While the recent focus has been on a certain royal Diamond Jubilee, another significant Irish entity has also been celebrating 60 years.
The Murphy Group, one of the most successful Irish construction companies in this country, has notched up six triumphant decades as Britain’s leading pipeline company.
Founded by Kerry man John Murphy, J Murphy & Sons Limited has gone on to achieve some of the highest standards in construction.
With a turnover of £450million, Murphy now provides a multi-disciplined design and build service across a range of sectors including process energy pipelines, water and wastewater, rail, tunnelling, power and renewables.
Its founder, a man whose endeavour was to deliver under any circumstances, first arrived in London in the 1930s. To him “getting the job done” was always a guiding principle of business and life in general.
He set up his own company in 1945, clearing London’s bombsites and reconstructing airfields on instructions of the War Department. But this soon diversified into roads, water supplied and drainage in the capital and across Britain.
Over the years John, who passed away in 2009, was recognised for his unique contribution to Britain’s business life, with everything from Fellowships and University Doctorates to a Kerry Person of the Year award.
And John’s promise to ‘get the job done’ still holds good today.
To celebrate its diamond year the company has released a new commemorative book, 60 Years of Defining Moments: A history of Murphy, which looks at key moments in its illustrious history in British construction.
And there are many.
Murphy was the first to start and finish a major pipeline contracts in a single weather window – March to October – to mitigate environmental impact.
And the company has received many awards and accolades over the years ranging from health and safety to sustainability and customer care.
Among its many awards are the 2001 Channel Tunnel Rail Link’s one million man-hours without a reportable HSE accident, the City of Westminister’s Considerate Contractors Schemes Best Contractor award in 2004 and the Network Rail Partnership Awards Winner of Health & Safety Category in 2011.
Retired chief executive of British Gas Cedric Brown has been among those to pay tribute to Murphy.
“If you wish to see a first class example of a successful entrepreneur in a very competitive business then look no further than John Murphy,” he said. “I first encountered John Murphy, the man and his company, in the late 1960s when they were successful in winning distribution contracts in the gas industry.
“As the business developed into a wide range of civil engineering and infrastructure projects, it became clear they possessed a strong ‘can do’ ethos, based on a very sound understanding of engineering and customer requirements.”
He added: “This was very evident to me personally when they successfully completed the onshore pipeline, connecting the Morecambe Bay gas field into the National Grid, accomplished through extremely challenging conditions in the Lake District.”
Company Director Bernard Murphy added: “Our story illustrates the entrepreneurial leadership and great determination of John Murphy. He was an uplifting and invigorating presence to all his employees, customers and supply chain. His achievements are testimony to the dedicated workforce he gathered around him, each of whom he was fiercely proud of.”
Last year Murphy expanded into Australia. Murphy Managing Director John Stack said: “In 2011 Murphy took a 50 per cent shareholding in an Australian business creating Murphy Pipe and Civil. One year on it is going from strength to strength, with major mining, gas and water contracts in the pipeline construction sector.
He added: “We are also forming strategic partnerships and joint ventures in Britain Ireland and overseas to further develop the business.”
A look at some of Murphy’s key moments over the last 60 years…
John Murphy established J Murphy & sons Limited in the early 1950s.
Initially working on post war regeneration projects, work soon turned to specialist reconstruction of the country’s electrical infrastructure including work on the growing GPO telephone cable network.
An early realisation of the need for ready-mixed concrete, fuelled by the green light for motorway construction at the end of the decade, led to a long-standing involvement supplying the product through Pre-Mixed concrete (Rotherhithe and Midlands) and latterly through Marcon and Calmix in Leith Docks, Edinburgh.
This decade saw Murphy swinging into expansion programmes in roads, water services and Post Office cable installations.
The company also diversified into petrol stations and car show rooms establishing Modern Motors with four sites across London, including a Ford Dealership in Enfield.
In 1965 Murphy Pipelines was established, offering design and construction services for gas, oil, water and process industries.
This was also the start of extensive cabling contracts and the opening of the company’s head office on London’s Holloway Road.
Projects included the Heathrow Airport expansion, Central Electricity Generating Board work across the South East, Post Office cabling including works adjacent to Buckingham Palace, the first power station conversion to natural gas in Birmingham and Murphy’s first international work on power lines in South Africa.
In the late 60s Murphy undertook gas distribution works in Nottinghamshire and the East Midlands covering an area from Northampton to North Yorkshire, employing 90 gangs and constituting the first Murphy collaboration with Cedric Brown.
A second head office appeared on the Holloway Road. A pioneering role in a solid waste compacting system for local authorities was followed by the transfer of techniques from cable laying into gas.
Having a pivotal role in the introduction of natural gas pipelines in Britain and Ireland was amongst Murphy’s proudest achievements in the 1970s.
Murphy created gas distribution frameworks from Scotland through to London and the south east. In 1976, in preparation for the Frigg gas field, the company won its first major pipeline transmission contract to build a 100 km section of 36” pipe.
This was also the decade that saw the start of Murphy’s involvement in national rail reconstruction projects – first with British Rail and continuing today with Network Rail.
Building and property development in the public and private sectors also became a major part of the business.
The establishment of Thames Water in 1974 created another valued customer, still with Murphy today.
This was a decade of rapid growth and saw the start of Murphy Group tunnelling work.
The pipelines division became a major player in large diameter cross-country pipelines, including in 1982-1983 the construction of the 52km 42” onshore gas pipeline connecting Morecambe Bay terminal at Barrow to the National Grid at Lupton, with Cedric Brown as project director.
Long-running contracts with the British Gas regions started in the 80s and expansion was reflected in the opening of a new Murphy headquarters at Hiview House in Kentish Town, north London.
Major development projects during these boom years included the prestigious Broadgate Office site in the City of London, the railway tunnel link to Stansted Airport and aspects of the new international terminal at Waterloo Station.
Murphy also undertook major pipeline construction for oil and gas companies in the United Arab Emirates, as well as a high-pressure gas main for the city of Dublin.
In the early years of this decade Murphy spent time consolidating its tunnelling project expertise, sinking one of the shafts in the London/Thames Water ring main tunnel in Park Lane.
Murphy’s activity in the West End won them the coveted British construction Industries Civil engineer Award in 1994.
Further underground activity saw the start of horizontal drilling for trenchless drilling up to 2km.
Murphy also moved into the wide-scale installation of TV networks throughout Britain.
It also established its position as the top pipeline construction company in Britain with major projects from British Gas, Transco, Hamilton Oil, BP and Amoco.
A joint venture with Hochtief involved twin tunnels under the Thames for the Channel Tunnel Rail Link.
In 2001/2002 Murphy undertook a joint venture in Norway with Veidekke, the construct an oil pipeline using principally subsea tunnels.
Another significant contract was the award of a three-year framework by United Utilities to a joint venture of Kier, Murphy and Interserve to deliver the asset management programme, a multi-million contract extended to 2015.
In mid-decade Murphy made headlines in Britain with ‘Murphy Wins Olympic Gold’ – a reference to the first major contract award connected to the London Olympic Park.
Now established as the top pipeline company in Britain, Murphy built on its success in major tunnelling projects by securing involvement in the £200m Plumstead to North Woolwoch section of the Crossrail Tunnel Project.
A framework contract with Thames Water has been signed to work on infrastructure for clean and waste water in the Thames Valley and north London until 2015.
This includes major replacement of London’s worn-out Victorian water mains.