Dervla Murphy, Irish travel writer, has died aged 90. At the age of 10 she was given as a birthday present a bicycle and an atlas of the world. In one fell swoop she had been given a guide to places of the world and the means of getting there. It occurred to her at that young age, while she was out cycling, that if she just kept peddling she would be able to visit India. Twenty years later that is exactly what she did. It was the first of many journeys that continued all through her life, and always by pedal power. Journey over she always returned to her home in Lismore, Waterford. The story of the places she travelled to is astonishing, all recounted in the many books she wrote. Only on the occasion when she damaged her leg did she exchange her bicycle for public transport, using bus and train to visit Siberia. Her energy and drive is amazing to think that she crossed so much of the world simply riding her bike.
This energetic tale puts me in mind of another story I was told by a priest in the south of England, a Mayo man, about a fellow priest back in Mayo. Irish radio was making a programme about a day in the life of a priest and sent a young interviewer to record the programme. The priest was asked about his routine and he described his morning.
‘Well I get up about 8, and have a cup of tea. Then I go over and open the church. Then I come back have my breakfast, and then I go over again for Mass at 10 o’clock. After that I come back and read the paper, and the mail arrives and I see to the mail. That takes me up to lunchtime and then I have my lunch that the housekeeper makes for me.’
And after lunch, Father, what do you do then?
‘Well, after lunch I shlacken off for the resht of the day.’
I have reached that time of life myself. I slacken off for the rest of the day.
24 May 2022