Dervla Murphy, My Hero

| May 30, 2022 | 1 Comment

Today I heard the sad news of the passing of Dervla Murphy. She was Ireland’s foremost travel writer and an inspiration for my own travel writing. Her book Full Tilt: Ireland to India with a Bicycle started my love of travel writing. Her words carried me along with her epic adventure where she encountered rich and poor people, endured real hardship but always encountered the kindness of strangers and restored my faith in the central goodness of humanity. However, she was no idealist and carried a revolver with her on her cycle to India, having to use it against some wolves in former Yugoslavia. She was not interested in the popular backpacker routes, instead cycling hard roads and peeling back layers to reveal the true nature of each nation she visited. She was singularly independent and fearless and had little interest in any luxuries.

Michael Palin with Dervla Murphy 2012 By Steph Allen, © Eland Books

I met her once around 2008 when she visited Hollyhill Library to give a talk. I spoke to her briefly but was too starstruck to make any sensible conversation. She was utterly fearless, going by bicycle or mule to places where others wouldn’t venture without armed guards. She even travelled across India, Peru, Madagascar and Cameroon with her young daughter, Rachel.

I heard a story involving Michael Palin and the Lismore Travel Writing Festival. The festival had invited Michael Palin to attend and Dervla Murphy had offered him accommodation. I don’t think Michael ever stayed in a house like it. As he said, it was freezing cold and the pillow was rock-hard, with her cats crawling across the bed at odd hours. He had a sore neck giving his talk at the festival the following day!

As Palestinian writer Raja Shehadeh said, “most travel writers place themselves in dangerous situations or places just so they can write about them – Dervla did it so she could understand people better.”

Travel well Dervla!

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About the Author ()

John Dwyer is a travel writer and blogger. His first book High Road to Tibet: Travels in China, Tibet, Nepal and India became an Amazon best-seller. His latest book Klondike House: Memories of an Irish Country Childhood recalls his years growing up on a rural farm in Ireland.

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  1. Noah says:

    Love the story of the sausages👍👍👍

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