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Cycling Memories

John and Tom Doyle and with their grandparents Tommy and Mary Doyle. Co. Sligo, 1982

Bicycles dramatically changed the social life of ordinary people in rural Ireland. It was the primary means of transport for many people.

People had always walked great distances but the bicycle allowed for even more ground to be covered. Its introduction dramatically changed the social life of ordinary people in rural Ireland. It was the primary means of transport for many people travelling to school, work, religious services, shopping in the larger towns and to dances near and far. 

My First Bike

The bicycle in the picture is the one I learned on. It belonged to my mother but she encouraged me to learn on it. It was surprising in how you would grow into it and get experienced at f lying around on its trusty frame. You had to avoid having an accident like falling off – Elastoplast wasn’t always available!”
- Albert Siggins, Castlestrange, Co. Roscommon

I remember getting my first grown-up bicycle from Santa in 1960, as a 10 year old. I still have a bicycle at 64! Love cycling. ”
- Oliver P. Sweeney, Tubbercurry, Co. Sligo

“My first bike in Edenderry, Co. Offaly was a Bluebird Raleigh with a plastic carrier on the back.”
- Bernadette Brady, Dublin City



Our parents, Carmel and Brendan Broderick, had a tandem cycle and during their courting days they regularly cycled from Dublin to my mother’s homeplace in Arklow. This photograph was taken on the beach in Arklow in the late 1940s.”
- Brian, Ann, Jennifer and Hazel Broderick, originally from Inchicore, Dublin

When cars were scarce in the 1950s and 60s, I have fond memories of cycling from Wexford town the nine miles to Curracloe beach, often with the bike breaking down. I was one of nine, and the bikes were never new, always well worn, and we were lucky to have a few in the family.”
- Stella Kelly, Pembrokestown, Whiterock Hill, Co. Wexford

My mother, Angela O Shaughnessy from Craughwell, Co. Galway was a veteran cyclist... As a young woman she regularly cycled from Craughwell to Galway City for shopping. Distance was no problem...neither were the winding roads to Tubber & Kilfenora, Co. Clare for céili & craic, cycling even as faraway as Limerick. (She actually met her future husband whilst cycling to a funeral - he noticed her as she flew past him! She was quite a speedy one!) She finally parked her bicycle in 2006 aged 92 having covered many milestones during her decades.”
- Geraldine Sylver-O’Malley, Louisburg, Co. Mayo

Going Places

The bicycle on display reminds me of my father William (Bill) carrying me on a wicker seat on the back of his bicycle. This photo shows him wheeling my sister Ann through a very empty O’Connell Street in the sunlight and was taken around 1945.”
- Mary Russell Speirs, Grosvenor Square, Rathmines, Dublin

Fettered securely in a shopping bag with nothing but her head out the turkey hen was taken on a bicycle ride to meet with a turkey cock some miles away. However, it was a non-event as the lady owner of the turkey cock would not allow him to perform any such task on the Sabbath day!”
- Mary and Jean Devaney, Carrowntreila, Ballina, Co. Mayo

I had a similar Truimph bicycle with child carrier in 1977-80 to carry my son Oisín. The nearest shop, H. Williams, and the post office was in the village of Tallaght so I cycled there most days.”
- Mary Merriman, Cill na Manach, Baile Átha Cliath / Kilnamanagh, Dublin

To ‘buy the Christmas’ my mother would cycle to Castlebar and home again against steep hills, sometimes on potholed roads, with two canvas shopping bags on the handlebars and another one string-tied on the carrier.”
- Sean Hallinan, Carnacon, Co. Mayo 

In those days (c. 1940s), if you cycled to a dance, you parked your bike in the cycle park which usually was close to the hall. The parking fee ranged from three pence to six pence. Sometimes, in order to avoid paying the parking fee, a young lad might leave his bike along the road. Often times, when the dance was over, his bike was missing. There would be a valid reason for this. If during the dance he competed successfully against a rival to leave a girl home, his rival would express his jealously by throwing his bike over a hedge into a meadow."
- John Joe Martin, Aughnacliffe, Co. Longford, Fireside Tales 6, 2008


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