Private Edward Murphy Soldier Artist.


Extracts from my  book:


Private Edward Murphy

Soldier, Artist 99th Lanarkshire Regiment 1823-1871

(c)  Irene Schaffer

Chapter  1

Edward Murphy was born in Wicklow Ireland in 1828, the son of a cloth merchant.  At the age of 17 he joined the 99th Regiment of Foot on the 11th October 1840.   This was a British Regiment whose headquarters were stationed at the Royal Barracks in Dublin, The reason why he joined the army is not known, his father’s occupation indicates that he was not from a poor family and he could read and write.  His trade was that of a weaver. His drawings show that he was trained in the art of drawing, so he was not the usual of volunteer for those times in Ireland. Perhaps he met with a keen recruiting Sergeant, or he may have joined for family reasons.

The Regiment sailed for the River Derwent and went on to Sydney in June 1842, with the main part of the 99th Regiment and on his arrival Murphy was sent to Newcastle. 

Army life it would seem by this time was beginning to lose its appeal for this young Private and he deserted from his post in October 1842 and was imprisoned during November the same year.  Released he was reported as deserting again January 1843. The pay sheet shows he was imprisoned in February 1843 for a period of six months. On release he was sent to the hospital. 

Flogging was the usual punishment for desertions, but owing to the absent of his army records it is not known if this was the reason for Murphy’s hospitalisation. Flogged or not, after only five months back on duty he again deserted and again was imprisoned – this time for nine months. 

It is interesting to note that during this period 1 corporal and 25 privates deserted from the 99th Regiment.   

In October 1844 Murphy was once again back on duty and his unpleasant period had come to an end.  He served on ships possibly carrying convicts between Sydney, Port Philip and Van Diemen’s Land. It was during this period that he appears to have began his pen and pencil drawings. The earliest known one representing flags of the world, signals from Hobart and ships arriving at that port.

This unusual art work represented the flags in a  half circle boarding the outer edges of the drawing. The remainder of the drawing featured signal masts and references to the semaphore numbers and their corresponding meanings for the Mulgrave Battery at Hobart Town. Completing this colourful display is a drawing of the Swordfish, with her flag, in the  immediate centre position.  The drawing is signed by Edward Murphy Private 99th Regiment 1844.

The presence of the Swordfish on his drawing raises the question as to when this art work was started, and the date of completion. From the pay sheets, Murphy could well have been stationed in Hobart Town for a short period in 1844.

The search for a brigantine named Swordfish was unsuccessful till 1850, when a brigantine of 155 tons was built in Hobart Town. It seems possible that the drawing started in 1844 and the featured section completed at a later date.

While posted at Port Arthur in 1846 Murphy again deserted. His name was recorded in the Sydney Gazette as having deserted his post on the 7th January 1846 at Port Philip......20 years old, 5 foot 6 inches , flesh complexion, light brown hair and eyes. Enlisted 11th October 1840 Dublin Ireland , baptised Kilmalone Wicklow, weave. This period of absence was for three months. On returning to his regiment, he was first confined for nineteen days, then tried and convicted to a sentence of nine months imprisonment, losing all privileges (pension etc.)

In February 1847 he was confined to the hospital for a period of 1 month. In March he was listed as being on guard duty. It seems likely he was tried and imprisoned in Sydney and on release from hospital rejoined his regiment. On the 5th June he was sent to the cells for ten days by Commandant Harris. The reason was not stated.

For this latest breach of punishment he was banished to the outer islands off Sydney. From September to December 1847 he was stationed firstly at Cockatoo Island for one month and Goat Island for two months.  He then appears to have been stationed in Sydney until his departure with his regiment in 1849 for Van Diemen’s Land.

Before this event took place Murphy, having met a young Irish nursemaid married her in Sydney.  Matilda Finch had migrated to Sydney from Ireland on the Elizabeth in 1843. Born in Armagh Ireland she left a widowed mother in an attempt to start a new life in the Colony of NSW.  They were married at the Scott’s Church on 25th July 1848.................................


 Private Edward Murphy's art work AOT.

   Extracts from book: 


              The above book was written sometime ago and has been the subject of many discussions. 

On reading the book Mark Risby discovered that the Risby House Flag was displayed on one of the pen and pencil drawings in the book. This began a search for other house flags belonging to other businesses in Hobart at that time.

In 2013 Mark published his book "Murphy's Signals Hobart Town". This book is remarkable as it not only covers the flags but the Semaphor and Ships and explains in detail their history.


One of the drawings (one that is in a very bad condition, having been varnished over many years ago) was commissioned by Mr William Lewis, the Signal Officer for Hobart in c1857. 

The interesting feature of this work of Edward Murphy is three ships at the bottom of the drawing.  It is of three ships crossing the line at the 18th Regretta. 








I can highly recommend this book, hard covered bound with beauriful photographs and information on Flags,Ships and  Semaphore