By Caitlin Harrigan, Maynooth University Library
For the past several weeks, I have been transcribing the audio recordings of Pearse Hutchinson’s recollections of travelling through and living in Europe in his early twenties, in 1950 and 1951. Pearse’s extraordinary travels are what many of us dream to do in our own twenties: travel through Spain, Portugal, and the Netherlands without any strict itinerary, visit famous architectural sites and see masterpieces of art, befriend locals and fellow travellers—all without much more than a duffel bag worth of belongings (and, needless to say, rather penniless).
Young Pearse’s way of travelling through Europe may be characterised as what many of us would imagine as a poet’s or artist’s way of tourism: experiencing each city or town by wandering leisurely through the streets, feasting on the local cuisine at a little cafe or drinking Centenario Terry, studying the paintings of Hieronymus Bosch or Joachim Patinir at the Prado, and meeting other poets such as Octavio Paz and Juan Gil-Albert.
Even though Pearse, at the time he is recording this, is reminiscing on events that took place many decades before, he nevertheless vividly recounts distinctive people and scenes that stuck in his memory through the years: such as the contrast of sunlight and shadow cast from an open door in a bar in Granada, or an empty birdcage swinging from a balcony wildly during a small earthquake in Triana, Seville. Through all of these recollections, if he ever misspoke, or wanted to change the wording, he would pause and say, “Dear transcriber…,” thoughtfully and kindly, as if in conversation with an old, close friend, which always gave me the impression that the memories of these trips were very dear to his heart.