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Daphne D.C. Pochin Mould

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. None of these early efforts, which so far as I remember were often about fantastic animals, have, fortunately for me, survived!

My background is English, but I have been so long out of the country, out of contact with its thought and way of life, that going back there in recent years, I found I passed readily enough for a born Irishwoman! Actually, I was born in the very heart of the "Englishry," in the south country, in Salisbury with its ancient Cathedral, whose spire is the landmark seen from all the rolling downs round about. Stonehenge was not far off, and when I was very small, I tried out my climbing instincts on its stones,-to be immediately hauled o~ by an irate official!

I was born in 1920-oddly enough in view of later events on November 15th-the feast day of the great Dominican, St. Albert, teacher of St. Thomas Aquinas, and patron of scientists. With the urge to write, I also had an urge to study science, especially the natural sciences. I used to go out in the country and identify the plants and trees, watch the birds, go quietly through the English woods so that the red squirrels came playing past me, unnoticed. I looked at the rocks too and found fossils in the English chalk pits which pit my "calf country" with white scars.

Science for me meant the discovery of truth, reality, the nature of being, finding out what things were, what life was about.

My family were Anglican-the Church of England in its "High Church" department. I was brought up to be an Anglican too, but I doubt that I ever really believed. I had a phase of belief around the time I was confirmed and given a course of instruction in church doctrine, but my scientific studies made me question the foundations of such teaching. Could the existence of God be proved ? If it could not, then all religious belief was false, a myth, something to attack in the name of truth. Accordingly, I deliberately abandoned my Church of England allegiance, and determined to devote myself to an agnostic attack upon religion in the name of truth. Leaving England for Scotland in 1939 was the time of my final break with the Church of England, and my coming into a country of the Presbyterian Faith probably hastened this step.

Scotland has always fascinated me, even before I knew the clear, bright skies over her winter snowfields, or felt the rasp of rock under nailed boots. That country had had my loyalty in my childhood, never England; the glamour of Prince Charles, of Scottish history in general, of the pipes and the tartan, the mountain streams, the heather, the silent blue waters of the lakes, the magic of her islands, held me enchanted from the very time that I heard first of their existence. So to Scotland I came in the first months of the Second World War, to Edinburgh, where I began my University B.Sc. degree with the wail of sirens and the crackle of machine gun fire as the first air raids took place on the Forth Bridge.

Four years in wartime Edinburgh saw me with my degree with first class honours in geology-the science of rocks. I got a research fellowship too, and permission to start work on it from the Ministry of Labour-for work was still under war controls then-and went up into the Highlands to do research on the granite of Foyers, beside Loch Ness. Study of this hitherto unmapped bit of country-some one hundred square miles of it-gained me the Ph.D. from Edinburgh in 1946. It also crystallized my ideas about my writing-to begin with something Scottish, something Highlandj and to live in the Highlands.

So I came to live in Fort Augustus-also on Loch Ness (but I never saw the Loch Ness Monster), and beside the Benedictine Abbey of Fort Augustus. I intended to begin my writing about Scottish history, topography, and the like, and attack religion when it came into my story, eventually working up to an all-out attack.

My first book was the Roads from the Isles, published by Oliver & Boyd of Edinburgh. It was the story of some of the old cross-country tracks of the West Highlands, along which in the old days the black cattle of the Hebridean islands and of the Scottish mountains, used to be driven in great herds to the markets in the South, where numbers were bought by drovers from England. Naturally, the next move for me was to the islands themselves, and I wrote a book about the Outer Hebrides (West over Sea). But some of those Outer Islands are wholly Catholic, and here I came up against Catholic life and thought for the first time. In this country too I came up against the old churches and monastic ruins originally founded by the Celtic Saints, by- men like St. Columba of Ireland. My first two books told the history of some of these churches and their founders, but from a neutral point of view. Now I intended to write about the Inner Isles-including Iona of St. Columba-and to "show-up" the Saints and the Church for what I thought they really were.

But' to attack the Church meant finding out just what was to be attacked. I already knew some of the Benedictines at Fort Augustus and from one of them sought information. He calmly presented me with St. Thomas Aquinas' proofs for demonstrating the existence of God, together with the whole set-up of Catholic philosophy That reason could enter into religion was a completely new idea to me. I fought hard against accepting any such possibility, but after a year of struggle and argument was received into the Catholic Church on November 11, 1950- St. Martin's day, the patron saint of the English~-parish in which I had been born in Salisbury! So the book that had intended to attack the Church, Scotland of the Saints, was, when it appeared, the very opposite, a Catholic book, with the Church's imprimatur.

Ireland lay across the narrow seas from Scotland, another Gaelic and Celtic country. To follow to Ireland the Celtic Saints that I had studied in Scotland seemed the obvious road, to Columba and Iona I really owed my conversion. So when the lease on the Fort Augustus house was up, came a move to Ireland in the autumn of 1951, and more books about the Celtic Saints, a companion to the first Batsford one, Scotland of the Saints, namely, Ireland of the Saints, and a study of the pilgrimages still made in Ireland to the old monastic sites of the Irish saints, Irish Pilgrimage, and finally, a deeper study of the thought and prayer and spirituality of the Celtic saints,-not as something remote from us, but as something to make use of today, the answer to our present problems. This last, The Celtic Saints: Our Heritage (Macmillan), came out in September, 1956. And because I had learned to love the hills and to climb in Scotland, I scrambled on the Irish mountains too, and wrote (in 1955) The Mountains of Ireland, the first full-length book ever to be written on the Irish hills.

Perhaps it was not strange that my early desire for truth brought me, now within the Church, to the Dominican Order, whose motto is Veritas, Truth. In 1952, in Galway's Claddagh, I was received into the Third Order of St. Dominic. I think I first came to the Dominicans through St. Thomas Aquinas, but an intense devotion to St. Dominic himself followed becoming a Tertiary.

At the end of 1955, the Irish Dominican Fathers asked me to write the history of the Irish Dominicans. Not since the Latin of De Burgo in the 1760's, had a history of the Order in Ireland been attempted. It is a fascinating story, of 700 years of Dominican and Irish and Catholic history, of the gracious medieval priories whose ruins still dot the countryside, of the long persecutions and the Penal laws, and finally of recovery and restoration. Nearly a hundred Irish Dominicans who died for the Faith are included in the official process for the beatification of the Irish martyrs. I followed their tracks, saw the places where they had died, the chalice belonging to Father Thaddeus Moriarty hanged in Killarney in 1653 and other precious relics still in Dominican possession. I looked at the Dominican Archives, at the faded pages of the account books kept by the friars in the days of the Penal laws in the eighteenth century; the regular tips they gave "ye Mayor's sergeants" (the police of that day) in Galway, so if there was a search for friars they would get warning; the food they ate, the different things that made up their small income, daily expenses-tinning a leaky kettle, buying a sieve, all these things are entered in these books. I went, too, up and down the country to the old sites where the friars had lived in cabins in Penal days, as near as they could to their old ruined medieval foundations, and asked the Irish people for the traditional stories of the friars.
Many of these still survive, though the older people who had the full tradition, are mostly dead. My book, The Irish Dominicans, was published in the spring of 1957 by Dominican Publications, Dublin.

So - I seem to have come full circle, from the first desire to write and to know Truth, to be writing about the way the Truth was defended in Ireland, of the way the Catholic Church survived attack after attack, and of the Dominican Order's part in that survival and in the eternal defense of Truth.

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