Tuesday, 11 March 2008

#031 1950 - Dun Laughaire Gran Prix

Late in June Tom Crowther and Ethel asked if we would like to go to Dun Laughaire, Eire for a holiday, it was actually a cycle racing week, we decided to go along. The event was early in July and the arrangment was that Jean, Carol and Ethel and I go in the trusty Morris 8 and Tom, Bill Henshaw and "Nip” Underwood would ride to Holyhead. Llittle did I know how many times in the future we would make this journey. We left in the car on Saturday morning, Tom and "Nip" and Bill the day before. We called at Mercian for Ethel and with a good send off by Eric Thompson and Joe Buxton we were off. We were soon on the way thro Wales knowing the road to Bangor like the back of our hands. We stayed at a nice bungalow near Bettwys-coed for a meal then on to Holyhead arriving at 7 p.m. we left the car outside the station all week (things are a bit different now).
The stately L.M.S mail boat the "Priness Maud", was in the harbour and we were allowed to board ship before the "trains came", (very few passengers arrived by car in 1950) although we were not due to sail till 3.45 a.m. We had a meal and then went to our cabins. We were able to sleep for about 4 hours – then the trains arrived from London, packed with Irishmen. That was the last sleep we were able to have - above our cabins was the hold where the newspapers and Royal Mail were loaded and stevedores were bringing these and dumping them with a loud bang right up to sailing time. We arrived in Dun Lagaire at 7.30 a.m. what a lovely landfall that is with the white and pastel shaded houses and mountains in the background. We negotiated customs and then only had a short walk to our hotel "Crofton House". It was a lovely morning, we had breakfast on the front lawn with the Royal Yacht Club just over the wall and Howth Head just across the bay. Dun Laghaire (Kingstown) harbour could hold the whole of the British fleet (which it had in the first world war) but now the Mail Boat was the largest vessel there - myriads of yachts scattered about the harbour.
In the afternoon we explored the surrounding area especially the round tower of James Joyce "Ullysees" where once he had lived. We also found a bathing spot nearby ideal for diving i.e. 40 foot deep. It was for men only and seemed full with young priests from the local college. Sunday morning saw us on the tram to Dublin, quite a adventure then, we walked up the top of Nelsons column, (blown up by the IRA 1970s) I had to carry Carol but rewarded with a magnificant view at the top. Later in the day we found Killeney Beach just a small tram ride away and not far from Bray Head. Monday saw us at the race headquarters. The details of the events were Roller contest, 25 mile Time Trial. a track meeting on Landsdown Road Rugby International ground, finishing up in a 100km road race round Dun Laghaire on the Sunday.
The only one of our party to be married and with a child, it was difficult for me to train, Jean wanting me to be with her and Carol. Anyway we managed and with the weather good we had many beach days together. I rode in the Roller Contest and was hopeless, the following night we were at Landsdowne Road Rugby Football Ground for the track meeting - I found out I had come without my special sprockets 1" pitch so had to ride a high gear. Was as usual hopeless in the sprints but thought I might ride O.K. in the 5 mile handicap, I was placed on scratch mark. I caught what I thought was the leading group going by them all in fine style on the last lap, coming over the line jubilant. That was soon gone as three riders who had started just behind me i.e a lap in front, took the first three places.Bill, Tom and Nip rode well in the time trial on the Navan Rd.
Day of the Dun Laghaire Grand Prix and out came my road bike. The race duly started I would think with 110 field, the course leaves Dun Laghaire harbour front, then turns left up a long hill with a mountain prime taken every lap i.e. 6 laps of just over ten miles, I seemed to be going well, I won four mountain primes then on the fifth lap my rear tyre blew, no service - I was out of the race, I stopped near Jean and Carol just as the heavens opened the rain there is terrific, luckily we were near a monastry, the nuns took us in and lent us towels. Meanwhile the race was still proceeding, Tom Crowther won the other primes on the hill and so won the large trophy. On the last lap Brian Robinson (18 at the time) jumped away with that wily Irish rider "Dicky” Comerford, all the way down the long finish straight "Dicky" was shouting to Brian to leave him as he had had it. "Dicky" won by a length!! Brian was hopping mad. As before Tom won the Mountain trophy and with Bill and Nip they won the team. We managed to catch the early boat back to Holyhead, it was a rough crossing and I was not feeling my best but Carol was running up on deck feeding the seagulls oblivious to the rolling ship. Customs soon negotiated, we made it to our night stop in Llangollen by relaying the bikes and riders.

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