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County Kildare History and Heritage

Gordon Bennett Motor Race 1903

Intro and Menu | May Articles

Leinster Leader, Saturday 16 May 1903 – Page 6


At the quarterly meeting of this Council on Monday Mr. S. J. Brown, chairman presided. Also present:- Lord Frederick Fitzgerald, Messrs. A. More O’Ferrall, D.L.; L. Malone, Geo. Woulfe, C. Bergin, J. S. O’Grady, John Healy, John Kelly (Ballitore), Jas. Sunderland, E. Heydon, Thos. Keatley, O. Cogan, John Quinn, P. J. Doyle.

A letter was read from Mr. J. W. Orr, secretary of the Automobile Club, asking the permission of the Council to erect a grand stand and bridge across the Athy-Kilcullen Road, about half a mile south of the Ballyshannon cross roads, on land belonging on one side to Mr. Peter Dunne and on the other to Mrs. Hendy, from June 25th to July 4th, to allow time for erection and taking down.- The permission was granted, subject to the approval of the County Surveyor.

Permission was granted on like terms to Mrs. Margaret Quinn to erect a refreshment marquee during the motor race week on the travelled space between her house and the courthouse.

“The International Motor Race is to be held in Ireland this year early in July, and about two-thirds of the course will be in County Kildare – the balance being in Carlow and Queen’s County. The Automobile Club suggests some extra care on the part of the contractors, as well as altering road levels at a few bridges and culverts. Steam rolling a short length of the Ballylinan road near Athy is also included in the estimate. For this work the Club will pay, and I am authorised to spend about £650 of the Club’s money. I request authority from the County Council to do so. Apart altogether from the motor race that is about to take place in July, and the great future possibilites of the course being the motor centre for the world, I think the time has more than come for the County Council to make a beginning at steam rolling. Kildare is greatly behind other counties in this respect. I now very strongly recommend the Council to make a beginning, and to authorise me to hire steam rollers during the coming season at a cost not exceeding £200. Part of this £200 I would undoubtedly recommend being expended on the race course between now and July, and the balance upon such other most important bits of roads that are bad, such as near Celbridge. I therefore beg to suggest something like the following– “That this Council authorise the County Surveyor to hire steam rollers for use upon roads of the County, the cost of same not to exceed under this resolution the sum of £200. It is to be left to County Surveyor’s discretion what portion of this sum can with advantage be expended on any part of the roads forming the Gordon-Bennett course in County Kildare either before or after 1st July next. Copy of this resolution to be forwarded to the Local Government Board for approval”. The hire or purchase of steam rollers is a County at Large charge, but supplying material to roll in must, of course, be a District charge. Hence if steam rolling in the future is to be adopted in any large way, I will have to apply at District Councils for money to get material, but at the present moment, and without any special proposal from District Council, I could work one or more rollers in shaping roads having already strong crusts, or rolling in for contractors a large proportion of their specified material in worst places. For the present I do not suggest buying a roller or rollers – all I want is to have a beginning made in a very modest manner and let councillors judge for themselves. But it is useful to know however that the Local Government Board will approve of borrowing money for the purchase of rollers. The Council may not entirely appreciate what a small thing £200 over the whole County means as regards road expenditure – thus for instance a pound here and there or a few shilling and pence “struck off” for small items of neglect on the part of contractors in Kildare for the last financial year came to £864 13s 9d, and I am now only recommending that less than one-fourth of this be allocated as a commencement for steam rolling so as not to lag entirely behind other counties. As I am on this subject I ought to mention that Carlow Co. Council have authorised their surveyor to expend £100 in doing steam rolling over the Gordon-Bennett race course in their county, and there is only about 5 miles long of roads of the course in Carlow.”

The Chairman said that the Surveyor had made practically the same recommendation to them as regards steam rolling a couple of years ago and a sub-committee was appointed to consider the matter, but for some reason or other that committee never met. Perhaps one reason for the lack of energy shown in the matter at the time was that the Council were seeking to make that reduction in taxation of the county, which ought to have followed the passing of the Local Government Act. They were agreed as to the advisability of making experiments in steam rolling and it would be no great stretch for them now to make those experiments on the course.

The Surveyor, in reply to a question as to the merits of steam rolling, mentioned the Naas to Sallins road, which, he said, was rolled eight years ago, and had been a good road ever since.

The report was approved of, the sum of £200 to be expended on the hire of a roller or rollers for the purpose of improving such roads as the surveyor might determine, and as far as possible over the Gordon-Bennett course.