtained a position as a telegraphist-in-training at the Central Telegraph Office at the Elizabeth Street Post Office.
He taught himself to touch type, a skill that was to be of great assistance years later.
In 1944, drought in the Mallee led to draught horses being agisted in South Gippsland, including on Rubybank.
A horse accident injured John’s father and he was unable to milk his cows.
The next door neighbour was milking his father’s cows, and so the Manpower Authorities released John, who at that stage was working in a post office near Puckapunyal, to return to the farm.
Aged 20, he remained at Rubybank for the rest of his life.
After the war ended, his brother Dick was demobilised in 1946 and returned to the farm.
The two brothers grew an increased acreage of onions and potatoes, and with off farm work they were able to make me a reasonable living.
John met his future spouse Kathleen O’Brien in 1948 when she won Belle of South Gippsland at a Leongatha Hospital fundraiser.
Her older brother Jack had the licence on the Austral Hotel in Korumburra.
Her other brothers Matt and Gerry had a blacksmith shop in Leongatha.
They married on May 27, 1950 and after the honeymoon, moved into their almost completed house which still stands solid on Spencers Road.
The couple had eight children: Damian, Josephine, Nicholas, Kate, Luke, Angela, John and Gregory.
Over the next four decades, John built two new cowsheds and purchased neighbouring parcels of land which now form the basis of the family dairy enterprise.
John was a member of the Knights of the Southern Cross and the National Catholic Rural Movement which assisted the recently arrived Dutch and Italian families.
He always loved literature and history, and in 1964 he became the inaugural president of the newly formed Leongatha Historical Society and remained in that role for the next 20 years.
This was the beginning of his avocation as an historian.
In 1972 he joined the High School Advisory Council and chaired it between 1979 and 1982.
His first venture was a short obituary for Mr JT Knox (1977), the well-known engineer.
This was expanded into a booklet titled Knox’s Rockhill Farm (1979) about a notable landmark on Nerrena Road.
He followed this up with another booklet, Nerrena – A Pattern of Progress (1979).
In 1983 the historical society took over occupation of the Mechanics Institute building in McCartin Street and it became something of a repository of local history.
The records of the Leongatha Labour Colony (1893-1919) were available and John put together a short history of that unique institution that was published in 1983.
This led to him being commissioned, against competition from professional historians, to write the centenary history of the Woorayl Shire.
He was named Citizen of the Year in 1984.
In the run-up to the launch of No Parallel – The Woorayl Shire 1888-1988, he was invited to give the Australia Day address in 1988.
For 12 years from 1989 he was the Gippsland representative on the Council of the Royal Historical Society of Victoria.
In recognition of his service, he was made a Fellow of the Society in 2000.
The historical society sponsored booklets he wrote and in 1991 he produced the Leongatha Mechanics’ Institute and Free Library 1891–1991.
In 1993 he was retained to write a centenary history of the Shire of Mirboo and in 1994 produced a substantial book, On the Ridge – The Shire of Mirboo 1894 – 1994, to coincide with the centenary of that shire.
In the following years, John authored a number of other booklets published by the historical society, although often financially underwritten by the author: Mirboo North and District Bush Nursing Hospital 1931–1993 (1996), Faith of our Fathers – A History of St Laurence O’Toole’s Parish Leongatha 1901–2001 (2001), The Meeting Place – Leongatha Memorial Hall 1924–2004 (2004), The First Century – The Leongatha Butter and Cheese Factory Coy. Ltd. 1894–2005 (2005) and Town Water – A History of Leongatha Waterworks Trust 1905–1983, Leongatha Sewerage Authority 1939–1983 and Leongatha Water Board 1984–1993 (2005).
In 2000 the Inverloch Historical Society reproduced as a pamphlet a lecture he had given: The Tarwin River and its catchment.
In the Australia Day Honours in 2004, he was awarded an OAM for service to the community “as a contributor to the preservation of history relating to the Gippsland region.”
His final work was One Bag in Six – Onion Growing in Gippsland 1900 – 2007 (2007).
In 2013 the Gippsland Association of Affiliated Historical Societies presented him with the Gippsland Regional History Award for “an outstanding contribution to recording and publishing the history of Gippsland.”
When his wife Kathleen suffered a stroke about 12 years ago, he became her carer until she went into Koorooman House at Leongatha Hospital.
He visited every day to read poetry and the newspaper. It was a love story for nearly 70 years.
John was an honest, generous benefactor of many charities, a pillar of the community and a person of great integrity of whom all the Murphys can be proud.

Short URL: http://thestar.com.au/?p=29514

Posted by on Jul 16 2019. Filed under Featured. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Recently Commented

  • wstaton: I guess it means he will not be able to attend any council meetings saving us ratepayers his claims for...
  • rojo: Awesome work Lynette
  • vbresident: I read Ms Page’s offering and nearly choked laughing. We have a property on the second estate in...
  • brad: Hi Robbie. Would you like your comments to run as a letter to the editor too? If so, we just need your full...
  • robbiemc: The local council should not be wasting ratepayers money to build a rail trail. And more to the point there...