Armagh Spring Run: 21st May 2023

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We were pleased to hold our 2nd Annual run based at Armagh City hotel on a fine spring May day where we had an attendance of Austin Sevens plus a few larger pre-war Austins as well, where we foregathered at 10:30am. 

With the assistance of our friend and member Geoffrey Livingstone, the route for the day was mapped out, route sheets presented following the signing up of the attendance list.  Our Chairman addressed the gathering with his drivers’ briefing.  It was a meander in an anti-clockwise direction, starting and finishing in the Hotel Car Park, for a duration of 40’ish miles taking in many of the magnificent scenery and old glory roads, so suitable for our cars.

We duly headed off in convoy passing through the outskirts of Armagh City with ease and soon enough we were meandering through cross roads and country lanes bringing us to a surprise stop at a Pub, perhaps in the middle of nowhere, or so it would seem.  Basil Sheil’s bar and restaurant is situated in Tassagh, conveniently situated just 6 miles from Armagh City. A perfect and idyllic countryside location for dining and accommodation or just getting together and catching up with friends.

The Restaurants character features a touch of old world class. Patrons may choose from the  cosy main bar or vast beer garden and enjoy themselves. With a treasure trove of antiques and memorabilia from yesteryear and many eccentric nooks and corners to discover. it is a venue and a hidden treasure in the Orchard County of Armagh. Lots of photo opportunities duly availed of.

Off we went again, rising steeply into the mid-morning haze via the wonderful Tassagh Viaduct, an engineering masterpiece.  The viaduct is 11 arches long, and at its greatest height is 24 metres. It is 174 metres in length, and built of concrete piers and brick arches and vaulting. The viaduct was completed in 1910, bridging the Callan River Valley.   

It was originally part of the Castleblayney, Keady and Armagh Railway, though services to Castleblayney were ended in 1924 and from 1932 onwards, all trains across the Tassagh Viaduct were goods trains to and from Keady.  It was at this time that the nearby Tassagh Halt closed. The line had been taken over by the Great Northern Railway (Ireland) shortly after opening.  Final closure of the line and viaduct came in 1957.  In December 1976, Tassagh Viaduct became a Grade B listed building.

We arrived safely at Carrigatuke Viewpoint.  On arrival it was hazy so our immigration was in top gear.  After a short while, the morning sun soon dispersed much of the visual restriction and we could clearly see the potential for a spin up there.  Maybe next time we pick it for a lunchtime picnic stop.  Carrigatuke, 365m Hill – ‘rock of the hawk’ is the third highest hill in the Gullion area, the most northerly summit, and the third highest point in county Armagh.

Next stop for a rest and chat was at Seagahan Dam.   Seagahan Water Treatment Works and impounding reservoir were first built in the 1960s’. In 2008, the plant underwent an extensive upgrade treating water from Seagahan Impounding Reservoir and can produce up to 10 million litres per day supplying a large area of County Armagh, including Armagh city.  With our cars parked along the roadside dam wall, the huge area of cool clean water was evident.  We took note of the construction product which was no doubt hand built with excellence and skill, still providing the consistent and essential source of water for the Armagh hinterland.

Photos by Nuala Grogan

At this stage in our run, tummies were rumbling.  Delightfully, the Livingstone family led the pack as far as a closed pub with ample parking facilities and a choice of outdoor dining, one’s own picnic, a prepared meal from a London Bus with plenty of upstairs seating or the traditional fast food trailer outfit.  Choices were many and we dined accordingly.  It really was a pleasant occasion especially as the weather was so kind, the dining experience was really memorable.  Good food and plenty of socialising was the order of the day. 

Our Chairman Declan Grogan took the opportunity of thanking all present for supporting our 2nd Annual Spring Run in Armagh.  Special congratulations to the Livingstone family for sharing their local knowledge and bringing us to places we never imagined.  What a magnificent island we are all privileged to live in.  “We can safely say that only for our interest in pre-war cars, we would be none the wiser” he said.  In wrapping up, he appreciated the courtesy and careful driving of our group making it a safe and enjoyable run, where passers-by greeted us with friendly waves and smiles.  We will return next year.

On the final leg of our run, we could not resist a short stop at Dan Winter’s Cottage.  The cottage is situated close to Loughgall Village on the corner of the Diamond crossroads on Derryloughan Road. It is a long-thatched cottage and at 95 feet is believed to be the longest in Ireland and was the focal point of a battle which took place on 21st September 1795. The battle, now known as the battle of the Diamond, was the result of ongoing tensions between Catholic and Protestant factions in the area at that time.  Dan winter lived in the cottage at the time of the battle where he carried out his business of a Pub/Grocer. 

As well as the living and spirit Grocers, the cottage also has a weaver’s quarters which contains the original weaving loom in full working order.  This cottage is a traditional Irish cottage with all the relics associated with life in the 17th century.  Colin Winter, a direct descendant of Dan Winter who was reared in the cottage with his other 9 siblings will take you back in time when he relays the true history of this famous cottage.  

He will be able to tell you exactly what happened here and with the turf fire burning and the smell of soda bread on the griddle you will be taken back a couple of centuries and will experience life as it was all those years ago.  Needless to mention an ideal group photo opportunity for the record.

Back to base at 5:00 pm, we exchanged pleasantries after a very enjoyable outing with friends and Sevens.

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A one marque organisation, catering for the Austin Seven, is what makes The Irish Austin Seven Club unique. Prospective owners are always welcome to make contact with our membership who will be pleased to present and demonstrate the Seven’s special characteristics and driving experience.

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