34th Annual Rally Kilkenny July 2023

In their formal address to our 54 members plus friends, attending the 34th Annual Rally, Jerry and Una extended a welcome to everyone from all over Ireland to their place they call home, the medieval City, Kilkenny, and that our journey together over on our two day event would cover several of the beautiful scenic attractions in the county. 

How right they were.  To everyone’s surprise, Kilkenny is an excellent place to be on a weekend break in a Model T.  The countryside is lush, the roads are level and the absence of traffic makes it a dream for century old vehicles.  To crown it all, the weather was bright, sunny, and warm.

SATURDAY 8th July 2023

Jerry held the drivers’ briefing at close on to 9:30am and gave an outline of our route to the crews of the 54 entrants who were eager to get going; in jig time we were soon on our way on the first leg, to Gowran Park for mid-morning refreshments.  Within 1km of our destination, the services of John Hayes, our tail end Charlie were called upon, if nothing else but to provide transport for a lame T with a flat tyre.  Considering it easier to work at bench height, a short crew of mechanics were soon on hand in the carpark, with a spare tube in hand and levers at the ready, the job completed in quick time with thanks to the energetic leadership skills of the president of IVVCC Declan Grogan. 

To our surprise, a new battery-operated tyre inflator from Lidl did the job quickly bringing the tyre pressure up to 75 PSI.  Meanwhile back at the clubhouse, Jerry and Una treated us to fruit scones and refreshments.   They were freshly baked and delicious.   Gowran racecourses is located 15 minutes from Kilkenny city. The excellent hospitality facilities make Gowran Park the perfect location for a great stop over much, appreciated and enjoyed by all.

Next stopover brought us to Bennetsbridge, a village in County Kilkenny. It is situated on the River Nore 6 kilometres south of Kilkenny city, in the centre of the county.  It owes its name to Saint Benet and its strategic importance to its position at a major crossing of the river Nore.  The first bridge was built on the site in 1285 and was dedicated to the saint and was important for transport until the establishment of the railway.  

The current bridge dates from the 18th century after the original bridge was swept away in a flood in 1763.  There were flourmills at the Weir.  As one would expect, there were visitors galore taking every opportunity to be photographed alongside or for that matter inside a 100 year old car.  Some of us were delighted to stroll and admire the merchandise on offer within the premises with goodies too nice to pass.  We were ready to go at the appointed hour of 2:00 pm heading for Callan.

Our journey was delightful.  Kilkenny is a lush place; the fresh greenery is something that took us all by surprise.  Added to this was the well-kept homes and gardens, one as good as the next.  The roadways were smooth.  Our UK visitors remarked “not a pothole in sight”.  That was not the case many years ago, but with an improved economic position nationally, we now have at last, really good roads in Ireland.  On arrival at Tullamaine, we parked our cars up in orderly fashion in the commercial yard of Crowley’s iron works.  Not quite congestion but the yard was packed. 

There was plenty to see, especially the giant crane, capable of lifting a large load of steel from trailer to warehouse and on its return, having been processed, back again for transport to its final destination.  A construction factory for state of art industrial buildings, mostly in the chemical and pharmaceutical sectors. The mobile crane was a joy to admire for those of a mechanical mindset who have an interest in weights and measures.  The 4 wheeled machine has a capacity of 60 tonnes, can turn around in its own length and is operated by remote control or in cab presence.  The Combiliftsc is described by the manufacturers as a straddle carrier, primarily for the loading and unloading from trailer to ground of containers and various loads.  We enjoyed the demonstration undertaken remotely where we fully appreciated the versatility of the unit.  Some say that the yard never looked so good, clean, and tidy.  It certainly was and all credit goes to the Crowley staff for facilitating us so well.  It was akin to holding the stations at home. 

We all admired the presence of The Leeside Rover, a family heirloom beautifully restored by the father and son combo, Jerry & Diarmuid who had it working for us, moving parts in synchromesh with the rotating flywheel and rams, under compressed air power.  Notable was the paintwork, lettering, and the new tyres.  A work of art.  We strolled into Jerry’s den, a garage full of beautiful classic cars, tractors, and machinery with an odd Edwardian exhibit to balance things up. 

A coffee dock was setup beforehand where hot afternoon delights were on offer and savoured by the willing guests.  Chatting and mingling was the order of the day.  With thoughtfulness for others in mind, a spontaneous voluntary anonymous collection reaped €576.25 for the local club Ballylarkin Relay for Life cancer, the money to be used for night nurses, palliative care, driving patients to appointments and cancer research. 

We journeyed back to our base in Kilkenny, satisfied that all went well with safety, and our faces glistening in the sunshine and warm breeze that an early July day out had to offer.

Our pre reception at 7:00 pm, hoisted by Jerry & Una, was another social occasion where we all had a chance to catch up with each other.  We were particularly pleased to have among us a goodly number of repeat visitors from UK, renewing acquaintances and making new friends.  That is the hall mark of our club which we treasure.  Dinner at 8:00 pm was served in the exquisite dining room with the overflow upgraded to an adjoining suite.  After the four-course delicious meal was served, it was time for our President Paul Murphy, adorned in club regalia, navy blazer, white shirt and matching tie, where some members had trouble in recognising our Chief. 

He thanked our hosts, Jerry & Una for volunteering to host the event at home in Kilkenny and for providing us with very pleasurable routes and places of interest to see and enjoy.  He bid welcome to our UK guests and hoped that our tour, matched their expectations.  He announced to all, that 50 years ago, a wedding couple shared their first breakfast in this hotel.  He called on Timothy and Margaret Keane to accept a wood turned bowl as a mark of our congratulations to them.  He then presented Jerry & Una with the gift of another wood turned beech bowl, now a customary gesture to whosoever volunteers to run a run for us. 

Jerry duly responded, thanking his hard-working staff for helping and assisting in the necessary preparations, route surveys and necessary marshalling.  Special thanks to the local Gardai for providing an all day escort service, making for our safety and enjoyment par excellence.  Finally, the award of the silver salver, to a member who travels the four corners of Ireland to be with us, hail, rain or shine.  James Stinson is the 2023 recipient, whose accolade was greeted with acclaim

SUNDAY 9th July 2023

While we slept soundly enough, except to be awoken in the early morning by blue flashes of lightning, thunderous clapping of clouds and belting rainfall, making crescendo rattles on windows, roofs and footpaths.  Oblivious to weather conditions for the early morning, we all enjoyed a bountiful hearty Irish breakfast in the breakfast room.  Fresh food, expertly cooked and served, made for a great start to our day.  As luck would have it, when we were ready to get going, the dark clouds evaporated, and the sunshine broke through making the start of our second day great.

Our first port of call in the morning was to Kells Priory, at Kells.  Kells Priory (Prióireacht Cheanannais) is one of the largest medieval monuments in Ireland. The Augustine priory is situated alongside King’s River beside the village of Kells in the townland of Rathduff (Madden), about 15 km south of the medieval city of Kilkenny. The priory is a National Monument and is in the guardianship of the Office of Public Works. One of its most notable features is a collection of medieval tower houses spaced at intervals along and within walls which enclose a site of just over 3 acres (12,000 m2).

These give the priory the appearance more of a fortress than of a place of worship and from them comes its local name of “Seven Castles”.  4 km southeast of the priory on the R697 regional road is Kilree round tower and 9th century High Cross, said to be the burial place of Niall Caille. It was used in the film Barry Lyndon as the location for the English Redcoat encampment. Our party enjoyed the morning stop and took the time to absorb the history of this fine gem of history.

Soon enough we were on the road again heading in the direction of Highbank Orchards where morning refreshments awaited us in the gardens of this old quaint establishment.  The first apple orchards were planted by the family, in 1969, to compliment the hop gardens. The fertile Kilkenny limestone soils are uniquely suited to produce delicious apples and apple juice organically.  The varieties of apples are specially chosen for their juicing properties which are uniquely complex and full of health-giving vitamins and minerals. 

As artisan producers, they do know their apples.  All production is to the strictest of organic standards. No chemicals are sprayed on the apples, neither are any herbicides or chemical fertilizers used. GMOs are shunned to the extent that they avoid the use manure from animals fed on GM food.  Highbank Orchards is home to the original and innovative and multi award winning Highbank Orchard Syrup, several delicious Apple juices, including acclaimed non-alcoholic Drivers Cider as well as Highbank Proper Cider and Medieval Cider, matured on their wild yeasts with no added sulphites.  

2014 brought the addition of Dodonus – the smallest Distillery in Ireland which was built in the old Highbank Dairy and now produces Highbank Organic Apple Spirits – the first Irish and Kilkenny Organic Apple gin known as Highbank Crystal Gin (out of the rocks of Kilkenny), Highbank Orchard Spirit, Highbank Orchard Liqueur Brandey and Highbank Organic Apple Vodka.  All these products from just apples.

What was very interesting, a discussion with the local congregation of Quakers who hold their religious meetings on every second Sunday at 11:00 followed by morning tea and freshly cut sandwiches plus as a treat, jars of cheesecake topped with fresh cream.  In the conversation, one lady recalled a trip, as a young lass, from south England to the eternal city of Rome in her Dad’s 1931 Invicta, a two seater with dicky seat to rear, registration number GP28.  She remembers well, that epic journey and happy to share precious memories.  Invicta is a British car maker whose brand was available intermittently through successive decades. 

Our final call was to the Ballykeeffe Amphhiteatre Eircode R95KP63.  What a wonderful place to be.  It is Kilkenny’s very own outdoor auditorium. Located beneath Ballykeeffe Wood and Nature Reserve the Amphitheatre boasts a state of the art canopy which enhances the deep, worked-out quarry, to offer acoustics and a setting designed to provide an unforgettable and memorable experience of theatre and music.  The quarry itself is every rock-climber’s paradise with groups meeting regularly to scale its dizzying heights, while the surrounding woodland is popular with families, joggers and cyclists.

The only amphitheatre in Ireland, this venue can seat 850 visitors on its tiered limestone benches.  We were entertained for the duration of our stay by a musical partnership of an accordian player and a string guitarist who in no time at all had the twinkle tow members twirling around centre stage in rhyme with many of the popular oldies in Irish tunes.  Paul Murphy created a diversion halfway through the musical session by calling out the person who was the background achiever, the mover and shaker, to whom all credit must be given for the successful weekend run of 54 participating Model Ts from the four compass points of Ireland and our nearest neighbours in Great Britain.

Breda Power was asked to come on stage where President Paul Murphy presented her with a hand turned beech bowl in grateful appreciation for her sterling services rendered in the making of our wonderful weekend.  The final get-together was an on-stage line dancing session with everyone bar none participating in the excitement of the day.  A group photograph followed naturally with everyone in unison that we had a great weekend together, wishing it would last for ever. 

We arrived back at base, loaded our cars and headed from whence we came.  We can confidently say that perfection was once again achieved, thanks to careful planning and dedication rendered by a few for the benefit of many. 

To Jerry, Una and Breda we extend our renewed appreciation and thanks, bid farewell to our UK visitors and hope that in the not-too-distant future we shall all meet up again once more, for more of the same.

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