Gatton Murders - The Victims And Family

Gatton Murders

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The Gatton Tragedy Exposed At Last. An Examination Of The Secrets And Lies.

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The Victims And Family
The following particulars with reference to the lives of the three victims were obtained: -Michael Murphy, the brother, was born in 1869 on Blackfellows' Creek, about a mile away from the place where the family are at present residing. He was educated at the Creek school, finishing up at the Catholic school at Gatton. After leaving school he was casually employed doing contracting and other work. He joined the Mounted Infantry in 1891, subsequently becoming sergeant, and during the large shearing strike engaged in special police work. For a few weeks prior to his death he was employed at the Government experimental farm, Westbrook. Michael was most popular among the young fellows of the district, all agreeing that he was absolutely without an enemy.

Michael Murphy was about 5ft. 10in. in height, and weighed between 11st, and 12st., whilst his sisters were fine, well-proportioned strapping girls.

Nora, the elder of the girls, was born in the same place as her brother. She went first to the Gatton school, and subsequently to the school at Spring Creek, and since throwing lessons aside has resided with her parents.

Ellen, the second girl, was born in the same district, but in a different locality-Spring Creek, Lake Clarendon. She also was educated in two schools, commencing in the one at Spring Creek, and finishing off at the Tent Hill school. Judging from the copy-books and exercises shown by the mother, Ellen was an exceedingly smart girl. The many prize books gained by the girl while at school are now looked upon by Mrs. Murphy as sacred tokens of "the dear one gone."

Mr. George Wilson, the head teacher of the Lower Tent Hill State School, speaking of the two murdered girls, said that Ellen attended the school up till December, 1890. She left at the age of 10 years and 4 months. She was then a pupil in the sixth class. Mr. Wilson was much affected at the tragic end of his old scholar, who appears to have been a favourite with him. She entered the school on December 2, 1889, and was then put in the second class.
He speaks of her in the highest terms of praise. "Never," he said, "do I remember having had to reprimand her for anything." On being further questioned, he stated "that her conduct was most exemplary, and that she always applied herself diligently to her lessons."
"She was," he said, "under my care in school for a considerable time, and I can say that I know she was as good a girl as any parent might wish to have, and should a prize have been awarded for good conduct on a vote of the scholars, I believe she would undoubtedly have got it." She was exceptionally clever with the needle, and was a constant exhibitor and prize taker at the annual shows of the Lockyer Agricultural Society. One of her schoolmates (Miss Ellen Lowe), on being interrogated, stated that Ellen Murphy was invariably an agreeable companion, and was during her school days a very great favourite amongst the scholars. The other two victims were also pupils at this school, but left it before Mr. Wilson became head teacher. The records show that Honora Josephine Murphy first attended February 21, 1876, when she was only four years of age; whilst Michael Murphy's name first appears in the school register on June 29, 1874, when he was five years old.

It is a remarkable coincidence that Mrs. Murphy went up to Gatton to take up her residence there exactly 30 years ago on Monday, the day on which her three children were so cruelly murdered.

Mr. Murphy, who is 56 years of age, came to the colony in 1864, in the ship Mansfield, and shortly after landing he engaged with Messrs. Peto, Brassey, and Betts to assist in the construction of the railway line from Ipswich to Toowoomba. (For some considerable time he worked for the firm in the neighbourhood of Ipswich. About two years later he was married- by the late Rev. Father Brun, of Ipswich, Mrs. Murphy having come out to the colony in the ship Charlie Palmer. Shortly after their marriage they removed to a farm on Sandy Creak (now called Ma Ma Creek), about a mile nearer to Gatton than the land, which they now tenant. They were there engaged in cotton-growing for some years. It was at this place that the deceased, Michael and Norah, were born, but Ellen-or Nellie, as she was familiarly called-was born at Spring Creek, a few miles to the north of Gatton, whither Mr. and Mrs. Murphy had removed, and where they lived up till about nine and a-half years back, when they took the late Mr. Norman Rule's farm, and have been living on it ever since.

Whilst at Spring Creek Mr. Murphy engaged in grazing pursuits, and took contracts for road work and fencing. For some years after removing to Blackfellows' Creek, he also tendered for road and other work; but of late years he has left that class of labour to his sons and has confined his efforts to farming.

One of the brothers is a police constable, stationed in Brisbane.

Mr. Gaul, a very old resident, said he could not account for the crime at all. The young people who were murdered were most popular, and so far as he had seen had not one enemy in the whole of the district.

Other residents speak in very high terms of all the victims, and feel their loss heavily. In response to a sympathetic expression by a visitor, Mrs. Murphy said, "Though they have murdered their bodies, I thank God Almighty that their souls are still alive in Heaven, where I will see them soon."

Mrs. Murphy was devotedly attached to her children. When she was informed of the misfortune which had overtaken the three victims, she brought sheets from her home to the scene of the tragedy, and with her own hands covered each of the corpses with them. Then, kneeling down in the solitude of the bush, she prayed earnestly for the repose of the souls of those who had been so brutally murdered.

Mrs. W. M'Neill, the eldest daughter, recently received a paralytic stroke in the left side, and she can now get about only with the aid of a stick. For some little time past she has been residing with her parents, and her husband was there from the Downs for the Christmas holidays. Mrs. M'Neill has two children-a bright little girl three years of age, and a boy between five and six months old, who has to be reared by "spoon feeding," a duty which poor old Mrs. Murphy has taken upon herself to discharge.