Former members



Richard Murphy

Born at Milford House near the Mayo-Galway border in 1927, he spent five of his early childhood years in Ceylon, now Sri Lanka. Educated at boarding schools in Ireland and England, he won a scholarship to Oxford at 17 and studied English under C.S. Lewis. Between 1951, when he won the AE Memorial Award, and 1980, when he moved to Dublin, he lived mostly in Connemara. During the 1960s, he sailed a Galway hooker ferrying tourists on fishing trips between Cleggan and Inishbofin. Since 1971 he has been a poet-in-residence at nine American universities. His poetry collections published by Faber include Sailing to an Island (1963), The Battle of Aughrim (1968), High Island (1974), and The Price of Stone (1985). The Mirror Wall (Bloodaxe and Wolfhound, 1989), versions of ancient Sinhala songs from Sri Lanka, won the Poetry Book Society Translation Award in Britain. His Collected Poems came from Gallery in 2000. All these books appeared in America from publishers including Knopf, Harper & Row and Wake Forest University Press. The Kick, a memoir, was published by Granta Books to wide acclaim in 2002 and reissued by Cork University Press in 2017. He published In Search of Poetry (Clutag Press), a series of journal entries and poems in 2017. He returned to live in Sri Lanka for his final years.

Aosdána mourns the passing of Richard Murphy (30th January 2018)

 Richard Murphy, poet and founding member of Aosdána, has died in Sri Lanka.  A writer of spectacular grace and learning, he was one of the last surviving members of that golden generation of Dolmen Press poets of the 1950s that included Austin Clarke and John Montague. His was a rare and individualistic gift, a voice that was wholly cosmopolitan and yet imbued with the land, sea and haunted atmospheres of rural Galway. He was very proud of the duality and creative ambiguity of being Anglo-Irish, of being both the son of a Colonial official, Sir William Murphy of Sri Lanka and the Bahamas, and yet a water-bailiff and fisherman friend of all the Coynes and Cancannons of the Aran quaysides.  He was innovative, enterprising, stylish and energetic, as well as being spectacularly good-looking with a rich, muscular voice that he used to great effect at public readings. He will be remembered always for his fastidious verse-craft and visionary lyricism. His first major collection Sailing to an Island (Faber 1963) had followed closely in the wake of his Dolmen Press chapbook The Last Galway Hooker (1961). In these poems he remembered his Anglo-Irish ancestors, the Ormsbys of Milford House, as well as Galway neighbours lost in the Cleggan shipping disaster of 1927. His majestic epic poem The Battle of Aughrim (Faber 1968) was his best attempt to coordinate and reconcile the Catholic and Protestant versions of Irish historical narrative.  Poems of wonderful craft and beauty, such as ‘Seals at High Island’ and ‘Coppersmith,’ appeared in his 1974 volume High Island (Harper and Row NY). His Collected Poems was published by the Gallery Press in 2000 and, in 2017, Cork University Press republished his witty and evocative memoir The Kick. His is a great loss to Aosdána and to Irish poetry.

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