Friday, August 26, 1994

Athy 75

Most of us are familiar with the Gordon Bennett Race of 1903 and its association with Athy but few amongst us know little or anything about the town's later involvement in motor sport. The Athy 75 was an annual motor cycle road race organised by Athy Motor Cycle and Car Club during the years 1925 to 1930. The inaugural race took place on Saturday, the 16th of May, 1925 over a 9 mile course with the starting point at Taylors just beyond Russellstown Cross on the main Dublin Road. The course ran via the Moat of Ardscull to Fonstown Cross and from there to Booleigh Cross with a left hand turn towards Athy. Another left hand turn at Tullygorey Cross brought the riders back to Russellstown Cross and the Dublin Road. The competitors set off individually at intervals with the high powered machines last. Practise on the course took place at 6.00 o'clock in the morning with the Race starting at 3.00p.m.

The winner of the inaugural race was D. McCrea on a 349 cc OK Bradshaw motor bike which he successfully manoeuvred around the seventy five mile course without mishap despite the heavy rain fall that day. In sixth place in that race was Henry Tyrrell-Smith, the Dublin motor cyclist who was to win the 350 cc T.T. Race in the Isle of Man in 1930.

McCrea also won the second Athy 75 which took place on Saturday 29th May 1926. Participating that day for the first time was a youthful Stanley Woods who set the fastest lap record at 66.14 mph on his Norton motor bike. When the following years race took place on Saturday, the 21st of May, 1927 the organisers had to cater for a much larger entry due to its growing popularity. The winner on that occasion was E. Dawson riding a 172 cc machine at an average speed of 46 mph. Despite the absence of rain the riders had difficulty in moving through the course due to strong winds which reduced the average lap speed. Ernie Nott riding a Rudge Norton motor cycle had the fastest lap speed of 60.39 mph. He was an English driver who was to achieve considerable fame during the 1930's.

When the fourth race set off on the 12th of May, 1928 there were 44 riders in the line up, the largest entry ever. The rain which on some previous years had created dangerous driving conditions was mercifully absent but the heat wave which engulfed the Irish country-side for three weeks prior to the race left parts of the course in a very dusty condition. This caused it's own problems for the motor cyclists who managed to complete the race without mishap. The race was won by H. Adair riding a 348 cc Rex Acme at an average speed of 54 mph.

Local riders who participated in the Athy 75 Races included William Hosie, and the three Taylor brothers - Bill, Charlie and Arthur. They were sons of C.W. Taylor who was Chairman of The Athy Motor Cycle and Car Club. Another local rider was Hugh Coogan of Mullaghamast who rode a 2 stroke Scotch Squirrel.

Saturday, the 18th of May, 1929 saw 48 riders lined up at the starting point opposite Taylors. Weather conditions were good but again the dusty roads caused problems for most riders but not for Stanley Woods who was then Ireland's greatest motor cyclist. He won the race on his 490 cc Norton averaging a record breaking 69.25 mph over the seventy five mile course. He also set a new lap record of 70.60 mph and both speed records were to remain as the highest achieved on the Athy course. The Race was marred by the death of a young Naas man, Henry Francis Sargent who was employed in Jacksons bicycle shop in Leinster Street, Athy. Under the name "Sonny Boy" he entered the Race riding a low powered motor cycle but on the second lap of the course he crashed at the Moat of Ardscull and was killed.

The last Athy 75 took place on the 24th of May, 1930 when 34 riders participated. The race was completed despite another unfortunate accident which marred the event, the winner being J.J. Byrne of Dublin who rode his 346 cc AJS at an average speed of 65.5 mph. On the third lap of the race twenty-three year old Peter Mooney of Manor Street, Dublin, collided with the roadside bank at Fonstown Cross and was killed. A second rider R.W. Kennan who was following Mooney also crashed and was injured. Again the dusty road conditions were blamed leading the Athy Club members under the Chairman C.W. Taylor to consider the future of The Athy 75. The Committee reluctantly decided that because of the fatalities suffered they would no longer organise the race. So ended Athy 75, one of the earliest motor cycle road races in Ireland.

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