Desert Island Cycling: Dervla Murphy

The death of cycling travel writer Dervla Murphy was announced yesterday. She was 90 and had lived a full life. She lived in Lismore, Ireland and when I attended the Lismore Festival of Travel Writing a few years ago, the locals spoke fondly of her. Her house in the centre of town was pointed out to me and I regret not knocking on the front door. Anyway, below is a post from May 2020 which features Dervla and her appearance in a 1993 episode of Desert Island Discsโ€ฆ

Dervlaโ€™s house in Lismore, Ireland

The following post was first published on May 17th 2020:

Later this afternoon I’m having a chat on Zoom with the prolific long-distance cyclist Frank Burns. Some of you may know him from the Cycle Touring Festival at which (like me) he is a serial attendee and occasional speaker. More, perhaps, on the outcome of our discussion at another time. The reason I mention him now is that I noticed earlier today that he had posted something the Cycle Touring Festival Facebook page about the cycling travel writer Dervla Murphy having appeared on Desert Island Discs in 1993. She was 61 at the time and she chose as her book The Diary of Samuel Pepys and her luxury was ‘a still to distill berries etc… into drink‘. Well, she is Irish after all. I’ve just listened to the whole programme whilst having a post-run bath and it’s highly recommended.

Here is the link to the programme on BBC Sounds.

It got me thinking which other cyclists had appeared on the show; there have, after all, been over 2,200 episodes of the programme since it started in 1942. Alas I could only find a database that includes names, chosen books and luxuries. But that did allow me to see who had chosen a ‘bicycle’ or ‘bike’ as their luxury…

Those choosing a ‘bicycle’ were:

06-Oct-96.Professor Lewis Wolpert (scientist)Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding and The Principles of Morals by David HumeBicycle
06-Sep-87.Kitty Godfree (sportswoman)The Eagle Has Landed by Jack HigginsBicycle
26-May-96.Michael White (theatre producer)Anything by Marcel ProustBicycle
15-Jun-64.Paul Tortelier (musician)La Petite chronique d’Anna Magdalena Bach by Esther MeynellBicycle and cider*

*He appeared again in 1984 and changed this to ‘a photograph of my wife’.

…and just one person choosing a ‘bike’. I assume Dennis is referring to a push bike rather than a motorbike but you never know.

.07-Jan-90.Dennis Skinner (politician)Let’s Face the Music by Benny GreenBike

UPDATE: Here are a few snippets; Dervla Murphy (1993), Lewis Wolpert (1996), Kitty Godfree (1987), Michael White (1996) and Dennis Skinner (1990) – it was definitely a push bike, a mountain bike!

Photo credits: BBC / 2011 GAMMA-RAPHO/NUTAN

Audio credit: BBC

Categories: Cycling, Travel

2 replies »

  1. I read Dervlaโ€™s book a few months ago. What a trooper! She included a packing list in Full Tilt. It was hilarious as it includes a revolver, two round of ammunition and lots of wooden clothing.

    • Yes, she was! Just retrieved this message from the spam filter. Not sure why it went there. Perhaps it was mention of a revolver / ammunition? Mmm…

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