From the ar­chives

Au­gust 9th, 1989

The Irish Times Magazine - - NEWS - Ar­chive pho­to­graphs and other Ir­ish Times im­ages can be pur­chased from irish­times. com/ pho­to­s­ales

Some pho­tos sing a song of sum­mer – and this is one of those pho­tos. Bright days, bare legs, bikes, leafy trees in the back­ground. Three women en­joy­ing each other’s com­pany. It’s enough to make even the most re­luc­tant cy­clist think about get­ting out and about on two wheels.

A closer look re­veals the cy­clist at the cen­tre of the im­age to be the inim­itable Nuala O’Faolain, who wrote for this news­pa­per for many years. She is flanked by her nieces Mar­ian Con­roy ( left) and Cailin Brady ( right). “Here they are pho­tographed,” the cap­tion cheer­ily de­clares, “be­fore their ad­ven­ture be­gan, when they won­dered if they’d make it to Lu­can, never mind Lahinch.”

Ad­ven­ture, it turns out, is the word. It starts with a mad idea of Nuala’s: why not cy­cle from Dublin to the fam­ily’s sum­mer house in Lahinch, and write about it for The Ir­ish Times? Bikes were hired. The girls were up for it – bribed by their aunt with prom­ises of lux­ury ho­tels. The jour­ney would be rolled out in the pa­per as a four- part se­ries. There was just one prob­lem. “I could ride the thing all right,” Nuala writes of her rented bike. “But not in traf­fic.” So they got a bus to Cel­bridge – where, pre­sum­ably, this de­light­ful pic­ture was taken. Then they mounted up and headed off along the leafy banks of the Grand Canal.

By the end of the open­ing ar­ti­cle, need­less to say, the idyll was be­gin­ning to un­ravel. “I’d told the girls that at night they could ex­plore the youth scene, while I read my book over a glass or two of chilled Ch­ablis,” Nuala wrote. “In ac­tual fact, we are drenched to the skin, we don’t know where we’ll be eat­ing or sleep­ing, and we’re still only at the mush­room fac­tory in Car­bury. And our bums are killing us.”

De­spite the ab­sence of the sort of cy­cling sta­ples we now take for granted – Ly­cra cloth­ing, wa­ter bot­tles, hel­mets – they made it to Lahinch. They were greeted by “mam­mies, cousins, ba­bies, sis­ters . . . cheers and ap­plause”. And our read­ers heaved a huge sigh of re­lief and joy.

Ar­minta Wal­lace

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