Helen, Natasha and I were invited to be the guests of the Ulster Riley Club for their 45th anniversary rally at the Giants Causeway in Northern Ireland.
Initially I had high hopes of attending in a suitable car, the team had spent a full week preparing BD’s 1933 Riley 9 Lynx. However, due to a significant oil leak from the gearbox seal, the Riley had to be left behind and modern transport pushed into action.
The journey over the water to Ireland was a simple one as we had picked the overnight ferry from Liverpool to Belfast so we arrived in Northern Ireland fresh – if a little bleary eyed – on the Saturday morning. After negotiating the Ferry terminal, we had just over an hour’s drive the National Trust Hotel at the Giants Causeway. The views from the hotel were only bettered by the extensive display of Rileys in the car park. The pre-war era was well represented by sports models, including an Imp, MPH, Gamecock and Lynx –with all of these being kept company by a very rare 1939 12 Hp Drophead. Rileys sporting saloons were also well covered by Kestrels (9 and Big 4), Adelphi, and possibly the rarest of all Riley saloons, namely a 1939 16 Hp.
After checking in and receiving a warm welcome from John Casley and the team, the day’s activities commenced. For those that haven’t experienced an Ulster Riley Club event before, the format is one of a friendly and informal rally where entrants are free to do as they please. Two planned activities had been organised for the Saturday- either a train ride, followed by a walking tour of Derry-Londonderry, or a 76-mile jaunt in your car.
Helen and I had chosen the train ride and tour and we were not disappointed. The scenery and views from the train were outstanding and the line rightly had the accolade of being one of the prettiest railway lines in the UK, if not the world. Similarly, the walking tour of the walled city was both informative and reflective, the great history of this city and its place in Northern Ireland’s fabric is one that we were all interested to hear.
Saturday evening saw host to the main event, a gala dinner to celebrate the club and its special birthday. Blue Diamond were proud to be associated with the dinner and had sponsored the wine on the tables. Robin and the team had put together a superb selection of photos and history of the club since its foundation, the only thing that gave away the age of the pictures was the fashions!
Natasha was very honoured to be chosen to cut the special Riley-themed birthday cake, as was I to be asked to say a few words on this memorable occasion. The evening was a great success, with good food, plenty of drink and most of all the hospitality of URC ensuring that a good ‘craic’ was had by all.
Sunday morning was left free to allow entrants to do as they please. Following a review of the car park, most people visited the stunning Giants Causeway Visitor Centre and then the causeway itself. Having only ever read about this natural phenomenon, it was fantastic to actually be walking around the causeway and enjoying the outstanding scenery the place has to offer. The highlight of the visit to the causeway was finding a Blue Diamond within the stones!
A light run and lunch were then planned at the Laragh Lodge Restaurant, at which the URC team gave out the ‘prizes’ for the weekend. For those that haven’t attended an Ulster Riley Rally before, the prizes are more humorous in nature than other clubs. Examples included: the car with the dimmest indicators, the entrant with the holiest jumper, the car with the most oil leaks (won by yours truly) and the youngest entrant.
Sadly, the rain had finally landed and this meant that either hoods were being deployed or wet weather equipment was being donned. As we had several hours before the overnight ferry to Liverpool, Helen, Tasha and I were very grateful to David Beatty and his wife Sarah who invited us to join them at their house and for dinner prior to our departure. The highlight of the weekend was following David and Sarah in their XK120 and Dr Tom in his MPH – nothing really beats the sound of a 6 cylinder Riley.
After a lot of car related chat and a tasty dinner we departed for the ferry, the three of us had enjoyed Irish hospitality at its best, for those of you who haven’t either travelled to Ireland or enjoyed the hospitality of the URC then you don’t know what you are missing. Make sure you head out to join the clubs 50th Celebrations in 5 year’s time, you certainly won’t regret it!
Welcome to the 45th Anniversary weekend of the Ulster Riley Club.
In Riley Club terms, we have reached exactly middle age as the Riley Motor Club, one of the first one-make car clubs in the world, recently celebrated the 90th Anniversary of its foundation in 1925.
As one of the dozen or so original founder members in 1970 of the Ulster Riley Club, I look back with some amazement that the modest idea we hatched so long ago is still surviving and that the Club is continuing to keep a Riley presence on Northern Ireland’s roads in 2015, as well as giving pleasure to their owners and families and friends.
If I was asked to name one secret of the Club’s longevity, I would probably cite the fact that we have never taken our Riley’s too seriously – they are a hobby to be enjoyed and Club members and their friends have had many entertaining times with their cars both at home in Ireland and abroad.
We hope that this weekend will be no exception to that tradition and that our members and our guests will take away happy memories on The Causeway Coast.