1970 Drumlin

Photo: R.St.J.Young
Mervyn Johnston and Paul Phelan were very popular winners. Here they tackle the Ford near T.C. 10.

Reprinted from MotorWeek March 7th 1970, Report and Pictures by Richard St. John Young

Scanning and clean-up by Derek Smyth


Ulster Driver wins the final round of 1969/70 Eire Championship.

Last Saturday night, Mervyn Johnston proved a point very conclusively by winning the Drumlin Rally outright from a select, but, in the main, competitive field, which included such people as John Bridges, Nobby Reilly, and Frank Fennel.  In the winning “hot seat” was Paul Phelan, whose map work on this occasion helped him to gain the “necessary points to make third place in the Eire Rally Championship all his own.

Nobby Reilly and Kris Bridges splash through a ford in the ex-Smith Cooper S. They finished 4th.

The start of the event, which was co-promoted by the Monaghan and Cavan Motor Clubs, was in Monaghan, where some 28 crews gathered before hurtling off into the night to tackle a route with plenty of variety about it. There was plenty of navigation for a start, and in Monaghan’s leafy lanes, that’s no joke, while seven special stages, of which two were later scrubbed, kept the “racers” in the community fairly happy.
The weather was pretty cold right from the word “go” and by the time the first special stage had been reached, crews had already had their first taste of snowy motoring.  SS1 was actually a 4.6 miler on high ground and had a slippy section of its very own, which, fortunately, didn’t claim any victims. Fastest here was Frank Fennell, who was making one of his first rally appearances for a long time with the Escort GT he’ll use on the Gallaher Circuit of Ireland.  Second fastest was Nobby Reilly, who now has yet another rally car, this time, the eX-Noel Smith Cooper S, which he was conducting very effectively indeed. Mervyn Johnston was next fastest ahead of Declan Swanton’s rapid Viva GT and Michael O’Connell‘s 1600 Escort. both of which proved surprisingly rapid on this generally rather fast stage.

A Cooper struggles for grip on one of the slipper sections.

After that, it was back to the lanes for another while with the old 1/2 inch maps playing quite a few tricks as usual. One of the best occurred just before TC10, where, several people managed to find their way into a rather muddy field, having missed a rather obscure right turn through a ford.  The resultant chaos and backtracking gave most of them a wrong approach to the control, but one very astute chappie, arriving at TC10 from the wrong direction to find the road full of navigators, all arguing with the luckless marshal, quietly slipped down the lane he should have been coming out of, to reappear a couple of minutes later, and be given a correct approach!
The second special section was. like the first, run on closed public roads, and was, in the main, very rapid.  Unfortunately, something went somewhat awry in the timing department, and the 3.5 mile section was subsequently scrubbed.  We wonder if that marshal at the finish with the bottle of “central heating spirit” had anything to do with the erratic timing?


Noisiest car on the event was Pat Farrelly’s rare sounding Renault Gordini.

An early retirement was Pat Fay, whose Renault Gordini again suffered from the fan belt troubles, that have plagued it throughout the year.  Navigator Frank O’Donaghue, however, came over all keen and spent the rest of the night making pace notes for Robert and Kenny Johnston.

More navigation. and another, shorter (1.6 miles) special stage brought the already somewhat depleted field to the super stop inClones. Mervyn Johnston was fastest on SS3. and this no doubt helped him to lead at the halfway mark from Frank Fennell, who incidentally, had the services of Ricky Foote as his navigator, and Nobby Reilly.  Next up was John Bridges, who was motoring quite effectively ahead of David Yeates, and the first ‘of the ‘Fordies” Mickie Barry, with his Escort TC.  Then came Des Bradley, with the Viva GT which was going steadily, if not spectacularly, and then, most surprisingly, Malachy Smyth, with a somewhat prehistoric Citroen TD 19, which had been going like the clappers, and had, in fact made it into the top ten on SS3!

Des Bradley drove a steady rally in the Viva GT he will handle on the “Circuit”.

After supper, which was quite palatable, if you like that sort of thing, the cry was “to the woods” or a four mile stage through a fabulous forest near Cootehill.  Bridges was fastest here, ahead of Fennell, who seems to be going as well with the Escort GT, as he ever Went with his NSU in days gone by.  Johnston was third quickest here, having taken advantage of the supper halt to tape up his fibreglass boot lid which had been admitting exhaust fumes.  Fourth fastest here was Robert Maharry, ahead of Reilly, and Sean Campbell, who had been putting up some very rapid stage times,
although he didn’t feature in the overall placings.


SS5, a 2.5. miler near Baillieborough was scrubbed, for some reason, although unofficial timing made Johnston fastest (he was quickest unofficially on SS2 as well! ahead of Fennell and Bridges.

John Horan and Billy O’Neill get a little crossed up on one of the forest sections.

Fennell made it on SS6, two miles of Castle Sanderson, with Johnston some four seconds behind him, and then Bridges and Liam Sheridan, who was driving a 1500 Anglia with considerable aplomb.  Also figuring at this stage was Michael Eiffe, whose handling of a blue Mkl Cortina GT had caused more than one spectator to take to the hedges earlier in the night.
The final section saw Johnston again fastest, some five seconds ahead of Bridges and Fennell, who tied for second fastest.  Sheridan was next, having evidently come to grips with the Anglia, and next up were David Yeates / D Flanagan (Cooper S), and the Wilson/Duffin Cooper from North of the border.
The finish was in Cavan, Where breakfast and results were served, with a decent interval in between, and where it was eventually announced that Mervyn Johnston had won, making this his third Southern Rally win on the trot.  His total loss of marks was 4 ( 2 on the stages, 2 on the road) which makes it a real team effort. Frank Fennel made it in second spot after a very impressive drive, while John Bridges, navigated as usual by Brendan Doyle came third.

Sheridan’s Anglia presses on through the night.

Despite the pace notes, Maharry and Johnston had a bad night, with petrol pump and navigation troubles.  Eventually, the front suspension broke near the finish.  Car 6, Yeates and Flanagan were clean at supper although car 7, Fennell and Foote. thought differently.  Barry and Kavanagh started the night trying to retain second place in their respective championships (to do this Barry had to finish within 3 places of Bridges), but ended up tenth in the rally behind Malachy Smyth and Charles McCollum in their almost vintage CitroenTD 19, which dropped Barry to third in the championship.
For the past two seasons, we have been hearing from Escort TC drivers and navigators, how the reign of the Cooper S in Irish rallying was about to end. For an allegedly out of date car, however, Minis haven’t done too badly this year, winning 6 out of 7 championship rallies, and taking first, second, fourth and fifth places in the championship itself.
George Oliver and Dominic Murphy laid their ex-Carnegie Cooper S on it’s side in Baillieborough forest, doing quite a bit of damage, and not surprisingly causing their retirement.

Not all the people doing the stages were competitors. Here Noel Smith has a “throw” with the Wolseley Hornet he will use on the “Circuit”. It looked quick too!


1, M. Johnston-P. Phelan (Cooper S) 4.0 mks;

2, F. Fennel-R. Footte (Escort GT) 6.3 mks)

3, J. Bridges-B. Doyle (Cooper S) 17.3 mks;
4, N. Reilly-Mrs. K. Bridges (Cooper S) 32.2 mks;

5, D. Yeates-D. Flanagan (Cooper S) 44.2 mks;

6, P. Farrelly-R. Inglis (Renault Gordini) 63.1 mks;

7, R. Wilson-D. Duffin (Cooper S) 96.6 mks;

8, J. Horan-W. O’Neil1 (Mini) 113.3 mks;

9, M. Smyth-C. McCollum (Citroen) 129.1 mks;

10, M. Barry-D. Kavanagh (Ford Escort TC) 179.0.

1, M. Eiffe-R. McKinley (Cortina GT) 242.8 mks;

2, D. Swanton-L. White (Viva G.T.) 341.2 mks.


SS1:  Fennel (Escort) 5.21,  Reilly (Cooper) 5.24,  Johnston  (Cooper) 5.25,  Swanton (Viva) 5.28,  O’Connell (Escort) 5.36,  R. Maharry (Cooper) 5.40.

SS2. Cancelled.

SS3:  Johnston 2.41,  Fennell, 2.47,  Bridges (Cooper) 2.48,  Campbell (Cooper) 2.49,  Yeates (Cooper) 2.56,  Maharry, 2.56.

SS4:  Bridges, 6.20;  Fennell, 6.22;  Johnston; 6.32;  Maharry, 6.32;  Reilly, 6.37.

SS5. Cancelled.

SS6:  Fennell, 3.08;  Johnston, 3.12;  Bridges, 3.13;  Sheridan (Anglia) 3.14;  Reilly, 3.15;  Yeates, 3.16.

SS7:  Johnston, 5.50;  Bridges, 5.55;  Fennell, 5.55;  Sheridan, 6.08;  Yeates, 6.13;  Wilson (Cooper) 6.13.



1, N. T. Smith (Cooper S) 71 pts;  2, J. Bridges (Cooper S) 61pts;  3, M. Barry (Escort TC) 57 pts;  4, D. Yeates, (Cooper S) 53pts;  5, R. Maharry (Cooper S) 47 pts;  6, J. O’Gorman (Escort TC) 47 pts;  7, P. Fay (Gordini) 35 pts;  8, P. Farrelly, (Gordini) 23 pts;  9, W. Kilroy (Cooper S) 22 pts;  10, M. Dolan (Escort TC) 20pts.


1, R. Foott, 73 pts;  2, D. Kavanagh, 57 pts;  3, P. Phelan, 53 pts;  4, B. Doyle; 49 pts;  5, F. O’Donaghue, 48 pts;  6, K. Johnston, 47 pts;  7, N. Davin, 47 pts;  8, D. Flanagan, 35 pts;  9, Mrs. K. Bridges, 34 pts;  10, W. O’Neill, 24 pts.