Polly Devlin


Author, journalist, broadcaster, film-maker, art critic and conservationist, Polly Devlin has had a remarkable career, taking her far from her rural roots in County Tyrone to the sophisticated world of Vogue in London, New York and Paris. As Features Editor for Vogue she interviewed many major personalities of the 1960s, including Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Janis Joplin, John Osborne, Andy Warhol, and worked with photographers David Bailey, Richard Avedon, Irving Penn and Lord Snowdon.

She was married in Tuscany to industrialist Adrian Garnett, and they have three grown-up daughters. In Somerset they have many animals and have planted thousands of trees and reclaimed hundreds of acres for meadowland and bird reserves.

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.

Polly Devlin was born in a remote almost medieval area in Co Tyrone in Ireland in the 1940’s; there were no telephones or electricity in the region when she was growing up and ponies and traps were more common than motor cars. Her first job was as a result of having won the Vogue Talent competition, the main attraction of which was a job on the magazine.

She says the most boring question she has to answer about that time is how someone from so different and rural a background could have gone straight into life at Vogue. As Features Editor for three years she traveled the world interviewing people as disparate as Farah Diba, the Empress of Persia, to Barbra Streisand and Orson Welles. She was the first person to interview Bob Dylan in England, to write about Seamus Heaney, and almost certainly the first woman to travel across Abu Dhabi, which she did before that country became oil-rich. She recalls seeing horses being turned off a patch of hardened earth as the tiny aeroplane which brought her to Abu Dhabi came in to land; as one recalcitrant horse galloped in front of the aeroplane she realised that their paddock was also the landing strip.

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 for Diana Vreeland on American Vogue. At this time she worked with, among others, Richard Avedon, David Bailey, Irving Penn, Norman Parkinson and Tony Snowdon.

In 1970 she stopped journalism; in 1990 she became a roving critic, with particular emphasis on art and major exhibitions for The International Herald Tribune for a year. In the same years she wrote a publication for the National Gallery of Ireland on their ceramic collections.

She has been a Judge of the Booker Prize in England and in Ireland a judge on the Irish Times Aer Lingus Literary award.

She is professor at Barnard College, Columbia University, New York.


All of us There a social history. Virago Modern Classics

The Far side of the Lough Short stories. Re-published O’Brien Press.

Vogue Book of Fashion Photography. Thames and Hudson.

Dora or the Shifts of the Heart; a novel Chatto and Windus. Serialised on Radio 4.

Dublin; a Guide Book.

Only Sometimes Looking Sideways; A Book of Essays. O’Brien Press.

Film: The Daisy Chain. Documentary: director and writer.

Baby Girl, a radio play.

A Guide to Ceramics for the National Gallery Ireland.