Barney Murphy Comedian & Entertainer

UPDATE. Over the last week I have had correspondence from Barney Murphy’s family, which has resulted in these super photos now being returned to their family! Another great result! Here’s a bit more info from the family they have kindly said I can share with you all.

Bernard (Barney) Murphy, the music hall artiste. He was our great-uncle, his brother James Aiden was our grandfather.
We found my images of our great uncle Barney.
Our dad (born in 1915) and his younger sister Mary (born in 1914) were looked after by Uncle Barney and his wife ( Bessie who he married in 1915)( see my public family tree, link below on this blog) while young children. Their mother had died of TB (in 1921) and their father farmed them out to Barney.
Our dad looked back on the time they spent with them with fond memories They travelled all over the country with them as Barney toured the music halls.The one tale they used to tell was being left to look after themselves one day in a boarding house. They went into the kitchen and took all the bacon from the larder and used it to slide across the stone flagstones!” Great story!
One of the brothers has been researching their family history, and found my blog, how wonderful!

Original Blog

This is a small collection of Postcard Photos I bought of Barney Murphy, obviously an entertainer in the Theatre, and one other of two ladies, could one be a family member? The seller said she bought them together. “With Love to my Darling Wife Ever Yours Barney xxx


There is no writing on any of the backs, just the Postcard photographers area, some are Liverpool & others Southsea.


I wanted to find out about the real Barney Murphy, so I started as always putting his name into Ancestry, Find My Past & Family search, but I didn’t find anything I was happy with, apart from on the Newspaper Archives on Find My Past, there were lots & lots of mentions between 1914 & 1933! Here are just a few…








But I still needed some personal information, I didn’t even know what year he was born. The last mention here above on the right about the company of entertainers sailing to South Africa helped me enormously, because I managed to find them in the travel records for 24th April 1915, which was the Saturday before the article on Thursday 29th.


Barney Murphy 1915
This document above gave me his age 28! Mr B Murphy last but one.

So now I knew he was born in 1887, but was Barney Murphy just his stage name? The name Barney is short for Bernard so I thought I would look first in the 1939 Register, if he was anywhere on there I would at least see if he was still alive, any family or who knows what else. My goodness I was so very lucky, indeed he was Bernard Murphy born on 15 February 1887. Living in Westminster, London, a widower, occupation a Music Hall Comedian. See photo below, purple dots….So now I knew his name & that he had been married, I could add to my Family Tree for him.


I was surprised & saddened by what I found. Bernard married a Florence Isabella Moody at St Andrews Church, Newcastle on 15 July 1908, (records say Florence Gertrude, incorrect, but Florence had a sister Gertrude, so I assume a mistake was made at the time) they had a daughter Ellen in Jan 1909 & a son Thomas in July 1910. Then tragically I found that Ellen had died in the October of 1910. The family are together as visitors in 1911 in Oldham, Lancashire. Barney is described as a Music Hall Artist, so had just started his journey. Then I found that his wife Florence had also died in July 1913.  I have searched for what happened to his son Thomas, but there are so many possibilities as the name is so common.



Dressed as a Train Guard?

I have lots of questions unanswered, Did Barney marry again, I have found at least one possibility. What happened to Thomas? Did he die young? Did another family member bring him up? I am sure that these tragic events in his life led him to really pursue his ambition of being an entertainer, he had nothing to lose & the Newspaper clippings start after 1913. He didn’t have a home to support so just gave it his all. Even if Thomas was being looked after by another family at least Barney would have been able to provide for him.



Dressed as a Policeman do you think?


He travelled all over Britain & some revues also I found in Ireland. As we know he went to South Africa too & probably other Countries abroad.


Everyone loves a clown!


But that wonderful beaming smile hides such a very sad private life……..


This Postcard above is fabulous, advertising BASS beer & Barney, not only for the comedy but for the date! Just down on the left by the little dog G.Cooke, Blackpool, 1913.


This below is one of the last mentions of Barney Murphy in the papers in 1933, performing in Dover, Kent.

Inked1933 Dover_LI

I have as usual compiled a small Family Tree, Link here Barney Murphy Family Lynns Waffles

Slowly adding his family to the tree I found that his father Thomas died in 1908 & was in his will stated as a Travelling Showman! Although I found he had many jobs, labourer, shopkeeper etc I would imagine that he would loved to have been on the stage full time as Barney was, maybe that’s just one of the reasons that spurred Barney on.

I don’t think one of these ladies below is his wife Florence as it looks later than 1913, so maybe a family member. The lady standing does look similar to Barney, so a sister maybe?


Could one of these lovely ladies be Barney’s sister?

I found three possibilities of a death for Bernard Murphy 1. 1943 Hendon, Middlesex. 2. 1944 in Howden, Yorkshire & 3. 1968 in Ormskirk, Lancashire. But of course unless I order certificates I will never know. I just hope that he found happiness.



The last Postcard Photo of Barney is taken as quite a debonair young man.


If anyone knows or can find any more information about this family I would love to know! Especially what happened to Barney & Florence’s son Thomas.

Till next time then……………..


  1. What a fantastic family tree you have compiled Lynn. And as usual so thorough. It seems people who portray clowns usually have a sad side to them. Barny was quite a chirpy handsome man but I guess he was sad inside due to the loss of his wife. Thanks for sharing once again your fabulous talent of digging deep to find the serious stuff. Good luck with your next great find.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much Rita, glad you enjoy. I do spend a long time digging around the records & often get a lucky break! The new huge advantage to me & others is being able to search the GRO & mothers maiden names for free, amazing the difference that makes with confirming details!


      • I tried searching my husbands family tree but got nowhere because I did not know his mother and fathers birthdays nor his brothers and sisters birthdays either. I got so far and decided what I found was not his family at all. However I was successful with my own mothers family tree which went back to1635. I am not good at family trees anyway wheras you are brilliant.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. What a fascinating trail! As you know, Lynn, I love doing this sort of thing. But what’s intriguing are the similarities between Barney and my grandfather, Herbert Colley, stage name Ken Barton, who was also a comedian and actor around the same time. He too went to South Africa (though a bit earlier, in 1896, which is interesting as he married in 1895!) with his acting troupe. The story goes that he became ill and couldn’t continue with them on their tour so stayed in Cape Town to recover. Afterwards he joined a private police force for a few years before feeling homesick and coming back to England where he continued his stage career (and, presumably, his marriage, as his daughter – my mum’s half sister – was born in 1900. It’s quite an involved story, as you might guess.) Bizarrely, Herbert’s sister Maud married a Thomas MOODY! Can’t see any obvious connection at first glance, but who knows! I wonder if Barney and “Ken” ever performed on the same stage! 😁

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Lynn, Barney Murphy was my great-uncle! His brother James Aiden Murphy was my grandfather. After James Aiden’s first wife died my Dad, James Laurence Murphy, and his sister Mary were looked after by James Aiden’s brothers and their wives, being passed on from one to the other until James Aiden remarried. My Dad often talked about staying in various places with his Uncle Barney, a music hall comedian.


    • Hi Jim
      Thanks so much for getting in touch! How wonderful, I’ve been hoping someone may be able to tell me more about Barney.
      Our internet is out until probably Monday & so can’t access my information on PC. Will be in touch as soon as I can, Kind Regards Lynn


      • Hi again Lynn, It seems a long time since we were in contact about my great-uncle Barney and you passed on those great photos. I have some more information about him. Barney and Florence had 2 children. Ellen was born in Feb 1909 and Thomas in Jul 1910. Sadly Ellen died in Nov 1910. Barney’s first wife Florence died in 1913. I’ve since discovered that Barney remarried! On 21 Aug 1915 he married Bessie Bowness at St Francis Xavier’s RC Church in Liverpool. they both gave their address as 158 Great Mersey Street. That area of Liverpool has since been redeveloped but at the time there was a large pub/hotel on that site. That information solved a puzzle for me and sense of the story my Dad used to tell us of he and his sister Mary being looked after, after their own mother died, in a dockside pub in Liverpool by his Uncle Barney and his wife. That had always puzzled me because my Dad was born in 1915 and Barney’s wife Florence was dead by then. It therefore made sense to go looking for a 2nd marriage for Barney. Finding the marriage to Bessie in Liverpool made all the stories make sense. They used to perform together as “Barney Murphy and Bessie”. Bessie died in 1934 at the age of 47. Barney himself died at the Redhill County Hospital, Edgeware, London on the 4th of January 1943 at the age of 55 and was buried in Camden. Probate of his estate was granted at Llandudno on the 23rd of January 1943 to his son Thomas, who was a Bombardier in the Army at the time.


  4. Hi Lynn, Bessie Bowness was my Great Great Grandfather’s niece. He was called Thomas Mandall and his sister Mary Ann Mandall was Bessie’s mother. If you want to make contact I can share the information we have on Bessie and her family. Bessie who was brought up in Coniston was a classically trained musician, pianoforte and Soprano studying under Alberto Randegger, and performed at the First Night of the Proms in 1908, before making three singles circa 1916. Her father Thomas Bowness was living with Barney & Bessie in London when he died in 1920. Best Regards K


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