Latest Posts:

Dervla Murphy – cycling away at Full Tilt

Saturday, 28 May 2022

Dervla Murphy cycled away – aged 90 – on 22 May. Her death ends an astonishing travel career, kicking off with what is still probably the best book ever written about a great bicycle ride: Full Tilt, her 1963 trip from Ireland to India. I wrote about where you could find Roz, her famous bicycle, in In Her Footsteps, Lonely Planet’s 2020 guide to trailblazing women:

Straddling Roz, the bicycle she named after Don Quixote’s faithful steed Rocinante, Dervla Murphy pedaled out of Lismore in 1963, She was born and raised in the town, 140 miles (220km) south-west of Dublin and had remained at home into her early 30s, looking after her parents both of whom were unwell. Their deaths freed her from her responsibilities and she set off to turn an idea, inspired by pedalling around Lismore on her first bicycle when she was 10 years old, into reality: ‘If I went on doing this for long enough I could get to India.’

◄ The current edition of Full Tilt, published by Eland Books

Indeed she could and Full Tilt: Ireland to India with a Bicycle, the book that trip inspired has never been out of print. It’s still the best ever account of the joys and hardships of a good long bike ride. Dervla’s subsequent life has been undertaken in a similar full tilt fashion, travelling hard and doing it tough whether it was In Ethiopia with a Mule, On a Shoestring to Coorg or travelling and writing about a host of other countries and regions as varied as Nepal, Tibet, Baltistan, Siberia, Peru, Cameroon or Madagascar. Later her writing would take on a distinctly political stance as she visited and wrote about Northern Ireland, Palestine and Gaza, Cuba, Zimbabwe and the Balkans and confronted subjects as wide ranging as globalization, nuclear power and climate change.

◄ The first edition of Full Tilt, from John Murray




For many years Roz was on display, pinned to the wall of the Lismore Public Library, but recently it moved although only five miles (8km) to the library in Cappoquin where it can be seen during the library opening hours.

In her fine obituary of Ms Murphy in the Irish Times Rosita Boland wrote ‘I never interviewed anyone who lived in such an unusual way’.

▲ With Maureen and Roz in Lismore in 2012

Sadly I never met Dervla although she nearly came to Lonely Planet’s 21st birthday travel talkfest in Melbourne in 1994. Although, in the end, she didn’t make it Eric Newby and Pico Iyer did. I have, however, met Roz. In 2012 Maureen and I were in Lismore in Ireland – with Colin Thubron, Artemis Cooper and Jan Morris amongst other writers. We made a pilgrimage to the Lismore Public Library to see Roz, only to discover she’d been taken down from the wall while some sort of building repair took place. We trekked around to the council offer where, we were told, Roz was in storage and they very kindly rolled her outside for a photograph.

Dervla Murphy – cycling away at Full Tilt

28 May 2022 | Living

Dervla Murphy cycled away – aged 90 – on 22 May. Her death ends an astonishing travel career, kicking off with what is still probably the best book ever written about a great bicycle ride: Full Tilt, her 1963 trip from Ireland to India. I wrote about where you could f...

View Post

Ukraine – why Russia is unpopular

31 March 2022 | Places

It’s now been well over a month since Vladmir Putin despatched his incompetent army to invade Ukraine. We already knew Putin was a murderer – innocent English bystanders when he decided to poison people in Salisbury, innocent Australian tourists (and 9 other nationali...

View Post

Chad – rock art, amazing scenery & dead Russian tanks

5 March 2022 | Places

So why didn’t I know about Chad before? It’s south of Libya, north of Central African Republic, west of Sudan and east of Nigeria, Niger and Cameroon. Most of the country is in the Sahara, the real Sahara, and the north of the country features two of the Sahara’s five...

View Post

Tony’s Coronavirus Notes & Novak Djokovic

16 January 2022 | Living

Lots of Covid-19 Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Health Security report noted recently that Greece (3,418), Ireland (3,927), San Marino (4,364), Andorra (4,554) and Cyprus (4,855) had all set new records for ‘per capita incidence per million population of new C...

View Post

The Hippie Trail

28 December 2021 | Media

I came across this photo recently, it’s Maureen, our £65 Minivan and me, about to pack it up and set off from England. It’s July 1972, so almost 50 years ago and the Minivan would get us as far as Kabul in Afghanistan, where we sold it. We carried on to Sydney in Aust...

View Post

London – changing? the same?

9 December 2021 | Places

▲ There’s always something new in London, but sometimes I just wish things would stay the same. After 37 years T Burrows has departed 36 James St, just across Oxford St from the Bond St Tube Station. I’ve been a regular customer for years, great shirts, T-shirts, thei...

View Post

Flying the Other Way – London to Melbourne

22 November 2021 | Transport

Back in July 2021 I flew from Melbourne in Australia to London in England and posted how it was a surreal experience. Departing a virtually empty international terminal in Melbourne – the 35 passengers on our Singapore Airlines Airbus A350 was it for the afternoon. Th...

View Post

Corfu – our final Ionian Island

16 November 2021 | Places

Corfu is the northernmost of the Ionian Islands, at the southern end of the Adriatic Sea, almost at the heel of Italy. It’s not the biggest of the Ionian Islands in terms of land area, but it’s certainly number one in terms of tourists. The constant shuttle of cruise ...

View Post

The Ionian Islands

15 November 2021 | Places

The Ionian Islands of Greece – Zakynthos, Ithanki (or Ithaca), Corfu, Kefalonia, Lefkada, Paxi (or Paxos) and Kythira are the seven largest and there are a host of smaller ones. They step along the western side of Greece, ending where the Ionian Sea blends in to the A...

View Post

Mani Peninsula & Messenia Peninsula in the Peloponnese, Greece

10 November 2021 | Places

Having visited the walled town of Monemvasia on the Cape Malea peninsula, the second of the Peloponnese peninsulas moving west from Athens, we moved on to the other two peninsulas. ▲ Mermaid on the harbour wall at Gytheio ◄ Our second stop was Gytheio on the Ma...

View Post