Book of the month

18 Jan 2022

Olive Murray Chapman, Across Cyprus, John Lane the Bodley Head, 1945

Olive Murray Chapman, Across Cyprus, John Lane the Bodley Head, 1945.

Where is the home for me,

O Cyprus, set in the sea.

Aphrodite’s home in the soft sea foam. [..]

(From an ancient Greek poem)

Olive Murray Chapman (1892-1977) was born in Acton, London, 18th of March 1892, daughter of G. A. Garry Simpson, a member of the Royal College of Surgeons, and Ethel Maud Gibbon Simpson. She attended Queen's College and Heatherley's Art School in London. Olive married C. H. Murray Chapman, a flight lieutenant in the Royal Navy who was sadly killed in active service in 1916. Becoming a widow at a young age Olive Murray Chapman, chose not to remarry and allow this to stop her from setting out to explore places in the world. Instead, she decided to put in good use the education her father gave her and to record on paper her experiences from her travels.

Olive Murray Chapman was a remarkable woman with a restless spirit that challenged the social conventions of her time by travelling to remote places ignoring the physical dangers that existed and objections pertaining to her gender and took opportunities that prevented other men and women from venturing into similar explorations. As a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, she lectured to that organization about her travels, as well as to the Royal Scottish Geographical Society and the Royal Asiatic Society.

Her travels lead her to Iceland, Madagascar, Lapland and Cyprus. She wrote many books recording her explorations: Across Iceland: The Land of Frost and Fire (1930), Across Lapland (1932) and in 1937 she published Across Cyprus “I got my first view of Cyprus with its long range of undulating mountain peaks standing out in sharp silhouette against the clear blue sky.”, where she recorded her time and impressions of both the island and its people. Among the things that greatly impressed her was the colourful clothes of the Turkish women in Famagusta: “...but I noticed a number of Turkish women, their pretty bright dresses and vivid green and magenta veil making bright splashes of colour.” Also, the beauty of the women from the Carpas region: “These women of the Carpas were much handsomer, and carried themselves far better than the average Cypriot woman.”

She gives a very thorough account of the island’s main cities and archaeological sites and carries us with her in her roaming on the island and we cannot but get enchanted ourselves by her depiction of the “Fairy Castles” as she calls them: Never shall I forget Hilarion as I saw it one early morning from Kyrenia [..] This was the picture which I took away with me when shortly after I sailed for home. It is the picture that still comes first to my mind when I think of Cyprus; the vision of a Fairy castle, dream-like and unreal, poised between heaven and earth, mounting guard over the enchanted isle to which it belongs.” The book is illustrated with beautiful Images depicting landscapes, villages, antiquities and the people of Cyprus.

Join us in the Research Centre of CVAR and discover the Fairy Castles.

The 'Book of the Month' series is made possible with the support of OPAP (Cyprus).

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