On Thursday, June 14th author and journalist Isambard Wilkinson will return to the land of his grandmother to discuss his book “Travels in a Dervish Cloak” based on his time spent working Pakistan as a foreign correspondent during the war on terror. His talk will take place at 8pm in Lismore Heritage Centre at the 16th annual Lismore Immrama Festival of Travel Writing.
His book is a personal account of his travels through Pakistan – a place he grew to love as a result of his time spent at his Anglo-Indian grandmother’s Waterford home. Spellbound by his grandmother’s Anglo-Indian heritage, Isambard became enthralled by Pakistan and he eventually went to work there as a foreign correspondent in Islamabad in 2006 during the height of the War On Terror, where he endeavoured to shed light on a country which has become synonymous with terrorism, chaos and extreme danger for Western journalists.
Isambard’s father was in the British navy, the family travelled around the world but he spent much of his childhood at his grandmother’s home outside Lismore in Waterford, where she had settled after leaving India following the end of the British Raj.
It was to his childhood countryside home that his grandmother’s great friend, the elderly scion of an old Pakistani family known as the “Begum” (a title that once meant “Lady” or “Princess”), would arrive for long visits every year. For the young Isambard, this was the annual arrival of an exotic caravan, with the Begum and her servants descending with trunks full of colourful robes and carpets, cooking curries and flatbreads in the kitchen and flooding the house with pungent aromas, bright colours and strange speech. “It was most definitely something different in 1980’s rural Waterford,” says Isambard.
Isambard was born in 1971; he was expelled from school at 15; after University, he was refused entry into the Royal Marines and instead worked for Country Life magazine before leaving to travel throughout Pakistan, an ambition curtailed by kidney failure. After a stretch on dialysis and his first kidney transplant he became a foreign correspondent for the Daily Telegraph in Spain, and then in Pakistan, where he completed his travels the subject of this book. Following a second transplant, he is based in Hong Kong where he works as a journalist.
In total, eight guests will speak at the 2018 Immrma Festival from June 13th to 17th, including Key-note speaker Michael Smith who will delve into “Discovering Ireland’s History and Ireland’s Antarctic Explorers”. Explorer and author Jacki Hill-Murphy will continue the theme of exploration with as she plans to discuss ‘Women adventuring off the beaten track’, Jacki has also travelled to some of the most inhospitable places on earth to re-create the journeys of daring women adventurers.
Author John Devoy opens the festival talks with an introduction from his book Quondam, this will be followed by a screening of a documentary on the Irish aid effort in 1968 titled Biafra – Forgotten Mission. Award-winning author Rosemary Mahoney will discuss her travels down the Nile. A travel-writing workshop with Dr Robyn Rowland will be on offer. Historian Donald Brady will host a talk on Sir Richard Musgrave of Tourin 1746-1818. Adventurer and mountaineer Michael Whelan will host a talk on his journey by bicycle from Islamabad to the world’s highest border crossing on the Karakoram Highway and onto Shipton’s Lost Arch in Western China. Bob Jackson will host the famous literary breakfast at Immrama. He will discuss the story of the incredible life of Dr Aidan MacCarthy the only person to have survived the two events that mark the beginning and end of World War II.
On the final day of the festival ‘Family Fun Sunday’ will take place at the Millennium Park, the Lismore Farmers Market will be on the castle avenue. Full details of the festival programme and for event tickets for the Immrama Lismore Festival of Travel Writing 2018 see www.lismoreimmrama.com or call (058) 53803.