Many thanks to Geard Scott and Seamus Devlin who supplied these photos and information – a lovely treasure trove of memories of cycling in the area – hopefully archived for the future of the club to see.
Seamus Devlin – Island Wheeler Honorary President
Back in the 1950’s ‘cycling’ in Ireland was avery different world than it is today. Cyclists belonging to the ‘National Cycling Association’ – no matter how good or talented , were banned from all international competion. Bitterness, resentment, determination and guts all combined together to make cycling in Ireland a hard place for hard men. Out of this melting pot rose the ‘Rás Tailteann’. The Rás became the ‘World Championships/Olympic Games’ for Irish Cyclists of that era.
By the mid-1950s the Rás was an 8-day stage race of over 1000 miles. The 8 days were a relentless, no compromise,endurance event where a ‘never-say-die’ attitude earned respect. This produced cyclists like Mick Murphy, Ben McKenna and Shay O’Hanlon to name but a few. These were riders who simply put their heads down, made everyone suffer as much as they were prepared to suffer themselves and left the final outcome to those who were willing and able to endure the most. They were the hard men of the hard road, the ‘animals’ or as they became known ‘ the savage road men’.
In the 1958 Rás , Seamus Devlin and 3 other local men, Joe McIvor, Paddy Campbell and Tommy Drumm represented Tyrone amongst these ‘savage road men’. On the 4th stage, from Clonakilty to Tralee, Seamus broke away from the pack on the climb over Moll’s Gap and led the whole way into Tralee. This stage was 115 miles and Seamus’s average speed was 24 mph.
The photograph shows Seamus crossing the winning line in Tralee. This is the photograph that appeared in the newspaper the next morning; and in Seamus’s own words ” I didn’t have the price of the paper and had to borrow the money to buy it.”
The Island Wheelers are indeed priviliged to have one of the ‘savage road men’ as their Honorary President. Any Island Wheeler (especially with an interest in racing) should make a point of having a yarn with Seamus, to appreciate the importance of cycling with ‘integrity’ and a ‘never-say-die’ attitude.