I don’t think of myself as a materialistic person, never have been. I’m happy enough pottering around my (small) garden or flopped on the sofa with a (cheap) glass of wine watching tv. I even drive a 15-year old car and am only moderately embarrassed to admit it.
On Tuesday, however, I got a glimpse of the finer things in life and....well....yes, it did leave me just a tad....aspirational.
You see, a cavalcade of 25 vintage Rolls Royces arrived in Donegal town and parked up, ever so elegantly of course, on the Diamond. Their owners, who were all quite gracious, friendly and open, I might add, stayed there for well over an hour, happy to answer questions and chat about their passion for these gloriously luxurious motor cars.
They had come from near and far, from all over Ireland, north and south, the UK and even Australia.
Paul McLoone of Failte Ireland North West and Donegal Town Mayor Tom Conaghan were on hand to formally welcome them. A presentation was made to Arnold Imrie, Chairperson of the Rolls Royce Enthusiasts Club, who hails from Kilkeel, Co. Down.
The dignataries were joined by countless curious onlookers who seemed to initially hang back. However, once they realised just how approachable the car owners were, most of the crowd were soon asking questions and taking pictures, good-oh.
The event was one of four annual rallies organised by the Irish Section of the Rolls Royce Enthusiasts Club. The visit to Donegal town itself was spearheaded by Isabella Dunne (née Ward), a native of Carrick now living in Omagh. Isabella and her husband Bill are avid enthusiasts, owning not just one but three Rolls Royces - a 1978 Silver Shadow, a 1986 Silver Spirit and and 2000 Bentley Arnage.
Isabella explained that this was only the club’s second outing to south west Donegal. They first visited last year, when they spent two days travelling to Killybegs, Ardara, Glenties and Ballybofey.
This year, they were staying at Harvey’s Point for a few days and making the most of the local attractions. On Monday, locals in Carrick, Teelin and environs enjoyed the rare spectacle of watching 25 Rolls Royces ascend the giddy heights of Slieve League. The club members then enjoyed a delicious lunch and the warm hospitality of Paddy and Siobhan Clarke at the Slieve League Cultural Centre
On Tuesday, the visitors were being taken on a tour of Magee’s, an outing on the Waterbus and to the Cabaret at the Central Hotel, where they also had a wonderful lunch. “Everyone is really looking after us well”, Isabella commented, “and special thanks to Eamonn at the Central for really pulling out all the stops.”
The car that turned the most heads was, without question, the 1910 Titanic Silver Ghost. The stunningly beautiful vehicle was made to order for the Rt. Hon. Lord Pirrie KP of Surrey. He also happened to be HM’s Lieutenant for the City of Belfast and the Chairman of Harland and Wolff. It was Pirrie who persuaded Bruce Ismay to build the world’s three biggest luxury ocean liners at the time - the Titanic, Britannic and Olympic.
The car’s current owners are Albert White and his mother Margaret, who live in Grantham, Lincolnshire. Albert says it can take up to a week to clean the car for a show, because of all the brasswork. And, yes, I did get to actually sit in the car. And, yes, I did actually love it.
Another big draw was the khaki green ‘Harrod’s’ Rolls Royce, a 1935 2025, that was once owned by Mohamed Al Fayed and sports the Harrod’s logo. It now belongs to Raymond and Hazel Moffatt of Drumquin, Co. Tyrone.
Yet another eye-catcher was Jim and Frances Wilson’s 1934 cream coloured Derby Bentley. Frances laughed that it was “just coincidence” that her outfit for the day toned in beautifully with the car. Her sense of humour also kicked in again while discussing their collection of cars. “We have a few Bentley’s, it’s my husband’s hobby. Which is wonderful, as it keeps him in the garage all day!”