Thank you to former SCR John Driver and Mike Fagan, along with OW, former parent and current Chairman of the OW Committee, Barry Cuttle, for their very fitting tribute to a true Worksopian.
“Chris was a master at the college for twenty-eight years, seventeen of which were spent as Housemaster of Shirley, carefully guiding countless pupils on their journey through the college, arriving as boys and leaving as young men. I was fortunate enough to find myself as his House Tutor for my first seven years at Worksop. This was an invaluable apprenticeship, and it was a genuine privilege to work with and learn from him.
As a result of his forethought and dedication, Chris made Shirley an incredibly special place to live and work. He once said to me that the key to good house mastering was simply ‘being there’ and for all of those seventeen years he was certainly that, but very much more besides. He created a friendly, supportive and caring environment within the house, with ample opportunity for challenge, growth and fulfilment for every member.
Beyond the walls of Shirley House, Chris was also heavily involved in many other areas of the college. Head of Classics, a cricket and hockey coach, a key member of several senior school societies and the editor of the Worksopian magazine for many years were but a few of his roles. After handing over the reigns of Shirley in 1991, he additionally took on the responsibility of College Archivist, as well as becoming Secretary of the OW Society. As if not satisfied with all of this, he also compiled and published the extraordinary and fascinating book ‘Scenes from a Century’, in celebration of the college’s centenary in 1995. An immense achievement and a genuine piece of history in its own right.”
Chris was a truly valued member of the college community who was always ready with wise council and kind-hearted support for any who needed it. His keen intellect, quick wit and dry humour made him a convivial and good-natured companion in any situation. He was a true gentleman in every sense of the word and will be sadly missed.”
- John Driver
“When I arrived at Worksop College it was in the year Chris stepped down as Housemaster of Shirley. Although I did not know him as a Housemaster, after meeting him, the name Mr Chips came to mind and if anyone has the right to call himself Mr Worksop College, it would be Chris.
One day, not long after I had arrived at the college, I was fortunate to sit close to Chris and Ronnie Wood one lunchtime on high table. The conversation was electric, with Chris and Ronnie pinging friendly barbs back and forth to one another with very subtle touches of humour. Very soon I appreciated the ability, knowledge, capacity and generosity Chris had. Chris was truly exceptional, unassuming, and humble. What Chris did not know about the College was not worth knowing. A true polymath, Chris’ encyclopaedic knowledge was amazing.
Chris told many stories which have gone down in the folk lore of the school, including the story of how Arthur Beanland, then the Mountgarret Housemaster, aptly placed an egg in the radiator of his car, called the “Runner Bean” in order to take some of his boys somewhere. Not many people will also know a 3 wheeler Reliant Car was once taken through the main doors, up the library stairs and into the library where it stayed until the Bursar could “work out” how it was done in order to remove it.”
- Mike Fagan
“He was the House Master of Shirley when my son, Fraser first joined Shirley after coming up from Ranby. There is no man that could have done a better job and the way I phrase him is that Chris was a great father figure. His greatness extended to the love that he had for all those within his care. No one could have been kinder and more generous in every possible sense of the word. Everyone who came across him loved him.”
- Barry Cuttle
"My first memory is of a mild mannered, sagely gentleman. “Murph’ would always express himself in a calm, measured voice. There were very few 0 to 60 moments with Mr Murphy. He was a man of hidden depths (musical and multi-lingual). He looked the part of a Public School House Master but also, in the 1980s, hurtled around in a champaign coloured Renault Fuego (a design rip-off of a Porsche 944) whilst most of his contemporaries drove classic British marques such as Triumphs, Rovers and Jags. There were often jokes about how full the ash-tray would be or how many bottles (acquired from Thresher’s) would be clinking about in the boot.
From other old Shirleyites we can agree on one thing. We were lucky to have this man as our housemaster. He was, having no direct family of his own, like Mr Chips. Like a real father he also, no matter how long since the last meeting, the greyer the hair or thicker the waistline, remembered us. Not only that, when you enquired as to other ex-Shirley people his powers of recall and depth of detail were unquestionable. Combining this with his mild, calming manner we also got an Alec Guinness version of George Smiley.
‘Murph’ had his own vocabulary. Our beds were ‘pits’ and lights out was referred to as ‘pit time’. His calm manner smoothed over the diverse range of crises that his ‘men’ had to face. He did not leak emotion. When helping a Remove year choose their options he posed the question ‘What would you like to follow as a career?’. The Remove, with no safety catch on, immediately came back with ‘Prime Minister Sir!’. As if the Remove had said Pilot or Estate Agent Murph had an immediate response of, ‘Well you tend to find that most people who become a Prime Minister do something else first, maybe journalism or Law. Perhaps you should look to that first?’.
This was typical Christopher Murphy – he never sought to belittle but more to encourage his men to find a different path, themselves. Such was the mechanics of Shirley House (that achieved in the classroom as well as the sports field). There was a winning leadership combination that had John Driver as House Tutor. The mix of styles and projection of authority made Shirley one of the best houses to be in.
After half retiring in 1991 and finally fully retiring on 1997 Chris then had five years of visible input to the OW Society. The care for his ‘charges’ did not stop there. I know of at least one case where he put a fatherly arm around an ex Shirleyite who had hit a whole raft of life problems. He encouraged a sort of support network to come alive (more George Smiley skillz). His life of retirement in Buxton brought him new friends and another phase of his life. He was a much-loved presence at OW events. He also embraced technology and knocked out emails always signing off as ‘Chris Murphy’.
It is on this note that I recall one of the most emotional and best memories a former pupil can have. In 2010 I introduced my own family to him. By this time, he looked like Professor Dumbledore (much to my children’s delight). Mr Murphy was a wonderful man, I never did progress, even after thirty years, from calling him ‘Sir’. Loyal Je suis."
- Shaun Holt
Thank you for sharing!