Forty years on.... Galway Advertiser motoring better than ever

It is 40 years since Ronnie O'Gorman returned home from London to Galway with a plan to publish Ireland's first free newspaper. But not even he could have imagined the massive success it has become today.

Renowned nationally, its unique formula that offers great content, super design and massive readership, have all combined to make it part of life throughout County Galway.

So what was motoring life like in Galway in 1970? Well that was the year that the car registration changed from IM to ZM, the last vehicle being ZIM 999 and the first of the new line being AZM 1. I wonder are there any readers out there who know the owners of those new registrations from 1970?

And it wasn't just Ronnie O' Gorman who was setting out on a successful entrepreneurial road that year. Bob Bradley was also establishing Bradley Motor Works in 1970 and that successful business later moved to the current premises on the Dublin Road in 1994.

The Irish Car of the Year award hadn't been established back then, but the Fiat 128 won the European award in 1970. It was also the year that Brendan Grace recorded the song "The Safe Cross Code" for the then popular TV series Wanderley Wagon. Go on - you remember it?

One: look for a safe place, Two: don’t hurry, stop and wait

Three look all around and listen before you cross the road,

Remember, Four, let all the traffic pass you

Five, then walking straight across you, Six, keep watching,

that’s the Safe Cross Code, know the Safe Cross Code

Know the Code!

But it was a much more famous song and singer that made the headlines in 1970. 'All Kinds of Everything' sung by Dana won the Eurovision Song Contest for Ireland.

Steve McQueen's brilliant 1970 film titled Le Mans became one of the greatest motor racing movies of all time. Staying with films, Ryan's Daughter, which was filmed largely in Ireland, was also released.

Unfortunately, road accident deaths in 1970 reached a high (since records had begun 11 years earlier ) of 540, and two years later, it rose to an all-time high of 640. Last year, to the great credit of the Road Safety Authority, the number of tragic deaths on our roads fell to 240.

On August 9 the Galway-Aran Islands air service was launched. It had a return air-fare costing £5 (Punts ). And Aer Lingus took delivery of its first 747 aircraft.

In 1970, as today, cars were essential to get to sporting events and most of these were GAA related back in 1970. The difference back then compared to 2010 was that it was pre-Sky Sports, Setanta, and multi-venue terrestrial TV channels.

It was the year that Kerry beat Meath to win the All-Ireland Football Final. Galway won the Connacht Championship despite Mayo winning the National League that year. There were no All-Star awards in 1970 but in the first such awards in '71, Galway had four in that team, after they lost the final to Offaly.

And stories differ about when the inaugural official Connacht Club Football Championship took place. I believe it was completed for for the first time in May 1964, when Dunmore defeated Melvin Gaels in Charlestown, in Mayo. Another Galway team, Fr Griffin’s defeated Castlebar in 1970 and were the first to go on and represent Connacht in the inaugural All-Ireland Club Championship.

In hurling Cork beat Wexford to win their 21st All Ireland title. Again, there was no All Star Hurling team in 1970, but Galway had the great John Connolly the year after in the first All Star team. It was his first of two. Indeed that set the ball rolling and three pairs of brothers from Galway went on to collect hurling All Star awards - John and Joe Connolly, Jimmy and Joe Cooney (he won five awards ), and Ollie and Joe Canning.

Staying on this subject, I believe one player, Ray Cummins of Cork, still holds the unique record of winning a hurling and a football All Star in the same year (1971 ).

In the first All-Ireland Hurling Club Championship 1970/71, Liam Mellows represented Galway and Connacht.

In soccer, Waterford won the League of Ireland and Bohemians won the FAI Cup. Arsenal were double champions (League and FA Cup ) in 1970-71 season. Ajax of Holland won the European Cup.

And a wonderful Brazilian team that included the legendary Pele, defeated Italy 4-1 in the World Cup final in Mexico.

There was a huge anti-apartheid demonstrations in Dublin as Ireland played South Africa in rugby. The game ended in a 8-8 draw.

In the Five Nations Championship Ireland finished mid-table after losing to France and England, we defeated Scotland and Wales. In a summer tour to Argentina, Ireland lost the two tests to their host by 8-3 and 6-3 respectively.

In horse racing Nijinsky won the Irish Derby and the great Arkle (13-years-old ), winner of the Cheltenham Gold Cup on three consecutive occasions, died.

The 1970 Galway Plate was won by Lisnaree and the Galway Hurdle was won that year by Dictora.

The Cheltenham Gold Cup was a great Irish win with the super L'Escargot taking the first of his two consecutive wins. And the Aintree Grand National was won by Gay Trip with Pat Taaffe in the saddle.

1970 was a bleak year for F1 motor racing - New Zealander Bruce McLaren died at Goodwood and Piers Courage perished in the Dutch Grand Prix. In the championship Jochen Rindt was well clear of the rest as the Formula 1 circus reached Monza for the Italian Grand Prix. In practice Rindt crashed at high speed and was pronounced dead a short while later. No one managed to beat his points total in the remaining races and so the popular Austrian became Formula 1’s only posthumous World Champion.

In politics it was the year of the Arms Conspiracy Trial and acquittal of Charles Haughey and others. Richard Nixon visited Ireland and there were anti Vietnam War protests.

A new political party, the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP ), was founded in Northern Ireland under the leadership of Gerry Fitt. The Alliance Party was also founded that year. Rev Ian Paisley won a by-election to the House of Commons, and Sinn Féin split into Provisional and Official wings over a disagreement on absenteeism.

The Taoiseach Jack Lynch presented the Budget in the absence of the Minister for Finance, Charles Haughey, who was injured, supposedly in a riding accident.

Garda Richard Fallon was murdered on duty in Dublin. He was the first garda killed during the troubles.

In education, the first Regional Technical Colleges (our current ITs ) were opened. And bishops meeting at Maynooth lifted the ban on Catholic attendance at Trinity College Dublin.

And through the years the Galway Advertiser newspaper has developed a very special cultural appeal in the hearts and minds of the people of the county. From the landmark headquarters at the top of Eyre Square, the talented and passionate people who produce the nation's top newspaper of its kin will continue to provide a great read for you week after week for decades to come. Congratulations to everyone involved.

I have certainly been honoured to have written motoring every week in the Galway Advertiser for close to two decades and I hope to continue to do so through the great changes in the auto world that continually manages to keep us all on the move.


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