For many, cycling was the only means of travelling long distances to work. Those who were unable to afford a new bicycle could purchase a cheaper second-hand model or buy it ‘on tick’ - paying in installments.
There were bicycle agents in nearly every large town. ‘The Emergency’ in Ireland led to petrol rationing for vehicles and cycling became one of the primary modes of transport. Puncture repair kits and pumps were essential accessories for cyclists, as bicycles were often prone to punctures on the substandard Irish roads.
Harry Braine was a Dublin-based manufacturer and seller of bicycles. He made improvements to bicycle design by patenting an ‘exceedingly ingenious method of attaching handles to the handle bar’ that prevented the handle ends coming loose.
In the early 1950s, Bord na Móna was giving good employment in the county. A number of men came into our shop (Farrell Brothers) to buy a bike. You would get a new bike at the time for £10 or £12. The Hire Purchase system was after coming to the country. If you paid a deposit of one pound and ten monthly installments afterwards you had a new bike. Unfortunately about a dozen men who bought new bikes from us didn’t honour their agreements. After a couple of months paying a pound per month, they resigned from Bord na Móna and went to England. Worse still, they sold their bikes and Jack and I were caught for the balances. In all we were caught for around a dozen bikes.”
- Anthony Farrell, Brickeens, Co. Longford, Fireside Tales 11, 2013
Carrying Goods and Cycling to Work
I grew up in a Bord na Móna village called Coill Dubh where a lot of the men would cycle to work. The local shop keeper would have a delivery boy who cycled a bicycle with a large basket on the front of it, he would deliver the papers, collect the books that the housewives would have filled out with their order for groceries and then deliver the orders later in the day ”
- Pearl Voigt, Coill Dubh, Downings, Clane, Co. Kildare
Tricycles were often used by tradesmen to deliver goods.
This picture is of my father Edward (Ned) Gorman and his bicycle outside our house in Harold’s Cross, Dublin, c.1955. He cycled to work each day in ‘Robert Strahan & Co., Cabinet Makers’, Stephen’s Green. My bicycle is also in the picture.”
- Betty Doyle, Knocknaskeagh, Boolavogue, Co. Wexford
This is a picture of my mother Ann Gillan (née Lavelle) outside her home, c. 1972. She always cycled to work at the ‘The Reliable Shoe’ factory in Westport.”
- Caroline Gillan, Carrownaclea, Westport, Co. Mayo
A well off chap going to the dance might have a dynamo on his bike. Occasionally, a poor chap would pass by and he would be pushing his bike. The chain would have broken. His hands would be black from the oil and he would be making efforts to clean his hands in the grass and at the same time trying not to touch his nice serge suit.”
- Frank Courtney, Drumlish, Co. Longford, Fireside Tales 6, 2008
Every day as a schoolboy I used to cycle the seven mile journey from my home in Glenisland to St. Gerald’s Secondary School, Castlebar. On one memorable occasion my bicycle broke down two and a half miles from my destination. I was thankfully saved from a long walk when two fellow students, Kieran Kenny and his brother Enda (the future Taoiseach), offered to tow me with their bikes, the rest of the way to school!”
- Tony Deffelly, Gleann Aoláin, Co. Mhaigh Eo / Glenisland, Co. Mayo