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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 8


On Tuesday considerable sensation was created in Naas and other parts of the County Kildare by the rumour that the Motor Race had been declared “off” by the Automobile Club.

It was stated in well-informed quarters that Mr. S. J. Brown J.P., C.C., had received intimation from the officials of the club to the effect that the Treasury would not consent to bear the cost of the extra Constabulary needful to the proper policing of the course and that as the Club did not see its way to undertake the whole of the additional expenditure the Race would probably be abandoned. It was further rumoured that the Chairman of the County Council had acknowledged this communication in a wire expressing his regret.

A representative of this journal waited on the Kildare Chairman with a view of securing confirmation or contradiction of this startling intelligence, but found that Mr. Brown had been called away to Baltinglass by urgent private business, and that other engagements would involve his immediate departure for London.
It was ascertained, however, from a well-informed source that Mr. Brown had been in communication with the Club, and that the nature of the message he had received was, if not in strict literal accord with the terms of the rumour, in substantial agreement, at the very least.

Mr. Crane, the County Inspector of Police was called upon, and received the inquiries made with characteristic courtesy. He was ready to afford any information in his power that would relieve public anxiety, but he was in possession of no official knowledge with respect to the veracity of the rumour. It had reached him in the ordinary unofficial way, and he was not able to say whether it was well founded or not.

Mr. Wm. Staples, the Urban Councillor generally, and the Town Clerk, Mr. Michael Gogarty, had received unauthoritative accounts practically identical with that set forth above. They and other prominent local men could hardly credit the possibility of the race being abandoned at the eleventh hour, when all preparations were complete and when considerable speculative investments had been made. The opinion was expressed that if the Automobile Club withdrew after Mr. Orde’s undertaking to the County Council, and after promoting the contest to the threshold of the final stage, they would expose themselves and their countrymen to the odium of the civilised world.

With respect to the undertaking referred to, our representatives found very peculiar impressions abroad. A report had been spread that the “premature publication of the undertaking with the County Council” was responsible for the decision of the Automobile Club. It was stated that the disclosures had embarrassed the Club in certain private negotiations. The validity of this conclusion was not very obvious. No newspaper, no press agency and no individual press-man could exclusively be saddled with the blame for the public’s knowledge of facts that had leaked out through the ordinary channels on Saturday evening last. It was by that time notorious that Mr. Orde had signed a guarantee indemnifying the County Council from any cost in respect of the policing of the course etc., and it was generally accepted that the County Council’s final order had been made on this express condition. There could have been no illegitimate breach of confidence. Possibly many of the County Councillors told their constituents immediately of the result of Saturday’s meeting – a proceeding that was virtually a matter of duty considering the seriousness of the financial issue at stake.

Nevertheless the statement that “premature publication” had “stopped the race” was gravely circulated and entertained in many quarters. Our representative ascertained that there had been some discussion at Saturday’s County Council meeting as to what portion of the proceedings should and should not be regarded as private and that the Press there represented had accepted the Council’s view that the exact terms of Mr. Orde’s undertaking should not be published. The result actually distributed to the various new agencies after the meeting was, as a matter of fact, that a “satisfactory arrangement had been arrived at.” The theory of “premature publication” was therefore purely fanciful, and is completely shattered by the official contradiction issued on Wednesday by Mr. Orde.

According to this contradiction, referred to below, the rumour was a[sic] “a canard.” But was it? The information in our possession at the time of writing does not seriously contradict Tuesday’s report, and this will require some more explaining away before the public mind is satisfied. Mr. Orde’s assurance that the race will go on is ,of course, accepted as satisfactory – though nobody ever for a moment believed that the Club would let the race fall through for any monetary consideration. The more cynical type of ratepayer cherishes an ungenerous suspicion that the rumour – or canard? - was brought into existence to “rush” local opinion and stimulate in it a readiness to “pay, pay, pay,” rather than lose the benefits of the big gathering. We chronicle the fact for its interest alone, and not with any desire to suggest or countenance acquiescence.

Wednesday’s “latest” on the rumour was as follows: - With regard to the report that was put in circulation on Tuesday in London to the effect that a hitch had arisen in connection with the arrangements of the forthcoming Gordon-Bennett Race between the Treasury and the promoters of the contest as to who would pay for the extra police assistance (wrote the Dublin evening papers), we are in a position to state on the authority of Mr. J. W. Orde, the Secretary of the Automobile Club of Great Britain and Ireland, that the reports are
The question of cost was gone into long since and arranged in a satisfactory manner. Recent developments, however, necessitated the employment of a larger number of police than that originally settled upon, and this, no doubt gave rise to the idea that the extra cost would not be sanctioned. Mr. Orde’s official denial puts an end to a canard which has caused a very painful impression in Ireland, and already has done a considerable amount of harm.

With reference to the statement that “the question of cost was gone into long since, and settled satisfactorily,” is it not a fact that Mr. Orde stated publicly at the County Council meeting on Saturday that his Club ‘had never once given the matter of the extra police a thought, and that a meeting of the Club would have to be summoned to seriously consider whether the race would have to be abandoned?

The Chairman of the Automobile Club said, in conversation, that he knew negotiations were proceeding, and that the Club would not object to pay a portion of the expenses of policing the course, but that he
the Club should be called upon to bear the whole of the expense. The Executive had not at the time of the interview been informed what the cost would be. The Club had made itself liable for the cost of putting the roads in order, and had already paid a large proportion of the money. The Executive of the Club had found that the police and Local Government authorities had dealt with the matter in a very friendly spirit, and the reported difficulty at the last moment had come upon him as a great surprise.

On Tuesday evening however, Mr. Christie, secretary of the Automobile Club, informed a “Morning Leader” representative that negotiations were steadily proceeding. For his own part he had no doubt whatever that the race would take place. The great and expensive preparations were still being proceeded with.