Travelling a different path

Colette Sheridan interviews Dervla Murphy for the Irish Examiner

Before intrepid travel writer Dervla Murphy was born, her mother met a Romany woman in England who predicted that she would marry a small, slim, dark man and would live among trees and endure a long illness.

She was told she would only have one child, a daughter, who would be famous. 

In her disarmingly frank autobiography, Wheels Within Wheels, published in 1979, Murphy writes that she never wanted to be famous but hoped that the fortune teller’s “blanket term covered authorship”. 

And so it came to pass. Murphy’s mother, married to a librarian posted to picturesque leafy Lismore, Co Waterford, contracted rheumatoid arthritis when Murphy was two years old. She was looked after by her daughter who left school at 14 to become a sometimes reluctant carer for the next 16 years until her mother’s death. 

Murphy, who celebrates her 80th birthday on November 28, has led an extraordinary life and is famous for having cycled all over the world and written 24 books about her adventures. But being in the public eye doesn’t sit easily with this reclusive woman . . .