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The History of GoldWings in Ireland

A look back in time by Marian Reynolds

Goldwings have been part of the Irish scene since 1976 but difficulty with spare parts and some bad bike press kept their popularity from spreading. With the arrival of the GL1100, more people became GoldWing owners and, although some of us had heard of GWOCGB and their magazine Wing Span, we had little contact with them or any other club.

Then, Peter Ward from Cork met Dave Horner while he was on a trip to Britain. Sometime later, we had cause to contact Harry Ward of Wing World, President of GWOGB when a British Wing owner broke down while on holiday in Ireland.

At the Harp Rally in 1984, Margaret Nolan and Margaret O’Regan got together and talked about the possibility of starting an Irish GoldWing Club. In 1985, the Hooded Cloak Rally was the first rally of the year on the Irish scene. A number of GoldWing owners from Ireland and abroad were expected to attend. And so it was nearly a decade after the first GoldWing came to Ireland that the inaugural meeting of the GoldWing Owners Club of Ireland was held. Those present were Margaret O’Regan, Andy Deane and Margaret and Robert Nolan. Despite the short notice, Philip and Barbara Arundel, Keith Rigley and Alan Barbour of GWOCGB came to wish us luck and give us moral support. A committee was elected and a simple constitution was created.

Chairperson: Margaret O’Regan

Vice Chairperson and Secretary: Margaret Nolan

Committee Members: Robert Nolan and Andy Deane

At this stage, a large club was not envisioned with the population of Ireland being 3.25 million. Believe it or not, it was thought that we would have to be affiliated to GWOCGB but this changed later when Margaret and Andy went to the Belgian Treffen in Easter 1985 and met with the GoldWing European Federation (GWEF). They welcomed our club with open arms and gave us their blessing and support. So, we were now affiliated to GWEF but we retained our Irish identity. Membership cost £12 single and £15 joint.

In October (3rd to 6th) of 1985, our first Treffen was held in a luxurious hotel, the West Lodge in Bantry. Despite some awful weather (thanks to the tail end of Hurricane Gloria) a great time was had by all. Cork was celebrating its 800th anniversary. We were welcomed by the Lord Mayor, Dan Wallace, in the City Hall and made honorary citizens of Cork.

We had 72 people (including 3 children) at that first Treffen. The word Treffen means a meeting of friends and, each August somewhere in Ireland, the spirit of that first Treffen is renewed. Inscription cost £62 for 3 nights B&B and a four-course dinner each evening. At first, it was thought that everyone attending would be staying in the hotel but a camping option was added at a cost of £48. The awards were jugs filled with the best West Cork poitin.

Over the next few years, the club grew from where it was still small enough to have our AGM in each other’s homes to what it is today. In addition to our annual Treffen, we held poker runs and WingDings / Dropouts (club weekends). In those pre-internet days, we also issued a newsletter a couple of times a year and an annual membership list. Together with the Irish Motorcycle Action Group, we organized an annual motorcycle show in Cork where, thanks to club member Philip Arundel, we had the first GL1500 on show. Honda, who took a stand at the show, were unable to get one in time. Some of our members became instructors with the new Star Rider Scheme after receiving training from members of British motorcycle police trainers.

1988, the year of the Dublin Millennium (who remembers those special milk bottles?!), saw the Treffen move from Bantry to Glendalough. We took the Wings into Dublin (without Garda escort until we met one in Donnybrook, flagged him down and told him we were late for the Lord Mayor), had a civic reception in the Mansion House with the Lord Mayor, Ben Brisco, and then had a tour of Guinness. At the end of the year, we had £955 in the bank, happy days.

November 1992 saw the affiliation of the club to the Motor Cycle Union of Ireland (MCUI) (Southern Centre) and through it to the Federation Internationale de Motocyclisme (FIM). By this time, our committee along with the club had grown and we had a Technical Rep as well as Regional Reps and a Quartermaster, whose first job was to look at the possibility of getting club sweatshirts. We held regular meetings with the other clubs who made up the touring section of MCUI and took a leading role in organising protests against the threatened 'anti-biking' laws being proposed in Europe. There were also joint touring club events organised where we learned three wheels were better than two when it came to the skills events.

The big news in 1994 was that the FIM held the World MotorCycle Congress in Dublin. GWOCI was represented when we provided bikes to line the walkway into a reception sponsored by the Isle of Man. Joey Dunlop was the guest of honour and we all got to see the senior TT trophy up close. The early plaques on the trophy not only had the winners' names but lap times and the amount of fuel used. The club regions held their own Christmas parties for the first time. The Chicago Pizza Pie Factory was the venue for the Leinster folk. The Touring Clubs held their first charity motorcycle run in aid of Barnardos and over £1,500 was raised. If you had £26, you too could be the proud owner of a GWOCI club jacket - green with zip off sleeves, it proved to be very popular (some members still treasurer theirs). And the (in)famous South Anne Street Sunday mornings started as well as the Christmas Santa visit. We had 176 bikes inscribed at our Treffen in 1995 and 95 bikes in the club comprising 23 x GL1500, 29 x GL1200, 20 x GL1100 and 11 x GL1000. The most popular GL1200 was the Aspencade with 13 bikes. We had 6 sidecars and 6 members riding other bikes. 1996 was the first year our Treffen was held in the Glen of Aherlow. The venue proved very popular and, over the years, it was used for AGMs, birthdays and other Treffens. There were 257 inscriptions at the 1997 Treffen in the Glen and GWOCI members were travelling more and more with 10 bikes at the British Treffen, 8 bikes in Belgium and we took 8th place in Luxembourg.

At last, in 1998, GWOCI members had an alternative when it came to bike insurance with the arrival of Carole Nash Emerald insurance. When they first entered the market, they only quoted for clubs affiliated to the touring section of MCI and the vintage and veteran club. This was a big win for us and saved members a lot of money. Ballyvaughan in Clare became a favourite party place for the club.

On 25th February 1999, GWOCI became a limited company (Registered Company No. 302296). This was the year our membership application / renewal asked if you had an email address, not many members had.

Around the turn of the millennium, regions were getting more involved in their own areas, attending fund raising runs, pram pushing and wellie throwing competitions, providing escorts for the Chernobyl guys, becoming involved in bike shows such as the Limerick show, the Irish whiskey festival in Foynes and the Vintage Rally in Mosney. Club dropout weekends continued to be a success (from Salthill to Puckane where we went more than once) and, of course, the ever popular St. Patrick's Day parades from Castletownbere to Letterkenny, Tallaght to Ardee, Cork City to Sligo, GoldWings were there. In 2001, the Connaught Region changed its name to the Western Wings and the position of Child Officer was added to the Committee.

The 2003 Treffen in Ballybrit, Galway broke all records with 308 inscriptions, the Parade of Nations brought the city to a halt. We had 306 members in the club and they were travelling more and attending more overseas Treffens. For a few years, the club took part in the Dublin St. Patrick's Day parade while some members also took part in the Belfast Lord Mayors Parade. Another committee position was added to the ranks. In 2002, Steve worked on the club website. It was now up and running. Eamonn Toner reported that the site had 6,000 hits in 2004.

The club logo (patch) was changed slightly in 2005 when the Irish flag replaced "GWOCI". Members helped to marshal 541 Honda 50s when they broke the world record for the Guinness Book of Records. We had 342 inscriptions in Bandon and the North West Region changed its name to NorthWest Wings.

2006 saw the re-emergence of the club newsletter. A Celtic Wing Ding was held just before the Irish Treffen which helped establish links with our Celtic cousins. Over the past few years, the numbers attending our Treffens have settled down (as they have done with other clubs across Europe) making planning easier. In 2009, we celebrated our 25th International Irish Treffen in Gorey Co. Wexford and even managed a few firsts (after all these years): a Treffen DVD and camel racing (if you weren’t there, just watch the DVD!).

While many friendships have been made through the club and we have had very good times we also have had some sad times. Over the years, we have lost friends, people we would never have met if it wasn’t for the club, people who we are honoured to have known, people who we will never forget. To start naming names here would be wrong, it is better for us to remember them with a smile and a wish that they are enjoying some fine weather, good roads and the craic at their own Treffen where we’ll all meet up someday.

It is hoped that our history will continue to develop. Thanks to all the people who helped us in the past and we look forward to a bright future for the club.

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