The Vintage Austin Register Donegal Weekend – Friday 29th May to Sunday 31st May 2009
Photographs at the bottom of the article.
You can blame Paddy and Ande Malone for if they had not waxed lyrical about Edward’s 100th birthday celebrations of two years ago then four Austin’s from the Lincolnshire Pre-War A7 Club would not have ventured over the Irish Sea for this rally. The cars involved were a 1928 “Chummy” with Paddy and Ande Malone, a 1933 “A10” with Pete and Sue Rowlands, a 1933 “Nippy” with Tony and Brenda Johnson and a 1937 “Ruby” with Ed and Di Davies.
When initially planning these trips everything seems straightforward but for Pete and I events intervened which meant our “A10” had to be taken over to Belfast by ferry on the previous Monday evening. It was then left abandoned, looking very forlorn amidst a sea of moderns, in the long stay car park of Belfast Airport while Pete flew back to East Midlands on the Tuesday. We were joyfully re-united with our car on the Friday morning, I hesitate to mention the strange looks Pete had on the flight, as to save luggage space he elected to wear his “Thirties” regalia complete with a ‘loud’ striped blazer, straw boater and black and white shoes.
The other three cars went on the overnight ferry from Birkenhead to Belfast on the Thursday. The relief of joining up with them at Houston’s Mill, Broughshane ready for a 10.00am start was immense but slightly puzzling as when the time came, out of an entrant list of around 30 cars only 3 or 4 were there. This was then that phrases such as “Irish time” and “laid back” began to be used, concepts that suited us down to the ground!
After a while the shout went up “here comes Edward” and this was when I fell in love. The stately entrance of this elderly gentleman caused some strange looks for those not familiar with him, as he was sporting several different coloured plastic bags but when you are a 1907 Austin 18/24 Landaulet Hartford Cabriolet and it takes a considerable amount of time and effort to polish the brass acetylene lamps you can be forgiven everything if it is left until the final moment for them to be revealed! Ed did point out that appropriate red and green bags were used for “port” and “starboard” not that he has a nautical frame of mind of course! Edward is owned by George and Doris Fulton.
Little by little other cars had been arriving including a “Heavy 12” in original condition with only the partition having been partially restored. On the window was a thought provoking notice saying “to restore or not.” This engendered much discussion over the weekend. I personally would have to have had the front seats altered if nothing else.
We were invited into a room at the mill for most welcome refreshments with a never-ending supply of tea, coffee, scones, cakes and chat. This was indeed the hospitality we had been told about. After a briefing, with Edward leading as he did throughout with the courtesy due to such a venerable old gentleman, we set off in close convoy. This method we sustained for the whole rally to be met with extreme patience and goodwill from other road users. What was charming as well was that there was no hierarchy and after each stop cars set off in random order for the next stage.
Our first stop was for a late lunch in the town of Limavady where part of the main car park was reserved for us and more cars joined us. Our group wandered into the town to seek sustenance, as though we needed anything after all the scones and cake eaten previously. This meant, having got the timing wrong, that we missed a reception by the Mayores. By now it was warm and sunny, the start of the good weather that was to stay with us for our whole visit. Leaving Limavady around 4.00pm we then had a leisurely drive along the bottom of Lough Foyle before skirting Londonderry and up the east side of Lough Swilly to the Harbour Inn at Buncrana which was our base for the next 2 nights. I have to say that after an early morning start for both flight and ferry passengers following the evening meal and a better opportunity to talk to fellow participants, we all collapsed into bed (nothing at all to do with pints of Guinness and glasses of wine!!)
Looking out of our bedroom window the following morning was a delight with 32 splendid Austin’s stealing the limelight in the car park. The 9.30am start was fairly prompt and we trundled along, again in convoy up the west side of Lough Swilly with a coffee stop at a Garden centre where the parking was slightly challenging for the later arrivals who had to reverse up a slope. It was slightly frustrating looking round at a wonderful array of plants and sundries knowing how impractical it would be to purchase anything. No doubt some of the party were mightily relieved. We then continued along lovely country and coastal roads with the verges and hedges bursting with blossom and wild flowers until we reached the Ardglass Inn at Portsalon where a late lunch of soup and sandwiches was laid on for us. It had been hoped that we could park alongside the harbour wall but the lovely weather had brought out more people than expected so we slotted in as and where we could.
After lunch the more hardy of our members paddled, the more energetic went for a walk and the idle watched rugby on the television! Shortly after we left we were asked to stop in a car park near the bottom of a mountain to allow the older vehicles an opportunity to get to the top. It was fascinating watching them snake up the side of the mountain to disappear and wait for us at a viewpoint on the top. Paddy and Ande were slightly challenged when they made their ascent because an elderly “Heavy 12” stopped for a photo shoot causing a succession of less than desirable options to flash through their minds. However the “Chummy,” brave as a lion won through after a magnificent hill start!
After admiring the wonderful views we then wandered back to the Harbour Inn ready for a drinks reception at 6.45pm, dinner at 7.30pm and then entertainment starting with a girls Irish dancing display and then the Ulster Scottish Band allowing us to sing along and join in with the “craic”. We had seen the raffle prizes set out, bought some tickets and were joking about the inevitability of one of us winning the likes of a Black &Decker workbench and how to get it home. When it came to the crunch our fears were unfounded as Paddy and Ande won a voucher towards hotel costs and Ed, who was ecstatic and still is, won a voucher for a gliding lesson at the Ulster Gliding Club due to be visited the next day.
Sunday morning involved the usual final day worries of how will we get all the luggage back in the car and it would have been fine if we hadn’t won those vouchers! We said our farewells to some of those who were going straight home before the rest of us headed up the west side of Lough Foyle to Greencastle and the ferry where all the cars were loaded to take us across. On leaving the ferry again we were asked to wait until the older cars had a chance to make a climb but other traffic and limited parking made this difficult. I believe this was when Ed was once again ecstatic as his beloved “Ruby” overtook a “Chummy.” on a hill and changed into third! I was overwhelmed as when getting into position to continue we were able to follow behind the love of my life, Edward, for the final leg to the Ulster Gliding Club at Bellarena. On entering the field we were parked in a horseshoe in the order that we came in ready for photos. An introduction to the history of the Club was given by the Chairman who subsequently gave us an impressive full aerobatic display, before flying in low to land over the horseshoe of cars.
After being treated to an excellent BBQ with an impressive array of meat, salads and desserts, Ed had his moment of glory “did you know I’ve been up in a glider” continues to be his current catchphrase. In fact he could probably write another article on the subject!! I elected to give him a farewell kiss (well you never know what might happen!) before take off when he was ensconced in front of the instructor. In fact I had to give the instructor a kiss as well, at least I think that was what his pursed lips indicated. I ignored comments of “hussy.” After he was airborne Di was playing the loving if somewhat anxious wife with comments such as “where is he?” “I’ve lost him,” “can you see him” and finally the best one was the instruction to us to “wave” when he must have been at least 3000 feet up in the air.
We subsequently heard that following Ed’s flight following ones were cancelled due to the wheel falling off the towing aircraft just after the next glider had been released. It had to make an emergency landing on foam at Eglington airport, Londonderry where other flights had to be cancelled. With Ed’s safe return we made our farewells with a special one for Edward and then our four cars travelled on to stay in a house we had rented for the week in Ballycastle on the spectacular Causeway Coastal Route. As the weather continued to be wonderful we were able to fully enjoy the scenery as we negotiated the hills and bends on the route including views across to the coast of Scotland. Learning more about the places we visited we could appreciate how the many myths and legends came into being if we didn’t actually believe them ourselves!
Our overriding memories of the trip include an appreciation of the work that went into organising the event, the warmth of the people, their generosity and of course the wonderful selection of cars.