Cork history

Denis Murphy of the Royal Munster Fusiliers

Denis Murphy of the Royal Munster Fusiliers

Niall C.E.J. O’Brien

Killanully old graveyard

On a south facing slope, overlooking the Owenboy River, about one kilometre east of Ballygarvan, Co. Cork, is the ruined medieval church of Killanully with its adjoining graveyard. The rectangular church was ruinous in 1615 but in repair by 1639. But by 1699 it was again in ruins.[1] The adjoining graveyard, which contains a number of eighteenth century grave stones, was extended northwards in the nineteenth century and extended again westwards in the twentieth century. Near the south-west corner of the graveyard is a ruinous two story nineteenth century watch tower.[2] Just to the west of the old church, among the eighteenth and early nineteenth century grave stones, is a Commonwealth War Graves Commission headstone erected to remember “D. Murphy” of the Royal Munster Fusiliers.


Killanully looking south towards the old church

Denis Murphy

This “D. Murphy” was Denis Murphy who died on 3rd March 1919 in Ireland. Although the Great War ended with the Armistice on 11th November 1918 all British forces service personal who died up to 31st August 1921 qualified for a Commonwealth War Graves headstone. This was because of the Termination of the Present War (Definition) Act (Royal assent on 21st November 1918) provided for an Order in Council to specify when the war would officially be at an end. The Armistice of 1918 was just a truce and the war could have restarted again, even if unlikely.

Thus Denis Murphy has a Commonwealth War Graves headstone. Denis Murphy was formerly a private in the Royal Munster Fusiliers with a service number of 7243. At the time of his death Denis Murphy was in the Labour Corps as a private with 388476 as his service number.[3]


Grave headstone for Denis Murphy

Royal Munster Fusiliers

The Royal Munster Fusiliers was formed in 1881 by the amalgamation of the old 101st and 104th Regiments of Foot. The 101st Regiment served as a unit of the East India Company between 1756 and 1861 when control of the Company Army passed to the British Army. The 101st was known as the Royal Bengal Fusiliers. In 1881 the 101st Regiment became the 1st Battalion Royal Munster Fusiliers. Field Marshal Viscount Wolseley described the 1st Battalion as able to beat any of the Line Battalions in England. There were also four short lived regiments in the British Army with the 101st title. Two of these regiments had Irish connections.

In 1881 the 104th Bengal Fusiliers became the 2nd Battalion Royal Munster Fusiliers. In August 1903 King Edward VII presented the 2nd Battalion with new colours at Cork. During the Great War there were eleven battalions of the Royal Munster Fusiliers. After Irish independence in 1922 the Royal Munster Fusiliers was disbanded.[4]

Barack Street

Denis Murphy was the son of Mrs. D. Murphy of 85 Barrack Street, Cork city.[5] A search of the census returns for 1901 and 1911 showed a number of people in Cork called Denis Murphy but it was not possible to identify the Denis Murphy of this article.

From medieval times up to 1690, the road that was later called Barrack Street was the main southern approach road into the walled town of Cork. In subsequent centuries, Barrack Street became the focal point from which further residential development spread from the overpopulated city centre.

In the early twentieth century the area around Barrack Street was a warren of lanes. These lanes had some of the worst housing conditions in the city. In the 1920s Cork Corporation began a programme of slum clearance which demolished many of these old lanes.[6]

Elizabeth Fort

The name of Barrack Street could have taken its name from the star shaped Elizabeth Fort near the South Gate Bridge and at the north-west end of Barrack Street. The soldier’s barracks at Elizabeth Fort fulfilled necessary military and security functions. In January 1590, the order was given by Queen Elizabeth I to construct star-shaped forts outside the town walls of each major Irish coastal walled town, in particular at Waterford, Limerick, Galway and Cork. Cork’s Elizabeth Fort was erected on top of a rock outcrop and built round a pre-existing church. Early representations of the fort show that it was an irregular fortification in design with stone walls on three sides and an earthen bank facing the walled town.

In 1603 as a result of Cork’s refusal to honour the crowning of the Catholic King James I, the fort was attacked by an unnamed faction of rebel Irish figures, who considerably damaged the main structure. The Irish rebels stole the guns of the fort and brought them into the walled town to cause civil unrest. Shortly after Lord Mountjoy and his forces seized the city and made the citizens unwillingly rebuild the fort. The new structure received the name “New Fort”.

In 1624 the Fort was replaced by a stronger fortification but this was severely damaged by the end of the Confederate War (1641-1653). By 1677 the Fort was in a decayed condition. In 1719 a new barracks was built inside the fort.[7]

In the late eighteenth century a new army barracks was built on the east side of Barrack Street in what is now called Prosperity Square. By 1840 this barracks had gone into disrepair and was known as “Old Barracks”.[8]

Murphy in Killanully

It may seem strange for a person living in Barrack Street to be buried out in the countryside at Killanully. The journey from Barrack Street in 1919 was not an easy one. It is about five miles as the crow flies but there is a good climbing hill out of Cork and a steep hill down into the Owenboy valley.

The reason for the burial of Denis Murphy in Killanully may have some family connection. Griffith’s Valuation in 1850 names two people by the surname of Murphy in the townland of Killanully. William Murphy held 50 acres with a house and outbuildings (worth £25) from Rev. Edward Newenham.[9] During the Great Famine William Murphy contributed five shillings to the local famine relief fund.[10] Also in the townland of Killanully was John Murphy who held only a house (worth 8s) with no garden from Daniel Sullivan who in turn rented the property from the same Rev. Newenham.[11]

Rev. Edward Newenham

Rev. Edward Newenham was born on 16th August 1817 as the second son of Robert Newenham of Sandiford, Co. Dublin by his wife Jane, daughter of Edward Hoare of Factory Hill, Co. Cork. Robert Newenham was the second son of Thomas Newenham, a major in the militia, by his wife Mary, daughter of Edward Hoare of Factory Hill. Thomas Newenham was in turn a second son of Thomas Newenham of Coolmore House, near Carrigaline.

In April 1849 Rev. Edward Newenham succeeded his uncle to Coolmore House and its estate. On 15th November 1849 Rev. Newenham married Lady Helena Moore (died 8th March 1911), second daughter of the 3rd Earl Mount Cashell. The couple had two sons and three daughters. The eldest son, William Thomas Newenham, succeeded his father to Coolmore in October 1892 before his death on 26th December 1915.[12]

Coolmore Carraigaling

Coolmore House near Carrigaline 

Turning circles

Like Denis Murphy in Killanully graveyard, William Newenham was a member of the Royal Munster Fusiliers, serving in the 3rd Battalion (the Reserve Battalion).[13] History travels in circles and tenants and landlords of Killanully joined by enlisting in the same Regiment. The Barrack Street connection also travelled in circles for Denis Murphy. On a wet day in March 1914 Denis Murphy may have gone into Cork city to see the Barrack Street Band take part in the St. Patrick’s Day parade.[14] Europe and Ireland were then one big camp of large armies but actual war seemed distant. Yet within a few months the war to end all wars began and took the lives of millions. On 11th November 2008 the Barrack Street Band was at Ypres with the Lord Mayor of Cork to mark the ninetieth anniversary of the Armistice and remember the Cork people, like Denis Murphy, who gave their lives.[15]


End of post


[1] David Sweetman (ed.), Archaeological Inventory of County Cork, Vol. 2 – East & South Cork (Government of Ireland, 1994), no. 5638

[2] David Sweetman (ed.), Archaeological Inventory of County Cork, Vol. 2 – East & South Cork, no. 5741

[3] Gerry White & Brendan O’Shea, A Great Sacrifice: Cork Servicemen who died in the Great War (Echo Publications, Cork, 2010), p. 368

[4] R.G. Harris, The Irish Regiments: A Pictorial History 1683-1987 (Nutshell, Tunbridge Wells, 1989), pp. 204, 210, 211, 214, 216

[5] Gerry White & Brendan O’Shea, A Great Sacrifice: Cork Servicemen who died in the Great War, p. 368

[6] accessed on 2 September 2015

[7] David Sweetman (ed.), Archaeological Inventory of County Cork, Vol. 2 – East & South Cork, no. 5822

[8],567217,571400,11,7 accessed on 4 September 2015

[9] Griffith’s Valuation, County Cork, Barony of Kerricurrihy, Parish of Killanully, townland of Killanully

[10] accessed on 4 September 2015

[11] Griffith’s Valuation, County Cork, Barony of Kerricurrihy, Parish of Killanully, townland of Killanully

[12] Burke’s Irish Family Records, 1976, p. 881

[13] Burke’s Irish Family Records, 1976, p. 881

[14] Tim Cadogan, Cork in Old Photographs (Gill & Macmillan, Dublin, 2003), p. 5

[15] Gerry White & Brendan O’Shea, A Great Sacrifice: Cork Servicemen who died in the Great War, p. 159


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