Renewed friendships and shared memories as the Kerry Motor Club celebrates 50 years of motoring
Kerry Motor celebrated its 50th anniversary on Monday evening as club members past and present came together to celebrate the milestone.
he club was founded on Monday 31st January 1972, when several motorsport enthusiasts gathered at Arthur Caball’s home in Tralee.
Rae Kelliher, Maurice Kelliher, Tommy Leahy, Ted Keane, Liam Nolan, Tommy O’Brien, Jimmy Nolan and Felim Gleeson were present on this historic occasion along with Arthur Caball. Jimmy Moloney and Johnny O’Brien are listed as founding members although they were unable to attend that first night.
Half a century later, more than 100 guests, including past and present, members and supporters of the club, gathered at the Rose Hotel in Tralee to mark the occasion.
The club has grown to be one of the largest in the country, currently boasting over 150 members and running well-known events such as the Circuit of Kerry and the Kerry Winter Rally.
Members compete in motorsport events throughout Ireland and beyond. Club volunteers work on all rallies in the country.
In May 1972, a few months after its founding, the club was granted Royal Irish Automobile Club (now Motorsport Ireland) status, enabling it to stage official motorsport events.
The first such event was an Autocross at Tarbert in August of the same year – timed to coincide with the annual North Kerry village carnival.
A second autocross in the same year, at Tralee Town Park, became a regular feature of the Rose of Tralee International Festival event program until the 1980s.
As the club grew it ventured into stage rallies and, after running a few single stage events, the first Circuit of Kerry rally was held in May 1975. Mike Marshall was the first race director at the Kerry circuit and he attended the rally with his wife Noreen who was also one of the very first members of the club.
Other former Circuit of Kerry (and other rally) employees in attendance included Richard Talbot, JP Brick, Senan Raggett, Noel O’Connor, Kevin Walsh, Eoin Duffin, Jakes Kelly and Jonathon O’Shea.
This rally quickly became one of the most popular rallies on the Irish calendar and over the years it has been based at Ballybunnion, Dingle, Banna and Tralee.
1989 event-winning co-driver John Crone made the long drive from Cobh to Cork to be there on Monday evening.
Another rally, the Kerry Winter Rally, was added to the roster in the late 1980s. It is now Ireland’s biggest clubman rally – and the late winter rally is still an event an end-of-season must-have for riders across the country and beyond.
Founder Tom O’Brien and early members like brothers Lionel and Bertie Dorrington, Jerry Clifford, Brendan Farmer and Tom Slattery attended Monday’s ceremony.
Well-known rally competitors from years past like Kenny and Desie O’Neill and Pat Tronton were there.
Paddy Barry, whose father Paddy Snr ran the old Kingdom of Kerry Motor Club in the 1950s, remembers his time rallying a Mini in the 1970s.
Several sons of founding members were in attendance Monday night, including Dave Leahy (son of the late Tommy) and Mayor of Kerry Jimmy Moloney (son of the late Jimmy).
Mayor Moloney said: “It is great for me to be here to celebrate Kerry Motor Club’s fiftieth anniversary and also for my [late] father, Jimmy, who was a founding member, about 50 years ago, so there’s been a nice continuation here over the years.
“I know he would have liked to come here and catch up with old friends and catch up on some stories. Those were good days and he had long memories [of the club].”
The event marked a changing of the guard for the current club committee.
At the club’s recent online AGM, Eoin Duffin was elected as the club’s new chairman and he took over from long-serving former chairman PJ O’Dowd.
The official handover ceremony took place as part of Monday evening’s celebration.
Duffin said: “To think that this club has been around for fifty years is just fantastic. It is the basis of many people’s friendships.
The next big event for Kerry Motor Club is a classic car show in the Brandon Hotel parking lot on February 13 with over 140 cars already confirmed.