Sunday, August 18, 2019

Daphne D.C. Pochin Mould: geologist, historian, archaeologist and travel writer

Daphne D.C. Pochin Mould: 
geologist, historian, archaeologist and travel writer

Niall C.E.J. O’Brien

In November 2010 Daphne Pochin Mould celebrated her ninetieth birthday and a remarkable life well lived. But at a time when other people would be winding down Daphne was planning her next project – a book on Cork’s first newspapers, the Hibernian Chronicle and Cork Mercantile Chronicle which ran from 1769 to 1815.[1]

Pochin Mould (photographer unknown)

Early life

Daphne Desiree Charlotte Pochin Mould was born in Salisbury in 1920 but lived in Ireland since 1951 and was living for a time in Scotland before that. As Daphne said “My background is English, but I have been so long out of contact with its thought and way of life, that going back there in recent years, I found I passed for a born Irishwoman.”[2] 

Daphne’s young life in Salisbury was free for exploration as she said that she was lucky to “escaped formal early education” but this was no drawback for someone who went on to become an author, photographer, broadcaster, geologist, traveller, pilot and Ireland’s first female flight instructor. Daphne has always had an interest in machines and matters mechanical. At 17 years old she took her driving test and passed with flying colours and as she said “I have been addicted to cars ever since.”[3] Fortunately for the wider archaeological community Daphne Pochin Mould also had an addiction to planes and became a well-known and respected aerial photographer. In later years she kept a single engine Piper Cub at Cork Airport and was still flying up until her last years. During the Second World war Daphne Pochin Mould attended Edinburgh University and qualified with a PhD in geology along with a research fellowship.[4]


After University, Daphne Pochin Mould went on a spirit of adventure to settle in the Hebrides, where she learnt to become a crofter as well as writing on the islands (The Roads from the Isles and West over Sea). Her PhD was studying the rocks of the Scottish Highlands and the Hebrides was not that far off the beaten track.[5] Her new neighbour, Sandy Grant, taught her to make hay and use a scythe to cut corn. The fast fading townie also learnt to harness a horse to a cart and do ploughing and harrowing.[6] 

But the farming landscape of the Hebrides didn’t ground her mind to the soil but opened it to the wider world. One of her earliest published books was the Scotland of the Saints which recounted in a popular but scholarly way the coming of Christianity to Scotland. Using her geology qualifications Daphne explored Scotland to say why they built the sites of early abbeys and churches in the places that they did. The book combined this exploration with geographical and historical data to produce a nice book complete with a map and over 50 photographs.[7] Daphne Pochin Mould was brought up in the Anglican Church but developed into a militant agnostic. Her intention to write the book on the Scottish church was to attack the Church but the journey of exploration actually took her into the Church. In 1950 she was received into the Catholic Church by the Benedictines of Fort Augustus.[8]

Ireland of the saints and scholars calls Daphne

In 1951 an interest in early Celtic saints brought Daphne to Ireland where she took up residence at Aherla, in mid-Cork. Many years later a book dealer recounted a story of how he went to Aherla to meet Daphne Pochin Mould about 2012 and found the door ajar of the old rectory where she lived. The dealer and his wife slowly walked in but the house showed no sign of life. Then they heard a distant tap, tap, tap, from somewhere deep inside the house. No wishing to disturb Daphne in her time of intense writing the couple quietly retraced their steps out of the house.[9] Writing was an important part of Daphne’s eventful life. As she once recounted, “I do not really remember when I did not want to write. I remember composing stories and poems before I learned to write and dictating them to members of the family who wrote them down for me.”[10] 

The book Ireland of the Saints

In 1953 Daphne Pochin Mould published her first on many books about Ireland. Entitled Ireland of the Saints the work explored the Ireland before Christianity and the impact the new religion had on the country. With chapters on the principal saints like St. Patrick, St. Brigit, St. Columcille, and St. Brendan the book examine the new religion in terms of male and female prospectus and how Christianity was moulded into the Irish way through the monasteries and how then the Irish took Christianity back into Europe with their love of travel and learning. In the preface Daphne said that it was “perhaps a rash undertaking for an incomer to Ireland” to write the book but she acknowledged the use of previous researches by other scholars, listed in a bibliography. Most of the photographs used in the book where taken by other people, including the aerial photos. Daphne’s own photos took her around the country to Inismurray, Ahenny, the stone chapel of St. Macdara in Connamara and the Aran Islands.[11]

The book The Mountains of Ireland

The Ireland of the Saints included a number of photographs of Irish mountains associated with Christian saints. These photographs and Daphne’s own training in geology made a project on the mountains of Ireland a venture not to be missed. Published in 1955, The Mountains of Ireland was described as the first book to explore the Irish mountains – it possibly takes an outside to see the beauty that long residents take for granted. The book describes the geology, customs and place-names that surround the Irish mountains with a climbers guide to the best ways of visiting and ascending and how to descend again. The book was illustrated with over fifty photographs but only three by the author (Mayo, Connamara and upon the Twelve Bens of Galway). Photography was a young science for Daphne but she would soon master it and take it to new heights!

Other books

After the book, Ireland of the Saints, Daphne Pochin Mould published another two books on Irish Christianity entitled The Rock of Truth and The Celtic Saints: Our Heritage.

The book Irish Pilgrimage

In 1957 Daphne Pochin Mould publish another book on Irish Christianity called Irish Pilgrimage. This book included twelve photographs taken by Daphne on her journey from Ballyvourney to Mount Brandon and the Reask cross pillar stone to Clonmacnoise and Glencolumbkille and St. Mullins by the River Barrow.[12]  

The book The Irish Dominicans

Also in 1957 Daphne Pochin Mould found time published a second book, this time on a general history of the Irish Dominicans over seven hundred years. On Ash Wednesday 1952, at Galway, Daphne was received into the Dominican Third Order. Her book as a general history was not the detailed history of the Order which Dominic O’Daly asked for in the seventeenth century but Daphne hoped it would act as a starting point for some future scholar to conduct a detailed examination. Daphne was aided in her researches by Luke Taheney, O.P., who found many forgotten fragments of Dominican history.[13] The fourteen chapters and fourteen appendices were inter-spaced with eighty-three photographs of which forty-seven were taken by Daphne.[14] The Irish Dominicans was described by a later historian of the Dominican Order as an “eminently readable” book.[15] 

Other books

After the extensive output of published books in the 1950s Daphne Pochin Mould continued with her exploration of her new country and published nearly twenty books to share her discoveries with the wider public.[16] These books included The Aran Islands (1972), The Mountains of Ireland (1976).[17] In 1988 Daphne Pochin Mould went in exploration of a different form of travel with her book on Captain Roberts of the Sirius.

Aerial photography

Aerial photography of archaeological monuments began in Northern Ireland in 1927 and was first used in the Republic in 1934. In 1951-3 and 1963-73 Professor St. Joseph of the Cambridge University Committee for Aerial Photography took a series of photos from across Ireland for the National Monuments Council.[18] Daphne Pochin Mould was excited by this new view on archaeology and secured a pilot’s licence. She would go on to become Ireland’s first female flight instructor.[19] Much of her work in aerial photography was in the south of Ireland and although most of her photos were not published, some did enter the public arena. In the 1980s the Cork Archaeological Survey took on Daphne as their aerial photographer. In a photo of the Survey team in 1984 Daphne looked a bit lost in the group of younger people but a later reunion photo had her among the group standing proud.[20] Daphne’s activities helped encourage other female archaeologists like Gillian Barrett to take to the air and expand the range and density of Irish archaeology sites.

The book Discovering Cork

In 1991 Daphne Pochin Mould published a book exploring and discovering her adopted county – Cork. The book explores the county through its monuments of the centuries from megalithic structures to Christian churches, medieval castles and monasteries to modern canals, roads and industrial sites. It is full of photographs and information with an extensive bibliography.

Honorary Doctorate

In 1993 Daphne Pochin Mould’s work as "a scientist and a free spirit, a courageous pioneer and an outstanding woman warrior", was acknowledged with an honorary doctorate from University College Cork.

Final years and death

Daphne Pochin Mould was active up to the end writing and travelling. In 2011 she stayed for a few days at the Walter Raleigh Hotel in Youghal where she was visited up by a number of local historians. They were delighted to hear her stories and enjoy the atmosphere. Unfortunately due to other commitments this author was not able to join the fun.

Daphne Desiree Charlotte Pochin Mould died on 29th April 2014 after a short illness.[21] Daphne Pochin mould travelled far in a long life – from Salisbury to Scotland to Aherla in Co. Cork – from geology to history and aerial photography – from Anglican to the Catholic faith – she truly went on an Irish Pilgrimage.


End of post


[1] Unfortunately the book didn’t make it to the publishers before her death in 2014
[2] Irish Examiner, 15th November 2010, Dan Buckley article on Daphne Pochin Mould
[3] Irish Examiner, 15th November 2010, Dan Buckley article on Daphne Pochin Mould
[4] Irish Examiner, 15th November 2010, Dan Buckley article on Daphne Pochin Mould
[5] Pochin Mould, D.D.C., The Irish Dominicans: The Friars Preachers in the history of Catholic Ireland (Dublin, 1957), dust jacket
[6] Irish Examiner, 15th November 2010, Dan Buckley article on Daphne Pochin Mould
[7] Pochin Mould, D.D.C., Ireland of the Saints (London, 1953), p. 4
[8] Pochin Mould, D.D.C., The Irish Dominicans: The Friars Preachers in the history of Catholic Ireland (Dublin, 1957), dust jacket
[9] Information recounted to the author c.2012 at the Lismore antiques fair
[10] Irish Examiner, 15th November 2010, Dan Buckley article on Daphne Pochin Mould
[11] Pochin Mould, D.D.C., Ireland of the Saints (London, 1953), p. 8
[12] Pochin Mould, D.D.C., Irish Pilgrimage (New York, 1957), p. ii
[13] Flynn, T., O.P., The Irish Dominicans 1536-1641 (Dublin, 1933), p. xx
[14] Pochin Mould, D.D.C., The Irish Dominicans: The Friars Preachers in the history of Catholic Ireland (Dublin, 1957), pp. xiii-xvi
[15] Flynn, T., O.P., The Irish Dominicans 1536-1641 (Dublin, 1933), p. xx
[16] Other books included The Celtic saints, our heritage (1956), Peter's boat: A convert's experience of Catholic living (1959) The Lord is Risen: The Liturgy of Paschal Time (1960), Angels of God: their rightful place in the modern world (1963), The Second Vatican Council (1963), Whitefriars Street Church: A Short Guide (1964), Saint Brigid (1964), Saint Finbarr of Cork (1965), A book of Irish saints and Irish saints' names (1965), Ireland; From the Air (1973) and Valentia: Portrait of an Island (1978)
[17] Pochin Mould, D.D.C., Discovering Cork (Dingle, 1991), dust jacket
[18] Lambrick, G., Air and Earth: Aerial archaeology in Ireland (Dublin, 2008), p. 13
[19] Irish Examiner, 2nd May 2014, Dan Buckley article on Daphne Pochin Mould
[20] Power, D., ‘The Cork Archaeology Survey’, in Emer Condit (ed.), Surveying Our Heritage: The National Monuments Service: marking 50 years of the Archaeological Survey of Ireland (Dublin, 2013), pp. 22-23
[21] Irish Examiner, 2nd May 2014, Dan Buckley article on Daphne Pochin Mould

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