Focus on Dervla Murphy

How I admire this woman. Really…….admire……her.

Dervla Murphy is no doubt familiar to anyone who reads a lot. However if one reads a great deal of travel writing she is one of the very best.

I have heard of her for years. Maybe even read one of her books years ago but not sure. Maybe I just think I have read her as I have read a lot of travel writing in my life.

Another of her books

I downloaded this book as an Audible last week as I was becoming tired of books about books, readers on trains, readers in libraries and it all became a bit of a melting pot that seemed to wear thin as the quality of some of these books were less than ideal.

I have always enjoyed Travel writing or diaries the most as an audible format. I have come to the conclusion unless one sits right down and listens or is confined to a space, novels seem to be harder to follow as an audible text. That could be me though as I do get distracted much more with audible anything than written words.

So on to Dervla. I am listening to her 1965 published book Full Tilt. She buys a bicycle and names it Rozinante (Ros for short) after Don Quixote’s horse. She is Irish and living in Ireland. In 1963 she decides to set off riding Ros from Ireland to India going eastwards across Europe.

Very enjoyable

In 1963 single women didn’t do things like this. No mobile phones, no internet, no money to speak of.

Dervla Murphy grew up poor. She left school at age 14 to care for her disabled mother. At the age of 10 her parents gave her a second hand bicycle and her grandfather sent her a second hand atlas of the world (Wikipedia).

And another of her books

She later stated in life she was never afraid of her trips though she did have some pretty harrowing experience. Over the years she was attacked by wolves in the former Yugoslavia, (this happens in Full Tilt and she pulls her pistol out of her pocket and shoots one, killing it and scaring the other two away); threatened by soldiers in Ethiopia, and robbed in Siberia. In Full Tilt she awakes one night in her small accommodation and finds a very large muslim man uncovering her in bed and as he climbs in beside her, again she pulls her pistol from under her pillow and shoots into the ceiling and watches him leave the room very quickly.

She had her critics in life. She had a child in 1968 and chose to raise her daughter alone. This was not an acceptable practice in Ireland. She made enough money from her writing she didn’t care and she her daughter travelled more as her daughter aged.

And another

She was also quite political regarding activities in Ireland, women’s rights and regarding the plight of refugees.

Evidently she wrote an autobiographical book called Wheels Within Wheels in 1979 and I will certainly be following up with that one if I can find it.

The guardian featured her towards her later years once she decided to give up travel writing. She is celebrating her 90th birthday next month at the end of November. What an incredible life she has had. The link to the Guardian article is here.

And yet one more…


Other news in Tasmania? Not much. Spring has arrived with a bit of fanfare. Lots of wind and rain. More rain expected in the next few days. Enough to cause floods I understand. The temperatures are still chilly with bits of sun here and there but not enough to get used to. So doing a lot of reading and have continued with walking and exercise.

We woke up not this last week but it only lasted an hour or so.

I have had some good news on the photography front but will discuss that later. An excursion, a competition win I hadn’t expected, a new illustration of the Penguin and a friend from a fellow photography friend. Will share that in the next post.

Will consider renting out for a weekend.

Dogs are fine but Ollie wants to go out every ten minutes to see if the sun is out and he can lie next to his fence and warm himself in the sun. He comes back to the house ten minutes later and bangs on the door to come in. He loves lying outdoors in the sun but hates the cold grass. Not a weather tolerant dog at all. Peanut seems more outdoorsy than Ollie at times. She never cares how muddy she gets and I recently submitted a photo of her to the Sydney Morning Herald Weekend magazine. They have a type of good news gallery and their email about the article happened to arrive in my inbox at the time I was looking at a photo of Peanut with mud on her face. The article was saying to people send in any photos or other items that are ‘feel good’ items. So I popped Peanut’s photo in and received an email back a couple of days later they will definitely put it in their gallery. The journalist thought it was cute so I will finish on that note.

Until next time…….stay well and keep smiling even if you do have to grit your teeth!!

12 thoughts on “Focus on Dervla Murphy

  1. Dervla Murphy is something else, isn’t she? I read her India book many, many years ago and was filled with a mixture of admiration for her derring do, and exasperation when she forced her companion dog to become vegetarian like she was. Dogs are carnivores. End of story. But that said: what a woman, what a life!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree. I haven’t read anything by her yet where she has a dog that she believes should be vegetarian. People here have been known to do that and it aggravates me to no end. I definitely need to say something to people who do that if there is a way to. Other than that I do enjoy her “gumption”. I read the Guardian article listed in my blog post and she is still quite the character it seems.

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  2. I love Dervla Murphy – I’m working through her account of traveling through Ethiopia now and I’m blown away by how determined she is at whatever she does. She’s just going to do it no matter what people think and that’s it. The wolves didn’t stop her, the bandits didn’t, and judgmental people giving her a hard time for being a single mom didn’t either. So amazing!

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  3. i’ve read several of her books and admire her a lot… so far as i’m aware she’s the only person to actually have cycled thru Afghanistan… Peanut photo is funny!

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    1. I think the books of Anne Mustoe have one where she cycles through Afghanistan. A Bike Ride by Anne Mustoe is her first and I loved it. She wrote several later, through South America is one that sticks with me. She fell ill riding through Iran and died in the end. Many libraries have her books. She is worth reading.


  4. I mostly read travel books where people travel by difficult means. Walking, bicycling, motorbiking are my favourites though have followed horse travel through iran, Davidson’s camels in Australia and a couple of donkeys. Trains, cars and busses bore me when others ride them. We have travelled a lot on 6 continents but has always been trains, busses, cars which when doing it myself was not at all boring. Haha

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  5. While I chose to stay at home in Oz, ‘everyone’ was hitching, busing, driving around the world. It never appealed to me. I thought sometimes in the 70s about trucking from England to Afghanistan but , you know, family, kids. I had a geography teacher in 1965 who spent the whole year showing us slides of the trip he did by Land Rover, with mates of course, from London to South Africa (crossed the Sahara on a railway line). And my sister in law, later, biked down the west coast from Alaska to Mexico. My adventurous streak must have been subsumed by my job. Enough so that I don’t generally read travel books, except Robyn Davidson’s Tracks of course.


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