Olga Pyne Clarke (1915-1996): An Introduction

Olga Pyne Clarke was born in 1915. Born and raised in County Cork, Olga lived her childhood through The Troubles in Southern Ireland. As a young girl, she experienced the Burning of Cork, the Battle of Douglas and the invasion of the Black and Tans. As someone who lived on the fringes of different social classes, Olga’s story invites a unique exploration into the workings of Ireland and England in the early Twentieth-Century. Olga, as a writer, maintains a tone that remains objective in relation to her personal history; however, within these observations, there is a deeply intimate narrative within. Her experiences of war offer valuable historical information, but just as valuable are the emotional records she keeps of these experiences. For example, the way Olga feels as the city she knows burns down a second time puts her experience into an emotional context that no other literary form can.  

         In Olga’s life, horses were a very important. From an early age they shaped her experiences with hunting, farming and entertainment. Her knowledge and love for horses helped carry her through difficult financial and emotional times in her life and her most pleasant pastime was to ride horses. She was very good at horse riding and seemed to inherit the skill from her family. She held jobs that cared for, trained and sold horses; often, her mastery of horses introduced her to new social groups and helped her to create a large network of friends. How she cared for horses is described throughout the auto-biography: things like food, shelter and training are explained in great care and detail. Olga’s experiences with horse racing reveals inside information about what makes a horse a good runner, a skill she made useful when buying and selling horses. Other details (such as how horse racing was set up) are remembered through Olga’s memories of watching Guy race horses and her occasional trips to Ascot. Olga was very good with money; when horses were involved, her good business sense was proved time and time again.          Olga does not shy away from the ugly relationships in her life. Her move away from home and marriage with Guy (a divorced Protestant), strained what was already a difficult relationship with her parents. Her mother had resented Olga since birth, and as an adult, the two were estranged. Family, for Olga, was instead found in her partner and friends. It was this shift in her life that she needed. Through change, Olga met people who were very well established. Many of the people that she knew throughout her life were associated with important historical figures; however, to me, it is Olga’s experience with friends, farming and raising horses that is most interesting. As a person, Olga was completely unique. She possessed characteristics that were both headstrong and resilient whilst also being kind and funny. It was these characterises that lead Olga into a series of interesting life-events.

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