Tributes to legendary travel writer Dervla Murphy who has died aged 90

Tributes to legendary travel writer Dervla Murphy who has died aged 90

Dervla Murphy's encounters on the road were the stuff of legend. File picture: Denis Scannell

President Michael D Higgins has led tributes to legendary travel writer Dervla Murphy who passed away at her home in Lismore, Co. Waterford.

The author of more than 26 books, the country’s most intrepid globetrotter celebrated her 90th birthday last November.

Acclaimed by fans across the world for her considerable oeuvre stretching over more than half a century, Dervla Murphy’s many admirers included renowned travellers Michael Palin and Paul Theroux.

Each marvelled at her fearlessness on the countless arduous, mainly solitary and terrestrial journeys she took to numerous countries, her preferred mode of travel, bicycles, buses, ponies and shanks mare – a wanderer in the oldest tradition.

The indefatigable author's encounters on the road were the stuff of legend. She was attacked by wolves in the mountains of Yugoslavia on that first journey that would become her first book and a runaway success in 1965 establishing her as a major travel writing force, "Full Tilt: Ireland to India with a Bicycle”.

The recipient of many awards, she pleaded in the numerous interviews with prestigious magazines and newspapers never to be described as either ‘courageous’ nor ‘brave’.

President Higgins said that people throughout Ireland, in Dervla Murphy’s community of Lismore and far beyond to the many places in which she travelled will have been saddened to hear of her death.

“Her contribution to writing and to travel-writing, in particular, had a unique commitment to the value of human experience in all its diversity”, he added.

The president described the writer as "having always been an ethical visitor” who brought a “vital social conscience and respect for those she wrote about”.

“She retained a strong interest in those who were suffering throughout the world and even up to recent weeks brought an insightful perspective to matters of politics, environmentalism and the crucial importance of peace,” the president said.

The much-loved author spent a long period travelling between Israel and Palestine, researching the follow-up to her widely acclaimed Gaza travelogue A Month by the Sea.

During a visit to Jordan to research the follow-up to this book she fractured her pelvis. Since then, in her early 80s, a combination of emphysema and arthritis in her neck had put a stop to her travels and more recently her writing. She is survived by her daughter Rachel and three granddaughters.

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