DAPHNE Pochin Mould is a remarkable name for a remarkable woman.
At a time in life when most people would be winding down, she is gearing herself up for yet another project.
The author, photographer, broadcaster, geologist, traveller, pilot and Ireland’s first female flight instructor turns 90 today and, ever the optimist, is planning ahead.
As she has been doing for decades, Daphne is writing.
“I do not really remember when I did not want to write,” she says. “I remember composing stories and poems before I learned to write and dictating them to members of the family who wrote them down for me.
“None of these early efforts, which so far as I remember were often about fantastic animals, have, fortunately for me, survived!”
Though born in the heart of England, in Salisbury, she has been living in Aherla, in mid-Cork since 1951.
“My background is English, but I have been so long out of contact with its thought and way of life, that going back there in recent years, I found I passed for a born Irishwoman.”
Her story is an extraordinary one. It is as if she has lived a number of lives, rather than one. She describes herself as “one of the lucky ones who escaped formal early education” yet she went on to attend Edinburgh University and gain a PhD in geology during the second world war.
A spirit of adventure then brought her to Scotland, settling in the Hebrides, learning to become a crofter and writing a book on the islands.
“Sandy Grant, my neighbour, taught me to scythe, find and stack sheaves or corn, make hay and harness a horse to a cart. With a walking tractor, I ploughed and harrowed.”
An interest in early Celtic saints brought her to Ireland where she has remained ever since. Through all her travels she has continued to write. Some of her early books are back in print in Scotland as classics. Her Discover Cork, long out of print, has become a collector’s item and is fetching up to €100 on the internet.
Even arthritic hands have not stopped her writing. Her latest project involves a history of Cork’s first newspapers, the Hibernian Chronicle and Cork Mercantile Chronicle which ran from 1769 to 1815. The newspapers carried everything from the names of ships entering and leaving Cork Harbour to accounts of the Battle of Trafalgar and the American war of Independence.
“The details are fascinating,” she says, adding that all she needs now is a publisher for the book. “We can step back and feel their joy and fear and read first accounts of naval battles.”
Daphne has always had an interest in machines and matters mechanical and still remembers taking her driving test at age 17.
“I passed and I have been addicted to cars ever since.”
She is also addicted to planes and it is as an aviator and aerial photographer that she is best known.
One of her admirers is Peter Murray, curator of Cork’s Crawford Municipal Art Gallery. “My best memories are of flying with Daphne. She kept a single-engined Piper Cub at Cork airport. She was an excellent pilot.
“High above Cork Harbour, she could stand the Piper Cub on one wing.”
It is only in the past decade that she has finally stopped flying.
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