Dervla Murphy – a bicycle and unbelievable luck

Breath-taking courage or foolhardy indifference to risk was the hallmark of intrepid travel writer Dervla Murphy’s life. She survived decades of trips on her bicycle to remote and untouched corners of the earth the world, many of them accompanied by her young daughter and wrote 20 books about her experiences. She fought off wolves, battled treacherous black ice in the mountains of eastern Europe, winds that blew her off her bike, debilitating dust storms in Pakistan, was forced to tie herself to a cow to get across a raging river, had her ribs cracked by the butt of a gun during a fracas on an Afghan bus. Nothing stopped her.

 She was born on 28 November 1931 in Waterford, Ireland and decided at 10 to cycle to India. But looking after her sick mother since she was pulled out of school at 14 tied her down for 16 years during which she smoked and drank heavily. Only in her thirties could she escape and the initial six-month journey, took her from deepest winter in northern France, across communist eastern Europe and the wilds of Iran and Afghanistan to monsoon-drenched India. She estimated she covered 3,000 miles, cycling an average of 70 to 80 miles a day.

  When she was 37, she had a daughter out of wedlock and stayed put for a few years, only starting to travel again when Rachel was 5, buying a retired polo pony to carry her along with camping gear for trips to the inhospitable regions of northern India. Her travelling was ceaseless and in her late seventies, accompanied by her daughter and three granddaughters, she was still on the move to Cuba and elsewhere. She died this week aged 90.

  What is delightful is how apt her chart is – could not be more descriptive.

  She has a traveller’s Sagittarius Sun square a visionary Neptune in Virgo – Neptune/Pisces oddly enough often being found with explorers. Even more significantly she has a passionately enthusiastic Venus, Mercury, Mars in Sagittarius in a Fire Grand Trine to Jupiter in Leo trine Uranus in Aries.  

  A Fire Grand Trine is inspirational and prone to launch wholeheartedly into exciting adventures with little fear. Tierney says: “A natural adventurous streak is found plus an appealing sense of innocence which allows this individual to take risks and gambles without much forethought.” “His faith in himself as well as his sense of personal protection from harm is so ingrained he may be willing and eager to attempt anything, disregarding impossible odds, to fulfil goals and objectives.”

  Along with a blind sense of luck which clearly paid off from an overdose of Fire, she had a tough-minded Pluto opposition Saturn in Capricorn square Uranus. She was designed for harsh conditions, deprivation and had grit and perseverance to spare. The emphasised Uranus made her a trailblazer, careless of the conventions of society and keen to strike out on her own independent path.  

  She lacked Air in her chart which may have helped since she wouldn’t stand back to reflect on the what ifs and what might have beens.

  An amazing woman and astonishing life – a moment of cheer in a dismal world for an eccentric who challenged the gods and stayed afloat.

9 thoughts on “Dervla Murphy – a bicycle and unbelievable luck

  1. How wonderful to learn of her for the first time. People who do this traveling astonish and fascinate me, and I am so glad they exist and like to share their real life stories!

    I’m interested in how the travel themes might compare to Peter Jenkins and his wife Barbara Jo Pennell, who walked thousands of miles (books “A Walk Across America” and “The Walk West”), and to Jim Rogers and his wife Paige Parker, who drove (motorcycle and then SUV) many thousands of miles (books “Investment Biker” and “Adventure Capitalist”).

  2. Thanks so much for this, Marjorie. A moment of cheer indeed, and just looking at all those arrows of Sagittarius makes me smile. There are so many of these women in our history – travellers, plant collectors, adventurers, and so few are well-known – but that’s generally women’s history all over!

    I looked at a couple of others – Jeanne Baret (from a very ordinary background), 27 July 1740, dressed as a boy to accompany and “help” her plant-collector lover, and was the first woman to circumnavigate the globe by ship. They visited Tahiti, Indonesia, Uruguay and Mauritius amongst other places. No Sagittarius, but Venus in Virgo on the midpoint of Neptune in Cancer and Pluto in Scorpio, with Uranus trine Venus. Mercury in Leo is sextile a Gemini Jupiter, the Leo Sun sextile Mars in Gemini.

    Lady Florence Dixie, 25 May, 1855 is a fantastic character too. She was a feminist, writer, and travel writer – notably in Patagonia. Also the aunt of Lord Alfred Douglas – Oscar Wilde’s perfidious lover. She was once attacked in Windsor by two tall men dressed as women, thought to be Irish ‘agitators’ at the time. Plus, President of the British Ladies Football Association in the 1890’s. She has a Gemini Sun square Jupiter in Pisces, which is sextile Pluto in Taurus. Her Mars in Taurus is conjunct Uranus in Taurus, sextile Neptune in Pisces. There’s a difficult Mercury conjunct Saturn in Gemini, square Neptune in Pisces – the Mars/Uranus and Sun/Jupiter oomph may have helped her with this I suspect.

    Jupiter certainly plays a part in these, and I suspect other traveller’s charts. Possibly Uranus too, unless it is more likely to be emphasised in a woman’s chart if she somehow breaks with convention or expectations of society at the time? And Neptune is there too, as you say. I imagine in past times, when travel by ship was the norm, Neptune would partly signify sea travel?

    I’m beginning to feel rather restless!

    • Ranulph Fiennes, David Livingstone, Amerigo Vespucci, Sir Richard Burton – all Sun Pisces. I always associated it with their ‘visionary’ urges – what TE Lawrence called the dreamers of the day who make it happen.
      There is also something slightly spooky almost magical about how the ‘vision’ protects them in dangerous situations. If you read the story of Ranulph Fiennes’ transglobe expedition it is hair-raising in terms of risk and what could have gone catastrophically and terminally wrong. And didn’t.

      • Perhaps it’s some kind of ancient instinct, from the times when human beings were more nomadic? Pisces ruling those vast unconscious oceans? You prompted me to think of Bruce Chatwin, 13 May, 1940. There’s a Sun/Uranus conjunction in Taurus, trine Neptune in Virgo. I’ve always thought his writing and travels were somehow mystical and enchanting in the old sense.

  3. Fixed star Castor is of the nature of Mercury, When Castor is at the MH in her chart, planet Uranus, restlessness,
    constant movement is setting. Combine the two and we have someone who is an explorer, always seeking new
    horizons, the traveller.

  4. LOVE OF EXPLORING, by C.E.O. Carter, British astrologer:
    “An aspect of Jovian love of expansion. In so far as dangers & hardships have to be faced,
    Mars & Saturn are likely to be prominent, especially Scorpio. Pay attention to the motive
    of the explorer, in some the sheer love of adventure, in others, ambition or scientific
    curiosity. In the book “Notable Nativities”, we find as examples, Burton, Shackleton, Hedin.

  5. Thank for this Marjorie. I was dreading it. She has always been my heroine and I was lucky enough to meet her a couple of years ago and was very starstruck and mumbly. I always felt she was compassionate and humanitarian as well as brave. So, so admirable.

  6. Thanks Marjorie, I don’t know her and appreciate you highlighting her fascinating life. Interesting about Pisces and dxplorers as was looking just recently at Sandy Irvine’s chart which had a healthy dose of Aries but strong Pisces too.

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