When I was trying to come up with a year-end list of my favourite books, I paused at a couple of books by Dervla Murphy. Ever since I read her seminal book Full Tilt: Ireland to India with a Bicycle she has become my favourite travel author. When I last looked up some information on her she was approaching her 90th birthday and seemed full of the spirit and vigour that drove her travel adventures.
I decided to look her up again a few days ago and saw that she passed away in May 2022. At that age I knew this was bound to happen sooner or later but reading about this left me with a profound sense of loss. Like I had lost a travel companion whom I had accompanied on many adventures.
That is the incredible power of a book and its words. The conversation may be one way but a skilled writer like Dervla makes it feel like a dialog with the reader. Conversations that feel deeper and more intimate than the ones we can have with even family and friends sometimes.
Dervla’s life was probably wilder than the most adventurous travels writers. A single woman with a daughter born out of wedlock. Traveling alone with only her bicycle as a companion. Sometimes making journeys with her five-year-old daughter at the time in some of the most inhospitable regions of the world. Decades before our time.
I read through her entire Wiki entry in its entirety after learning of her death. By the end of it all I could think of saying was. “What an incredible life. What a huge loss” May she rest in peace. God knows she had enough action in her lifetime. It seems a strange thing to feel but I will miss her more than most people I have met in real life.