Gordon Bennett Realiability Trials: 1st July 2023

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The route book that was part of the signing on process in Athy on 1st July 2023 headlined the Long route, the Short route and the Diversion (in the event of Congestion in Athy).  No mix up here for the Austin Seven troop as our leader Declan had in mind something else that surpassed. 

Our route especially crafted, proved to be educational and enjoyable to take in key places of interest; non-competitive travel and roads befitting to our light vehicles.  Or so said Declan at the drivers’ briefing held at the prearranged time of 10:30 am. 

Beforehand we lined up our stock where passers-by had the opportunity to inspect, admire and see first-hand the wonderful Sevens, the car built for the masses in the mid-twenties.

Gordon Bennett Realiability Trials: 1st July 2023

Not too far from Athy we had our first stop at the Moat of Ardscull.  

Two history lessons follow: 

[a] The Moate of Ardscull is famous in local myth and legend and is indeed believed by some to be the abode of the ‘little people’.  It is assumed to have been built in the late 12th or 13th century.

The first clear reference to the Moate is in 1654 when the ‘Book of General Orders’ noted a request from the inhabitants of County Kildare for the State to contribute £30 “towards the finishing of a Fort that they have built at the Moate of Ardscull”.

Situated in a commanding position on the main Kilcullen to Athy road, the Moate offered extensive views in all directions.  The structure is a large oval-shaped mound 11 meters high, surrounded by a ditch and bank.

The entrance was on the west of the Moate.  Here there is an opening through the upper bank and a causeway across the ditch, which is between 6 and 7meters wide.  The external bank is 10meters wide. 

A sub-rectangular area is visible from aerial photographs on the north side of the Moate.  This may be the remains of a ploughed-out bailey.  Field walking in the area uncovered shreds of post-medieval pottery and a furnace bottom.

The appearance of the Moate was changed considerably in the 1800’s with the plantation of trees and the construction of a surrounding wall.   More recently, Kilmeade Community Council have developed a picnic area which has become a popular spot with locals and tourists alike.

[b] James Gordon Bennett, millionaire owner of the New York Herald donated a silver trophy for the new sport of road racing. The first two races attracted little attention, but in 1902 a British driver Selwyn Francis Edge won in dramatic style in Innsbruck.”

So, like the Eurovision song contest, the winner’s country hosts the next year’s event. The motor car was barely tolerated in Britain and a blanket speed limit of 12 mph applied.  In short, Ireland took up the challenge, made some legislative changes to allow the race go ahead – around counties Kildare and Laois on July 2nd, 1903. Belgian driver Camille Jenatzy won in thrilling style in a Mercedes.

The 1903 course comprised around the figure of eight course which, with three laps of the western sector and four of the eastern, amounted to a total distance of 327.5 miles.  A bronze casted plaque sets out the record for one and all to see.  A photo opportunity captured our group on the day.

Soon it was time for another rest stop with facilities and beverages; we duly arrived at Ballyshannon for our coffee stop. 

Covid-19 created a flurry of semi-retired Rice horse box conversions into fully fledged catering facilities, with the standard 10 hp Honda generator providing the horse power to run the water geezer and toaster.  We were pleased to get a chance to mingle among friends in convivial surroundings.

Our next drive was pleasant, particularly as the weather was kind and those cars equipped with drop down hoods took advantage of the warm breeze as we travelled along to Kilcullen and Athgarvan and eventually stopping at Donnelly’s Hollow in the Curragh a natural bowl-shaped amphitheatre. 

In late 1815 a more formidable English boxer, George Cooper, arrived in Ireland to challenge Donnelly.  Once more housebound under supervision, Donnelly demonstrated uncharacteristic restraint in training diligently for the fight, which was held at the Curragh venue on 13 November 1815.

In what was the best performance of his career, Donnelly overwhelmed Cooper in the eleventh round and claimed the £60 purse before a large and vociferous attendance reported to be at least 20,000, young and old. He made his way back towards Dublin in a carriage pulled by his admirers.

The site was subsequently renamed Donnelly’s Hollow.

Close by and a few minutes later we stopped at Curragh Village.  The Curragh An Currach is a flat open plain of almost 2,000 hectares (5,000 acres) of common land in County Kildare. This area is well known for Irish horse breeding and training.

The Irish National Stud is located on the edge of Kildare town, beside the Japanese Gardens.

Also located here is Pollardstown Fen, the largest fen in Ireland. This area is of particular interest to botanists and ecologists because of the numerous bird species that nest and visit there. There are also many rare plants that grow there. 

It is composed of a sandy soil formed after an esker deposited a sand load and as a result, it has excellent drainage characteristics. This makes it a popular location for training racehorses.

We visited the monument to the Curagh Car Races 1947~1954.  When sport on the Curragh is mentioned, the attention immediately turns to horse racing but horsepower of a more mechanical kind also featured on the plains in the middle of the last century.  

The Curragh could boast of having two  motor racing circuits, the “Short Circuit” which opened in 1947  featured both car and motor cycles on a regular basis and the “Big Circuit”,  a five mile circuit on the Camp side of the Curragh was the venue for the  International Wakefield trophy motor races from 1949  to 1954 which drew crowds upwards of 30,000 to the plains – That was more than attended the Irish Derby over at the race-course.

For the next 30 minutes we were on the road again driving through Kildare Town via The National Stud, on to Mountrath and Portlaoise, finally stopping at the renowned Treacy’s of the Heath for lunch.  Time available to process in our minds the route that was carefully crafted by Declan.  We enjoyed our time in the rear courtyard in the afternoon sunshine, reason being the restaurant was packed to capacity.  No harm at all! 

The final leg of our journey took us to Vicarstown and a stop at Grand Canal Bridge.  The Grand Canal An Chanáil Mhór is the southernmost of a pair of canals that connect Dublin, in the east of Ireland, with the River Shannon in the west, via Tullamore and a number of other villages and towns, the two canals nearly encircling Dublin’s inner city. Its sister canal on the Northside of Dublin is the Royal Canal. The last working cargo barge passed through the Grand Canal in 1960.

Readers will know by now that we tend to express our thanks to someone of interest in the old car movement, worthy of a present from us, consisting of a hand turned beech bowl.  After due consideration the recipient was declared. The presentation was made by Chairman Declan to Michael Kavanagh of Athy Town Council on the banks of The Grand Canal in recognition of the splendid work that they have undertaken on amenities for locals and tourism alike.

We made our way along the former horse path.   Our drive was delightful.  Free of traffic, the canal to our right and the narrow pathway more than adequate.  Too soon we had no option but to divert back to our national primary roads.

As time was ticking too fast, and our group was expected to be in position for a display of all cars who had entered into the trials.  We all converged back in Athy, notwithstanding the long route and the short route as well as Declan’s crafted route. 

Sufficient to say we had a great time.  Safe travel; educational and enjoyable; great company and fellowship.  With renewed thanks to Chairman Declan, we duly went about our separate ways with an enduring and warm feeling of comradeship among fellow Seven owners.

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irishaustinsevenclub

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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