Murtagh, Matthew

Date of Birth/Death:


Matthew Murtagh – labourer.

Matthew Murtagh was born in Country Clare, Ireland in about 1814-15. There are at least five alternative spellings for his surname – Murtagh, Murtough, Muchtagh, Murtha and Murtaghe.

Matthew Murtagh married Bridget Fitzpatrick (1825-1911), who also came from County Clare. Matthew and Bridget were Roman Catholics and they had five daughters:

  • Honora (1856-1886) b. at County Clare, m. Michael Lahiffe in 29 Aug 1880 at Kapunda, d. aged 30 years in 1886 at Gawler, buried in the Willaston General Cemetery
  • Mary (1859- ) b. at County Clare, m. William Healy at Adelaide on 8 Dec 1887
  • Bridget (1860-1917) b. at County Clare, m. Thomas Joseph Clark (1858-1892) at Willunga on 4 June 1884, d. at Willunga.
  • Johanna Anastasia (1863-1934) b. at County Clare, m. Thomas George Cole (1856-1925) at St. Joseph’s Church, Willunga on 29 Dec 1889, d. at West Croyden
  • Catherine “Kate” (1865-1939) m. David Bruce Robb (1866-1945) at Norwood on 20 June 1889

Matthew Murtagh was resident in County Clare until about 1865 and, aged 50 years, he arrived in South Australia as a single emigrant aboard Hougomont in 1866 from Plymouth. He was resident at Willunga from 1867 until his death in 1892 (25 years) and he worked as a labourer. In 1872 Matthew was charged with assault and he was bound over to keep the peace on a £20 bond.

In 1875 his wife Bridget (37) with their five daughters Honora (18), Mary (16), Bridget (14), Johanna (12) and Kate (10) arrived in Port Adelaide on 23 Feb 1875 aboard Earl Dalhousie  from London. They were all described as domestic servants and they joined Matthew in Willunga. Matthew Murtagh had a cottage at 26 St Peter’s Terrace where he paid rates (from 1876 to 1882) on part of the land that was owned by Michael Lahiffe (Lots 11, 12 and 21). This was located next to Samuel McCullagh’s cottage and it is illustrated in Maud Aldam’s Sketchbook. Murtagh purchased the property from Lahiffe in 1878, then it passed to his widow Bridget on his death in 1892 and she lived there until her death in 1911.

According to the South Australian Advertiser in October 1878 Matthew attempted to commit suicide “by cutting his throat with a razor. He made two ugly gashes, but they were only skin deep”. Michael (sic) Murtagh, laborer, is listed as resident in Willunga in the 1886 Directory and he worked as a casual laborer splitting stones and building roads for the District Council of Willunga from 1878 until about 1890. In 1887 a fire destroyed a haystack and sheds valued at £20 on Matthew Murtagh’s property. The subsequent inquest held at the Willunga Courthouse found that “it was maliciously set on fire by person or persons unknown” and the Coroner censured neighbor John Norton, with whom the Murtagh’s had been on bad terms for more than 2 years, for “not rendering any assistance at the fire so soon after it started”

In March 1892 Mounted Constable Tuohy apprehended Matthew Murtagh as a lunatic and he was sent to the Asylum. Matthew, aged 77 years, died on 28 April 1892 at the Parkside Lunatic Asylum and he is buried in the St. Joseph’s Catholic Cemetery in Willunga


South Australian Births – Index of Registrations 1842-1906
South Australian Deaths Index of Registrations 1842-1915
South Australian Marriages Index of Registrations 1842-1916
Passengers in History – South Australian Maritime Museum
Ratepayer List Willunga & Aldinga Councils 1850-1888
SAILIS (online) CT 218/203
ANCESTRY (online)
SA Genealogy database (online)
1870 ‘DISTRICT COUNCILS.’, Adelaide Observer 23 April, p. 6. , viewed 26 Dec 2023,
1878 ‘ATTEMPTED SUICIDE.’, Evening Journal 14 October, p. 3. (SECOND EDITION), viewed 26 Dec 2023,
1878 ‘LOCAL TELEGRAMS.’, The South Australian Advertiser 14 October, p. 5. , viewed 16 Dec 2023,
1887 ‘FIRE AT WILLUNGA.’, Adelaide Observer 5 February, p. 36. , viewed 26 Dec 2023,
1911 ‘Family Notices‘, The Advertiser 21 March, p. 6. , viewed 26 Dec 2023,

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