COVID and all that, so we used to ring one another every now and then.

I knew her bodily energy was not what it had been… so on this event, simply a few months in the past, I rang at about six within the night.


“Oh grasp on a second…” and she or he put the cellphone down. Oh pricey, l thought, maybe this time was not the very best. A minute handed. Extra.

“OK, I’ve bought myself a beer; what’s your information?”

This was Dervla, alert and vibrant, proper to the top.

Described by President Michael D Higgins as ‘Eire’s most well-known journey author’, we met for the primary time in 1986.

Having cycled to India and crossed the Andes and extra, she determined to pay her first go to to that unusual a part of her personal island – the north – for A Place Aside, one in every of 26 books she wrote throughout a lifetime of journey.

And for sure, to analysis this odd nook, she needed to incorporate a Twelfth.

Because it occurred, l was working in Cairn Lodge Youth Membership on the time, and one of many lodges used to satisfy there, early, earlier than heading off with a bang o’ the drums to Belfast’s Shaftesbury Sq..

“May my good friend Dervla Murphy come and be a part of you for the day?” I requested the grasp of the lodge, a temperance lodge besides.

“Certain, no drawback.”

“She’s from the Republic.”

“Yeah, no drawback.”

So down she went, 7.30am, together with her well-known brogue, a southerner past disguise.

“Whats up,” she stated, on getting into the corridor.

“Ah, Dervla,” (temperance sure, however) “would you want a wee half’un?”

She was, in her personal phrases, ‘a tricky previous boot’. She travelled mild, bemoaning the excesses of the world’s worst minority, the wealthy, and all the time conversing with the easy people.

Admittedly, her mechanical talents had been few, if and when the bicycle had an issue. However, because the travellers’ previous saying goes, ‘you solely ever hear profitable tales’, and Dervla all the time succeeded.

I’ve however one remorse. Earlier than setting off for the Balkans, she requested if I had any recommendation.

‘However how might I’ve something to say to 1 so skilled?’ I believed. So it didn’t happen to me to inform her of Bosnia’s horrible tunnels, a few of them miles lengthy, all with out lights due to the conflict.

And he or she had the dreadful expertise of being inside, within the pitch-black silence, when all was interrupted by the thunderous echoes of a deafening lorry, its lights blinding, its fumes choking, its driver completely unaware of a lone bicycle owner cowering in opposition to the aspect wall.

And I’ve one hope. Dervla was all the time so stuffed with encouragement, and for me anyway, she had yet another want for one in every of her personal nice loves: “Sure,” she stated, “go and cycle throughout Tibet.”

Dervla Murphy, from Lismore, Co Waterford, died aged 90 on Could 22. She is survived by her daughter Rachel and grandchildren.

Peter Emerson


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