Kerry Motor celebrated its 50th anniversary on Monday night as club members, past and present met to celebrate this significant milestone.
The club was founded on, Monday, January 31, 1972, when several motorsport enthusiasts gathered at the home of Arthur Caball in Tralee.
Present on that historic occasion were Arthur Caball, Rae Kelliher, Maurice Kelliher, Tommy Leahy, Ted Keane, Liam Nolan, Tommy O’Brien, Jimmy Nolan and Felim Gleeson (both Jimmy Moloney and Johnny O’Brien are listed as founding members they were unable to be present on the first night)
A half-century later, over 100 guests, made up of past and present members and club supporters gathered at the Rose Hotel in Tralee to mark the occasion.
The club has grown to be one of the biggest in the country, it currently boasts a membership of over 150 people, runs well-known events such as the Circuit of Kerry and the Kerry Winter Rally.
Members participate in motorsport events all over Ireland and further afield. Club volunteers can be found working on every rally event in the country.
By May 1972, a few short months after its foundation, the club was granted Royal Irish Automobile Club (now Motorsport Ireland) status which allowed it to run official motorsport events.
The first such event was an Autocross in Tarbert in August that year – timed to coincide with the North Kerry village’s annual carnival.
A second autocross the same year, in Tralee Town Park, became a regular feature of the Rose of Tralee International Festival’s programme of events until the 1980s.
As the club grew it ventured into stage rallies and after organising a few single-stage events, the first Circuit of Kerry Rally ran in May 1975. Mike Marshall was the first Circuit of Kerry Clerk of the Course, and he attended the gathering with his wife Noreen who was also a very early member of the club.
Other former Circuit of Kerry (and other rallies) clerks to attend included Richard Talbot, JP Brick, Senan Raggett, Noel O’Connor, Kevin Walsh, Eoin Duffin, Jakes Kelly, Sean Hegarty and Jonathan O’Shea.
That rally soon grew into one of the most popular rallies on the Irish calendar and, over the years, it has been based in Ballybunion, Dingle, Banna and Tralee.
The event’s 1989 winning co-driver, John Crone, made the long drive up from Cobh, County Cork just to be there.
Another rally, the Kerry Winter Rally was added to the roster in the late 1980s. That is now the biggest clubman rally in Ireland – and the late winter rally is always a must-do end of season event for drivers from all over the country and further afield.
Founder Tom O’Brien and early members like brothers Lionel and Bertie Dorrington, Jerry Clifford, Brendan Farmer and Tom Slattery attended Monday’s function.
Well-known rally competitors of years gone by like brothers Kenny and Desie O’Neill and Pat Thornton were there.
Paddy Barry whose father Paddy Sr ran the old Kingdom of Kerry Motor Club in the 1950s recalled his days of rallying a Mini in the 1970s.
Several sons of founding members were present on Monday night, including Dave Leahy (son of the late Tommy) and Mayor of Kerry Jimmy Moloney (son of the late Jimmy).
Mayor Moloney said:” It is great for me to be here to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Kerry Motor Club and also for my [late] father, Jimmy who was a founding member, some 50 years ago so there is a great continuation here down the years.
“I know he would have enjoyed coming here and meeting up with old friends and catching up with some of the stories. They were great days and he had long memories [of the club]”
The event marked a changing of the guard for the current club committee.
At the club’s recent online AGM, Eoin Duffin was voted in as the new club chair and he took over from previous long-serving chair PJ O’Dowd.
The official handing-over ceremony took place as part of Monday night’s celebration.
Eoin said: “To think that this club is here 50 years is just fantastic. It is the basis for many peoples’ friendships.”
The next big event for Kerry Motor Club is a classic car show in the Brandon Hotel car park on February 13. Over 140 cars are already confirmed.
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