Memories of Earlscliffe 1945 to 1949 at the time of
William Martin Murphy
In 1945 Earlscliffe was purchased by William and Norah Martin Murphy.
 William and his wife moved into Earlscliffe
with their son, Chris and daughter, Jane, and very soon had a second daughter,
The following are taken (with permission) from emails received from two of
William Martin Murphy's children, Louise and Chris. Our thanks to both of them
for such wonderful memories. 
Firstly from Louise:
"I lived from birth (in 1946) to 3 years old at Earlscliffe, being the
youngest daughter of William and Norah Martin Murphy. Regrettably, because
of such a short time there, I have no recollection of the house and
garden, but know that it was an exquisite place, much loved by my mother,
who was devastated when my father sold it after only four years and we
moved into Dublin! She told me many stories of the house and garden and
the wonderful years there when they had a very active social life so she
enjoyed showing it off to everyone. My older sister and brother have
strong and good memories of this little paradise in our native and
much-loved Ireland; we're all overseas for many years now - my sister in
England, my brother in Australia and myself in Canada. It is so gratifying
to learn that the Robinsons obviously loved the house and property, borne
out by it's status today as a well-known haven for such a diversity of
Thank you for this super website. I've sent it on to my sister and
brother. regards Louise Martin-Murphy Ottawa, Canada"
Chris wrote the following, and he used the Earlscliffe garden tour map as a
"Gosh this all brings back some wonderful memories of my years aged 2-6
(arguably the best years I ever had). I have held back for a few days,
while I could muster together some of my memories.
The following glimpses are not in chronological order, and use the
Earlscliffe Garden Tour Map within the Robinson Garden Website
- The Fruit Orchard may have been where the Eucalyptus plantings are
now, or near to where the Fruit Garden is now.
- I remember my Father spraying the Orchard trees with a shaped copper
& brass spray pump back-pack, like a giant brandy flask strung from his
shoulders. When the pressure dropped, he would pump up the sprayer
pressure with his foot, and then get back to spraying.
- He also had a beehive in front of the Orchard, and I once saw him
smoke the hive to get at a honeycomb, which we had later for several
- On the Eastern Hillside we grazed a red and white Cow (British
Shorthorn?), name forgotten, who may have been milked occasionally.
- In the Birch Woodland just before it I learned just how nastily
Nettles could sting, and why they should not be used as a toilet paper
- Round about Fiacre's Fell was a cabbage patch where a gardener
killed a rat with a pitchfork, and where a gardener’s assistant gave me
my first boxing lesson (by my request). I leaned hard into one of his
punches, which removed my two front teeth. (I unusually grew a third
pair, according to my Mother, which I still have.) The poor lad, John or
Jack (my father called every male ‘servant’ John or Jack) was hauled
before my parents for a dressing down and possible dismissal. I remember
standing between him and my parents in the Drawing Room and strongly
defending his punching 4 year old ‘Master Chris’ by my request. He was
- I think that’s when my Father first suggested that I become a
Barrister, which he was still doing, and was my firm intention, when I
got an Exhibition in History for Law at Cambridge in 1962. (I graduated
in History, not Law, but that’s a whole other story for some other
- Oh, and I later won the Light Heavyweight Boxing Cup at my School (Ampleforth
College, Yorks) after having my nose cracked/broken to the left, then to
the right, in the two prior years. I still have the pewter cup (and the
- In the Stables area (the quadrangle where the word ‘toilet’ appears)
I twice found used shotgun cartridges following my father’s practice
with his two silver engraved Purdey 12 bore shotguns (worth a fortune
today). Wisely, I was never allowed to use them, let alone load them.
- On the corner of that quadrangle was a Dovecote with White Doves
(which I think were long gone by the time we left).
On the ‘D’ of Earlscliffe 3 Drive is where my Mother (who never passed a
driving test for the rest of her life) was at the wheel of the family
Riley with all of us in the car for a family outing, and my father
bullying her into keeping the car on the driveway, when she lost her
nerve and stacked the car into the hedge on the left hand side. We all
got out of the car, which was towed and repaired, which I always thought
was a bit overdramatic and punishing, since we were going really slowly
when we hit the hedge.
- The tennis court lawn or the Baron’s Brae lawn or the Sundial lawn
hosted my Father’s multi awarded (twice) Gladioli, and thick
Rhododendron (?) bushes.
- Where the Garden House is shown was the approximate site of a large
open pergola and trellises, where once we discovered the ground littered
with thousands of dead honey bees, which must have been diseased or
killed by pesticide. (There was enough DDT used around the gardens and
the vegetables to kill an army, after all.)
- I used to spend many hours on the Lower Lawn observing nature,
playing with grasshoppers and watching ants, sometimes in the company of
our Bloodhound Sampson. One day I couldn’t find him anywhere, and went
back to the house, when a search was commenced. Apparently he was found
unharmed on a cliff ledge 2 days later and was winched up to safety.
- By the number 6 we had a Rabbit hutch, with one White one and one
Black and White one, both of which were there one day and gone the next,
or so it seemed.
- I think we had some Chickens in there at one time too. And I can
remember one White Chicken and two Rhode Island Reds, and watching one
being dumped in a steel bucket of water for brooding on its eggs, and
thinking that was pretty cruel.
- My father had an Aviary erected on Earlscliffe Lawn for a while, but
I never remember it having any birds in it.
- I do remember one of the handymen falling from a ladder when looking
into the front right upper bathroom/toilet (looking at the house down
the lawn) and telling my parents that one of the female servants had
pushed him (true) and not being believed. He survived OK, but his
dignity may not have.
- I also remember a flood in from Earlscliffe Lawn into my nursery at
the front (was it down a few steps?) and wading in the mud in the room.
- I also remember kicking a soccer ball at Nuns (from my Mother’s and
Sisters Farnborough Hill Convent School, Hants, UK) in the slate
corridors, where also I first discovered that touching the two wires in
an exposed light switch without wearing shoes can be quite shocking.
- And I remember our ENT Surgeon and good family friend
Dr Rowan Woods
(who later bought Earlscliffe) removing a crayon or coloured pencil lead
which had lodged in my right inner ear after some nursery mishap, late
at night in his rooms in Dublin.
- I also remember Dr Woods giving me a sinus/antrim draining
procedure, but we don’t need to go there! And I remember very briefly
waking up on the operating table (or hospital cart, I am not sure) when
he removed my tonsils (I was aged 4, I believe), and asking why I was on
an ironing table!
My Mother told me often that she was devastated when she had to leave
her ‘Beloved, beautiful Earlscliffe’. I think I must have felt the same
way too, and seeing all of this brings some of that back. Ah well, such is
All the best, Chris MM"
Louise later wrote:
"How lovely to hear back from you and I thank you for your response.
I'd sent it and my comments along to my sister Jane Broxham in England
and brother Christopher Martin-Murphy in Australia and I see that today he
has written back to you with his memories and some family blurb to fill in
some gaps. I had hoped and was glad that he would respond to you with some
background on our family and our time there at Earlscliffe.
As he mentioned, our father William was the grandson of William Martin
Murphy, founder of Independent Newspapers, who was also the Chairman of
the Dublin Tram and Railway Company and also one-time owner of Clery's on
O'Connell Street. There's ample historical references to our
great-grandfather in various Irish archives.
As to Earlscliffe, I think the general consensus is that our mother
loved it so much, I'm not sure she ever forgave our father for selling it
to move into Palmerston Road, where I spent my formative, happiest years.
Yes, Dr. Bobby Woods was a very dear family friend and it was nice that
he and his wife had some time at Earlscliffe post-the MMs! In addition to
the menagerie mentioned by my brother Christopher, I know that not only
did we have Ireland's then only bloodhound Sampson (Sammie), whom the
Dublin police 'borrowed' once to track down and chase an escaped prisoner
in the Dublin mountains - he found his man, yet one can only imagine the
terror of the poor feller being chased by a baying hound! - but we also
had a couple of bull terriers (Daisy-Belle and Rodney) who had a litter of
puppies at the house and a beautiful golden retriever (Bailey). I'm told
that the bloodhound Sampson used to wrap himself around me as I sat on the
floor as a baby to protect me from my bullying brother!!
I am so glad that you and your wife cherish and continue to maintain
the house and grounds; I think our (deceased) mother would be thrilled to
bits to know this and suspect she at one time imagined her own children
getting married on the lawn, as you did to Karen Robinson.
With very best wishes and continued success in your horticultural
endeavours and love of Earlscliffe.
Louise Martin-Murphy Ottawa, Canada"
And finally, a postscript from Chris:
"My Father passed away in 1981 aged 66, my Mother in 2001 aged 84.
William Martin Murphy died in 1919. My Father was born in 1915. So he
may have met his Grandfather, but was unlikely to have a clear memory of
WMM succumbed in 1919 to poison Mussels taken from a rock off Sneem
Pier (the shells of those Mussels or their descendants are still on that
rock, from which I caught a small Conger Eel at age 7, on the only
Father/Son trip I ever had, which I still remember every day of).
My Grandfather Christopher died of Throat Cancer at age 48 just before
I was born, I think in 1942, which is when our family moved to
Earlscliffe. My Godmother, Christopher’s Sister Eva Murphy, who lived in
WMM’s Dartry House (sold for Euro 32m a couple of years ago), was my
patron and idol until she died in the early 60s, also of Throat Cancer.
I think Fiacre’s Fell is a hoot of a name and anagram, and just goes to
prove the continuing inventiveness of the Irish.
Look after yourself, Chris MM"
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Disclaimer. Parts of the data found in these history pages has been
derived from sources currently available on the internet. In researching the
previous owners of Earlscliffe, certain assumptions have been made as to the
validity of this internet data. If you believe that some of this data is
inaccurate, please contact .
-  Title deeds and other legal documents that are currently in the
possession of Karen Foley
-  As told by William's
daughter, Louise, and son, Chris in a series of emails to David Foley,
June/July 2008. Louise now lives in Ottawa, Canada and Chris in Australia
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