Cultra – Motoring with panache: The Royal North of Ireland Yacht Club motor meet and hill climbs 1905 to 1911

Author: Paul Robinson
Publisher: Robinson Books

Cultra – Motoring with panache is a small book recording the Motor Meet and Hill Climb held annually by The Royal North of Ireland Yacht Club from 1905 to 1911.

At first sight it seems curious that motoring events should be organised by a Yacht Club, and certainly today that would not be something that would be entertained given the ubiquity of cars. Back in 1905 however, motor cars were still relatively novel and largely the prerogative of the well-heeled who were likely to indulge in sailing, owning competitive yachts and motor launches as well. The author of this book, Paul Robinson, has put these events into context by describing the other events available to a competition-minded car driver in the North of Ireland in these years.

The Motor Meet part of the event comprised parking up to 100 of members' cars stretching for perhaps a half-mile outside the clubhouse with the latest and best of vehicles making it a veritable Motor Show to rival those events organised in the exhibition halls of major cities. A good proportion, between a third and a half of those present would then participate in the hill climb.

The hill climb event was held over private roads owned by a member of the club who was developing the area between the clubhouse on the shore of the lough and Cultra Station on the Belfast and County Down Railway. The format was very much what they call in the USA, “run what you brung” with participants using their everyday cars, be they barely disguised racing models or limousines. Generally, the entry was split by horsepower and handicapped within those two or three classes although the formula used is not recorded.

Each driver would be accompanied by one of a half-dozen or so intrepid timekeepers and if their vehicle was for more than two passengers, competitors would need to persuade two brave family members or friends to accompany them in addition. There is no record of how timekeeping was undertaken in the years when there was a class for motorcycles. Each hill climb was accompanied by a day of food and drink at the clubhouse and followed by a presentation of the winners’ trophies donated by principal members of the organising club, undertaken by the lady wife of a notable member.

Descriptions of each year’s event are from the local newspapers which reported on this as a “society” event which attracted large crowds to observe. The book is well illustrated with 24 period images from the archives of the Royal Irish Automobile Club.

Although probably the shortest book that the Trust has ever supported at only 54 pages, it nonetheless records a part of early motoring history which was previously inaccessible and had slipped from memories.

Available via

Published 2023

Price: £10.00

ISBN: #978-1-7393118-0-3

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