Stradbally Steam Fair 2022

After a recess of two years, on account of Covid-19, the annual steam rally at Stradbally, Co. Laois took place on 31st July 2022 and we took up our position in the manicured grassland plot where our Model T Ford cars and commercials were all lined up for a static display for all comers to come and enjoy.  Our President Paul Murphy took command of the event where our catering corps with Eleanor Hendy and friends positioned their paraphernalia, so that visitors could enjoy the comfort of our catering offering and take time to rest and engage with one another. 

Paul’s assistant John Hendy was to the fore in the general organisation positioning everything in place for our comfort and enjoyment.  The Steam fraternity were out in gusto and were very pleased with themselves after a two-year lull and made their presence felt what with steam and whistles and various colourful engines made for enhanced enjoyment of visitors and exhibitors alike. 

At the hour of noon, a tribute of steam and whistles, in the memory of our late member Benny O’Gorman, was led by the congregated array of engines, all lined up in parade fashion, a truly touching moment for all of us who knew him so well.   Such as his popularity amongst his colleagues and friends far and wide, many with engines and veteran equipment lined the roadway to Athy for his last passage to his final resting place.  May his soul rest in peace.

In the afternoon, to the enjoyment of all, Paul Murphy, who had brought along his 1923 Model T Runabout, held a demonstration of converting it into a usable tractor by the substitution of the Smith assembly for the conventional rear wheels.  Once connected up, the tractor unit together with a side mounted mowing bar clattered around the arena with a smiling Paul at the wheel. 

On completion of the tour, the tractor unit was disassembled, reverting the T back to a normal passenger car.   Back in the day, the Model T Ford car, because it was capable of being adapted to work as a tractor using a 1917 Smith Form-a-Tractor conversion kit made for its popularity, in or around 1920 with the Ford promise: “Guaranteed to do the work of four big horses”.

As is usual for these rallies, there were other attractions that drew crowds.  Dancing exhibitions were on hand for most of the day provided by “Dancing with Declan” where there was a constant admiring seated audience throughout the day.  There was a large variety of rural activities including farm machinery working displays to wood cutting techniques.  All of our exhibitors received a brass plaque kindly presented by John Hendy, now a member of the governing board of Stradbally Steam Rally.

Do our readers remember the fictional characters in the Flintstones TV shows that entertained us middle aged people when we were children?  Well, Paul Murphy brought the Flintstones to life when he created and put on display the Cave mobile, a Canopysaurus and an iconic vehicle owned by Fred Flintstone, featured in the original series.  You ask, how does The Flintstones car work?  The answer is with heels screeching and smoking, Fred famously used his own feet to stop his forward momentum.

Much like how your car’s brake drums work, Fred’s feet absorb all the frictional forces until the stones stop rolling.  Pictured are President Paul Murphy taking on the role of Fred Flintstone and his assistant John Hendy masquerading as his Fred’s friend and neighbour, Barney Rubble.  There was a goodly number of visitors, old and young who took to the Cave mobile where iPhones were flashing good-oh to the delight of our visitors. Well done Paul…bring it on again. 

Our catering corps were in full swing, providing hot teas and coffees to all comers.  There was a variety of fresh sandwiches that catered for the lunchtime clientele.  Mid-morning and afternoon tea times saw the array of cakes and trifles that were colourful and delicious.  We are grateful to our generous sponsors who asked to be anonymous, for providing the purchase order for the procurement of most of our ingredients.  So too, are we thankful to those members who indulged in the art of home baking and brought along their delicious creations for our sustenance.  We extend our grateful appreciation to Eleanor Hendy and her hard-working team – emeritus president Ann Duffy, Wendy, Jean and Sarah.

Stradbally Steam Rally is a two-day event.  Our static display of our cars and commercials was dominantly for the Sunday.  However, many stayed over, enjoyed an evening barbeque on site and continued the enjoyment of friends in the wonderful parkland setting at Stradbally House & Gardens. 

As we sign-off we express our thanks to the many volunteers who worked hard and creatively to make the event so enjoyable for so many, particularly the catch up from the epidemic’s forced two-year closure and our absence.  We acknowledge too the participation of the many T owners who went about to bring their prized possessions to be enjoyed by all and sundry. 

And the final hurray to President Paul, the champion of Stradbally.

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