John Murphy (contractor)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

John Murphy (5 October 1913 – 7 May 2009) was an Irish business man who established the construction and infrastructure contractor J. Murphy & Sons. The company, based in Kentish Town, with its green vans and lorries, works on building sites across the UK and Ireland.[1] His late brother Joe also went into construction in London, trading as Murphy Ltd and using grey vehicles,[2] but that company went into administration and closed in 2013.[3]


Murphy was born at Loughmark, near Cahersiveen, County Kerry. He left school at 15 but found work hard to come by. He travelled to London and started up as a subcontractor in the building trade. The Second World War offered him a golden opportunity. New airfields were urgently needed and later on runway repairs were needed also.[4] He was successful in providing this service and at end of the war was well placed to help with large-scale reconstruction. Other ventures included electrification, cable installation, water facilities and road-building.

At his death in 2009, his worth was estimated at about £190 million.[5] He valued his privacy and was known to spend little on luxuries, instead preferring to spend time with his own workmen and other Irish friends.[1]

J Murphy & Sons[edit]

In the 1970s a specialist division of the company worked on the development of natural gas.[6] Later projects included the Stansted Airport Rail Link, work in the City of London, the Channel Tunnel Rail Link and London’s Olympic Park.[7]

In 2007 J Murphy and Sons generated nearly £500 million of revenue and made pre-tax profits of £60 million. It was appointed lead contractor in the £125 million Liverpool-Manchester water pipeline project, which is to carry up to 100 million litres of water per day.[4]

After Murphy's death in May 2009, leadership of the company passed initially to his daughter Caroline, who had been appointed deputy chairperson of the group in 2007.[8] She later planned to turn the business into a worker’s Co-op owned by its 3,500 employees, but other board members — notably her mother, brother and half-brother — resisted, and she resigned in 2014.[8]

The company was then led by Steve Hollingshead until the appointment in 2017 of John Murphy's grandson, John B Murphy.[9]

In the year to 31 December 2017 the company made a pre-tax profit of £12.43m from a turnover of £711m, and had 3,878 employees. In 2018, it experienced a slow down in growth, and cancelled its Christmas Party as part of a cost-cutting drive affecting jobs across the business.[10]


  1. ^ a b McCrystal, Cal (8 May 1994). "These green vans are seen all over Britain, but no one knows anything about the millionaire who owns them". The Independent.
  2. ^ McKittrick, David (18 May 2009). "John Murphy: Businessman whose name was synonymous with the construction industry". The Independent.
  3. ^ Prior, Grant (24 October 2013). "Grey Murphy in administration with 293 job losses". Construction Enquirer. Retrieved 9 February 2018.
  4. ^ a b "John Murphy". The Telegraph. 11 June 2009.
  5. ^ Harrison, Gerry (22 June 2009). "John Murphy | Obituary". The Guardian.
  6. ^ "Murphy Group celebrates 60 great years in business". Irish Post. 19 June 2012.
  7. ^ "Our History". Murphy Group. Retrieved 4 November 2017.
  8. ^ a b Clifford, Michael (5 April 2014). "Caroline Murphy and the Murphy Group - one woman's construction empire". Irish Examiner. Retrieved 9 February 2018.
  9. ^ "Founder's grandson to lead J Murphy & Sons". Construction Enquirer. 3 October 2017.
  10. ^ Prior, Grant (12 October 2018). "Murphy cancels Christmas party as job cuts loom". Construction Enquirer. Retrieved 12 October 2018.