Kerry Motorsport News was saddened to learn of the passing of Esler Crawford.
He was, without doubt, one of the finest rally photographers in the country.
As his friend, broadcasting legend Alan ‘Plum’ Tyndall put it: “Esler would always find that extra element to make his pictures unique. The instant in which a car cocked a wheel. The inclusion of a scenic background or foreground that told you so much more about the conditions or the beauty of the place. A pan that captured the speed, an expression in a face that portrayed the mood, Esler wasn’t a ‘snapper’ he was an artist.”
Esler’s lover affair with Kerry crossed all aspects of his life – not just his rally photography and business life, but his personal life too.
It is probably best to recall Esler’s love affair with County Kerry in his own words.
The following story is told in Rodney McComb’s fantastic book: ‘Ireland Stage by Stage – The Rally Roads of Ireland,’ and is reproduced here by permission of the publishers.
“This is my rather unusual story about the Circuit of Ireland. In a roundabout way it is responsible for the contented life which I currently lead with my partner Mary.
“During the 1970s I tried to keep my fledgling commercial photography business afloat by means of whatever additional cash I could glean by selling photographs of the rally to competitors.
“The procedure was that immediately after the Carragh Lake Special Stage on the Sunday run, I would set off for home in order to develop and print my photographs, to have them on display at the prize-giving function on the Tuesday night.
“My route was a familiar one. Into Killorglin, then Milltown, past Castlemaine (of Wild Colonial Boy fame) through Firies, over the level crossing at Gurteenroe, hoping that the Killarney to Tralee train was not using it at that precise time, and then joining the main Killarney to Limerick road at Farranfore.
“I could be back in Belfast in five hours after a flat-out journey. That was before the days of speed-limits and when most of the Garda used push-bikes as a means of conveyance. Today there is motorway for 80 percent of the way, but it still needs a bit of commitment to do the job in five hours
“Fast forward to 2008.
“About a year and half after my wife Barbara died,I met this wee lady who lived in Bangor. She was very pretty, and I fancied her. We got talking and it turned out she was from Killarney.
“’I’ve been there often,’ I said. “Where exactly in Killarney?’
“Through it many times. Did you live out in the country?’
“’In Fires, but you will never have heard of it.’
“’I know it well’
“This last bit was not quite accurate as I had only ever passed through it on the door handles and luckily never killed anybody.
“But it gave me enough traction to get involved in a meaningful conversation and it turned out that on that journey I had sped past her family’s yellow cottage at Longfield, between Castlemaine and Firies, and she may well have witnessed my hectic progress on her bike.
“I am glad to relate that our relationship flourished and we are still happily together some five years on.
“I won the Circuit with Ian Woodside in 1963 but winning the heart of Mary Gleeson from Killarney was an even better prize.“
To his partner Mary, his daughters Caroline and Jane, and his son David we offer our sincere condolences.