1951 Circuit of Ireland

Billy Scott (1 1/4 litre M.G.), the first starter, leaves Stranmillis Embankment at 08.18 on 24th March.

R. A. Hopkinson’s Triumph

Toughest Circuit of Ireland Trial Ever – TC M.G. Driver wins six awards – Many Veterans Retire.

This report is reproduced from Autosport Magazine April 6th 1951.

The U.A.C.’s Circuit of Ireland Trial, now in its 20th year, was this Easter voted the toughest yet. Of the 179 starters, 51 retired or were excluded – some through crashes or mechanical trouble, some through getting bogged or lost on the tricky Sunday map-reading section. The Competitions‘ Committee excelled themselves in the finding of trials country – it is said that Hon. See. Gordon Neill went through four petrol tanks in choosing part of the course – and even Dennis Dent, of London, admitted that his Allard was seldom parallel to the edges of the road. The Premier Award was won by a visitor, R. A. Hopkinson, of Chesterfield, in a TC M.G., and he and his wife confessed to amazement at their success, stating that they worked for the team award, with no thought of greater honours, which seemed to point to a moral somewhere.


An early shower of heavy snow having cleared temporarily, the first Belfast starter, Billy Scott in a 1.5-litre M.G. Saloon, left Stranmillis Embankment at 8.18am, there being six non-starters out of the whole entry, and one excluded for lateness at the initial scrutiny. The weather remained clear but crisp, with occasional showers as we followed Class II southward over the border, which was passed with the very minimum of delay. By the time we reached Dundalk with the first of the Belfast contingent, many of the Dublin starters had already passed through this checkpoint. From here the route lay through Ardee, Kells and Mullingar to the second checkpoint at Clara Co. Offaly. Before midday, 56 of the competitors had passed through here and made their way a further nine miles to the first time control at Ballydaly, where H.D. McMillan (Morris) and A. Campbell (M.G.) were late and G.P. Eadie (Riley) retired.

Here was held the first test, the “see-saw” through a 7 ft. channel, which claimed a total of 15 failures, including J.F. Kelliher (Sunbeam-Talbot) who lost his transmission, and others who did not perform the test correctly.

From Ballydaly the route led over worsening roads, with an astonishing thickness of rubber carpet on the sharper bends, to the next time control at Crean’s Crossroads, South East of the Boggeragh Mountains in Co. Cork. Crean’s also claimed its toll, latecomers being D.A. Henderson (Sunbeam-Talbot), Mrs. F. Montgomeryt (Riley), Peter Thomas (Dodge) and McMillan. Of the big saloons, C.E. Robb (Humber Hawk), C.F.C. Lindsay (Bristol) and D.P. Johnston (Allard) were seen to be well ahead of time, but T.A. McGrath was doing a longish job on a front wheel bearing of his Sunbeam-Talbot. Dr R.A. Montgomery (Riley) and E.J. Wilkinson (Healey) retired, the latter because his navigator had dropped the road book overboard, and not missed it for 50-odd miles! Tony Campbell arrived an hour ahead of time, spent 55 minutes on relaxation, and then realised he had forgotten to check in at Clara!

Charles Eyre-Maunsell (Minx) brings home a souvenir from the double reverse test at Bantry.

The first piece of real trials country followed with two checks in the Boggeragh and Derrynasaggart Mountains before Ballyvourney. W.J. Henry and R.J. Caldwell smashed the sumps of their M.G. saloons, but by judicious coasting, managed to reach the Killarney and on time. Not so 26 others, however, including Arthur McAnerney (Super Snipe) who hit a bridge hard enough to pull the prop. shaft out of the gearbox, and R. B. Hull (Singer Roadster) whose fan spindle broke, demolishing the radiator. Early arrivals took the opportunity of filling up before entering the parc fermée, helped by a garage proprietor who seemed to appreciate the need for speedy service. Then they sought food in their hotels, and, to their delight found an abundance of it, and good service to boot.


The late numbers of Classes II and III, who had had to cover the mountain section after dark, found consolation next morning, when the first of the small saloons left the parc fermée at 6.30am, and they were all still in bed. All that is but Dick Robinson, who was seen walking down the Main Street in his pyjamas and dressing gown, looking for fire-extinguisher fluid for the clutch of his H.R.G. However, Sunday’s run was the top-secret map-reading section, and they little knew what awaited them.

Up in the mountains North East of Bantry Bay, there nestles a wee lough called Gougane Barra – Finbar’s Rocky Cleft. Apparently the revered Saint Finbar had no trouble in finding it in the 6th century, but a thousand years or so sees a few changes, and the bright boys of the 20th, who had to approach it from the North, found it very hard to do so. The recommended ordnance map for the district indicated a rough track as a good road, which subsequently died in the middle of the bogland, and there some of the most experienced drivers in the country found themselves – stuck!

UAC Vice-Chairman Jackie Harrison checks in L. M. Murray’s VW at the elusive Gougane Barra control on 25th March.

Some lifted their cars out bodily, others made a road with cut bracken, and Peter ~Thompson’s Dodge is rumoured to have become a permanent feature of the landscape. No less than 67 cars were late at the control, many of the so much so that they retired or were excluded, whilst others were written off for approaching from the South. We were fortunate in abandoning our map and choosing to follow S.F. McMaster (Austin), whose capable navigator led us straight to the spot without fuss. Edgar Wadsworth and Cyril Corbishley made history by arriving 20 minutes early in their “Grand Sport” Dyna-Panhard. But all the big Ulster “names” were out, left to ponder over the fact that their maps had been “revised in 1903.”

The route then detoured East and South through checks at Inchigeelagh, Drimoleague, and near Kilcrohane, to the coastal town of Bantry, where the double reverse through a channel was held. Of the depleted field, only two were late at the Bantry Control, but six of the saloons were deemed failures in the test, and the two remaining 4CV Renaults had trouble, apparently through lack of rearwards vision.

Going around the coast through Glengariff and Adrigole, then up the winding road to the Tim Healy Pass in the Cahal Mountains, all but three checked in on-time, before commencing a flying-start, timed hill climb of the pass. Tim Healy has to be seen to be believed, for in about 2.5 miles of double hairpins, it climbs from 400ft. to over 1,000ft., and running out of road means running into thinnish air. Suffice to say that two recording engineers taken up at speed by a well-known BBC commentator were very sick at the top.

Here saw an impressive performance by Stanley Porter in the Plus-Four Morgan, and also by Edgar Wadsworth, whose Dyna-Panhard went up like a scalded cockroach in second gear. The time in seconds for the climb is obtained by multiplying the marks lost by fife. All the performances here were remarkably good, especially as the road was partially blocked by a steam roller busily re-surfacing.

Connell (Renault) in trouble at the Bantry Test.

Having gone up in fine style with his 1934 Singer Saloon, P.H. Scarf, of Southsea, slowed to light a cigarette, and bang went a steering connection. Fortunate perhaps, but disappointing, as until then he had not dropped a mark. However, we met him later in Kenmare, track-rod over shoulder, cheerfully looking for a welder.

Another tough section from Tim Healy led through the Gap of Dungloe in the MacGillicuddy Reeks to a check point at Kate Kearney’s Cottage, and a control at Bealalaw Bridge, where 11 were late and “Goff” Imhof failed to appear, having done a spot of mutual denting with a non-competing Ford Anglia en route, and damaging his sump. These non-competing cars were a constant menace, for Southerners drive them at the limit, and always on the crown of the road! The most belligerent of continental tactics is needed to pass them, coming or going.

After a further check at Cahireiveen the lads (and lasses) returned to Killarney where only one crew was late. At this stage, retirements and exclusions totalled 10 in Class I, 14 in Class II and 14 in Class III.


On Monday morning, in a cold drizzle of rain, competitors left Killarney heading North west for a control near Inchicarrigane, County Kerry, with three latecomers. Then came the “coasting-in-neutral” test, which proved tough en ought to fail 29, the results being very close.

Class I

  1. D.G.Johnston (M.G.) 22.4 marks;
  2. G.H.Reilly (M.G.) 22.6;
  3. J.B.Ross (M.G.) 22.6;
  4. E.T.McMillen (M.G.) 24.4.

Class II

  1. J.Lord (M.G.) 23.8 marks;
  2. B.McCaldin (Minx) 24.2;
  3. J.McWatters (Minor) 24.6.

Class III

  1. H.W.Underhill (Bentley) 24.2 marks;
  2. R.J.Adams (Sunbeam-Talbot) 24.8;
  3. R.T.Hill (Austin A90) 26.0;

After two further checks at Dingle and Castlegregory, came the long run over good main roads to Galway where only one competitor was late at the Great Southern Hotel control, and another 100-odd miles in a North westerly direction to a check at Belmullet, on the coast of County Mayo. By the time night had fallen, and the headlamps and “flame-throwers” came into action as the cars headed East for Sligo in dreary showers of bleak rain, but all checked in on time at the Sligo control.


Settling down for the long night ahead, we turned North again through Ballyshannon and Donegal Town to check in at Dungloe, then East across the border to the control at Londonderry in Northern Ireland where only one of the whole field, a Volkswagen, was late. With dawn. Breaking, and traces of snow to be seen. Again, we made for the check point between Torr Head and Glendun, County Antrim, on the East coast. A few miles South lay the control near Cushendallwhare Class II was proved to have fared worst in the night run, with 26 late arrivals, but only one in each of the other two classes.


Just South of Cushendun came another test, this time a timed negotiation of an 8 ft. Channel, which saw eight failures. Two more retirements were notified here and the results on the test were:

Class I

  1. D.G.Scott (M.G.) 21.8 marks;
  2. J.T.Eaton (M.G.) 22.0;
  3. J.F.F.Howe (M.G.) 22.6.

Class II

  1. G.Wolseley (Minor) 24.4 marks;
  2. Dr W.N.Jones (Minx) 24.6;
  3. I.N.Lamont (M.G.) 25.0;
  4. A.N.Johnston (Singer) 25.0.

Class III

  1. S.Pentland (Citroen) 28.4 marks;
  2. W.Chesney (Sunbeam-Talbot) 29.6;
  3. J.D.Keatley (Sunbeam-Talbot) 30.0.

After a check at Larne, County Antrim, the tired, unshaven competitors drove to Nutt’s Corner Aerodrome, near Belfast, where only four were late at the finish control. Immediately on their arrival, they underwent the electrically timed braking test on a gradual right hand bend, seven being caught out with useless stoppers. The test results were:

Class I

  1. R.J.Nash (M.G.) 34 marks;
  2. D.G.Johnston (M.G.) 36;
  3. F.D.Dent (Allard) 36.5.

Class II

  1. J.G.Stevenson (Minx) 37 marks;
  2. W.Scott (M.G.) 39;
  3. J.Peile (Minx) 39;
  4. W.J.Hutton (A40) 40.5.

Class III

  1. W.J.G.Clarke (Standard) 43 marks;
  2. M.C.Hogan (Citroen) 43;
  3. S.Pentland (Citroen) 45;
  4. J.H.Davidson (Humber) 46.

At the final test, the double pylon, the frosty surface had dried by the time the bulk of the small saloon contingent arrived, and few succeeded in sliding it. Saunders Graham made an astonishingly good effort with a Ford V-8 Pilot, but Jack McMichael had to tour around slowly with only two studs holding on each back wheel on his Austin. Failures totalled seven and the results were:

Class I

  1. L.V.C.Henderson (M.G.) 17.6 marks;
  2. J.B.Ross (M.G.) 18.2;
  3. R.A.Hopkinson (M.G.) 19.

Class II

  1. J.R.V.Noble (Minx) 20.4 marks;
  2. C.W.Eyre-Maunsell (Minx) 20.8;
  3. J.McWatters (Minor) 21.

Class III

  1. R.J.Adams (Sunbeam-Talbot) 22.6 marks;
  2. J.Charleton (Vauxhall) 23.8;
  3. S.Pentland (Citroen) 25.4.

After the final scrutiny, where surprisingly only three lost marks for damaged bodywork or faulty electrical equipment, competitors returned to Belfast for a wash and shave before the prize-giving at the Carlton Restaurant at which, after yeoman work by auditor James Pinkerton of the UAC, the final results were announced at 11pm.


Premier Award: R.A.Hopkinson (Chesterfield) M.G. 233.2 marks.

Novice Award: R.A.Hopkinson (M.G.) 233.2 marks.

Castlereagh Trophy: R.A.Hopkinson (M.G.) 233.2 marks.

Class I

  1. R.A.Hopkinson (M.G.) 233.2 marks (1st OA);
  2. J.J.Flynn (M.G.) 237.3 (2nd OA);
  3. D.G.Scott (M.G.) 239.7 (3rd OA).

Class II

  1. P.H.S.Newell (Morris Oxford) 248.3 (4th OA);
  2. Cecil Vard (Hillman Minx) 250.7 (6th OA);
  3. J.McWatters (Morris Minor) 252.2 (7th OA).

Class III

  1. S.Pentland (Citroen) 252.4 (10th OA);
  2. R.J.Adams (Sunbeam-Talbot) 264.5 (16th OA);
  3. J.D.Keatley (Sunbeam-Talbot) 278.6 (25th OA).

Ladies Prize

Mrs J.J.Flynn & Mrs P.Rawlinson (M.G.Saloon) 285.5.

Team Prize

“The Emgees” – Hopkinson, Flynn & Scott.

128 Souvenir Awards were presented to official finishers.