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Arthur Jolley


Arthur Jolley

Originally published by The Irish Independent, May 31 2020, 02:30am.

Arthur Jolley, who died recently aged 95, was a top class motorcyclist and rally co-driver who in the 1950s scored two top five finishes in the Monte Carlo Rally. With the legendary Cecil Vard, later the motoring correspondent for the Sunday Independent, at the wheel and Arthur navigating, they steered Vard's mother-in-law's Jaguar Mark V through 2,000 miles of snow, hail and rain to receive their laurels from Prince Rainier. Of great pride to Irish motorsport was the fact that the car was assembled and prepared in Ireland - by Maurice Cavey from his works in Camden Street.

Arthur was an expert motorcycle trials rider, and president and life member of the Dublin University Motor Cycle & Light Car Club (known as the DU) - a pioneer organisation which from 1923 hosted competitive car and bike events almost every other weekend.

In later years, Arthur was chairman for the RIAC Archive - the foremost venue for preservation of the history of Irish motorsport.

Arthur was born into a farming family whose estate was at Jobstown on the Blessington Road in west Dublin. They later moved nearby to Airfield, in Tallaght, so named as it was the site of the RAF 1917 base in Ireland and is now the Square Shopping Centre.

Arthur was born on July 21, 1925. He attended the High School, then located in Earlsfort Terrace, and in 1942 began studying Commerce at Trinity College Dublin.

Arthur's genial manner and innate commercial sense made insurance his preferred profession, joining his father's firm, Robert J. Jolley Insurance. As wartime restrictions eased, competitions restarted and by 1948 he won his first major DU event - the Rathmichael Scramble, beating no less a luminary than Reg Armstrong while riding an AJS.

In 1951 a talented young Dublin driver Cecil Vard hatched a plot to borrow his mother-in-law's Jaguar Mk V - and compete in the gruelling Monte Carlo Rally. Then, as now, the rally took place in January, and then, as now, it was the most hotly contested event in world rallying. Competition was intense, with 362 entries, with five starting points, the Dubliner opting to start the 2,000 mile route in Glasgow. Vard chose Arthur as his navigator, and their third-place finish was a sensation. The Irish car assembly industry was only restarting in earnest, with a shaky reputation, so their result - in a car assembled in Cavey's of Camden Street - was a tremendous encouragement to Irish engineering.

It also inspired the likes of Rosemary Smith and Paddy Hopkirk to think big and be confident when taking on international competition. In 1953 Mrs O'Connor-Cox's big Jaguar was used again, and this time Arthur and Cecil, along with Frank Bigger, finished fifth - another stunning result for a privateer - especially as the duo behind them were superstar Stirling Moss with John Cooper - later of Cooper Grand Prix fame.

Cecil Vard was a furrier by trade and later a successful businessman while Arthur continued to grow his insurance business in Dun Laoghaire. He merged his firm with Coyle Hamilton and then bought elements of it back and traded with the well-known Dun Laoghaire firm Kirwan Insurances.

For 50 years Arthur took part in motorcycle trials events - and did well whenever he took part in the de facto world championship - the Scottish Six Day event.