Grand Prix Final Round: The Irwin Cup

This coming Saturday November 26th sees one of the truly great club races taking place in Santry Demesne: The Irwin Cup. Previously a 6 mile but now 6k. The Irwin Cup is also known as “the Grand National”, a cross country open handicap race over the jumps.

The race is, to use the old cliché “historic”, only it truly is historic! The Irwin Cup commenced in 1932, however, the Grand National dates 22 years earlier to 1910 when Clonliffe introduced to the club calendar the Grand National, a 6 mile cross country race which included jumps and ditches to be negotated. The race was held on an annual basis. In 1932 to honour the memory of Herbert Carmichael Irwin his team mates presented the Irwin Cup to the club to be presented to the winner of the Grand National.

Herbert Carmichael Irwin was known as Bertie. He has a special place in the history of Clonliffe Harriers being both an Olympian and winner of the National Cross Country.

He was the 2nd Clonliffe athlete to win the  National Cross Country  when he won in 1914 in Dundrum (his birth place), leading Clonliffe to team victory. On the track he was an Irish National champion in both the mile and 4 mile.  His mile PB of 4.33.8 was most impressive in comparision with times of the day. In 1920 he became Clonliffe`s 5th Olympian representing Great Britian (pre 1922) in the 5,000m at the Antwerp Games taking an extraordinary 40 seconds off his pb to finish 2nd in his heat and qualify for the Olympic final where he placed 12th.

The R101 at it`s moorings Cardington

In the First World War Irwin who was an aviator joined the RNAS (later to become the RAF)and seen service in 1916 and 1917 . He  was promoted to Flight Lieutenant with seniority 1 April 1917.  Under the RAF he was granted a short-service commission as Flight Lieutenant on 24 October 1919. With the expertise he had gathered in flying Airships he became involved with Britian`s plans for passenger airships to link Britian and it`s colonies. Two huge airships were built the R100 and R101. Irwin was the Captain of the R101, the largest man made object to fly at the time. Interestingly one of the R101 test flights in 1930 brought the airship across the Irish Sea above Dublin leading Irwin to pen a letter to Tommy Burton, the Clonliffe Captain saying: “they had flown over the Finglas fields where I enjoyed so many memorable runs with the Clonliffes.” Tragedy struck, however,  on the R101`s maiden voyage from Cardington to India when on the 5th of October 1930 the R101 in stormey weather over Northern France crashed nose first at a forest edge at the town of Allone, Beauvais, bursting into flames killing 48 of the 54 people on board including her Captain the Clonliffe Olympian Carmichael Irwin.

Saturday`s race is organised by the Grand Prix Committee and is kindly sponsored by George Maybury. The race has a 12.00 noon start. This is the final round of the Grand Prix Series with the prize giving night being held in the Club Bar on Thursday December 8th.