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Frequently Asked Questions

What does Eyra mean?


It is thought that her first name is taken from the red/brown form of the Jagurandi which is a type of cat. Given her love of animals, this seems entirely possible. Dictionaries suggest it is pronounced "AY"-ra.


Toggenburg is an unusual name, where does it come from?


Toggenburg is an area in Switzerland from which the Toggenburg goat was imported to Britain in 1884. The first recorded reports of Eyra Toggenburg appear at around the same time, reinforcing the theory that she named herself after the goat which she would have admired for its climbing ability and hardiness.


Was she ever married?


There are no indications that she was ever married. In Victorian times, unmarried women could be viewed with a certain amount of suspicion.  Abroad, things were even worse and it was often better to invent a spouse to stop wagging tongues and unwanted advances. Mary Kingsley (a contemporary of  Eyra Toggenburg) certainly used the tactic after tiring of constant questioning.


Where did she get the money to travel?


It is known that she earned a certain amount of money through commissioned illustration work. There are also several patents under pseudonyms (male) which are attributable to her. Many of these have animal care or climbing applications, and she published several books on her travels and methods of drawing. Her diaries also show, however, that sometimes she simply did not pay for things, stowing away on ships and trains for instance and making use of underused housing stock. This appears to be a habit she acquired very early on in life which never quite went away.


She seems to have a special affinity for animals, is this true and why?


She appears to have had an extraordinary ability to communicate with all types of animals, although she never had a particular love of snakes. Animals seemed to recognise something in her which struck up an immediate rapport between them much like the 'horse whisperers' we hear about today. Psychologists suggest this may be due to her almost feral childhood when she was forced to live by her wits on the streets with animals as her only companions.


When was she born?


She was born sometime around 1859. Certain visas and travel documents found dated 1890 state her age as thirty. Although, as with everything surrounding Eyra Toggenburg, this could be her trying to confuse people for her own motives, which appear as often as not, to have been to amuse herself rather then for any nefarious reason.  


When and how did she die?


There is no death certificate for Eyra Toggenburg in Somerset House. Research abroad has also proved fruitless. However, since she travelled alone most of the time and in generally inaccessible places, this is unsurprising. Unconfirmed sightings still occur, although the last one which holds any credibility was in 1969 at the launch of Apollo 11 when she would have been at least one hundred and ten years old!



Where was she born and what happened to her parents?


Presently, there is no information about her parents or where she was born, although, speculation continues on both matters. Historians have found evidence for her birthplace ranging from Dublin to Delhi. Her name is often cited as substantiation of a Swiss origin, but there is no primary historical evidence for such a claim.


I've noticed in her stories that she never eats meat. Was she vegetarian?


It is never mentioned in her diaries or by anyone who knew her. She certainly had no qualms about feeding meat to animals. Vegetarianism was popular during the nineteenth century and it is entirely possible that she was vegetarian.

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