1939 Circuit of Ireland Trial

Report reproduced from The Ulster Motoring Review, April 1939, being the Journal of the Ulster Automobile Club


Ulster Automobile Club Trophy Won by W. B. Michael.

Bellevue’s Sunshine Compensates for Boulevard’s Rain

THE ninth of the series of long trials, originally called the Ulster Motor Rally and now known as the Circuit of Ireland Trial, organised by the Ulster Automobile Club ended at Bellevue on Easter Tuesday afternoon in brilliant sunshine. Never in the history of the Club has such a large assembly watched the eliminating tests, it seemed as though half the population of Belfast had made their way to Bellevue to see the finish of the trial.


Mr. W. B. Michael, driving a Wolseley, and accompanied by Mr. Grahame Dow who had come over from Glasgow specially for the competition, gained the Ulster Automobile Club Trophy and also first prize in Class I. On his victory he is to be most heartily congratulated, for shortly after he had concluded the cross-road test outside Galway on Easter Monday morning, he was startled to hear noises from his off-side front hub, suggestive of a stone-breaker in action. A hasty examination revealed that the outer ball race was collapsing, and he realised that his only chance was to attempt to continue on in the hope that his whee would stay on until civilisation was reached. His two team mates, Messrs. Adams and McVicker kept pace with him and for the next 100 miles he drove along expecting his front wheel to fall off at any moment.

At Collooney, a few miles outside Sligo, the noises grew more and more expensive and he was compelled to slow down to a crawl. McVicker then volunteered to drive on in the direction of Sligo and call at the residence of a friend who, it was hoped, would have a spare ball-race. The chance seemed to be a very slight one, but as luck would have it, the gentleman was found just on the point of leaving his house for the day, and on the situation being explained to him he produced a ball-race in 30 seconds, as if it were the most natural thing in the world to keep by him in case of emergency. Back the team sped to Collooney, and the repair was effected in the short space of 20 minutes. Londonderry was reached with only 4.0 minutes to spare.


Sir George Clark, Bart, the Rt. Hon. J. Milne Barbour, D.L., M.P., and Commander C. A. R. Shillington, R.N.V.R., were present at the start as stewards of the meeting, but the number of spectators that turned out in the rain to wish the drivers good luck was very small. The first car – an Austin “Eight” driven by W. M. D. Montgomery — was sent off from Stranmillis Embankment, Belfast, at 8-59 a.m., and two minutes later the first of the eight ‘Eire starters left Dawson Street, Dublin.

“F. Hampden,” a nom-de-plume disguising the identity of a cross-Channel driver, was about ten minutes late with his Morris at the start. It was reported that he had been delayed at the boat. Apparently the class for open cars this year was fully justified, as no fewer than twelve of this type started from Belfast and five from Dublin. The majority of the open cars had hoods, but some had no more protection from the Weather than that afforded by a very abbreviated windscreen. G. W. O. McCrea’s racing type Aston Martin was one of these. With a tonneau cover over the passenger’s seat, McCrea drove the 1,000 miles alone.


R. A. Porter (Morris), Miss G. Tupper (Morris), D. M. M‘Cracken (Adler), and Miss N. Pringle (Wolseley), were non-starters. R. Walsh (Ford V-8) had cylinder-head gasket trouble at Banbridge. This delayed him so long that when he arrived at the Newry-Dundalk Border the Customs Official admitting the competing cars had taken his departure and Walsh returned to Belfast. M. J. Murphy (Vauxhall) started ofi from Dublin, but did not arrive at any of the subsequent checks.

From Belfast the first stop was at the Border, where competitors had an allowance of 10 minutes to enable the necessary formalities to be fulfilled. At Dundalk, where the first control was situated, the Dublin group of starters fell into line with those from Belfast. There was a check at Phoenix Park, Dublin, at which also the first eliminating test was carried out. This involved acceleration and braking. In the class for open cars, W. B. Michael (Wolseley) tied with H. A. Duignan (SS) for the best performance, the next best times being put up by C. W. Duffin, A. J. Welch and A. McVicker.

S. McCormick (10 h.p. Morris) was first in the small saloon class, followed by W. M. D. Montgomery, D. W. Campbell, and V. M. L. O’Reilly, and in the class for big saloons Isaac Agnew’s Citroen (No.2-2) returned the best time, W. Pearce and J. W. Shaw tying for second place.

From Dublin the remainder of Saturday’s drive was completed through Kildare, Cahir, Clogheen, and Youghal, to Cork, an average speed of 30 m.p.h. for all cars having been maintained.

The heavy rain at Belfast prevailed as far as Dublin, then it eased to a drizzle, later to be followed by thick fog between Clogheen and Youghal. Not only were competitors denied a glimpse of the beautiful scenery through the Knockmealdown Mountains, but in consequence of the fog some four or five lost marks through being late at Cork.


From Cork the going Was somewhat more arduous, and only the open cars were required to average 30 m.p.h. A speed of 26.64 m.p.h. Was set for the big saloons, and for the small saloons 24 m.p.h. All were ready for the 9 a.m. start from Cork, and the glorious sunshine soon made drivers and passengers forget their unpleasant experiences of the previous day.

The route was via Bealangeary, Tim Healy Pass, Ballaghabema Gap, Balloughisheen Pass and Cahirciveen. (On Tim Healy Pass the eliminating test for the day was held. It took the form of a timed distance of 2 1/4 miles on the Pass, and those who failed to cover this distance in 4½ minutes were penalised by the loss of one mark for every 10 seconds extra.

In the class for open cars in this test no marks were lost by A. J. Welch (M.G.), J. S. Dickson, W. B. Michael (Wolseley), R. J. Adams (M.G.), A. McVicker (Riley), C. S. Porter (Talbot), and C. H. W. Manders (Adler). ‘

In the class for small saloons losses of marks were as follows : W. M. D. Montgomery (Austin) 3 marks; W. McMillan (Riley) 3 marks; D. Campbell (Rover) 3 marks; W. R. Chambers (M.G.) 3 marks; W. P. E. Alexander (Standard) 3 marks; S. B. Martin (Wolseley) 2 marks. The two Citroen cars entered by Isaac Agnew lost only one mark each on the Pass. J. Wesley Shaw (Triumph) was the only saloon car driver not to lose marks. W. Pearce (Humber) lost two marks, and A. McKeown (Wolseley) lost 3 marks.


At Galway the leaders in the various classes were as follow:

Class I (open cars)

W. B. Michael (Wolseley), 15 and 1/5 marks lost;
A. J. Welch (M.G.) and A. McVicker (Riley) tied for second place with 16 marks lost each, and
C. W. Duffin (M.G.) third with a loss of 16 and 2/5 marks.

Class II (saloon cars up to 12 h.p.)

W. M. D. Montgomery with a loss of 20 marks.
S. B. Martin (Wolseley) with 20 and 1/5 marks lost, and
D. W. Campbell (Rover) with a loss of 21 and 1/5 marks.

In the class for big saloons:

J. Wesley Shaw (Triumph) with a loos of 16 and 2/5 marks.
Isaac Agnew (Citroen) with a loss of 17 and 1/5 marks, and
another Citroen entered by Mr. Agnew, the loss being 17 and 4/5 marks.


There was a prompt turnout for the 9 a.m. start from Galway on the morning of the third day. Eight miles outside the town, however, competitors were stopped and required to submit to another eliminating test. This one was to test the ability of the driver to manoeuvre his car, and took place at a cross~roads.

From a line at the approach to the intersection, competitors were required to proceed into the right-hand road. Then they had to reverse out of this into the road facing the one on which the starting line was marked. From this they drove forwards into the road on the left of the line, and finally reversed back over the line, to the position from which they started.

The cross-roads was not the usual arrangement of roads intersecting each other approximately at right angles. Instead, the road intersecting the main road was somewhat on the bias. Consequently, the test demanded considerable skill and judgment of the effects of steering lock, especially when operating in reverse. The manoeuvre, too, was carried out against the stopwatch.

From the point at which the test was carried out, competitors had a run of 37 miles to Clifden, on the extreme West coast. But there was no time to get out and admire the wild beauty of Connemara. Competitors had to get on to the next check at Glencolumbkille, 182 miles away, in Co. Donegal.

The route followed was through Castlebar, Sligo, Ballyshannon, and Donegal town. In Donegal, however, sunshine is not all sunshine, in the metaphorical sense. Around Glencolumbkille the convoy of cars moved along in a cloud of dust. Open car drivers, while having the best of the bargain on modern well-surfaced roads, got the worst of it here. Most of the saloons which rolled up in the dusk at the Derry control were phantoms in grey.

However, after a bath and a hot meal, competitors felt none the worse for their long and dusty drive. A special “Circuit of Ireland” dance had been arranged at the hotel forming the headquarters, and with the morning start delayed until 10~30 a.m. the majority danced well into the small hours.

Not everyone, however, managed to check in at the Londonderry control on schedule. One who lost his way was G. C. McCrea (Aston Martin). Driving the 1,000 miles single-handed and alone in the car McCrea made the mistake of going to the Carrigans-St. Johnson border. As a result of his wide detour, therefore, he was three-quarters of an hour late at Derry.

T. S. Dickson (M.G.) made the same mistake. There was some frantic telephoning to neighbouring Border posts before it was found that Bridgend was the check. Dickson was about the same amount late as McCrea. H. W. Sloane (Wolseley) was the best part of an hour late at Derry owing to punctures.


This run was a very short one, being only 108 miles, the route to Bellevue lay via Ballycastle and Larne and was all main road driving. Only one competitor was late at the finish, this being F. Gorman, who was unfortunate enough to leave his road book behind him at Larne, and was compelled to return for it.

After passing the finishing line, competitors had to submit to two further tests on the Bellevue plateau. The first of these was the same test as held last year and involved acceleration, braking, and road holding.

Look at the crowd of people who have come to watch!

Competitors had to describe a figure eight around two obstacles and then make a sweep into a box. B. F. Mason in his large Delage tourer skidded on the grass and crashed into the posts marking the box. This car had been driven without a clutch for the greater part of the run, and had to be pushed in the tests each time a change of gear was needed.

In the test described above the best performances in the respective classes were as follows:

Class I. A. McVicker. W. B. Michael, R. J. Adams.
Class II. W. M. D. Montgomery. W. R. Chambers, S. McCormick.
Class III. J. W. Shaw, Isaac Agnew (Citroen No. 21), D. H. Chesney.

The next test was an even more complicated one. Two parallel lane-ways were made, and competitors had to drive forward through the left hand lane, reverse through the right hand one, then reverse into the one through which they had originally driven forward, and finally drive forward through the other one. This test involved acceleration and braking, together with the exercise of skill in gear-changing and reversing.

The following competitors put up the best times:

Class I. W. B. Michael and R. J. Adams (equal); A. McVicker and F. Gordon (equal).
Class II. S. B. Martin, A. Brown, and S. M‘Cormick.
Class III.—Isaac Agnew (Citroen No. 21), H. W. Sloane, and W. Pearce.

All cars came through the scrutineering tests, with flying colours, no marks being lost.


On the evening of Easter Tuesday there was a Prize Distribution and Dance at the Floral Hal], at which Councillor R. J. R. Harcourt, deputising for the Lord Mayor, distributed the Trophies to the various prize winners.

The complete prize list is as follows:


Ulster Automobile Trophy, for the competitor retaining the highest number of marks irrespective of class – W. B. Michael, Belfast, 14: h.p. Wolseley; marks retained 416 2/5.

First (“Belfast Telegraph” Cup), W. B. Michael, Belfast, Wolseley, 1116 2/5;
Second, R. J. Adams, Belfast, 12 h.p. M.G. ; 413 1/5 ;
Third, A. McVicker, Belfast, 12 h.p. Riley, 411 2/5.

First (“Belfast News-Letter” Cup), S. McCormick, Belfast, 10 h.p. Morris, 396;
Second, A. Brown, Belfast, 10 h.p. Standard, 394 2/5;
Third, W. P. E. Alexander, Belfast, 10 h.p. Standard, 390 3/5.

First (Ulster Automobile Club Cup), Isaac Agnew, Belfast, 15 h.p. Citroen, 403 1/5,
Second, W. Pearce, England, 20 h.p. Humber, 392 1/5;
Third, Isaac Agnew, Belfast, 15 h.p. Citroen, 390 3/5.

TEAM PRIZE (Three prizes value £3 8s. 0d. each, Presented by W. W. McLeod, Esq., Capt. W. J. Thompson, and C. G. Neill, Esq.):
First, C Team: W. B. Michael (Wolseley), R. J. Adams (M.G.), A. McVicker (Riley), 1,241;
Second, H Team: (Short & Harland Motor Club) S. M‘Cormick (Morris), M. Rebbeck (M.G.), J. C. Harris (Morris), 1,193 1/5.

The cup awarded for the best performance by a car, the entrant and nominated drivers of which are members of the Ulster Automobile Club, none of whom have, since the 1st January 1933, gained an award in any touring competition organised by the club. Presented by J. P. Tougher Esq.

M Rebbeck, Belfast (10 h.p. MG.) 404 marks.

Awarded to the lady entrant retaining the greatest number of marks in the Trial, provided that all the occupants of the car are ladies. Presented by Sharman D. Neill, Ltd., Belfast:

Miss M. Brown, Belfast (10 h.p. Austin), 306 1/5.

Awarded to the entrant retaining the greatest number of marks With a car registered prior to the 31st Dec., 1931- Presented by H. A. Duignan, Esq.:

H. J. Reid, Belfast, (9 h.p. Riley) 388 1/5


Castlereagh Cup for the best performance by a competitor from Eire.

C. H. W. Manders, Dublin (21 h.p. Adler), 4.07 4/5.

Souvenir awards were given to the remainder of the competitors who completed the course.


Thus ended another Circuit of Ireland Trial, the entry was not so large as in former years, but what was lacking in quantity was more than made up for in quality. It is a matter of great thankfulness that in a competition so varied and of such dimensions there was not even a minor accident. In former years there have been a few protests, but this year all was harmony.

The spirit of camaraderie which was exhibited by many competitors is a matter for comment. Every night before the tests, several of them exchanged notes on how they thought the tests could be best performed.

There was a complete absence of selfishness, and every help was given to fellow competitors throughout the run. It is to be feared that the introduction of a Touring Class did not meet with the success it deserved, and it is not thought that this class will be incorporated in next year’s event.

In conclusion the best thanks of the Club are due to the Competitions Committee, under the Chairmanship of Mr. H. A. Bryson, who took all the necessary steps to ensure the complete success of the event.

A complete table of results is shown below.