Overlooking the Parade Ground on Arklow’s Main Street is an imposing monument, sculpted by George Smyth of Dublin to commemorate the centenary of the death of United Irishman Fr. Michael Murphy in the 1798 Rebellion. Construction began in 1898 and the memorial was completed by 1908.
A Wexford man, Fr Michael Murphy was an important leader in the Irish Rebellion and figured in the Battle of Arklow between the King's troops under General Needham, and the Irish insurgents on June 9, 1798. He was killed within 30 yards of enemy lines. After his death, his head was severed and placed by the King's troops on a spike on the garrison gates in Arklow as a warning to others.
Although his role in was relatively small, there was importance placed on the handful of Roman Catholic priests who were active in the Rebellion, and they received prominence, hence Fr. Murphy received a pedestal of honour.
Panels below the main figure honour more celebrated insurrectionists like Wolfe Tone, one of the national leaders of the Rising, and Anthony Perry and Esmond Kyan who both took a prominent part in the Wexford and Arklow battles. During construction of the memorial an error was made in the placing the profiles with Wolfe Tone and Perry’s’ panel being mixed up! It was decided to leave them in situ as to try moving them might lead to their destruction.
The animated white limestone statue depicts Fr. Murphy in the act of leading, set on a square grey limestone pedestal with moulded cornices and inscription panels. The structure is protected with a wrought-iron railing.
The memorial epigraphs are in three languages - Gaelic, English and French, the latter reflecting the support that revolutionary France gave to the United Irishmen during the Rebellion of 1798.