The librarian who likes to ride on the wild side
‘THERE IS a freedom to biking that you can’t describe. When the weather is balmy and you’re on the open road there is nothing to compare to that, nothing.’
Enniskerry Librarian Peggy Byrne is saying goodbye to her beloved Harley after climbing aboard and taking to that open road for ten years. She has forged friendships, however, that will last far in to the future.
Every Sunday morning, the Harley club members meet for breakfast somewhere in Wicklow, often in Laragh, before heading off for a day’s journey. In Peggy’s decade of biking, alongside her husband Pat who drives a BMW bike, they have also gone further afield to places such as Scotland, the South of France and Barcelona.
Last year they took part in a fundraiser for Alice’s Wonderland Foundation, to raise money for a playroom for Crumlin Children’s Hospital. They flew in to Las Vegas, picked up their choppers, and rode off in to the sunset.
The late Alice Dillon, after whom the foundation was named, was an honorary member of the Harley club through her dad Pat and they all knew and loved her until her sad death in recent years at the age of eight.
Peggy’s rare motorbike, which is now for sale at Bray’s Old Skool Motorcycles, is the same as the one given to a stunned Gay Byrne by members of U2 in front of the nation on the night of his final Late Late Show.
She made the difficult decision to sell up when a hip problem saw her seizing up occasionally and unexpectedly. ‘ You have to accept these things,’ she said. ‘I do miss it but safety is the biggest issue and once I made the decision I was fine about it. It’s like accepting at a certain stage of life that you can no longer wear hot-pants!’
She recalled her hip seizing up while she was riding on the back of another bike. ‘This is stupid,’ I thought. ‘I was okay because he was driving but had I been driving myself I would have been in trouble.’
While biking is predominantly a sport indulged in by men, women are by no means excluded by the club fraternity. Peggy admits that she would not be able to lift the heavy Harley if it went down, but said that her male col- leagues wou ld always be there to give her a hand if it toppled over. ‘ They are incredibly loyal,’ she said. ‘And everyone takes care of each other.’ She described a wonderfully slapstick moment when she came off the Harley in front of a crowd of people at an air-show in a field in Punchestown.
‘One of the lads had locked the wheel and I forgot,’ she laughed recalling the incident. ‘They all pulled away as I fell right down on the ground in front of an audi- ence, they all had to stop and come back to help me!’
Peggy’s children Jennifer, Robbie and Christopher, all now in their 20s, loved the idea of what their mum was doing but did have to insist that she never turned up at school in her leathers! ‘That was fine,’ she said. ‘I had my rules and they had theirs. They did say I wasn’t the type to take up knitting!’
The Rocky Valley Drive woman, a native of Tipperary, certainly doesn’t intend to take up knitting just yet. She still meets her friends for breakfast every weekend and goes on the trips in the relative safety and comfort of a car. Her husband Pat will go on a biking holiday this summer and she will fly abroad to meet him.
She, in fact, took to the hobby before Pat who subsequently recognised how much fun she was having and decided to join in. The pair will celebrate 30 years of marriage this year and Pat always knew that this was a dream of hers.
She longed to fly to New York, pick up a Harley and drive to the West Coast. She eventually took some lessons with the Irish School of Motoring and a friend of hers sourced the impressive vehicle. ‘It’s perfect for you,’ he said, before she went to look at it. The rest is history.
The pastime has brought Peggy in to the midst of a group of diverse people with different backgrounds all of whom have become comrades for life. She described a strong bond of trust between the members of the club. ‘Some sports are a little elitist,’ she said ‘ but nobody in this is remotely interested in what you do.’ Even her late mother, who lived with the family in Rocky Valley Drive almost to the end of her life at 96, was tentatively fascinated by the Harley. ‘ Mind yourself on that old bike,’ she would warn Peggy, but was nonetheless very fond of her friends in the club who would regularly come in to talk to her. ‘Does that bike go very fast?’ she once asked one of the guys. ‘Not at all,’ he quickly replied with a straight face. ‘That’s a very slow bike.’
‘Everybody should try it,’ Said Peggy, whose other great passion is her work in the library. ‘You would be so happy in life to have experienced at least one ride on a Harley.’
Motorbike enthusiast Peggy Byrne in her leathers.