Born in 1927 at Milford, near Kilmaine, County Mayo, Richard Murphy spent part of his childhood in Ceylon, where his father was the last British Mayor of Colombo. From the age of eight, he attended boarding schools in Ireland and England, winning a scholarship to Oxford at seventeen. After years of displacement, marriage and divorce, he returned to Inishbofin in 1959 and settled for twenty years at Cleggan, writing there and on Omey and alone on High Island. He moved to Dublin in 1980, detaching himself from the beloved country of his past the better to reach it in poetry. From 2007 until his death in 2018 he lived near Kandy in Sri Lanka, where he built a clay-tiled Octagon on a hill-top, for writing, meditation and yoga.
Richard Murphy won the Æ Memorial Award for his poetry in 1951. His lyric ‘Years Later’, which concludes the narrative of ‘The Cleggan Disaster’, won first prize in the Guinness Awards at the Cheltenham Literary Festival of 1962. The poem was submitted with a pseudonym and the judges were George Hartley, founder of the Marvell Press, Sylvia Plath, and the critic John Press.
His collection Sailing to an Island (Faber) was the Poetry Book Society Spring Choice in 1963. The Battle of Aughrim followed from Faber, and from Knopf in the US, in 1968.
He received an Arts Council Award in Britain 1967 and received the Marten Toonder Award from the Arts Council of Ireland in 1980. He became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1969 and a Member of Aosdána in 1982, and received the American Irish Foundation Literary Award in 1983. He received the Society of Authors Foundation Award in 2002.
The Price of Stone (Faber, 1985) was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation. The Mirror Wall (Bloodaxe Books, 1989) received the Poetry Book Society Translation Award. His Collected Poems (Gallery Press, Ireland, and Wake Forest University Press, USA, 2000) was shortlisted for the Irish Times Poetry Prize. The Kick: a Memoir (Granta Books, 2002) was shortlisted for the J.R. Ackerley Prize in 2002.
His retrospective The Pleasure Ground: Poems 1952-2012 was published by Bloodaxe Books in Britain and by Lilliput Press – under the title Poems 1952-2012 – in Ireland in 2013, and is a Poetry Book Society Special Commendation.
Books by Richard Murphy