My Favorite Teacher: Maurice “Musher” Murphy
Submitted by: Richard MacIntosh ’59
Maurice “Musher” Murphy was my favorite teacher. I had him for English while in the 10th grade 1956-57 on Avenue Louis Pasteur. He was a character.
He had a “gimpy” leg from playing tennis, so he never sat at the front of the class. Instead, he sat at a student’s desk, the last row, next to the windows. Books and medicines filled his desk. He was a tyrant who delivered his daily lecture while we looked to the front of the class.
Some of his quirks: we had to keep a notebook of things he would dictate regarding punctuation, poetry, and literature. He insisted that certain words or sentences be in red ink, however. The notebook was worked on at home with an open bottle of red ink and an old scratchy pen.
His poetry tests were murder. We had to memorize 3-4 verses of a poem, and then he would give us a one-word test. That is, “What is the word that is in the second stanza, fourth line, sixth word?” It was always an article or preposition. We wrote the word on a quarter-page of yellow paper and walked by his desk in a single file. If we were wrong, he would take the paper, or you passed and kept your piece of paper. To this day, I can remember lines from the poems Invictus, On His Blindness, and The Daffodils.
Fast forward to about ten years ago: I was a poll-watcher in Wellesley during an election. I sat with a retired gentleman that had been a headmaster in the Boston school system. We talked, and finally, the conversation involved “Musher” Murphy. He confirmed the stories I have recounted and added one of his own. “Musher” was an excellent tennis player in his youth and on into later life. Perhaps he was one of the first “Irish Mc’s” given membership at the “then-WASPish” Longwood cricket club. One year he won the club championship, and someone uttered an ethnic epithet about the Boston Irish. “Musher” promptly went over to the person who made the remark and punched him in the nose that sent him down a flight of stairs. Everyone within sight of the incident cheered as “Musher” had stood up to the bully. I cannot vouch for the truthfulness of the story, but it embellishes the image of a man “we loved to hate.”
Richard MacIntosh graduated from The English High School in 1959. Today he lives in Wellesley Hills, MA. Richard is a member of The English High School 200th Anniversary Celebration Committee.