Murphys of Mullaghbawn

Michael Murphy left Mullaghbawn in South Armagh for Liverpool at the start of the 20th century. It was here he married Mary Pender. This is the story of their nine daughters and one son, their children and grandchildren. "Cead Mille Failte"

Monday, November 24, 2014

Alan Ashcroft: Waterloo, England & British & Irish Lions

The picture below shows Alan Ashcroft in his England RFC jersey. He represented England 8 times, and was also selected for the British & Irish Lions tour of Australia in 1959 as flanker, when they defeated the Wallabies in Brisbane. In the team that day was Irish wingman Tony O'Reilly, who bagged 2 tries in the 17-6 victory.

Historic Pender-Murphy Sporting Connection

This photograph is amazing, both from a sporting context as well as a family one.
Michael Murphy, of the 15 Murphy children, attended St. Mary's Grammar School in Crosby. He captained the school's first XV Rugby tean, then after leaving school played for St. Mary's Old Boys.
His prodigious rugby talents were soon noticed by Waterloo RFC who quickly signed him up, together with Mick's old school-mate, Mick Collins. In the photograph we see Mick Murphy in the back row, and Mick Collins in the front. But also in the front row is A. Ashcroft, an England International, and also a British Lions player.
Alan Ashcroft is the daughter of Maggie Ashcroft (née Pender), who was the daughter of Tom Pender,  the brother of our grandmother, Mary Pender (Da's wife). If you look at an earlier blog posting, sent  in by Duncan, (great grandson of Tom Pender), you'll see a picture of Alan as a young boy, with brothers Wally (Duncan's father) Dougie, and mother Maggie.
A big thank you to Mick Murphy and son Michael, who dug out this treasured photograph from Mick's sporting archives!

Thomas Pender and Family Connections

From Des Herlihy:
I spent a couple of hours today in Liverpool with Duncan Ashcroft and his wife Sue.   Duncan is a Pender and has done a lot of research into the Penders and also the Murphys.  Our grandfather, Michael Murphy, married Mary Pender in Liverpool.  At their wedding, Da's sister, Katherine met one of Mary's brothers, Robert Pender.  They ended up getting married and had two children, Mary and James.  Us Herlihys knew Mary and Jimmy well growing up in New York.  Da's wife, Mary had another brother, Thomas.  His photograph has been in the reunion exhibition and is shown here.  This makes him our great uncle.  He was a merchant seaman for 40 years out of Liverpool.  Our connection to the Penders is therefore a strong one which would explain the regard and fondness our parents had for the Penders.  Older cousins would know Tommy Pender who would have been their age.  Duncan did not know which Pender was his father.  There was a Joseph Pender who was another of Mary's brothers so maybe that is his father.  Robert Pender's death is recorded as a maritime death in 1919 on the vessel Otaki.  His and Kate's children, Mary and Jimmy, were taken by our great grandmother, Susan Murphy, to live in Mullaghbawn while Kate worked on Cunard ships.  They joined her in New York in 1927.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

James Maurice Herlihy - Uncle Jim

Des Herlihy has been adding to his research on his father's brother Jim. I'll let him tell the story.
My Uncle, Jim Herlihy, was my father's brother; he used to visit us when we were kids in New York. Below is a Wikipedia entry I wrote a while ago.
'James Maurice Herlihy was born in Kilkenny, Ireland on 29 January 1914 and died in San Francisco California on 23 October 1962. Jim was the second child of Maurice O'Herlihy and Ellen O'Herlihy (née O'Regan). His siblings were Lil, Patrick, Kathleen and Sheila. The family home was at 28 Wolfe Tone Street, Kilkenny. He went on to have a professional career in England and mostly in Liverpool. He boxed for Ireland in a tournament in Nottingham. Jim kept a record of his career made up of programmes and newspaper clippings. The programmes are very rare. He was a sparring partner of Bruce Woodcock, a British champion. Pete Best, the first drummer of The Beatles, was the grandson of Johnny Best who was a Director of Liverpool Stadium. Johnny Best arranged a fight for Jim at the Tower Blackpool in February 1943. The letter to the promoter in Blackpool is signed by Johnny Best and it is in Jim's scrapbook. Jim's fee for this fight was £20.'
I have his scrapbook in which he meticulously recorded his press cuttings. I have added photos of his trophies: runner up in 1937 as a Middleweight in the Irish National Championships and the winner as a Middleweight in the 1938 Leinster Championships. He also won a trophy for a tournament in Derry in 1938.
You will see a photograph of the Heavyweight Champion of the World, Joe Louis when he visited Liverpool during WW2. On the far right of the photo is Johnny Best, the grandfather of Pete Best, the first drummer of The Beatles. You will also see a letter from Johnny Best arranging a fight for Uncle Jim in Blackpool.
Now a quiz question. Which World Heavyweight Boxing Champion signed a contract for Liverpool FC? Answer: Joe Louis. During his visit to Liverpool a Director of Liverpool FC asked for Joe Louis' autograph. The only paper he had with him was a Liverpool FC contract and that is what Joe signed. This was told to me by a member of the Merseyside ex-Boxers' Association who set the question himself. I have added this last bit to fend off any nonsense from my bluenose cousins and friends!
McCanns and Goodhearts please note the O'Regan link: Margaret Goodheart MuirDeirdre McCann McInerneyMary Kay MulliganEileen McCann Ninivaggi Alice SinatraAnne McCann.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Happy Birthday Laura Gomez Murphy

Mother of 15 Laura Gomez Murphy celebrates her 97th birthday in heaven today.
To mark this day, we publish photographs of the newly inscribed gravestones. (click on picture to enlarge)

Happy Birthday Mum from all your wonderful children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and hundreds of nephews and nieces, friends from all over the world.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Pender Family History

I've been receiving great emails from Duncan Ashcroft, who has being doing an inordinate amount of research on the Pender family. His findings are remarkable, and by publishing the details, photos, addresses, names etc. we hope other members of the family will come forward with more information to fill in the gaps, or even just to support Dunc's finding and maybe add a photo or two.
Please forgive me if I make any mistakes, and I would like family members to come forward and correct me when necessary. I can go back and edit the blog, so no worries there.
If we start on the Murphy, side, we have my granfather, Michael Murphy (Big Da) born in Carrickldrene, Mullaghbawn, County Armagh (I need the date). Now brother and sister of the Murphy's married brother and sister of the Pender's. So Big Da married Mary Pender, and Robert Pender married Catherine Murphy.
Duncan is the Great Grandson of Mary's brother Tom. Tom died aged 85 in 1961. I remember going to the funeral in Manchester/Salford area when I was 10. So dad was 50, and we were accompanied by another Pender relative, possibly a cousin, who lived in Liverpool. I always thought his name was Tom, but maybe I was mixing up the names with old Tom who had just died. We need information on this cousin.
So let's look at the life of Tom Pender through the eyes of his Great-Grandson, and on behalf of all the family, we sincerely thank Duncan for all his time and effort in providing us with this precious insight into our family history. God Bless.

Tom Pender was one of the brothers of the lady whose name graces the top of the Murphy’s of Mullaghbawn website, namely Mary Pender. Tom was my great grandfather and although I never met him, he died in 1961 a couple of years before I was born, my father Wally was about 25 when his grandad passed aged 85 and has strong memories of this ‘character’ a tough but kind and funny seaman fireman stoker who would enter prize fights on shore, have exotic tales and could recite poetry especially when a bit of drink had passed his lips!

All Tom’s other brothers became merchant seafarers operating from the Liverpool docks from the Evelyn and Aspinall Street household, and as this blog has shown, Robert Pender married Catherine Murphy, sister of ‘Big Dah’ Michael Murphy who married Mary – double family weddings!

This Pender family of Liverpool Irish lived with their mother and father who had come over from county Wexford presumably because of the Great Famine. Their mother Johanna O’Leary from Ballycullane married Thomas Pender (senior) from Newbawn in 1865 in Our Lady of Reconciliation which still exists in Eldon Street off Vauxhall Road.

They lived early days in a court house in the next street, Bond St and Johanna gave birth first to a Patrick (named after her husband’s dad) and then to a Thomas and a Mary who subsequently died in infancy. My great grandad Tom as the first boy that followed and Mary as the first girl were named after these children. 

Patrick the eldest entered the merchant navy first, however he contracted scarlet fever while on board and died in the north Liverpool hospital. Tom then became the eldest, followed by John, Mary, Robert and Joseph.  I have a passenger list record of a Joseph J Pender emigrating to New York in 1910. I also have records of a Robert Pender dying in an industrial accident in 1919 on board the Otaki which is recorded as bringing meat from New Zealand. As if there’s not enough tragedy in 1921 John died on the ship ‘Maryland’ docked in Philadelphia due to ‘cyanide gas poisoning during fumigation’. Such a tragedy, and Mary´s brother-in-law, James dying too on the Carpathia from a German U-Boat torpedo. 

Thomas and Johanna from Ireland lived to the ripe old ages of 86 (Thomas) and 81 (Johanna). They died within 7 weeks of each in December 1926 and February ‘27, ending up in Ford Catholic Cemetery on the outskirts of Liverpool. I don’t know as yet if it’s a public grave or a family one, although their grave numbers are the same. We’ll visit soon. 
Tom Pender was a fireman stoker from 1898 until 1940, mostly operating from Liverpool but in his last decade of work from Salford docks. He was regularly working the furnaces to power vessels to Canada, the USA, South America, The Med and even Australia. My dad has given me his seaman’s books and they were mostly stamped from the Liverpool dockside Seaman’s Home that stood off Luton Street in Burton Street near Great Howard Street/Boundary Street. 

Of stand out note are his entries for working the infamous Empress of Ireland five times, the last one the year before she sank with more deaths than the Titanic. We’ll be visiting the exhibition in the Maritime Museum soon. An amazing entry is the ‘Nicosian’ in the summer of 1915 and this I unearthed relates to the horrendous incident that Tom would, if pushed, tell the family about involving his crew with Germans and a u-boat, but never went into detail. If you read about it on wikipedia, the ‘Baralong Incident’ caused an international outcry from the German’s but was in the context of 3 months after the sinking by them of the Lusitania, and of the Arabic another vessel full of innocent passengers on the day of the Baralong Incident itself. 

I have now definitely just solved the mystery of Esther that Tom got involved with and was the mother of my gran Maggie. Turns out I was right about my hunch about her being from a barge family bringing coal to Liverpool and born there. The great ‘boatpeople’ website showed me the correct Esther Pedder (born 1876) to investigate and the surname of the fella she married (Robert Spencer – from a family of boatpeople too)

But I also made a shocking find that Esther in the 1911 census was an ‘inmate’ in the Brownlow Hill workhouse together with a child, Winifred 3months old who actually died in the grim place in 1914 aged 3.

I also strongly suspect that the R Spencer in another 1911 census as a ‘lunatic’ (with many others) in an Eccleston nr Prescot hospital (probably either Whiston site now or Rainhill then) was her husband. A Robert Spencer dies in 1915 and because I’d now found the first married surname of Esther I discovered that contrary to what we mostly believed, records show that Tom Pender did in actual fact marry Esther in 1917.

Apart from being father to Maggie, the question remains was he also father to the poor Winifred, and was it Tom that got Esther out of the terrible Brownlow Hill workhouse that squatted as a warning on the site of the now Catholic Cathedral? And I still don’t know the orphanage in Liverpool where Maggie was raised/taught by Catholic nuns before being brought to live in St Helens with her Mum and stepbrothers/sister, presumably after 1915 when Robert Spencer died and when Tom married Esther.

My gran was born in 1907 in Athol Street between the docks and the top of Scottie Road. She married Ernest Ashcroft, from a St Helens mining family living in Devon Street in 1930 because she fell pregnant after a ‘consensual’ incident in a back entry. Maggie claimed she didn’t know what was happening, but has laughingly told her daughter (my Auntie Sue) how she fell in love with his eyes but was shocked when he pulled his trousers down and he had black legs! Because Ernie worked down the pit, and they hadn’t then become nationalised with mod con showers, he'd only bothered to scrub the coal dust from his face and hands!

Duncan's Granny Maggie Ashcroft (neé Pender), daughter of Tom, with her 3 sons, Dougie, Alan and Wally.
She proudly got this photo of her three sons in the local paper in the mid 40s, they got the scholarship to Cowley School, St Helens she was denied. Maggie has Douggie on the left, my Dad Wally on the right of her and Uncle Alan on the far right. Auntie Sue was soon about to be born.

Tom scrubbed up for his photo receiving the Mercantile Marine Medal given to seamen operating through danger zones during the First World War. 

Tom pender-sailors home nr Luton Street - 
The former Burton Street dockland Sailors’ Home frequented by Tom for decades in Vauxhall/Kirkdale border district off Luton Street near Boundary Street - the end building by the railway arch, now demolished and made into an industrial but the adjoining warehousing still remains.

Tom pender-sailor with tash – A merchant seaman record photo of Tom sporting the large moustash and neckpiece look as he was remembered, minus his treasured cap.

Tom’s record on the Nicosian with the same dates as the controversial world war 1 ‘Baralong Incident’ involving a German u-boat - note too a later three and a half month 1915/16 trip on the Caledonian just described as ‘Government service’ 

at new inscribed grave - 
When we found his grave again earlier this year, were dismayed that there was no inscription only a number and space on the poor ‘public’ gravestone, so we got Tom’s name inscribed. My father Wally seeing the fresh inscription for his Grandad. 

Tom pender empress of ireland - 
Some of the entries in Tom’s seaman’s book showing his work as a fireman o the Empress of Ireland

Sunday, June 15, 2014

"Only Girl" Ellen Murphy Performs at Glastonbury June 29th 2014 !!!

Ellen, also known as "Only Girl" will be performing in the Avalon Café, Glastonbury Festival on June 29th 2014 at 6:30pm. If you're attending the festival then try and get to see her!
Ellen, only daughter of John and Joanne, certainly has had a busy year - and in September, she marries Jamie! Good luck Ellen!

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

News from the Penders/Ashcrofts in an Email Thread

The following is an email thread with Des Herlihy and and our relative Duncan Ashcroft. Duncan's dad Wally and his uncle Alan played for Waterloo, England and British Lions. Michael Murphy knows Alan. Great reading!
It's great to hear news form our relatives the Penders.
Please! If anyone has more information on contacts, relatives, where people moved to, where they lived etc. let me know and I will put it on the blog. Also, feel free to contact Des and Duncan whose emails are below.

Duncan, if you have any photos or any more interesting tit-bits, please send them on. My email is:

God Bless,


---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: des herlihy <>
Date: Wed, Jun 4, 2014 at 9:30 PM
Subject: Re: Penders update
To: Duncan Ashcroft <>

Duncan, This is really good news.  I have not heard from Michael Murphy.  I willsend your emails to Cormac Murphy who manages the blog.  All the best.

On Tue, Jun 3, 2014 at 4:09 PM, Duncan Ashcroft <> wrote:
Hi Des. I’ve found marriage certificate records for Mary and Michael and for Robert and Catherine, and for the Penders/O’Learys who came over from Wexford (Thomas and Johanna). There’s no doubt our families are related I feel. Note the 65 Aspinall Street address is the same as the 1911 census I sent earlier. The names are in latin common for catholic/irish type marriages of the period, so jacob type word actually means James for instance. It’s interesting to see the father’s names for Thomas and Johanna from Ireland – I’ve made contact with someone in Wexford (Ben Doyle) who knows a lot about Newbawn so I’ll be passing this info onto him. Thomas and Johanna ended up in Ford Cemetery, they died within 7 weeks of each other end 1926, early ‘27. Don’t know as yet if it’s a public grave or a family one, although their grave numbers are the same.

While on the morbid topic of graves, still a mystery about Tom and why only my dads family at the funeral in Salford in 1961. I wonder if he had fallen out or drifted away once parents died from his sister Mary and the rest of the family because of his lifestyle and the mystery Esther and my gran being raised initially by nuns. He disappeared for a number of years and a rumour circulate he was now in Salford. My dad got on his bike and found him via the seamens mission at the docks in the early 50s. Wally remembers him fondly.

Have you come across any reactions from others in the clan, Des - Michael, Conor etc?

All the best,

PS: Strangely, while I was on the phone to Ben Doyle of Newbawn on Friday, I could see a message come in emails about the Penders. It was from Rose Pender, the widow of the boxer Paul from Brookline. I’d sent her a letter and a copy of the magazine article back in February and had given up on a response. She was very interested and amused by the article and is asking family members if there’s a link. She’s only just got the mag/note because I’d sent it wrongly to an address in Plymouth, MA where I thought she was living now, instead of the Brookline one. In my reply I mentioned our recent contact with the Murphy’s of Mullaghbawn and said that one of them had sent a letter in the past. I pasted her the link to the site.

On 27/5/14 12:58, "des herlihy" <> wrote:
Hi Duncan great to talk to you last week. Your emails turned up in my spam folder which I have only just looked at.  I have seen your photo of Tom Pender. I have a copy of it which has featured in the exhibition I do for our reunions. It looks to me that we are connected.  I have forwarded your emails to Michael Murphy. He stood for parliament in St Helens during the Blair years when they parachuted a former tory minister into the constituency.  He spends most of his time in South West France now.  I think he will be delighted with your contact. All the best Des

On 22 May 2014 19:53, "Duncan Ashcroft" <> wrote:
Hi Des. It was a great pleasure speaking with you earlier today. I've
attached a pdf of the article I wrote in February. Since then I've unearthed
more, my gran Maggie was born in Athol Street nr Scottie Road and her
mothers name was down as formerly Esther Pedder with Tom Pender down as the
father, however the family all think they never got married and when I look
at Tom's merchant sea records he had just come back before Christmas as a
fireman stoker from Australia with a big pay packet, my gran would have been
conceived before his next trip and the signing on the birth certificate was
three days into a trip he was on to Boston! Esther is a mystery, so is the
catholic orphanage Maggie was put into in Liverpool.

I've also attached the first census records with others following in a
separate email because of MB size.

I notice from Mick Murphy's wiki entry that he played rugby union at
Waterloo, both my Dad Wally and Uncle Alan played there as well as England
and British Lions, but it was mostly Alan for Waterloo. Dad took on
reorganising Liverpool St Helens Rugby club (nr East Lancs Road, Windle
Island) together with his mate Ray French (of rugby league fame). I'll ask
Alan about Mick. Maggie had four children, three still alive. For their
troubled background they all did well, but Maggie was a very determined
ambitious lady (if not embittered because of thwarted talent). Douggie
graphic artist for cosmopolitan magazine lived in London, got mental illness
and died in 1970s. Alan rugby plus art school teacher at Liverpool college
and also ran with wife Ashcroft's garden Centre, Lathom nr Burscough. My dad
Wally set up a couple of pet shops in St helens (Sutton and town centre) and
after retired became a councillor and headed Art and Culture dept, Auntie
Sue sang for a living in working clubs, and on cruise ships with stage name
'Holly Day'!

Sue always went with Maggie every weekend early to Cazzy and Paddy's market
to eye up the early clothes bargains - I had to suffer looking like Tom
Jones or Liberace as a result!

Auntie Sue has got back to me today after looking at the Murphy's blog
website "This must be the family that I told you about that was on
television I remember going with Maggie to visit them when exactly I cannot
remember. They were featured because of how well brought up and educated
they all were.I think Laura has a look of Maggie."

My Dad also remembers a relative as a 'radical' left wing politician who
tried to establish in St Helens called Murphy.

I'll pen some words for the blog, but please verify that this Tom is indeed
part of the clan otherwise I'm in danger of becoming like a deluded false
family stalker!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

150 Years Anniversary of Church Services for Deaf People is Celebrated