1971 Omagh C.A.M. Rally

These reports are reproduced from the Tyrone Constitution, September 1971.

17 September 1971.

120 Cars chase big prize money in Omagh Cub’s C.A.M. rally.

One hundred and twenty crews from all over Ireland will set off from Omagh Showgrounds on Saturday morning, 18th September, in pursuit of one of the richest prizes in Ulster rallying  this year.

Sponsored by C.A.M. Accessories, Omagh, the rally, which is the fourth of the Northern Ireland Championship, is offering over £300 in prize money.  The C.A.M. Trophy and £50 will go to the overall winner, and hot favourite to win it is the former Ulster Champion, Cahal Curley, who returns from temporary retirement to drive a 3-Litre Capri.

The Dungiven Garage proprietor sold his Escort Twin Cam to Pat McCourt from Derry earlier this year following the Circuit of Ireland, and since then has only been out once for the Rally of the Rosses in County Donegal.

He will be doing his best to win in Saturday’s 220-mile trip in the Omagh-Castlederg area, including 45 miles of forest sections.  Curley will be the first driver to leave the Showgrounds at 10am, flagged off by Tyrone Dairy Princess, Miss Dorothy Maguire of Omagh.

He will be followed by the current Ulster Rally Champion, Mervyn Johnston from Tullyhommon, driving a Mini Cooper S and navigated by Paul Phelan from Dublin.  This very formidable driver  finished fifth overall in the Manx Trophy rally in the Isle of Man last weekend with Austin Frazer navigating.

Next away will be Ronnie White and Harold Hagan, from East Tyrone, in another Mini Cooper S, followed by the highly fancied David Agnew and Robert Harkness in a BMW 2002 ti.


Ashley Armstrong and Trevor Cathers, who finished third overall in last July’s Rally of the Rosses, are among Tyrone’s hopefuls.  The ever popular Ronnie McCartney, now a haulage contractor in Larne and former winner of the Circuit of Ireland, is seeded number seven, one place behind his Brother Dessie.  Ronnie drives a Triumph 2.5PI and is accompanied by Gordon McBurney.

Another Tyrone “Dark Horse” is Sydney Meeke, currently leading the 1971 Ulster Rally Championship after his Moonraker Rally win, and he is driving his Escort RS1600 along with his Brother Stanley.  They are seeded number nine, just in front of another Tyrone pair, Hugh O’Brien and Hugo McDaid.

The Meeke Brothers are one of seven sets of Brothers taking part in the rally, formerly known as the Scallon Cup Rally.  Other competitors include from Newtownabbey Brian and Michael Kernaghan, Ken and Ronnie Thompson (Irvinestown), Eamon and Colm Harvey (Letterkenny), Gavin and Alex McLean (Belfast), Sean and Desmond McGlade (Belfast), and finally Derek and Brian Russell from Ballymena.

There are three classes in all: 1-Experts, 2-Semi-Experts and 3-Touring.

Twenty crews have entered for Class 1 and forty-two for Class 2, all competing for the Omagh Motor Club Perpetual C.A.M. Trophy, and fifty-seven have entered the Touring Class.  A new award, The Park Avenue Perpetual Trophy, was presented for this class by Omagh garage proprietor Mr John Grugan.

Among the leading contenders for Class 2 will be “Flat-Pat” McCourt in the ex-Curley Twin Cam Escort.  Peter Little and John Beatty from Enniskillen, who finished second in their class on the Manx, and Snowdon Corkey and Tom Wilson in a Saab, are also among the favourites for the class.

There will be six mixed crews, but only one all lady team: Miss Gwen Bridgeham and Mrs Rosemary Ford-Hutchinson, from Larne.


Behind the scene preparations for Saturday are nearing completion but Secretary of the Meeting, Mr Harry Johnston, is calling for a special meeting in the Royal Arms Hotel tonight (Thursday) at 8pm.  He still requires a few more marshals to make the number up to the 60 needed for the day.  Anybody who is interested is welcome to attend.

Mr Walt Hart and Mr R. G. Trouton are the Club Stewards.  The chief Timekeeper is Mr. H.P. Brown and Mr J. Lyons is the Scrutineer.

From the Clerk of the Course, Mr Bill Saulters, comes a message to the thousands of spectators who will line the route and visit the special stages: “It is going to be a great day’s sport, and we want to keep it that way – incident free!”.

“Any spectators at forests must refrain from smoking, and they are not allowed to take their cars into the forests.  All roads and gateways must be kept clear.”

“These are only a few precautions, and I hope the spectators abide by them.”

24th September 1971.

Omagh driver wins top award in C.A.M. Rally.

In one of the toughest and most exhausting rallies ever staged in Tyrone, Hugh O’Brien from Omagh, driving an Escort Twin Cam, won the £300 C.A.M. Rally at the weekend.

Navigated by Hugo McDaid, his Omagh club-mate, O’Brien conceded 65m 11s on the gruelling 220-mile journey in the Omagh-Castlederg area.  His victory on Saturday climaxed a memorable week for the County Tyrone veterinary surgeon.  Seven days earlier in the Isle of Man he finished seventh overall at the International Manx Trophy Rally.

O’Brien’s win was a popular one, even though a little surprising, and it must now put him in the reckoning in the Ulster Rally Championship table.  He finished 42 seconds better than the runner-up, Dessie McCartney from Bangor and his “co-pilot” Terry Harryman.

In third place was Ulster Rally Champion Mervyn Johnston from Tullyhommon, and Dubliner Paul Phelan in a Mini Cooper S.  They lost 66m 15s.

Cahal Curley, from Dungiven, in a 3-Litre Capri, who was first off the starting grid from Omagh Showgrounds on Saturday morning, came fourth, and in fifth place was Castlederg’s Kenny Irwin and Robin Lyons from Sixmilecross.

The rally, which was the fourth round of the Northern Ireland Rally Championship, was a demanding one.  42 cars fell by the wayside during the day, and the casualty list included quite a number of local competitors.  Ashley Armstrong, Rob Pollock, Ron Patton, Oliver Hadden and Ronnie White were but a few.


In a blistering heat, which brought the spectators out in their thousands, the 122 cars, one of the biggest entry lists this season outside the Circuit of Ireland, raced through 45 miles of forestry sections and along the roads of West Tyrone.

As the day wore on, Rally Headquarters at Baronscourt was inundated with reports of drivers having to retire.  Ronnie McCartney was in trouble as early as stage five, at Bessy Bell, where he had a burst radiator in his Triumph 2000 2.5PI, and though he continued for another couple of stages, the former Circuit winner was forced out.

The only all-female crew, Gwen Bridgeham and Rosemary Ford-Hutchinson had a narrow escape when their Mini Cooper S burst into flames at Bessy Bell on the return journey.  Ronnie White from Moy was forced to retire at Legends near Drumquin with a broken drive-shaft.  Among the numerous “victims” claimed at Bessy Bell was Omagh’s Ashley Armstrong and Trevor Cathers.  Their Mini Cooper S developed gear box trouble.

In the Gortin Glens, Rob Pollock’s Mini Cooper broke a radius arm after hitting a log, but possibly the most unlucky driver of the day was “Flat-Pat” McCourt from Derry.  He was leading Class 2 until he reached Glengowans, six stages from the end, when the back suspension of his Twin Cam gave up.

Aughnacloy’s Oliver Hadden also fell at Glengowan where he broke a drive shaft.  Ron Patton and Wendy Brown, who had been in trouble from near the start, were also forced out with gear box trouble.


O’Brien had an anxious moment too.  A small fire started in his Escort, but was quickly extinguished, and he battled on bravely to win the C.A.M. Trophy and £50 in prize money.  But, although the rally was an unparalleled success, magnificently organised by Omagh Motor Club, it is doubtful if a similar one will be held again.

“We were very pleased with the rally in general,” commented the Secretary of the Meeting, Mr. Harry Johnston, “but we felt there were too many cars using the same roads twice.”

Although spectator congestion in the Gortin Glens caused loss of time to some drivers, the rally went off without a hitch, a tribute to Clerk of the Course Bill Saulters, the 80 or so marshals and other officials.

Afterwards, at a function in the Royal Arms Hotel, prizes were presented to the winners by Mrs. Colum Devlin.  She, along with Tyrone Dairy Princess Miss Dorothy Maguire who flagged the cars off at the start, received bouquets from Mrs. Bill Saulters.


  1. Hugh O’Brien / Hugo McDaid
  2. Des McCartney / Terry Harryman
  3. Mervyn Johnston / Paul Phelan
  4. Cahal Curley / Patsy Donaghy
  5. Ken Irwin / Robin Lyons

Class 1 – Experts:

  1. Hugh O’Brien / Hugo McDaid
  2. Des McCartney / Terry Harryman
  3. Mervyn Johnston / Paul Phelan

Class 2 – Semi-Experts:

  1. Ken Irwin / Robin Lyons
  2. Trevor Noble /
  3. Peter Little / John Beatty

Class 3 – Touring (Novices)

  1. Nick Lindsay / David Saunders
  2. Norman Beatty / Keith Vance
  3. Wesley Abraham / Derek Smyth

Team Prize: Omagh Motor Club (Hugh O’Brien/Hugo McDaid, Will Farren/Mike Hart, Ken Irwin/Robin Lyons)

Mixed Crew Prize: Mr & Mrs Gordon Parker, Kells, Ballymena, (Cooper S)