LOCAL people who lived during the 2nd World War have many stories to tell about how their everyday life was affected by the conflict. Blackouts, rationing, gas masks, air raid shelters and evacuation were no strangers to daily life. It was a time during which many events, meetings, parades and other social activities were often suspended.
The ending of hostilities meant normal life would gradually return and the members of the Ulster Motor Cycle Club were keen to get racing underway again.
The local press announced in July 1945 that Antrim County Council had given approval to the club to hold a 100 mile motor cycle race in the Lisburn area. Ballymacash was to be put firmly on the map after it was announced the race was to be the first motorcycle race in the United Kingdom since the outbreak of war and it was scheduled to take place on Saturday 22nd September 1945.
The chairman of the club, Mr. Malcolm Wilson, from Lisburn, informed the press that he intended to make it an annual event. He himself had been involved in the motorcycling circuits for many years. In May 1935 he and Hubert Thompson were appointed to carry out arrangements for a car trial in June of that year.
The organisers of the 1945 race decided on three classes of motorcycle - 250, 350 and 500cc. Competitors had twenty laps of the five mile circuit to complete. It was estimated that the time to complete the 100 miles would be about two hours.
A rare picture capturing two motorcyclists competing in the Lisburn 100 in 1945. Below the picture two names had been penciled in - Artie Bell (left) and E.W. Miller (right)
One week prior to the race it was announced that approximately 40 entries had been received.
There were many factors to be considered when organising a race of this kind. The authority had to be given to close the roads, insurance would have to be provided and race officials and marshals organised. The club requested that an ambulance and driver be on standby and be situated at Ballymacash. The authorities declined the request and on the suggestion of the medical officer for the district it was decided to have the ambulance on call and based at the hospital.
The roads in the area were to be closed at 2.30pm on the race day and
a charge to the
course area of 2 shillings (10p) was made with the proceeds in aid of the re-building fund of the Belfast Hospital for Children and Women. A souvenir programme priced at 1 shilling (5p) was also on sale.
The race commenced at Ballymacash School and proceeded in the direction of Glenavy to Belshaw's Corner. After negotiating the right hand hair pin the riders headed to the Whitemountain area and onto Boomer's Corner where they turned right onto the Pond Park Road, turning right again at the junction of the Antrim Road and Ballymacash Road.
A last minute appeal was made to all householders and residents who lived near the course to ensure that all livestock, dogs and animals were secured in fields and houses to prevent accidents on the course.
The race attracted riders from England and Ireland and racing got underway at 3.15pm.
The 500 cc race was won by a Norton rider, Arthur James Bell, better known as Artie. His average speed was 72.39 mph. Rex McCandless, a native of Culcavey, finished second on a Triumph and W. F. Little third.
Other competitors in the 500cc race included R.T. Hill from Belfast on a BSA, Ernest Lyons from County Kildare on a Triumph, both of whom failed to complete the race due to engine trouble. It was reported that of the 24 starters in this race, half completed the full distance.
The winner of the 350 cc class was W. S. Humphry on a Velocette. T.H. Turner from Belfast came second and Cromie McCandless, brother of Rex came third. The 250 cc class was won by Newtownards man W. George. He narrowly won the race by 17 seconds, putting W.M. Webster from Crewe into second place and Denis Minett from Southampton into third.
The Lisburn 100 proved to be a success and the Belfast Newsletter reporting on the event afterwards stated that there were thousands of people in attendance.
I have spoken to a several people who can recall attending the event.
One Ballymacash man who was a child at the time recalled his mother putting a blanket on top of a hedge and sitting him on top of it to watch the action.
There were no accidents reported during the race but one gentleman recalls that before the race a motorcycle enthusiast had borrowed a bike to go round the circuit, lost control and crashed at the Whitemountain Road. He was assisted by a local lady who took the injured man into her home. Later, a relative of the man turned up at the home of the good Samaritan and presented her with a suit for her son as a token of thanks.
A number of rare photographs of the Lisburn 100 motorcycle race have turned up in the Lisburn area and include action shots of Artie Bell, Cromie McCandless, Roy Mead, and T.H. Turner. They will be on display at the Flower festival and historical exhibition at St. Mark's Parish Church, Ballymacash, Lisburn from Friday 7th October to Sunday 9th October, 2011.
I would invite anyone to get in touch who may have other photographs or memories of the race. I would particularly welcome a copy of the souvenir programme for the event.
The Digger can be contacted via The Ulster Star Office or by email:
This map was created from the information in this article - it may be wrong! If you know the actual route, please let us know.