Thursday 22 February 2018

Michael Collins's famous 'high nelly' bicycle found

Michael Collins with his 'high nelly' bicycle, which is to go on display as part of a touring show.
Michael Collins with his 'high nelly' bicycle, which is to go on display as part of a touring show.

Cormac Murphy

THE original 'high nelly' bicycle used by Michael Collins to get around Dublin city has been located.

The famous bike, along with many other high nellys, will now be touring the country as part of an exhibition.

Custom-made for Collins in 1919, the bicycle features in one of the best-known photographs of the Irish revolutionary, who also served as finance minister.

The "elusive" Rudge Whitworth was finally traced by high nelly historian Marty Mannering and his team, following a lengthy search.

"We started in Clonakilty in the Michael Collins museum, but they didn't know where it was," Mr Mannering said.

They then interviewed several other people and spoke with Collins' grandniece, former Irish MEP Mary Banotti, who advised them to contact a number of family relatives.

They were also given the name of a priest "who allegedly had the bike", the historian said.

"We went down the line of trying to establish who this priest was and that eventually led us to the guy who now owns the bike," he said.

"It took seven months but we now have the bike. It's on loan to us."

When informed the bicycle had been located, Ms Banotti expressed her delight.

"I'm delighted if he has found it. It's a fun idea what he's planning to do," she said.

"It was a very efficient way for him (Collins) to get around. I think, for him, being anonymous and unrecognised was vital.

"The bicycle, ironically, turned out to be the safest form of transport. The high nelly was the bike of choice of the time."

The exhibition will begin in Limerick at the Elemental festival on September 14.

As part of the tour, other rare items will be on display, including wooden pedals, World War II black-out bike lights and bikes dating back to 1904.

Irish Independent

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