He learned to drive in a Ford Model T more than 80 years ago, and now he’s made the switch to an electric car at the age of 100.
Clonmel man John Walsh must be one of the few drivers anywhere able to compare the two.
He started driving in the 1930s behind the wheel of his father’s Ford Model T and has just bought a Nissan Leaf.
It’s the first brand new car he has ever bought - a spending decision partly influenced by the low interest rates he’s getting on his savings, but also reflecting concern for the environment.
Mr Walsh, who celebrates his 101st birthday on September 10th, was told by Nissan the zero emissions Leaf would have brought him fuel savings worth €120,000 if the car had existed for his whole motoring life.
“I would never have dreamt of buying a car at this stage”, he said. “My motivation was to do something to improve the environment and to conserve the supply of fossil fuels. The banks are paying no interest, so I decided to spend my money on an EV to do my own little bit to protect the environment.”
He intends to use the car for trips into town and to visit friends.
“There are a few places that I’d like to visit soon like Dungarvan, Holy Cross or Mount Mellerary Abbey, which is quite a special place and somewhere I used to visit quite a bit in earlier years.”
Mr Walsh, who retired as chief accountant with Bulmers in 1981, said another goal is to make a trip to Foynes to visit the place where he grew up and first sat behind the wheel of a car as a teenage driver.
He said he was “about 15 or 16 years old” when he first drove his father’s Model T around the garage at the BP installation in Foynes where his father was manager.
“He had a few of them in his day and we used them to go back to Cork. It was a hell of a journey, 70 miles each way, driving 20mph at best. We had two accidents and I wasn’t in either, which was quite the achievement.”
He said he can vividly recall how fuel shortages led to the collapse of private and public transport during World War II, forcing him to take up cycling. He was working in Dublin at the time and used to cycle to Limerick where he met and first dated his late wife Brigid (Ciss).
Mr Walsh said his first car was an early secondhand VW. “It had cable brakes and you had to anticipate stopping. That was around 1953. I drove a company car from 1960 until I retired.
“I am convinced that we have to do something about global warming and pollution. I am a late convert to environmental protection and a bit of a late starter driving an electric car but this is my way of playing my part. My son also enjoys driving the car on longer distances, but I have priority on it.”