Racer Richie had real passion for fast cars
HE BECAME A PHOTOGRAPHER AND A MARKSMAN
THE RECENT death of Richie Conroy was received with great sadness by his family and vast circle of friends.
His funeral mass was celebrated by his brother Christy, O. Carm., at the Holy Redeemer Church, Bray accompanied by Fr. Robert Colcough PP Bray, Fr. McCabe, army chaplain Cathal Brugha barracks, Fr. P Gallagher, O. Carm., Fr. M Cremin, O. Carm., and Fr. R. Cunningham, O. Carm..
The coffin, draped in the Tricolour, was carried to and from the church by soldiers of the Irish army.
A long line of Morgan cars followed the cortege resplendent in their bright colours. He was buried in the family grave at Rathdrum Cemetery.
He is predeceased by his parents Edward and Kathleen and his older brothers Eddie and Davy.
Eddie was killed in a motorcycle accident at Laragh in 1950. Davy also died as a result of a motorbike accident which occurred many years before his death.
Richie was born at the Copse, Rathdrum in 1936 and grew up in the war years.
The war came suddenly to Rathdrum on October 25, 1940, when a German plane dropped bombs in the garden of Copse House and the surrounding countryside. Richie was at home alone with his mother at the time when the house began to shake.
His mother quickly took him in her arms and began to run terrified toward Rathdrum.
She thought the Germans had landed. Along the way she met Mr. Conroy and a group of L.D.F. men coming out to investigate the bombing.
They discovered a line of bomb craters down the valley, and the hill on the far side of the river ablaze from the incendiary bombs.
The lights in Rathdrum and surrounding towns were extinguished but by now the German plane was probably back in Germany.
Richie’s brothers, Davy and Christy, were at a concert in Rathdrum and eventually made their way home in the dark.
Richie attended the National School on the fairgreen in Rathdrum, walking from the Copse every day. There were no cars in those days.
He completed his secondary school education by cycling to the De La Salle College in Wicklow town. Richie was happy to see the end of his school days and went to work at the Avoca Mines.
He took up photography and covered many weddings around Rathdrum.
He also covered important events, including the Ordination of his brother Christy.
He took a beautiful photo of President Eamon and Sinead de Valera kneeling to receive Christy’s first Blessing.
He also took photos at the wedding of Sean Lemass. Later he went back to work at Gouldings fertiliser on the Murrough.
Richie had two great passions in life, cars and the army.
His love of cars began at the Copse when almost before he could walk he sat for hours in the Armstrong Sidley in the garage driving all over the country.
Before he left school he had already made his first midget car and practiced all around the field s at the Copse.
From midget car racing he progressed to hill climbs with his co-pilot Frank Nutall from Roundwood. Next he moved to road racing.
In 1968 he married Lyla Clarke at the Church of the Holy Rosary, Ashford. The next day, on his honeymoon, he raced his 1.5 litre Buckler-Ford at Mondello Park.
His favourite race was at the Phoenix Park which he eagerly looked forward to every year. When he retired he devoted himself to his beloved two seater Morgan and attended Morgan rallies on the continent. His prize possession was his three Morgan cars.
His love of guns also began at the Copse. From a young age he roamed the surrounding woods with a .22 rifle looking for rabbits, wood pigeons, pheasants and deer. These were the sources of his pocket money each week. Sunday afternoons were spent target shooting. He soon became a marksman with the gun. He joined the F.C.A. and won many medals for shooting. He was soon co-opted into the army to train the shooting teams. He was stationed at Cathal Brugha barracks and brought groups to the Curragh for shooting practice. He also took charge of the F.C.A. unit in Wicklow town and is remembered fondly. He also trained a unit in Rathdrum.
Richie had a wonderful outlook on life and lived everyday to the full. He loved telling stories recounting his many exploits in life. He enjoyed the camaraderie of army life and missed it when he retired.
Two years ago he contracted cancer and endured his illness with great fortitude. May he rest in peace.
The late Richie Conroy with one of his early racing cars.