Daphne Pochin Mould (1920-2014)
Photographer, broadcaster, geologist, traveller, pilot and Ireland's first female flight instructor.
Early life and Edinburgh
Pochin Mould was born in Salisbury in 1920 into an Anglican family. She referred to her hometown as “the heart of Englishry” and recalled childhood visits to its domineering cathedral and nearby Stonehenge, where she couldn’t resist climbing on the stones.
Perhaps inspired by this early love of rock, she enrolled at the University of Edinburgh in 1939 to study Geology and Pure Science. As she wasn't fit enough to be called up for full-time war service, the Ministry of Labour allowed her to take up a research fellowship, and she eventually received her PhD in Geology in 1946 for her thesis entitled 'Geology of the Foyers Plutonic Complex and the surrounding country' (much of it written in her base in a cottage overlooking Loch Ness).
She then embarked on the first chapter of a life devoted to travel and writing. Moving to the Hebrides, she became a crofter, drawing the plough herself or using a whetstone to hone the scythe for harvesting hay and corn.
Rejecting her Anglican upbringing, Pochin Mould first became agnostic, determined to attack religion in the name of truth. However, during the writing of one of her early books she became interested in Catholicism and finally became Catholic in 1950. She moved to Ireland following her conversion, along with her parents, settling in Aherla, County Cork, and developed a life-long interest in the Celtic saints.
It was after moving to Ireland that she also honed her photography and piloting skills, combining the two to become known as an accomplished aerial photographer. She flew a single engine Piper Cub aircraft and was so skilled she could stand it on a wing tip. At Cork airport, she also taught aspiring pilots to fly – the first female in Ireland to do so.
Over the years, Pochin Mould captured thousands of pictures of the Irish landscape, an important photographic collection that featured in (now mostly out-of-print) books such as ‘Ireland From The Air’; ‘Discovering Cork’; ‘Valentia: Portrait of an Island'; ‘Aran Islands’; ‘Mountains of Ireland’; ‘The Monasteries of Ireland: An Introduction’; ‘Scotland of the Saints’; ‘A Book of Irish Saints and Irish Saints’ names’; and ‘Saint Finbar of Cork' and 'Saint Brigid’.
Her unique talents, outstanding achievements and rich contribution to Irish life were perhaps best summed up in a tribute at the University College Cork’s conferring of an honorary doctorate upon her in 1993, describing her as “a scientist and a free spirit, a courageous pioneer and an outstanding woman warrior”.
Pochin Mould lived her later years quietly, and died in 2014. She donated her body to medical science.