Interesting Articles.   Most of the below articles are taken from Bob Montgomery motoring historian and Irish times columnist.  see more at


The news that a Government advisory group has recently recommended that several hundred accident blackspots around the country be targeted by a privatised mobile speed camera system fills me with despair. Once again, it seems, an opportunity to tackle the core issues regarding deaths on Irish roads is being missed.

The nub of our problem is self-evident to anyone who takes a journey on our roads. It's very simple - we are a nation of appalling drivers.

The standard of driving one meets daily is far worse than I have encountered anywhere else in Europe. And what do we do about it? We tackle the symptoms - and even that ham-fistedly - rather than the cause of the problem.

Consider this: we train our drivers to pass their driving tests (and don't forget many on our roads have never passed a driving test). Then, despite the fact that the conditions under which we drive continually change and evolve (who among us has been trained to drive on that recent arrival, the motorway?), we allow them to drive on for a further 50 or so years without any further training or assessment.

One could even argue that we train drivers to simply pass the driving test, which is not the same thing as equipping them to survive on our roads.

Education and the changing of driver's mind-set is the only solution which will guarantee long-term results and a worthwhile reduction in road deaths.

Rosemary Smith, the famous Irish rally and racing driver, has for many years now focused her attention and skills on creating a sound basis for educating our drivers by her programme for second-level transition year students. Those lucky enough to do her course affirm that it changes their perceptions of driving on Irish roads and are in no doubt that it ultimately makes them more skilful and aware drivers.

Perhaps the key element in this approach is the generation of a pride in good driving. Yet, Smith has been a voice crying in the wilderness, bringing her Think Awareness Driver Programme to second-level schools without any official support.

In particular, she has campaigned for a national centre where young people could develop driving skills before they ever venture onto public roads. This, surely, is an idea whose time has come.

But hand-in-hand with the re-education of motorists must go a more enlightened approach to road safety. Bad decisions by those charged with lowering the accident rate are undermining any incentive for motorists to become better drivers.

The current approach to the enforcement of speed limits is counter-productive and serves to bring the law and law-enforcers into disrepute. This situation serves nobody.

Don't hide speed cameras, highlight them. After all, they are supposed to be a deterrent. It's by making them highly visible that speeds are reduced. Hiding them only serves to turn them into revenue earners with the result that motorists become cynical about them and their placing.

The same is true of the positioning of Garda in locations where the limit is artificially low. Is that really the type of speeding we want to stop?

One road which I often travel was until last week a notorious spot for Garda checks - it was rare to use this four-lane road at busy times without seeing a hand-held radar gun in action. Then a couple of weeks ago, the limit was upped to 60 km/h.

One can only imagine how the many hundreds of motorists who incurred penalty points there must feel about this long-awaited sensible change.

This type of enforcement, does nobody, motorist or Garda or lawmaker, any good. Giving the operation of speed cameras over to civilian companies operating in unmarked vans is hardly going to improve matters.

One final point regarding speed limits. The recent change to metric speed limits - a good thing in itself - has resulted in our road signage becoming even more inconsistent than it was previously because Government abdicated what should be its responsibility by passing it to local authorities. It's incomprehensible that we don't have a national signage authority to oversee consistent signing and marking of our roads.

So, where do we go next? Lets start by educating drivers to develop their skills and awareness, starting in the second-level school years and continuing throughout their driving career.

As we begin to generate a culture of pride in good driving, lets also find the means to reward good driving.

Most of all, we need a reasoned debate to bring forward a more productive approach to road safety. After all, what we are doing now is not working, and doesn't address the key issue - the appalling driving standards on Irish roads.



In the early days of Irish motoring, two makes dominated sales to Irish motorists. These were the Daimler and the Argyll. Of the two, the Argyll probably had the edge in numbers and was certainly the favourite of Irish motorists.

The early Argyll was built by the Hozier Engineering Company of Bridgeton, Glasgow and the first production model of 1899 was designed by Alex Govan and was based on the contemporary Renault. It was a voiturette or light car with a single-cylinder 2 ¾ hp engine with shaft drive and a tubular chassis. In 1901 a larger 5 hp engine was introduced and a year later this was increased to 8 hp. Its most unusual feature was its four forward speeds - then almost unheard of - in so small a car.

It was this Argyll voiturette which proved so popular with many of Ireland's first motorists, no doubt partly because it soon acquired a reputation as a rugged vehicle which could take the wear and tear of poor Irish roads. Its reign in Ireland was, however, short-lived, as two and four-cylinder cars grew in reliability. Argyll introduced its own two and four-cylinder models from 1903 on, and these also proved popular with Irish motorists, but never to the same extent as the original single-cylinder Argyll.

By 1904 Argyll's business was booming, and it had become Scotland's leading make. Argylls proved successful in trials and in record-breaking and these successes did much to build the marque's reputation. The early death of Govan in 1907 was a major blow to the company, and a move to a pretentious new factory at Alexandria, Glasgow, did little to help the company's long-term finances.

However, Argyll continued to prosper in the short-term and by then were the fifth largest motor manufacturer in Britain. But the Alexandria factory was designed for manufacture on a scale Argyll could never hope to attain and allied to expensive litigation over patents, undermined the company's financial position.

In 1914 the ownership of the company changed hands, and following war work during the years of the first World War, car production was revived on a small scale in 1920. Despite new models, the company's finances went quickly downhill and all production soon ceased.



As we contemplate an ever-growing network of motorways in Ireland, it's interesting to reflect on the world' first motorway, completed some 82 years ago at Avus in Germany. The Avus Autobahn ran for a distance of 6¼ miles from Grunewald to the suburb of Wannsee, and was officially opened on September 10th 1921.

It had first been mooted as early as 1909, and was almost complete when the outbreak of the first World War brought building to a halt. The project had been started by Karl Friedrich Fritsch, a noted motor racing enthusiast, who planned that the Autobhan should also find use as a race and test track, with the result that it was designed with a spectacular banked loop at either end to enable high speeds to be maintained.

Following the cessation of hostilities, work on the Autobhan began again. When finally finished it had two carriageways 26ft wide with a tarred surface and a central reservation also 26ft wide, which was planted with grass; no fewer than 10 ferro-concrete flyovers crossed the completed motorway.

The Avus Autobhan is still in use today as a public road and occasionally as a manufacturer's test-track. Motor racing, which took place regularly there until recent times, has now ended on amenity grounds.

The first inter-city motorway was built between Milan and Varese, opening in March 1923 while the first motorway constructed outside Germany or Italy was built in the US. This was the 15 ½-mile Bronx River Parkway which opened in 1925.



The first recorded woman racing driver was a certain Mme Labrousse of Paris, who took part in a race from Paris to Spa in Belgium on July 1st and 2nd 1899. The pioneering Mme Labrousse recorded a good result in the event, coming fifth in the class for cars carrying three persons.

Not long afterwards, a Miss Wemblyn drove her 6 hp Daimler to victory over three other competitors in a special women's race at Ranelagh in London on July 14th 1900.

The earliest drive by a woman in a serious event in Ireland appears to have been the very fine victory achieved by Fay Taylour in an Adler Trumpf in the inaugural running of the famous Leinster Trophy Race at the Skerries circuit in 1934.

Fay thus became the first name on a trophy which was in subsequent years to be won by many of the greatest names in motor sport - F1 stars Senna and Hakkinan, for example - and which continues to be competed for each year, making it Ireland's longest-running motor race.



With the outbreak of the second World War in 1939, the Government of the day appointed Sean Lemass as Minister for Supplies on September 16th and on the same day introduced an order covering the official rationing of petrol, to begin in October.

The official allowance for private motorists was eight gallons a month for cars up to 10 hp; 12 gallons a month for cars 10 - 16 hp and a bit extra for doctors, vets, priests and commercial travellers. However, the Government also announced that the value of each petrol coupon would vary according to the supply situation.

In fact, initially there was little problem with supplies, no doubt due to the stockpiling that the oil companies had been undertaking for some time as they filled garage tanks to their brim with a view to gaining as much storage space for product at their own storage installations.

However, petrol for private cars became increasingly unavailable by the middle of 1941 before ceasing altogether in March 1942.

As one can imagine, people's lives were severely affected by these changes as rationing and petrol shortages began to take hold. Public transport almost ceased and the humble bicycle underwent a revival and came to be worth its weight in gold.

At the same time there was an increase in the amount of horse-drawn traffic and a small number of motorists converted their cars to run on gas stored in large bags on their roof. Such cars were not put off the road but they received no supplies of petrol or tyres and no guarantee of the fuel needed to make the gas.

One form of transport that came into its own again was that using the canals. In 1942, 29 new barges were ordered to be used for the transportation of turf. From April 1944, the petrol ration, tiny as it was, that was still supplied to doctors and clergymen living in the city was withdrawn altogether.

As the "Emergency" continued into its third year, things improved to a certain extent, as Britain released enough fuel to meet the country's essential needs.

The end of the war failed to bring an end to rationing, which officially remained in place for a further six years before finally coming to an end on December 17th 1951.



When the latest running of the famous Monte Carlo Rally gets under way later this week, it will be exactly 40 years since Irishman Paddy Hopkirk took his Mini Cooper S to a famous win in the 1964 event. But Hopkirk wasn't the only Irish person to figure prominently in the Monte Carlo Rally results of that time.

Indeed, participation in the event was a path well-trodden by Irish representation in the years following the second World War. Jaguars of various types figured large in these assaults on the "Monte Carlo". One of the first crews to figure prominently was the driving team of Cecil Vard, "Bill" Young and Arthur Jolley, ably supported by "Doc" Jackson looking after the navigation, who took a borrowed 4.5 litre Jaguar Mark V Saloon to third place in the 1951 event, a crew of four being allowed under the rules of the time.

Other Irish crews taking part that year included Maurice Cavey in a 2.5 litre Jaguar and Major JB Harrington and MJ Fleming in an Austin A40. Cecil Vard, a superb all-rounder would take a superb second place in later years, while Arthur Jolley would become part of the "works" Jaguar effort throughout most of the 1950s. Other adventurous crews followed in the succeeding years, most notably Dudley Reynolds and Jimmy Millard, Hector Newenham, and Wilf Fitzsimmons.

However, it was the team of Ronnie McAdams from Lisburn, Dubliner Frank Bigger and Derek Johnson of Belfast who were to make the greatest impact. McAdam's performance, again in a Jaguar, in the 1954 event caught the eye of "Lofty" England, the Jaguar team manager, who offered him a drive with the team the following year.

In the 1955 event driving a Mark VII and crewed by Ernest McMillen and Desmond Titterington, McAdams took eighth place. For 1956, he was once again part of the three-car Jaguar "works" team with Appleyard and Vard driving the other two cars. In the event, they stayed "clean" all the way to Monte Carlo, with the result that the rally would be decided on the tests in and around Monte Carlo.

The Mercedes of German Walter Schock soon emerged as their main rival for outright victory in the tests, but a superb display of driving on the snow-covered roads on the mountain tests ensured victory for McAdams and Jaguar.

It was a famous victory and it was these achievements that were to lead to the even more famous victory of Paddy Hopkirk eight years later.


CIÉ Buses:  

Following the Road Transport Act of 1944, Córas Iompair Éireann came into being on January 1st 1945, as a result of the amalgamation of the Great Southern Railways Company (GSR) and the Dublin United Transport Company (DUTC). The new company was charged with providing most of the public transport services for rail and road users throughout the Republic of Ireland.

The buses of the two former companies became the fleet of the new organisation and comprised a total of 390 vehicles, of which 246 were double-deckers. On average the number of buses in daily service was just 274. Prior to the outbreak of the second World War the GSR fleet of 326 buses carried 102.5 million passengers, with an average of 273 buses in service each day. During 1944, running over a truncated network, the same number of buses carried over 143 million passengers - little wonder that buses were crowded in those days!

Despite the clear need for the renewal of the CIÉ bus fleet it was to be 1947 before this would begin. CIÉ management entered into an agreement with Leyland Motors and new vehicles began to come into service. The Transport Act of 1950 brought CIÉ into State ownership and new Leyland diesel-engined Tigers and Titans began to be a more commonplace sight on the bus routes throughout Ireland. By now CIÉ had also moved successfully into coach tours, thereby laying the foundations of what was to become a highly significant tourism industry.

The first major change to the bus fleet occurred in November 1966 with the introduction of the first Leyland Atlantean double-decker. This rear-engined front entrance bus was to be the standard CIÉ double-decker for the next 15 years and no fewer than 840 would eventually see service with CIÉ. The Atlanteans proved significantly less reliable than the buses they replaced, and were not a success in CIÉ service. The next generation of single-deckers were the Leyland Leopards, 213 of which came into service between 1971 and 1974. A new agreement with Van Hool McArdle Ltd led to the manufacture of 268 buses for CIÉ in the years 1973 to 1976, after which the contract was terminated.

A design brief for a bus family of integral vehicles led eventually to a joint venture between Bombardier of Canada and General Automotive Corporation (GAC) of Michigan with the intention of building buses to the design of Hamburg Consult at Shannon. Entering service in 1981, these buses promised much initially and straightaway achieved significantly increased availability and lower maintenance costs, but within two years a series of structural problems as well as the very poor fuel consumption of the Detroit diesel engines at a time when increasing fuel price increases were a major problem, put the entire project in doubt. In 1983 Bombardier sold out to GAC and they in turn withdrew from Shannon in 1985. In future CIÉ pursued a policy of inviting tenders on the open market, buying established types with a proven record.

The Transport (Reorganisation of CIÉ) Act of 1986 brought about the establishment of three subsidiary companies under the umbrella of CIÉ, and on February 2nd 1987 responsibility for the Dublin city bus services passed to Bus Átha Cliath - Dublin Bus, while the balance of CIÉ's bus operations became the responsibility of Bus Éireann - Irish Bus.

The full story of CIÉ's bus fleet is told in Cyril McIntyre's excellent pictorial book CIÉ Buses 1945-1987 which is available from Midland Publishing (ISBN 1-85780-192-X).



From the archives of Bob Montgomery, motoring historian

How to announce one's passage and clear the road of any human or animal obstacles was something that considerably exercised the minds of early motorists. Various bulb horns were introduced but these were initially quite controversial as they were more likely to aggravate the situation with regard to horses in particular, who were probably already frightened by the approach of a car.

In time, as the law began to legislate for the growing presence of motorised vehicles, most - though not all - countries called for cars to be equipped at all times with a bell, horn or other means of giving "audible warning of approach."

Early motorists seem to have attached great importance to their means of "giving audible warning of approach" and many and varied were the forms of horn which were available to add as an accessory to their car.

Early motoring magazines and books advertised all sorts of devices that claimed to provide the required sounds. There were bulb horns, electric horns, horns with their own air pump driven from the flywheel, and horns (sirens) operated by winding a handle, not to mention bells, gongs and exhaust whistles, and frequently cars were fitted with more than one device, fitted close to the driver's hand.

The electric horn, more or less as we know it, when it came into use around 1912/13 was not welcomed and was seen as a rather inelegant solution to the problem, prompting Rankin Kennedy, writing in the Book of the Motor Car (1913) to state:

"Of late, electrical horns have come into use, in which a harsh sound is produced by a series of raps upon a metal disc, and mechanical devices have been brought out to produce a noise in the same way. The exhaust has been applied to blow whistles, and so on in endless variety every device for producing a noise has been offered the motorist for use as a road warning. These mechanical and electrical devices are based on the same principle as the old clappers used in the fields by boys hired to scare away crows. The only advantage they seem to possess is that the driver is saved the trouble of squeezing the rubber bulb, and has only to press a button."

But perhaps the horn which most caught the imagination of the early motorist was 'The Gabriel Horn'. This was an expensive exhaust-operated device which was described by its makers as 'The King of Signals - the Signal of Kings' and produced a penetrating, but apparently musical note to, as one writer described "acquaint the man in the street with the fact that his (or her) presence was not desired immediately in front of your approaching radiator."

Gabriel Horns at one stage introduced a sort of super deluxe model, which instead of being operated by a foot pedal in the usual way, had a small keyboard adjacent to the driver's hand on which could be produced a variety of tunes ranging from 'Swanee River' to an adaptation of 'The Merry Widow'! Sequences of tunes could even be played, but all this technology raised the price of this particular Gabriel Horn from the normal £2.10 shillings to a staggering £40.

Hopefully, that was enough to put most motorists off buying this device!



By the middle of 1902, the 120 or so cars already in Ireland had become an increasing familiar sight on the roads of various parts of Ireland, even if, they had perhaps not yet penetrated to its four corners. But they remained a "sporting" object, a play-thing of the wealthy and had yet to make the transition into everyday Irish life. One event - the Vice Regal Tour of October 1902 - more than any other helped the car to make that transition.

The Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, the Earl of Dudley, was an enthusiast for the motor car and in the following year would lend his official support to the Gordon Bennett drivers in the famous race as well as entertaining at a Garden party in the grounds of his official Phoenix Park residence all those who competed in the famous Speed Trials held in the Phoenix Park on July 4th, just two days after the Gordon Bennett Race.

That however, was still in the future. Now, in October 1902, he undertook what many regarded as a foolhardy undertaking by deciding to tour Connemara by motor car.

In conjunction with the Irish Automobile Club, the details were worked out, and on October 20th the Vice-Regal party travelled by train to Recess, where three motor cars driven by members of the motor club awaited them.

The cars were two 12 hp Panhards and a 10 hp Mors. The party set off and proceeded via Screeb, Kilkieran and Carna to Cashel. Many stops were made along the way while the Earl and Countess visited cottages and spoke to their inhabitants.

The Zetland Arms Hotel at Cashel was reached in torrents of rain, despite which the party was met by a large crowd, while bonfires blazed on the surrounding hills.

An early start the following morning brought the party to Clifden via Ballinahinch, and then on to Kylemore demesne. The road from there to Killary Harbour was regarded as the best yet encountered and the party ended the day at McKeown's Hotel at Leenane.

The following day the party took the difficult road to Westport via Maamtrasna. The road was very poor and the locals turned out en masse along the route to remove any dangerous stones and to fill in culverts which might damage the cars and impede the party's progress.

Despite this movement along this road was slow and difficult but eventually Westport was reached safely. Here ended the motorised part of the Vice-Regal Tour and the party embarked by train once more to continue their journey.

Today, the journey may not seem anything special, but in 1902, it was startling proof of what the new motor car could achieve and was widely publicised in the newspapers. Perhaps, more than that, it was important for being seen as an official imprimatur being given for the first time to the motor car and motoring. As such, it was to prove another important milestone in the development of motoring in Ireland.


Right-Hand Drive:

To this day, Ireland and Britain, together with a large number of her ex-colonies, persist in driving on the left side of the road and seating the driver on the right. Other countries which persisted with this rule have long since capitulated (the Philippines in 1945 and Sweden in 1967) and gone over to the right-hand side of the road like the rest of the world.

Why did right-hand driving become so dominant? And how did the rival preferences arise?

Neither question is easy to answer conclusively. Many spurious arguments can be trotted out in favour of either side. Perhaps we have to go back, right back, to superstition regarding the relative merits of right and left.

In Greek mythology bad luck and unlucky signs always came from the left, while in Latin the word for it was sinister. Thus it was that an army commander always marched on the right - or lucky - side of his men and thus, it would appear, came the Roman right-hand rule of the road.

Roman influence extended as far north as Germany, north-east into Romania and well into western parts of Asia, so one can see how these countries might have continued this rule as a matter of convenience long after the Romans left the scene.

But this doesn't account for Britain, where after all the Romans had a significant presence. There, it seems, the right-hand rule was forgotten as soon as the Romans were gone.

Certainly, one thing we know for a fact is that Britons were driving on the left long before Mary Tudor enacted the first known ordinance on the matter in 1555. This was followed in the mid-18th century by a ruling during the rebuilding of London Bridge (when the houses on it were being removed) - it decreed that "all carriages passing over from London are to go to the east (left) side and to London on the west (right)". In what was probably the first on-the-spot fine it was also decreed that "all offenders are to be carried before a justice and fined".

By the early 20th century, drivers of the recently arrived motor car were driving on the right everywhere in Europe with the exception of Portugal, Sweden, most parts of the Austro-Hungarian Empire plus, of course, Britain and Ireland. A contemporary European guidebook for British drivers declared "country carts are sometimes careless . . . and many automobilists are often at sea and drive in the same haphazard manner". However, it added, "on the other hand, many of the better-class residents are scrupulously exact".

All very well, but none of this explains why the British choose to swim against the prevailing current? And why did so many early French manufacturers place the driver on the right-hand side at a time when the French motor industry led the world?

The great motoring historian, Kent Karslake, believed that the answer to the first question lay in that country's love of things equestrian, and I'm inclined to agree with him. Karslake pointed out that a coachman usually drove his carriage from the centre of the box, moving to the right when he shared this seat with others. He believed that the positioning of French drivers to the right was a form of snobbery derived from horse-drawn days - this positioning of the chauffeur placed him on a social level with the coachman.

I have made no mention of the Americans. The reason is simple - they follow an entirely different logic in their choice of which side of the road on which they drive. But that, as they say, is a story for another day.


Rudolf Diesel:

was born in Paris in 1858. His parents were Bavarian immigrants. Rudolf Diesel was educated at Munich Polytechnic. After graduation he was employed as a refrigerator engineer. However, he true love lay in engine design. Rudolf Diesel designed many heat engines, including a solar-powered air engine. In 1893, he published a paper describing an engine with combustion within a cylinder, the internal combustion engine. In 1894, he filed for a patent for his new invention, dubbed the diesel engine. Rudolf Diesel was almost killed by his engine when it exploded. However, his engine was the first that proved that fuel could be ignited without a spark. He operated his first successful engine in 1897.

In 1898, Rudolf Diesel was granted patent #608,845 for an "internal combustion engine" the Diesel engine.

The diesel engines of today are refined and improved versions of Rudolf Diesel's original concept. They are often used in submarines, ships, locomotives, and large trucks and in electric generating plants.

Though best known for his invention of the pressure-ignited heat engine that bears his name, Rudolf Diesel was also a well-respected thermal engineer and a social theorist. Rudolf Diesel's inventions have three points in common: They relate to heat transference by natural physical processes or laws; they involve markedly creative mechanical design; and they were initially motivated by the inventor's concept of sociological needs. Rudolf Diesel originally conceived the diesel engine to enable independent craftsmen and artisans to compete with large industry.

At Augsburg, on August 10, 1893, Rudolf Diesel's prime model, a single 10-foot iron cylinder with a flywheel at its base, ran on its own power for the first time. Rudolf Diesel spent two more years making improvements and in 1896 demonstrated another model with the theoretical efficiency of 75 percent, in contrast to the ten percent efficiency of the steam engine. By 1898, Rudolf Diesel was a millionaire. His engines were used to power pipelines, electric and water plants, automobiles and trucks, and marine craft, and soon after were used in mines, oil fields, factories, and transoceanic shipping.



 During the Crusades of the 11th Century, the Knights of St John received instruction in first-aid treatment from Arab and Greek doctors. The Knights of St John then acted as the first emergency workers, treating soldiers on both sides of the war of the battlefield and bringing in the wounded to nearby tents for further treatment. The concept of ambulance service started in Europe with the Knights of St John, at the same time it had also become common practice for small rewards to be paid to soldiers who carried the wounded bodies of other soldiers in for medical treatment.

The Surgeon-in-Chief of the French Grand Army, "Baron Dominiquie Larrey" created the first official army medical corp. in 1792. Trained attendants with equipment moved out from the field hospitals to give first-aid to the wounded on the battlefield and/or carried them back by stretcher, hand-carts and wagons to the field hospitals.

Motorized ambulance vehicles have been in use since the beginning of the 20th century. In the 1950s the United States pioneered helicopter-ambulances during the Korean War. In 1968, St Vincent's Hospital in New York City started the first mobile coronary care unit


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