An interview with Bartholomew Patrick O’Farrell
Driving down towards St Keverne on Cornwall’s isolated Lizard peninsula feels like drifting back in time. With the Autumnal fog rolling in from the sea and covering the Goonhilly Downs the whole scene can suddenly become rather otherworldly. Quite an appropriate place to meet a wizard.
Bartholomew Patrick O’Farrell, or Bart as he likes to be known, is a small man with shoulder length grey hair and a white beard. Today he is dressed exuberantly from head to toe in bright red, in his gentle lilting Welsh accent he explains, “It’s like the poem When I get old, I shall wear purple, do you know it? Well, have you noticed that all old men just wear grey and brown and seem to fade in to the background, now that’s why I chose to wear red”.
Bart is most certainly not a man to fade away, just a few minutes with him and the room feels warmer as he happily regales you with stories about a life full of incident and adventure. In his 75 years he has been a copy-writer, typewriter salesman, teacher, picture restorer, artist, oral poet and a palmist.
The latest phase of what he calls his “diamond” of a life has seen him discover or perhaps rediscover his abilities as a dowser.
Bart was born in a small mining town in Wales called Ogilvie. His father worked in the pits, travelled up and down the valley “following the pound notes”, a devout catholic he also had a strange fascination in the paranormal. When, as a child, Bart began having out-of-body experiences he was very interested and even encouraging. “He never shut me down” Bart recalls.
Reading palms was something he began in his early 20s but, he says with a mischievous twinkle, it was at first just a way to get girls. However he quickly realised it was more than that, he could see things. To assuage his curiosity he visited a famous fortune-teller in Cardiff and she was the first person to tell him that he was psychic.
Bart’s move to Cornwall came when he met and fell in love with his wife Jan. He sold everything he owned to start a new life and after her sudden death he felt rudderless and began suffering from severe depression. “The point of my life was gone . . . everything lost its colour, became grey”. But Bart, then 59, was determined not to fade away. By chance a dowsing course was being held in his village, he went along and soon realised that this was something he was not just good at but was meant to do. He was hooked.
Bart founded The West Country Dowsers in 2006 and they still meet regularly, especially in the spring when the ferns are low and the tourists have yet to arrive. It was his fellow dowsers that gave him the nickname “Wizard on the Lizard”, Bart chuckles, it’s a joke but one he enjoys.
As for his gifts, Bart makes no apologies to the sceptical. He finds he is regularly called upon in his local area and further afield, using his abilities not only to find water and energy lines but to rid homes of wasp nests and even the odd unwanted guest. He once helped the ghost of a bull in a barn conversion find his way to a sunlit meadow in t
“I just ask for something and sometimes I get an answer” he says with a smile. “I can make clouds appear and disappear, people laugh but I can do it”. But mostly he specialises in the cleansing people’s homes of geopathic stress. “I don’t advertise – it’s all word of mouth” and he doesn’t take payment, just a donation to cover his costs.
With Bart time flies, he is a man loving and living life to the fullest and he is happy to share all he can of it with you, “Of course it’s a pity I haven’t had time to tell you about the time I was arrested for the Great Train Robbery in 1963” His eyes sparkle as he gets up from the table and puts on his bright red fleece.
You can hear the full recording of my interview with Bart HERE. Sadly he passed away in 2017.
For more stories of interesting people from Cornwall’s past try : Simon Bradley on Gyotaku and a seagull called Derek