Past Imperfect


Motoring historian Bob Montgomery dips into his archives

RECALLING THE TALLAGHT CIRCUIT: When in 1934, the Leinster Motor Club decided to hold a car race over the Skerries circuit, it had already been made famous by the Leinster 200 International motor cycle races. That race, the first Leinster Trophy Race, was won by a woman, Fay Taylor, who drove an Adler coupé to victory.

The circuit, however, proved to be unsuitable for cars and the club looked about. Its choice eventually fell on a circuit at Tallaght, then on the very outskirts of Dublin. It was here that the race was run from 1935 to 1939 and again in 1948.

The circuit ran from Tallaght village along the Balrothery Straight towards Templeogue, then back towards Firhouse and on to Oldbawn before turning towards Tallaght again where the start and finish area was located. The circuit was 5.92 miles and the race ran for 26 laps, a total of 154 miles.

The first race in 1935 was surprisingly won by Jack Toohey driving the unexpectedly fast Ford Eight Special prepared and tuned by the Smithfield Motor Company. His motor-cyclist passenger performed amazing feats leaning out on corners in approved motor-cycle fashion.

This shocked the organisers. On two successive laps towards the end when Toohey looked like scoring a run-away win, he was flagged in and warned that such tactics were dangerous. Nevertheless, Toohey scored a memorable win against a much faster field - he did the same the following year, turning in a superb performance in wet conditions.

The next year, 1937, saw another "home" win for the Morgan of Desmond McCacken. Speeds had now risen from 59.33mph to 75.53mph. Among those taking a class record was Adrian Conan-Doyle, son of the famous creator of the Sherlock Holmes, driving a Bugatti.

In 1938 A P R Rolt, driving the ex-Bira "Remus" ERA raised the lap record to 83.53 mph, while victory was taken by "Jock Horsfall" driving a Speed Six Aston Martin. C E Robb ran out the winner of a much depleted field owing to the worsening international situation in 1939. Robb drove an Alvis-engined "Special".

It was 1948 before motor racing returned to the Tallaght Circuit following "the Emergency". By then the writing was on the wall for the circuit as Dublin's post-war expansion brought extensive housing to the area. The 1948 race was the last Leinster Trophy Race on the Tallaght circuit - it was won by W Leeper driving a Singer at a speed of 63.71 mph. The Leinster Trophy Race, after a gap of one year, moved to a new circuit at Wicklow in 1950.

PROHIBITED ROADS: Unlike its neighbour Britain, Ireland had only one road which was officially prohibited to motor traffic in the early days of motoring. The road which acquired this unique distinction was the coast road from Portmarnock to Malahide in Co Dublin.

The County Council sought permission to close the road because of its dangerous nature running alongside cliffs overlooking the sea. Permission was granted and the required prohibition signs were erected at both ends of the road.

MOTOR SPIRIT "SEALS": Initially, motor spirit was sold in chemist shops. This soon gave way to the ubiquitous two-gallon can which could be bought at the first garages as well as from the many hotels who kept a stock for touring motorists.

A deposit was paid for the safe return of the empty can and this led to unscrupulous dealers refilling them with inferior product. The result was the fitting of lead seals to genuine Shell and Anglo-American cans. By 1914, Shell and Pratts (Anglo-American) had become available throughout Ireland.