Murphy is easily the commonest surname in Ireland: birth registration statistics indicate that of, a population of 4 millions, no less than approximately 55,000 are Murphy’s. The name, with which the prefix O (or more rarely Mac) is never used nowadays, may be either O Murchadha or Mac Murchadha in Irish and is derived from and old Irish word for “sea warrior”. It arose independently in several parts of Ireland: there are, for example, indigenous septs’ so called in Counties Tyrone and Sligo, both these are unimportant in comparison with the great Murphy clan of Leinster. This was centered in Co. Wexford. The Chief of the Name is O’Morchoe, an otherwise obsolete form in English. Birth statistics indicate that Murphy is the commonest name in Co. Wexford and it also has first place in Co. Carlow. The Wexford Murphy’s were directly descended from the kings of Leinster. In the thirteenth century a descendant, Dermot MacMurrough, the warring King of Leinster, opened the floodgates to the Anglo-Normans. The Murphy’s descend from Dermot’s brother Murrough. They took their surname from Murchadh or Murrough, grandfather of Dermot Mac-Murrough, King of Leinster, and thus share their origin not only with the MacMurroughs but also with the Kinsellas, the Kavanaghs and the MacDavy Mores.
The Murphy’s of Cork have been as famed for their alcohol as for their priests. In 1825, James Murphy of Ringmahon, Blackrock, County Cork, a Justice of the Peace, founded with his brothers the prosperous firm of James Murphy and Company, Distillers, while in 1854, James Jeremiah Murphy of Bellevue, Passage West, County Cork, and his brothers founded the firm of James J. Murphy, Brewers of Cork. In 1867, the James Murphy company merged with the Midleton and four neighboring distillers to form Cork Distillers Ltd. In 1966, in another big merger, with Powers and Jameson’s, they became Irish Distillers Ltd., now the biggest whiskey distillers in Ireland, with headquarters at Middleton, County Cork. The Murphy family is still represented on the board.