Chiswick Author Profile
We take a look at the life of Author, Broadcaster, Conservationist and University Professor Polly Devlin OBE
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Polly Devlin was born in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland, in 1944.

At the age of 20, she won the Vogue Magazine Talent Competition, subsequently working on Vogue in London, Paris and New York.

She interviewed many of the big names of the 60's, including: Dylan Thomas, Barbara Streisand, John Lennon, Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin and Andy Warhol as well as compiling the first profile of Seamus Heaney, who later became her brother-in-law.

She became a columnist for the New Statesman when she was twenty-three, and had her own page in the Evening Standard a year later. Soon after she went to live in Manhattan as a Features Editor and writer at American Vogue.

During the 1980's she hosted a series of talks and interviews on television for BBC Northern Ireland. She has also broadcast many talks and written a radio play for the BBC in London. Stories from her book, The Far Side of the Lough, are frequently broadcast. She attended the National Film School in England and made the documentary The Daisy Chain which she both wrote and directed.

In 1994 she was awarded an OBE for services to Literature. In addition to her three acclaimed books, All Of Us There, The Far Side of the Lough and Dora: or The Shifts of the Heart, Polly Devlin is also the author of the Vogue Book of Fashion Photography, a Guide Book to Dublin and a book of essays, Only Sometimes Looking Sideways.

She is currently back at University in London working on a novel and a film script, and living with her husband in Chiswick.


In 1983 Polly Devlin published two books: All of Us There, and The Far Side of the Lough on the same day without reference to each other.

All of Us There is a memoir from her childhood in County Tyrone, on the shores of Lough Neagh, in the fifties. She describes vividly her life as one of seven siblings in a Catholic family in Northern Ireland. The book has since been made into a Virago Modern Classic, and has been described by The Guardian as 'Touching and nostalgic' and by The Irish Times as a 'sensitively written memoir.'

The Far Side of the Lough is a collection of fictional short stories, based on Polly Devlin's own childhood in Northern Ireland, told through a child's perspective. Mary-Ellen (the narrator) tells the stories of a child's world, where places seem bigger than they really are and events more momentous. Beautifully and seamlessly put across, the stories allow the reader a unique insight into a child's view of the world. It was named 'a classic' by The Irish Times and described as 'A beguiling and vivid collection' by The Good Book Guide.

She has also written a third novel, Dora or The Shifts of the Heart, which describes a girl called Dora , reminiscing on her Irish childhood, her young and wild times in London, her happily married state, and the apocalyptic meeting with her lover. During this period of looking back, Dora discovers a lot about herself, about passion, love, commitment, and about the endless shifting of the heart's desires. The Plymouth Evening Herald depicted the book as 'Funny, haunting, witty and illuminating.'

Her latest book co-written Andy Garnett, A Year in the Life of an English Meadow, illustrates how the wildflowers of England are in rapid decline; almost one in five - 345 species - are under serious threat and nearly 100 more are under pressure. The plants and flowers shown in the book were picked and pressed and photographed as they appeared and in the process the authors record something sublime that has almost vanished and which once made England one the most beautiful places on earth.

July 28, 2010