The Cork International Car Race, May 1937

I have posted here before about early motor racing in Tramore, Waterford, but today I am going to take a quick look at the Cork Car Race, an international motor racing contest that took place in Cork in May 1937.

My interest on this occasion is less to do with the races themselves or how they came about but rather their popular reception and the way in which they were reported on. I encountered this motor race while doing other research in the Cork City Library’s Local Studies Room. I was trawling through the microfilm of the Evening Echo, Cork’s long-running evening daily, when I happened upon the Cork Car Race and the extensive coverage afforded it by the Echo. Two things in particular struck me about the coverage of the race. One was the employment in the newspaper of photographs, cartoons and even the advertisements in the issue of the paper covering the Race.

Photographs of the racers in their cars abounded, but more strikingly, there was a cartoon and one particular advertisement that showed perfectly the cross-section between major sporting events of this kind, commercialism and popular entertainment at that time. And so, first to the cartoon:

 

The cartoon depicts a disgruntled fisherman whose weekend leisure has been disrupted by the noise and pageantry of the big event, the Cork Car Race. Clearly, such novel sporting events were not to everyone’s taste!

Secondly, there was this advertisement:

Source: Evening Echo, May 22 1937
Source: Evening Echo, May 22 1937

Anyone who knows Cork, knows that Tanora holds a special place in the hearts of many Cork people. Here we see the company cleverly employing ad copy to capitalise on the novelty of the Cork Car Race. This shows brilliantly the intersection between sport and commercialism that had become so developed in the interwar period (the Evening Echo of this period is equally full of cigarette and drink advertisements showing hurlers, footballers, tennis players and jockeys among other things).[1] It may be the case that the ad was used before or since, but the timing of the ad in this particular edition of the Evening Echo in which about a quarter of the paper was given over to the Cork Car Race is especially remarkable.

As with the races that had taken place earlier in the decade in Tramore, the speed and excitement was the main draw for the many spectators, and the Evening Echo reported crashes and even stories of cars catching fire in great depth, the crash of Bira (Birabongse Bhanudej), Prince of Siam, being of special interest. Most of the scrapes were fairly tame in reality, however one driver from England, Cyril Mervyn White, who only weeks previously had come inside the top 10 in a race in Britain in his Bugatti, ended up in the Mercy Hospital following a crash during a time trial and later died from his injuries.[2]

The race was a major international event, the second of its kind in Cork, even  being the subject of a British Pathé newsreel. The race would only run one more year, in 1938, but as can be seen from these images of 1937, the Cork International Car Race was not just an exciting (or if you fancied a quiet spot of fishing, excruciating) experience, but was ripe too for commercial exploitation by local firms such as mineral water bottlers like John Daly.


[1] For a discussion of the various aspects of sport and commercialism see Collins, Tony, Sport in Capitalist Society: A Short History, London, New York: Routledge 2013; see also Collins, Tony, and Vamplew, Wray, Mud, Sweat and Beers: A Cultural History of Sport and Alcohol, Oxford: Berg, 2002

[2] Evening Echo, May 22 1937; May 26 1937

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s