The li­brar­ian who likes to ride on the wild side

Bray People - - Inprofile - Mary FOG­A­RTY

‘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.

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