Cork Ancestral Archive &  Genealogical Research


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Whiskey production was another significant industry in Cork from the late 18th century. Rum and brandy were gradually displaced by whiskey as production of the latter increased. Often using English and Scottish distilling expertise, several distilleries were established in the city from the 1780s and there were seven in operation in 1807. Most were on the north side of the city including those at Millfield, Dodge’s Glen, the Green Distillery, the Watercourse Distillery and Daly’s John Street Distillery. North Mall distillery, beside the north channel of the River Lee was associated with the Wise family, while St. Dominick’s Distillery was set up by Thomas Walker at Crosse’s Green on the south side. In the 1820s distilleries were established in the county at Riverstown (John Lyons& Company), Bandon (Allman’s) and two in Midleton (Hackett’s and Murphy’s).

Midleton Distillery, together with the North Mall and Watercourse Distilleries in Cork, was part of the Cork Distilleries Company.  Only 13 miles from Cork, Midleton is situated on an inlet of Cork Harbour, with the Dungourney River supplying water to the distillery.  The original buildings, on an 8 acre site, had been built at the end of the 18th century as a very large woollen mill.  The venture proved unsuccessful and the buildings were subsequently turned into military barracks, before being purchased in 1825 by James, Daniel and Jeremiah Murphy (Senior's), three brothers who exploited the opportunities of the 1823 Excise Act to convert them into a distillery.  By 1830 the distillery was producing 400,000 gallons annually and employing 200 men.

Born 1825, James Jeremiah Murphy (Midleton Brewery & Distillery) was the eldest son of fifteen children born to Jeremiah James Murphy and Catherine Bullen. His baptismal entry may be found within the registers of South Parish, dated, 13th November 1825. This date is often miss-quoted as his date of birth.

It read;

"James of Jno Murphy & Cath Bullen. Spons James Murphy & Cath Bullen. Wm Connor (Celebrant)."

His uncle, John, and brother of Jeremiah James (above), born of James Murphy & Mary Galwey, succeeded Francis Moylan as Bishop of Cork & Ross, 1815

James Jeremiah served his time in the family business interest and was also involved in the running of a local distillery in Cork. He sold his share in this distillery to fund his share of the set up costs of the brewery in 1856. James J. was the senior partner along with his four other brothers. It was James who guided to the brewery to success in its first forty years and he saw its output grow to 100,000 barrels before his death in 1897.

James Jeremiah throughout his life had a keen interest in sport, rowing, sailing and GAA being foremost. He was a supporter of the Cork Harbour Rowing Club and the Royal Cork Yacht Club and the Cork County Board of the GAA. James J. philanthropic efforts were also well known in the city supporting hospitals, orphanages and general relief of distress in the city.

In 1854 James J. and his brothers purchased the buildings of the Cork foundling Hospital and on this site built the brewery. The brewery eventually became known as the Lady's Well Brewery as it is situated adjacent to a famous 'Holy Well' and water source that had become a famous place of devotion during penal times.

1856 James J. Murphy and his brothers found James J. Murphy & Co. and begin brewing.

The industry was under pressure from the mid-19th century from a combination of the 1830s temperance movement, population decline from the 1840s (as a result of the Great Famine 1845-1850) and a move away from spirits and towards beer. The result was that by the 1860s, Millfield, St. Dominick’s and Dodge’s Glen distilleries in the city had closed, as had the county concerns at Riverstown and Hackett’s in Midleton. The remaining city distilleries (Watercourse, John Street, North Mall and the Green) and Murphy’s Midleton distillery amalgamated in 1867 to form Cork Distilleries Company (CDC). This merger allowed the new company to rationalize production in the different properties. A new distillery was established at the Glen, Kilnap in the 1880s which produced whiskey until the 1920s.

"It is James Jeremiah that epitomises the Murphy's brand in stature and quality of character. We always strive to live up to his name."Murphy Brewery

The Midleton site is now the home of Jameson's Whiskey.

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