Arthur MacMurrough Kavanagh stared in shock at the letter from his mother. She had written to say that she was cutting off his money. As he reread the page, the sensations of India intruded – a peacock’s cry, the smell of spices, a gentle wind through palm leaves. An Irishman alone in a foreign land, he was twenty years old and had just thirty shillings left in his pocket. This situation would be hard enough for most people, even today, but this was the year 1851, and he had been born with only partial stumps in place of normal functioning arms and legs. What could he do? Instead of despairing, he decided to get a job.
He’d traveled to India from Ireland with his brother and tutor, passing through Europe, Russia and the Middle East. During the trip, he proved that he was just as tough as anyone else, even with his severe disabilities. They visited ancient tombs, bargained with remote tribes, traveled dangerous mountain trails, and even hunted tigers.
In Persia, he caught a fever and was nursed back to health in a prince’s harem. Rumors about what happened in the harem reached his mother, and that was why she cut off his money! It wasn’t the first time he had been in trouble with girls.
After they reached India, his brother became ill and died on his way to Australia to get medical treatment. His tutor also died in an accident, leaving Arthur as the only survivor. But even in this desperate situation, he didn’t give up hope.
In a time where disabled babies were often smothered or neglected, Arthur was lucky to have a wealthy family. With their help he had learned to use his short arm stumps to write, paint, shoot a gun, sail a yacht and even ride a horse!
These skills impressed the East India Company, so they gave him the job he needed. Riding a horse with a special saddle, he delivered urgent messages throughout the area.
When he finally returned home in 1853, he inherited his father’s properties. Although he was wealthy again, he always worked hard to help the poor. He married and had seven children, and later became a Member of Parliament.
By the time he died on Christmas day, 1889, Arthur MacMurrough Kavanagh was known and respected for his bravery, wisdom, and kindness. His life showed that determination matters much more than physical ability.