Matthew Murphy was born in Wexford, County Wexford, Ireland, in 1857, the son of James and Ellen Murphy. It is unknown when he left Ireland and emigrated to Liverpool; however, on the 19th September 1883 he married Margaret Donnelly, who had also been born in Ireland, and they lived at 19, Southey Street, Marsh Lane, Bootle, Lancashire, England.
He engaged as a fireman in the Engineering Department at Liverpool, for service on board the
Lusitania, on the 12th April 1915. His monthly rate of pay was £6-10s-0d, (£6.50p.). His previous ship had been the Anchor Lines ship Transylvania. Also on board as firemen were his nephews James Murphy and William Sinnott, and a James Coady, who was also originally from County Wexford and who was an occasional boarder in Matthew’s home.
He reported for duty at 8 a.m. on 17th April, before the Lusitania’s left for her final voyage across to New York and having completed that voyage, she set off again on the early afternoon of 1st May 1915. Then, on the afternoon of 7th May, she was torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine U-20. At that point, she was off The Old Head of Kinsale in southern Ireland and only 250 miles hours away from her Liverpool home port destination.
Matthew Murphy was killed as a result of this action and as his body was not one of those recovered and identified afterwards; he is commemorated on the Mercantile Marine Memorial at Tower Hill, London. He was aged 58 years.
His nephews, James Murphy and William Sinnott, were fortunate enough to survive the outrage, and following their rescue, they returned to their homes in Liverpool. Fireman James Coady also lost his life but as his body was recovered and identified, his remains were interred in The Old Church Cemetery, Queenstown, on 10th May 1915, in Mass Grave A, 6th Row, Lower Tier, where it lies today.
Matthew Murphy and James Coady are also commemorated on a white marble plaque in St. James' Roman Catholic Church in Chestnut Grove, Bootle, Lancashire, not far from where they both lived; however, James
Coady’s surname is erroneously spelt as Cody.
In August 1915, his widow Margaret was given the balance of wages owed to him from the
Lusitania’s last voyage, reckoned from 12th April 1915, until 8th May, 24 hours after she had gone down. In addition, The Liverpool and London War Risks Insurance Association Limited granted her a yearly pension which amounted to £15-12s-1d. (£15.60½p.) which was payable at the rate of £1-6s-1d. (£1.30½p.) per month.
Margaret Murphy died at Liverpool in 1936, aged 82 years.
1911 Census of England, 1901 Census of England, Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Cunard Records, George Donnison, PRO BT 100/345, UniLiv.D92/1/6, UniLiv. PR 13/24, PRO BT 334.