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County Kildare History and Heritage

Gordon Bennett Motor Race 1903

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Leinster Leader, Saturday, 20 June 1903 - Page 7

To the Editor of the “Leinster Leader.”

Sir, – As one who had some little say to the Gordon-Bennett race being held in Ireland; who helped to select the course, and who consistently boomed that event in Irish and English papers, I feel that my action has been misunderstood in calling attention to the charges for accommodation in the neighbourhood of the course. The people who have accommodation to offer have a perfect right to ask what price they like for it, but in demanding an extravagant sum – they are following a short-sighted policy and one which will react on the whole country. Thousands of people will cross to view the race, who would not otherwise have visited Ireland and the opportunity is an unique one from an advertising point of view, for if they go away with the idea that they have been salted (to use a vulgar term) they are not likely to come back, and will warn their friends against the country. Then, what might have proved a big advertisement will become the reverse. That my contention that the charges were in most cases too high and that the result will be disastrous, I have the evidence of the House Agents. The following is taken from a letter written me by a well-known Dublin firm, which speaks for itself, and amply vindicates the position I have taken up in the interests of the country at large:- “In reply to yours of the 4th inst, we are not letting as many houses on the “Route” as we expected. We had an enormous number of enquiries and opened negotiations with owners having houses to let. These had been entered on our books at big rents, still not unreasonable under the circumstances, but when we had made arrangements with English visitors to give owners the rent they were asking, in many cases, they replied, that they had changed their minds, and would not take less than double, and in some cases treble, the amount, having heard of the big rents that were being got. They have spoiled their own market, and unless they come down in prices, and a big lot of visitors come this month, they will be “left,” and I think that visitors are now more likely to come for the King’s visit on the 21st July, and stay over for the Horse Show in August.” That other districts in Ireland realise that charging extravagant prices is a penny wise and a pound foolish policy, I would point to the enlightened action of the hotels in County Down, Cork, and County Kerry, districts, which will also be taxed to the uttermost to provide accommodation. In nine cases out of ten they have made no increase whatever in their charges. They want these tourists back again and want them to influence their friends to come also. That the Hotel Keepers’ Association recognise the gravity of the situation and the deplorable results which may follow the policy adopted round the course, I would point out to their decision unanimously arrived at, not to charge extravagant prices and the manifesto on the subject which they have published. The result of this manifesto will be that thousands will visit Ireland who would otherwise have stayed away. No one could be better pleased than I to see the largest possible sum spent, not only throughout Ireland, but also in the immediate neighbourhood of the course, and it is with this object in view that I have urged people to be moderate. Events have amply proved however that the people round the course have “spoiled their own market” in the words of the House Agent, and that as a result the total amount so spent will be considerably less than if the policy adopted had been a more moderate one. I admit that it is a matter of opinion as to what constitutes excessive charges in such cases. Unfortunately, however, it is the people who have to pay, whose opinion is of vital importance and they have decided, as I feared they would with the result that few will take accommodation round the course unless compelled to. I am quite aware that many people have been most moderate in their demands, as I have booked beds for friends at prices varying from 15s to £1 for the night and country houses at correspondingly fair rates. These were the exception, however. The Agents have given me particulars of cases where houses were put on their lists at certain prices, and when they found tenants the price was actually trebled. Naturally the would be tenants cried off at once. I do not refer to the prices asked for the rent of land on which to erect grand stands. The price of such sites would naturally depend wholly on the position and on the demand. Apologising for troubling you with such a long letter, Believe me, yours faithfully,
R.J. Mecredy.