A Tribute to Mr Murphy and the Blue Ribbon Army

ALL hail to Mr Murphy, he is a hero brave,
That has crossed the mighty Atlantic wave,
For what purpose let me pause and think-
I answer, to warn the people not to taste strong drink.

And, I’m sure, if they take his advice, they never will rue
The day they joined the Blue Ribbon Army in the year 1882;
And I hope to their colours they will always prove true,
And shout, Hurrah ! for Mr Murphy and the Ribbon of Blue.

What is strong drink? Let me think– I answer ’tis a thing
From whence the majority of evils spring,
And causes many a fireside with boisterous talk to ring,
And leaves behind it a deadly sting.

Some people do say it is good when taken in moderation,
But, when taken to excess, it leads to tribulation,
Also to starvation and loss of reputation,
Likewise your eternal soul’s damnation.

The drunkard, he says he can’t give it up,
For I must confess temptation’s in the cup;
But he wishes to God it was banished from the land,
While he holds the cup in his trembling hand.

And he exclaims in the agony of his soul —
Oh, God, I cannot myself control
From this most accurs’d cup!
Oh, help me, God, to give it up!

Strong drink to the body can do no good;
It defiles the blood, likewise the food,
And causes the drunkard with pain to groan,
Because it extracts the marrow from the bone:

And hastens him on to a premature grave,
Because to the cup he is bound a slave;
For the temptation is hard to thole,
And by it he will lose his immortal soul.

The more’s the pity, I must say,
That so many men and women are by it led astray,
And decoyed from the paths of virtue and led on to vice
By drinking too much alcohol and acting unwise.

Good people all, of every degree,
I pray, ye all be warned by me:
I advise ye all to pause and think,
And never more to taste strong drink.

Because the drunkard shall never inherit the kingdom of God
And whosoever God loves he chastens with his rod:
Therefore, be warned, and think in time,
And don’t drink any more whisky, rum, or wine.

But go at once– make no delay,
And join the Blue Ribbon Army without dismay,
And rally round Mr Murphy, and make a bold stand,
And help to drive the Bane of Society from our land.

I wish Mr Murphy every success,
Hoping he will make rapid progress;
And to the Blue Ribbon Army may he always prove true,
And adhere to his colours– the beautiful blue.

The Temperance Crusade in Dundee

Last night a farewell tea meeting was held with Mr Francis Murphy, the American Apostle of Temperance, who has during the last five weeks, in conjunction with the temperance party, carried on a gospel temperance crusade in Dundee. The meeting was held in the drill hall, where upwards of 3000 persons partook of tea. A choir of over 100 voices led the singing of hymns. Provost Moncur occupied the chair, and on the platform were many clergymen and others. Mr Murphy leaves Dundee for Manchester, where he is to begin a crusade. In the course of his address, the Provost, on behalf of the Executive Council, presented Mr Murphy with an address, expressing their deep sense of indebtedness to God for having directed Mr Murphy to Dundee, and their gratitude to Mr Murphy for his extraordinary labours, which had bean unparalleled in result. The committee also recorded that during the campaign of a month, 32,000 persons had taken the pledge of abstinence, and at least 40,000 had donned the “blue ribbon” badge of union in the work. Mr Murphy, in acknowledging the address, expressed his sincere gratitude for the manner in which he had been assisted in his work, and for the very great kindness he had experienced . He promised, if spared, to return to Dundee after his work in Manchester was finished, and to carry on the work until it was finished. Speeches were delivered by various gentlemen.

A Dundee Newspaper, 30th January 1882


Francis Murphy (1836-1907) was a leading campaigner against alcohol on both sides of the Atlantic. He was born and raised near Wexford in Ireland before going to America at the age of 16. There he worked as a publican in Maine, experiencing at first hand the evils of drink, before a spell in prison caused him to “see the light” and sign the temperance pledge. His role as “poacher turned gamekeeper” attracted many to hear him speak at public meetings and gave him a unique perspective from which to do so. Unlike many of his fellow campaigners he did not condemn liquor-sellers out of hand as evil or depraved men, but as respectable – if misguided – businessmen who should be argued with only in “kindness and in love”. Drinkers, too, were to be dealt with sympathetically in a spirit of Christian charity. He called on his followers to sign the following pledge:

With malice toward none, with charity for all; I, the undersigned, do pledge my word and honor (God helping me) to abstain from all intoxicating liquors as a beverage, and that I will by all honorable means encourage others to abstain.

This school of “gospel temperance” soon became an enormous success, and Murphy travelled far and wide spreading the good word. In Pittsburg 65,500 of the 400,000 population signed the pledge after three months of his campaigning. It was here that Murphy adopted the blue ribbon badge inspired by a line from the bible (Numbers XV, 38-39):

Speak unto the children of Israel, and bid them that they make them fringes in the borders of their garments, throughout their generations, and that they put upon the fringe of the borders a ribband of blue : and it shall be unto you for a fringe, that ye may look upon it, and remember all the commandments of the Lord, and do them

Soon the blue ribbon badge was being worn from Washington to San Francisco, Kansas went on to prohibit alcohol altogether. A visiting briton named William Noble saw the success of the movement in 1877 and established a “Blue Ribbon Army” on his return to London. Several supporters, including Murphy’s son, crossed the Atlantic to advance the cause before Murphy himself returned to the British isles.

Working initially in northern England, Murphy came to Scotland in September 1881 at set up base in Forfar. Here he induced nearly half the population to take the pledge before turning his attention to nearby Dundee. McGonagall appears to have been one of the 40,000 adherents he gained in that city.

Murphy went on to campaign in Manchester, Dublin and Norwich as well as undertaking a lecture tour through Scotland before returning to the US. He also visited Canada and Australia to further the cause of abstinence. He died in Los Angeles on 30th June 1907.

Further Reading

Wikipedia Article

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