(Philip) Kevin Murphy

BMJ 2012; 344 doi: (Published 01 February 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e560
  1. Andrew W Murphy,
  2. Peter Wright

(Philip) Kevin Murphy was a prominent, insightful and committed public health doctor in England, Wales, the Channel Islands, and Ireland. The third youngest of seven sons and one daughter, he enjoyed a fortunate childhood in Kilrane, County Wexford. His family were at the centre of village life though entwined agriculture, general merchant, post office, and local development enterprises. He had a lifelong love of country life and things, often recalled through tales of his maiden auntie and general factotum John Whitty. He was schooled at home until he went to Clongowes Wood College, County Kildare, at age 13.

He entered the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, initially studying dentistry simultaneously. His midwifery experiences in Dublin’s slums left a lasting impression. After qualifying he returned to Kilrane for a few months of hunting before entering general practice in the Liverpool docks, just as the National Health Service was established. He then completed diplomas in public health and tuberculosis, the latter supervised at the National University of Wales by Professor Heaf. Subsequent posts as assistant county medical officer followed in Waterford and the Channel Islands, until he was appointed county medical officer in Donegal in 1964. He was happiest treating infectious diseases, deriving lifelong satisfaction from the investigation and management of a 1962 paratyphoid outbreak.

He was a founding member of the Irish Faculty of Public Health and maintained a lifelong interest in its development. He became a director of community care in Dublin in 1978, but never really relished the decreased clinical role. He would ruefully recall a colleague’s admonishment when such managerial roles were initially proposed by Dale Tussing to the nascent faculty: “Fellas, stick to your sewers.”

He was admired for his straightforward dedication, integrity, and compassion; his ability to split hairs, to the nth frustrating degree, was fondly overlooked. He had a great ability to seamlessly assimilate into whatever was going on locally, from riding and tennis in Wexford, rugby in Clongowes, golf in Liverpool and Wales, scuba diving and harpoon shooting in the Channel Islands, shooting in Dungarvan, to hunting and sailing in Donegal and Dublin. He raced competitively at the Royal Irish Yacht Club until his 80th year when he took up snooker.

He leaves Joan, his wife of 53 years; three children; and eight grandchildren.


Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e560


  • Former public health physician, Dublin (b 1922; q Dublin 1947; FFPHM, FFPHMI), died of the complications of multivascular dementia on 26 April 2011.

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