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County Kildare History and Heritage

Gordon Bennett Motor Race 1903

Intro and Menu | February Articles

Leinster Leader, Saturday 14 February 1903 - Page 7.


A quarterly meeting of this Council was held on Monday, Mr. S. J. Brown chairman, presided and there were also present: Lord Frederick Fitzgerald; Sir Gerald Dease, C.V.O.; Messrs L.Malone, G. Wolfe, J.P.; John Healy, John Quinn, Owen Cogan, J.P.; M. J. Minch, M.P.; Jas. Coffey, P. P. Timmons, R. McKenna, J.P., Jas. Sunderland, S. Heydon, Peter Crosbie, John Kelly J.P.; P. J. Doyle, J.P.; John Field, J.P.; John S. OGrady, J.P.; More OFerrall, D.L.; E. Hayden, Jos. McLoughlin, Francis Colgan, J.P.
With the exception of half-an-hours adjournment for luncheon, the proceedings lasted from 11 to 5.30 p.m. The Council Chamber was thronged with road contractors and their sureties for a great portion of the day, and their presence was not altogether calculated to make for order, though on the whole it was preserved very well.

Mr. Johnson, Secretary of the Automobile Club, attended before the Council in reference to this matter.
The Chairman assured him that the Council would be unanimous in welcoming the project and declaring that they would do everything in their power to facilitate the carrying out of it. They were a sport-loving people and the holding of this race would have the effect of bringing a very considerable amount of money in the country.
Mr. Cogan: I presume Naas will benefit most by it. Mr. OGrady: No, Ballytore (laughter). As chairman of the Naas No. 1 Rural District Council, Mr. OGrady said he supposed a good deal of work would be required in putting the roads in proper order, rectifying the sharp turns, etc., and he wished to know would the county have to bear the entire cost.
Mr. Johnson replied that banking would be out of the question. The drivers of the motor cars in the race would have to take the risks. As a rule they slowed up when approaching a turn. He had heard that a question had arisen in some peoples minds as to the dangerous character of the race. There was no danger at all to the public provided that proper precautions were taken, and, in seeing that they were taken, the Automobile Club trusted to have the co-operation of the members of the Council. If this route were fixed upon for the race and if a Bill were passed, there was a possibility of the route being made use of for practising purposes. In order to obviate that, the Automobile Club had made very stringent regulations. No competitor would be allowed to drive over the course previous to the race in a racing motor, but only in a slow car. That was a matter in which the members of the Council could give great assistance. If it were ascertained that anyone was driving over the course in a racing car, the Committee of the Automobile Club would be very much obliged if information was supplied to them.

The Chairman said there were supposed to be regulations in force regulating the speed of motors, but the more glaring manner in which the regulation was broken, the more difficult it was to identify the perpetrator (laughter).

Continuing, Mr. Johnson said it had been suggested that 3 a.m. was too early an hour at which to start the race. That was a matter in which the club would be entirely in the hands of the County Councils. If the Queens County and Kildare County Councils wished to have the race later, it would be held at a later hour.

Chairman: The road will practically be closed to traffic the entire day, and there can be no partial use of the roads. Mr. Cogan: The race will be about the 9th July and there will be fairs in the county about that time. Mr. Johnson said that would be about the date. At every cross roads a barrier of motor cars would be provided, and, at other places, he hoped that committees of members of the County Councils would assist in the appointment of stewards to keep the roads clear. Officials would attend in advance from the Automobile Club and give the necessary particulars as to the arrangements requisite. The Chairman said the members would do anything they could. Mr. Johnson went on to say that, of course, the surface of the road designed for ordinary traffic might not in some particulars be suited for a very high speed. Fortunately, there were few of those little humped bridges, which interfere greatly with a high speed, in the County Kildare, and it would be absurd to expect that the county should pay for such alterations as would be necessary in them. The Automobile Club would provide 1,000 or more for the purpose of having the roads levelled where required, as they were very anxious to make the roads as suitable as possible for high speed cars. They wanted to give foreign competitors every opportunity of proving which was the fastest car. The Chairman said he did not think the County Council would even have asked the Automobile Club to give the money for the repairs, except for the fact that they were debarred from spending any money on the roads beyond that provided in the estimate. The contracts had been given, but the Council would facilitate in every way the efforts of the Automobile Club to have the roads put in proper condition, and the repairs could be carried out under the supervision of the County Surveyor.

Mr. Johnson said there was very little chance for a private members Bill on the subject to be passed, and endeavours should be made to have the Government bring it forward as a Government measure. In order to secure that, they wanted all the support they could get from the Irish public bodies, and he suggested that a deputation consisting of the chairmen and other members perhaps of the County Councils of Kildare, Queens County and Carlow, should wait on the Lord Lieutenant and urge him to have the measure adopted as a Government Bill.

Mr. Minch assured Mr. Johnson that the people of Athy and the southern portion of the county were strongly in favour of the project; and he proposed the following resolution:- That we heartily approve of the project to run the Gordon-Bennett race over the proposed course in the County Kildare and that we undertake to co-operate with the Automobile Club to cause all the proper precautions to be taken for the safety of the public, and appeal to the Lord Lieutenant to take such steps as may be necessary to induce the Government to introduce a Bill into Parliament to enable the race to be run in Ireland.
Lord Frederick Fitzgerald seconded and the resolution was carried unanimously.
Mr. J. S. OGrady: I can assure Mr. Johnson that you and your friends will receive a hearty cead mile failthe.

At a later stage, the Chairman said that the proposed date for the race was the 9th July, and, if any member knew of anything, which would make it inconvenient to have it on that day, he (chairman) would be much obliged if the objection was forwarded to him, and he would sent[sic] it to Mr. Johnson. Of course the date was not yet definitely fixed.

Mr. Edward Glover, County Surveyor, submitted his quarterly report. At the several preparatory quarterly meetings the amount applied for by contractors was 5,194 10s 10d. In Naas No. 1 district, the estimate for the year ending 31st March, 1903, was 7,650 and he believed that 7,500 would cover the expenditure owing to the care and economy exercised. His estimate for the year ending 31st March, 1904, for Naas No. 1 was 8,000, and the reasons he assigned for the increase was that the contracts for 214 miles of the 459 miles of roads in the district would expire on the 1st April and 97 miles on the 1st July next, and no one could say how they would be tendered for. Indeed in one case, at present 11d per perch, the price might have to be 5s. It was hard to deal with roads whose old prices ranged from 4d to 2s a perch suddenly, from what might be called the prosperity of the district, being subjected to a traffic equal to what one would find in the close vicinity of a city. This was what had been occurring round Kildare and the Curragh, and, he heard, would continue. Indeed, the very rumour of unknown traffic frightened contractors. The present authorised expenditure for the 459 miles in Naas No.1 was 7,230 5s 4d a year, and, under the circumstances mentioned, he could not name less sum than 7,500 for their maintenance during the coming financial year. This was increased to 7,750 by a provisional proposal for 200 and 50 should be added during the year to prevent the road at Tankardsgarden and Rosebery being taken away by the Liffey, whilst 250 should be added for contingencies, sudden damage, etc. That was why he advised an estimate for Naas No. 1 of 8,000. The legal limit was 7,765, to which could be added 408 War Office contributions, and probably what should be done would be to put 7,765 on the levy and let the balance required come from the 408. The Local Government Board had been asked to increase the 7,765 limit. Last years total estimate for the county was 20,150 and this years 20,470. Naas Urban District had decided to take over its own main roads from the 1st April the same as Athy Urban had done. The rest of the report dealt with the procedure necessary for the acquisition of land and the widening of roads and other county works, with the dates of the quarterly meetings. The salary, terms and conditions relating to the duties of the caretaker of Kildare Courthouse required the attention of the County Council.

The report was approved after a discussion. In regard to the acquisition of land for county works, the solicitor was directed to prepare a provisional agreement with the owners of lands, and with reference to Kildare courthouse, the Chairman said it was in a scandalous condition.