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Arthur Murch

Ria Murch


Ria Murch

Ria wrote much about Arthur and has left, in good order, many of his and her own writings. From Ria’s notes:

This is My Ant Heap’ is the title of the book that my husband, Arthur Murch was always writing but never actually got together.

He started when he was 25 when he was working with George Lambert on the Unknown Soldier Memorial in St Mary’s Cathedral. It was 1927.

‘What are you writing my boy?’ he asked.

‘I am writing my autobiography’

‘That will make quite a pamphlet’ said George.

He called Arthur the ‘Pocket Hercules’ because of his athletic body and short stature.

Arthur was equal to George in verbal skills and was a master of intriguing one-liners:

‘We put up memorials so that we can forget’. He said this, almost as if he anticipated his own complete loss of memory, after 60 years of painting.

His memorial is well overdue. It is strange that in an age which values innovation and notoriety, the quiet achievers have suffered much neglect.

Ria Murch c 1996

Ria’s book Arthur Murch – An Artist’s Life 1902 – 1989 , that interpreted Arthur’s autobiography, was published in 1997 by Ruskin Rowe Press.

Ria speaks at the launch of her book in Ruskin Rowe Road, Avalon 1997

Ria speaks at the launch of her book in Ruskin Rowe Road, Avalon 1997

Ria Murch was interested in so many things…

She loved people and was always finding connections and points of interest between people. Strong minded and eccentric and/or bohemian characters were a particular interest. A wealth of notes remain that show this interest. It will take me some time to work through them all.

Here are some notes on people that fascinated her.


The Pauls

Emily Letitia Paul (nee Palmer – descended from Samuel Palmer of the Sirius) 1866 – 1917

Emily was the first woman student at Julian Ashton’s (Art School) that was allowed to paint the nude figure. She was an original member of the Society of Artists; was known for her flower painting. She shared a studio in Vickery’s Chambers. No trace of her works seem to have survived her.

She married Colonel Paul of Bathurst – a veteran of the Sudan Campaign.

In “Model Wife”, Rose Lindsay (née Soady) says Emily was the person responsible for her becoming an artist’s model. Rose and her family were left penniless when her father left them. Emily paid Rose to brush her hair which was long gold hair, kept fair by adding a few drops of ammonia to her shampoo. She remembered Colonel Paul as a morose character always chewing sweets. Their son Mick dyed the family dog bright red – a sign of artistic ability according to Rose. Emily conducted an artist painting group in Dee Why; travelled overseas; exhibited in Paris and campaigned for the rights of child models exploited by art establishments. She stood unsuccessfully for the seat of Cook; was the manager of Anthony Horderns’ Art Department before her death in 1917.

Mick Paul

Son of Emily and the Colonel. Born 1900-1974

Ria writes about the Pauls in her book – p42 Arthur Murch – An Artist’s Life:

When Murch knew him in the1930s, Mick was married to Dorothy who also worked at the Bulletin. Mick’s madcap escapades were included in tales written up by the Lindsays, Jack and Norman. Murch often told the story of red-haired, one-eyed Mick and the Sargent’s pie. Sargent’s, famous for its pies, was reported to the health authorities. Mick once bought a Sargent’s pie and, while apparently consuming it with relish, whipped out his glass eye and slid it under the pie’s crust. ‘Miss!’, he shouted to the waitress, ‘there’s an eye in my pie!’

More gruesome was Murch’s account of the death-mask Mick made of Chidley. Chidley was a harmless health crank, frequently in trouble for preaching sex reform in the Sydney Domain. A man before the time of tight-fitting jeans, he urged males to wear loose-fitting trousers , to avoid impotence. His death in 1917 called for an autopsy presumably to find the reason for his odd behavior… Mick was commissioned to make his death-mask……Mick knew nothing about the technique of making plaster masks. In his haste to be done with the job, he failed to prepare the face with enough separation medium…..when he pulled off the plaster mask…the great wrench also took away Chidley’s beard and dislodged parts of the skull that had been sectioned…. Mick, who had primed himself for the job, was now thoroughly intoxicated. He grabbed the mask up, wrapped it in newspaper and took it to a sculptor’s house to mind. The poor unsuspecting fellow did, until it made its presence felt.

Steel Rudd’s Notebook in The Commonwealth Home of March 1, 1929 refers to a purchase of an etching of Lachlan Macquarie by Mick: “ artist Mick Paul….is an ardent, modest Australian artist, with an eye to the historic and heroic, who seems to remember Lachlan Macquarie so well that he has made an attractive, faithful etching ….the Mitchell and Public Library…..have purchased copies of the etching with fistfuls of good Australian money for the benefit of cradlefuls of good Australians”.

Mick married Dorothy Ellesmore probably in 1925. Dorothy was a fine artist.

Edmund Harvey wrote “I came to know Mick and his wife Dorothy very well. I met Dorothy at the Sydney Art School (Ashtons). They lived at Curl Curl near Muir Auld, then Narrabeen, then in a huge basement flat in Victoria Street overlooking the Loo. They held court every weekend. There I met Hugh Macrae, Hilary Lofting and Vance Palmer. Mick lived an idyllic life – started his week’s work for the Bulletin on Wednesday at lunch time and finished it on Thursday night.”

According to Arthur Murch’s notes, Mick Paul was a rather larger than life character, “never completely sober, nor completely under the weather”.

Dorothy later married a Captain Moyes who had one leg.

In 1995, in an attempt to find out more about the Pauls, Ria checked telephone books, probate lists and Bulletin references; writing to a journalist who may know: “Did she (Dorothy) ever tire of her madcap husband Mick, who had one eye, and was never drunk but never exactly sober, and did she marry Major Moyes of the Bulletin who had one leg? And if so, when and what was Moyes initial?”

Ria’s papers show her attempts to find out more about the Pauls. She was probably prompted in part by the fact that Arthur Murch gave a number of works to Mick and Dorothy before he went overseas in 1936. They were subsequently auctioned in Richmond by a relative, Terry Paul, before he died in 1989.

Any information – please contact me

Michelle Murch, May 2016