By Sean Moriarty
The next recorded evidence of motorsport events in Kerry centres on the Irish Automobile Club’s multi-day reliability trials that took place between 1906 and 1909.
As relayed in Part Three, the IAC was growing in stature, its reputation enhanced by the hugely successful Gordon Bennett Trophy Races of 1903.
The club organised a host of events including motor shows in the RDS in Dublin but its flagship event was the Reliability Trial.
The first one was held in 1906, and day one featured a road run from Dublin to Portrush where competitors raced on Magilligan Strand in Derry, on the second day they returned to Dublin while the final two stages were from Dublin to Waterford and back and each of these three days featured a hillclimb event.
The following year the Trial visited Armagh, Antrim, Tyrone and Kilkenny but it 1907 was the year it got really interesting from a Kerry point of view.
The event expanded into a six-day format and visited the south-west of the country for the first time.
Once again I am grateful to Brendan Lynch’s book Green Dust – Ireland’s Unique Motor Racing History 1900-1939 for the following information.
The 800-mile trial, featuring 68 cars, started, as usual, in Dublin and featured stages in Cork, Belfast and Killarney.
The event took place in May 1908. One driver, A T. Plunkett from Portmarnock in Dublin is reported to have: “Overturned his car on the second day near Kenmare and broke several ribs.”
Remember Selwyn Edge from Part One – The British racing driver who won the 1902 Gordon Bennett Race which resulted in Ireland hosting the following year’s event – you will have to read part one to get to the bottom of that story – but his Napier could have been back in Ireland and was driven on the 1908 Reliability Trial by Frank Cundy.
The Londoner worked for Edge in his testing and racing department and was also a works manager with D Napier and Sons. The dates of his employments with each firm is not known at the time of writing (I keep saying this is the first draft) but it is for certain that he drove a Napier owned by Edge on the trial.
A speed trial was included on Rossbeigh Beach and Cundy won this section of the overall trial in a time of 1min 28.5 seconds.
I would welcome any more info on this event and info on how the other 67 crews fared.
The 1909 trial was run over legs to and from Portrush, Bundoran, Galway and Killarney.
The results of the opening day’s speed trial on Magilligan Strand in County Derry was important from a Kerry point of view but again the history books do not paint the full picture and, as ever, there are a few holes in the story.
The Derry Speed Trial was won by Percy Kidner in a Vauxhall. He beat the Humber of GA Phillips by five seconds.
Green Dust takes up the story: “Phillips and his car proved to be one of the most consistent combinations on the Trial and he went on to finish runner up on the two other timed events, The Speenogue Hillclimb near Derry and Killarney’s Farmer’s Hill event.”
However, a website that records the results of every known hillclimb event between 1897 and 1949 shows Phillips as the winner of this event.
It seems that Kidner was disqualified as the engine size in his Vauxhall was deemed to be different to the size of that on the entry form.
Crucially, Green Dust refers to this event as the Farmer’s Bridge hillclimb in a later section.
As ever, if there is more info out there please share and it will help complete the full story of Kerry Motor Sport – this is just the draft.
At least we have moved on from 1903 to 1909 but, once again at a blank wall.
The next known events in Kerry were the speed trials on Inch Strand in 1924, the world was a bit busy in the intervening years – small matters like an Easter Rising, World War One, A War of Independence and Civil War took precedence over motoring matters but something must have happened…
The Irish Automobile Club became the Royal Irish Automobile Club after WW1 as its members used their cars to help many people during the emergency of that time…
Here is a link to the website mentioned above