Motoring Memorabilia

If the old expletive ‘Gorblimey’ was derived from ‘God blind me!’ where did the alternative ‘Gordon Bennett’ come from?

The original James Gordon Bennett was born in Keith, Morayshire, Scotland in 1795 but emigrated to America in 1819 and became a prominent journalist in New York City by 1826. In 1835 he founded the New York Herald and became one of the world’s first newspaper tycoons. His son, of the same name (1841-1918), rose to even greater heights. His greatest scoop was to send Henry Morton Stanley to Africa to find David Livingstone, but he also promoted polar expeditions and yacht races and took a keen interest in ballooning and the early development of the automobile.

The first ever organised race was staged between Paris and Rouen in 1894, and this new sport spread like wildfire on both sides of the Atlantic. In 1900 James Gordon Bennett sponsored a series of six international races over the ensuing five years. France won the Gordon Bennett Trophy in 1900 and 1901. The following year the race was won by an Englishman which ensured that the next race would have to be staged in the British Isles. Despite the immense international prestige of these races England, Scotland and Wales were reluctant to organise the event, and in the end it was Ireland that took up the challenge. The Light Locomotive (Ireland) Act was rushed through Parliament in order to close public roads while the race was in progress.

On 3 July 1903 cars representing the USA, Germany, France and Britain set off on the gruelling 400-mile figure-of-eight course through Kildare, Laois and Carlow counties. As a courtesy to the Irish, all the British cars entered in the race were painted bright green. Nevertheless, it must be recorded that the race was won by a Belgian driving a German Mercedes at an average speed of 49mph.

To mark the historic centenary, Ireland issued a se-tenant strip of four showing the Winton, Napier, Mors and Mercedes cars used by the respective nations.

Recent posts