Saturday 20 July 2019

1898 drive from Drogheda to Belfast with Luke J Healy on board

The Diary

Hubert Murphy

My thanks to Edward (Gay) McCarron from Dublin for getting in touch with the below article. It features his grandfather, Luke J Healy, whom he remarks used to cause a bit of annoyance with the local military at Millmount. Apparently Luke would rouse the soldiers with the reveille on his cornet, well before the official bugle call!

'In January 1898, 121 years ago, four well-wrapped men set off early from Dublin to Belfast, on the first car to make the trip. They were perched, facing forwards and backwards, on top a compact 8 horse power Horseless Carriage Compan, Coventry, M.M.C 'dog-cart'. Two years earlier the necessity of a pedestrian preceding a motor car was removed and the speed limit raised to 14 MPH. However, this trip took two days as they made stately progress travelling northwards at 8 miles per hour on the flat, and some 2 mph on steeper sections.

The four adventurers were the owner, a Mr. D. W, Alexander; the driver, a Mr. Andrews of the Great Horseless Carriage Company, Coventry, (using a tiller rather than a steering wheel); a Mr. R. McCrum of the Pneumatic Tyre Company and a car enthusiast, a Mr. J.C Percy.

The main problem encountered was the reaction of local jaunting car and hackney car jarveys who took strong objection to this new-fangled form of transport. J.C. Percy recalled "We were reviled and sworn at by the jarveys in Dundalk and Drogheda. We found the opposition of the Jehus in the old Boyne city quite formidable and offensive." The more reckless and dangerous jarveys were called "Jesus" after "Jehu", a biblical King of Israel noted for his furious chariot attacks!

Their first stop was in Drogheda where they were treated to lunch by Luke J. Healy, a well-known local businessman. While they were at lunch, to add injury to insult, water was thrown over the car by, what Percy described as a "malicious jarvey". The water affected the asbestos jointing and took three hours to dry out before they could proceed, with Mr. Healy now on board for the rest of the trip.

As they trundled on to Dundalk for an overnight stay, they were delighted at the enthusiastic receptions by groups of children who had been given the day off to mark of the passing of a horseless car! Percy, was clearly smitten at the possibilities of this new form of transport, writing, at the end of day one: "As we turned into William's Yard in Dundalk, and we listened to the dogcart's pulsations, how fresh it looked. Here was a new toy that had covered the distance quicker than two horses could accomplish and it looked fresher at the 'end of the hunt' than it did at the beginning." He predicted "truly here was an advance in the mode of progression which, when fully perfected and completed would eventually revolutionise all road traffic in the very near future."

The next day, they completed their journey arriving in good spirits. Percy's revolution had begun. But could he have anticipated reducing his two-day trip to under 2 hours, or that last year there would be some 2.68 million vehicles on Irish roads - 2.1 million cars - or that over the year there would be 142 fatal collisions? One wonders'

Drogheda Independent