Everything is relative of course and it’s the same with travelling.
When we use the term ‘abroad’ nowadays, it has connotations of going to far-flung places, across land and oceans.
Having come out of a Covid-imposed ban on nearly all international travel, the skies and seas are now opening up for business once more.
Long ago, ‘going abroad the field’ meant just that, going to a different place. Shure, it might only be 200 yards or up the boreen or down the glen, but it was moving somewhere else.
I suppose for younger generations foreign travel - across the world - is nothing new, they take long haul plane flights in their stride. Maybe with so much talk about carbon miles and environmental concerns, travelling will be somewhat curtailed - but I doubt it.
Paddy Geary, who worked with us for over 30 years, was never in Dublin. He died in 1985 at the age of 79, he was in Cork a few times and used go, on August 15 every year to the Regatta in Cobh, but he never ventured as far as Dublin.
When asked, he replied: ‘What would I want to go to Dublin for?’
Growing up in the 1960s, our idea of travelling was going ‘abroad to Youghal of a Sunday’, watching the crowds off the trains and buying boiling water for the ‘tay’ from a lady near Claycastle.
Going to the Munster Final away up in Thurles 50 years ago was a major adventure. The game against Clare might have been at 3.30 but we were on the road after 9.30 Mass in Bartlemy. Then, that September, going to Dublin with a few local lads for the All Ireland Final - the GAA was sensible then with finals in September. We went up on the train and stayed in a house in Ballsbridge. The five of us had a shower in the B&B that night, a new experience for country boys. The landlady’s teenage daughter got a quare fright as the five of us emerged from the bathroom wearing nothing only smiles and the one towel between the five of us!
It was a Macra na Feirme crowd and the first night there we went down Soho. Most of us had heard of the ‘Red Light District’ but had not seen it. There’s strength in numbers so a dozen of us traversed this busy part of ‘late nite’ life in London town.
Girls of every hue and demeanour smiled and winked and beckoned us in. Thy were all behind glass windows as they plied their trade. It was just as well ’cause if they were out on the street with their skimpy clothes, they’d catch double pneumonia - it was the month of December!
In 1981, we honeymooned in Fuengirola in Spain and we’ve been back there twice since.
Then, 2008 saw me venture far away to Ethiopia, a country I yearn to go back to some time.
All this travelling, you’d say, should have broadened my mind, but I’m not certain of that! One thing I know is that the best ever travel writer was Dervla Murphy, who died in Lismore last week.
All the graves in Sections A, B and C are already used so, fittingly, it’s in grave number 01 in Section D that Dervla lies.
I read her life story (at the time) in Wheels Within Wheels and was fascinated by her bravery and determination. To travel the world by bicycle and then take little Rachel, her daughter, with her was the stuff of dreams.
I have often written about places I’ve been to and it’s simple to describe the physical features of places visited. Dervla’s gift was that she was able to soak up the atmosphere, the lifestyle of the local populace, and understand their culture, warts and all.
She reminded me of aviator Daphne Pouchin Mould, another woman who went ‘where no woman had gone before’.
Dervla was not religious but, by heaven or hell, she was a true spiritual being. She loved nature and long before caring for the environment or even worrying about its destruction became popular, Dervla Murphy understood the way humanity and the natural world must coexist.
She didn’t suffer fools gladly and was such a brilliant thinker. She didn’t give a damn what others thought about her - life is too short for such frivolities.
I never met her, but loved listening to her unique voice, especially on radio. She lived a simple and understated life in the place she loved best.
There’s a beautiful old song made famous by Ruby Murray called Doonaree and two lines therein summarised Dervla’s attitude to travel:
In the setting sunshine last Sunday, my mind’s eye travelled to Peru, India, China, and nearer to home, North to Ulster - places she went to and encapsulated in her own words the true meaning of life, love, hate, war and peace.
Since her death at the age of 90, Dervla Murphy has been described in obituaries and articles globally as a woman before her time, but her time was her whole life and she certainly packed in a lot to those nine decades.
Robert Louis Stevenson wrote a lovely poem. Requiem, I’m sure he would forgive me for paraphrasing it a little in tribute to a remarkable woman;