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The Story of the Leinster Trophy “Trophy”- with Brian Manning

The Leinster Trophy “Cup” was commissioned by the Leinster Motor Club in the early 1930s to coincide with the upcoming car race meeting to be held at Skerries on August 4th, 1934. It was designed by renowned Dublin Jewelers Hopkins and Hopkins, who were also responsible for the Sam Maguire and Liam McCarthy GAA trophies for Gaelic Football and Hurling, respectively.

Hopkins and Hopkins first opened their doors on the corner of what was then Sackville Street (now O’Connell St.) and Eden Quay in 1769 and continued in operation until 1975 when the building was sold for £190,000 and became the Irish Permanent Building. The premises were destroyed during the Easter 1916 rising when British mortars were used to pound rebel positions in and around the GPO on Lower O’Connell Street and was rebuilt afterward. Many of the compensation claims that were settled after the Easter Rising arose from losses of merchandise, equipment and customers’ repair inventory at Hopkins and Hopkins.

The trophy is described as a “loving cup” which had become very popular as sporting trophies in the late 19th century after first being used frequently in wedding ceremonies. It is made of 100% sterling silver, an alloy of silver containing 92.5% by weight of silver and 7.5% by weight of other metals, usually copper to prevent tarnishing and impart durability to the otherwise soft pure silver metal.

Despite being one of the most famous jewelry houses in Dublin at the time, Hopkins and Hopkins did not actually construct the trophy. This was all likelihood contracted to a silversmith Daniel J. Saunders located on nearby D’Olier Street, across O’Connell Bridge. Saunders also constructed the Sam Maguire Cup and as we will see there are many similarities between both this and the Leinster Trophy.

The discovery of the 9th century Ardagh Chalice in 1868 by two local boys playing in a field in Limerick led to a great revival in the use of Celtic imagery and motifs in silverware and jewelry in Ireland. This can be seen particularly in the Sam Maguire that borrows heavily from the Ardagh Chalice in both overall chalice form (perfect for babies) but also in the Celtic chasing, studding and the roundel featured on the cup. The same design features can also be seen in the Leinster Trophy, in particular the Celtic chasing and studs which were all hand-pounded into the formed cup (as opposed to inlaid filigree on the Ardagh Chalice). The main part of the trophy was formed by forceturning a sheet of sterling silver on a lathe as were the base-stand and lid. The handles would have been cast separately and brazed onto the trophy during final assembly, before polishing and engraving.

The cost of the Leinster Trophy was approximately £1,000 but with the rise in the price of silver since the early 1930’s it would probably cost in the region of £100,000 to replace it today. The trophy was certified at the Dublin Assay Office, which has been in operation since 1637, who hallmarked it with assay marks and the “H&H” mark, before Hopkins and Hopkins presented it to the Leinster Motor Club. Today, the Dublin sporting trophy firm of Patrick O’Kelly Ltd. are responsible for the curation of the Leinster Trophy and all of the other Leinster Motor Club trophies (of which there are several notable pieces).

On Saturday August 4th, 1932, in the village of Skerries north of Dublin, the newly commissioned Leinster Trophy was presented for the very first time to Ms. Fay Taylour who had just won the inaugural Leinster Trophy race around the surrounding roads in her German-designed, but Dublin-assembled Adler Coupé. Taylour’s Adler was imported into Ireland as a kit to be assembled locally; a Completely Knocked Down CDK car, a practice that the newly formed Free State Government had introduced to promote domestic light industrial production. Her victory made headlines across the newly formed Irish Free State, Great Britain and even the Empire as Taylour’s racing exploits had reached as far afield as Australia.

The first Leinster Trophy had proved an enormous success with several entrants from across the Irish Sea including the might Alfa Romeo racing team. In an effort to further promote their new racing jewel, the Leinster Motor Club had announced that the magnificent new perpetual cup could be won outright if any driver won in back-to-back years. Little did they realize that it would only take two more years for this actuality to come to pass. While the inaugural Skerries Leinster Trophy had been considered a great success, it was readily apparent that the circuit lent itself solely to motorcycle racing. The Leinster Motor Club had been running the Leinster 100 and 200 motorcycle races at Skerries since 1922 and the track was so narrow in places that they were designated no-passing zones, something that Taylour in the much slower Adler had taken full advantage of. The new home would be around the comparatively rural roads Tallaght in south Dublin and the winner in both 1935 and 1936 was Jack Toohey driving the 993 Ford Special entered by the Smithfield Motor Company. Thus, in 1936 the Leinster Trophy was presented to the Smithfield Motor Company and for 1937 a replacement trophy would be used.

Research efforts to date have not uncovered much on the “replacement” Leinster Trophy that was used for the next 40 years. After it was won for the third time by Patsy McGarrity in September 1977, the trophy was unfortunately lost in a fire at Patsy’s Belfast Garage business. In 1978, when future F1 team boss Eddie Jordan was victorious, another stand-in trophy was used. But in 1979, the Smithfield Motor Company graciously handed the original Leinster Trophy back to the Leinster Motor Club. The trophy was newly engraved to this effect and it has been in use ever since, although now it does not stay with the winner of the event beyond the day of the race after photographs are taken.

The only photograph known to exist of the second Leinster Trophy that was used between 1937-1977 is the photo below of Dave Furlong after his victory at Bishops Court in 1967. Dave took home a lot of silverware that day with multiple class wins in other races as can be seen in the photograph, and the Leinster Trophy he won is to be seen closest to his body. It is a similar “loving cup” design but does not appear to have the same level of ornamentation as the original cup.

All winners of the Leinster Trophy since 1934 have received some type of keep-sake replica trophy of their win. Some of these are more elaborate that others including the replica awarded to Fay Taylour in 1934. Somewhat remarkably, this cup turned up in an online auction for a German auction house where it reportedly didn’t sell.

It is clear from the deterioration of the trophy (also posted by Brendan Keane) that this isn’t made of sterling silver, but of silver-plated brass (or other base metal). This cup would have originally held a deep shiny luster, similar to the original, but would tarnish and peel with time and neglect. Of interest it states on the auction description and engraved on the cup, that the replica was presented by Messers. Rowntree & Co., the well-known confectioner (that became Rowntree-Mackintosh) company. Careful examination of the photo reveals that it is the 1934 replica (not 1938 as stated in the description). One might speculate that Taylour’s close association with both the German auto maker Adler Trumpf, and at the time Nazi Germany, led to the replica trophy being ex-patriated to the Fatherland. Other replicas have also emerged during this research including the much less elaborate 1936 replica of Jack Toohey and the 1983 replica of Cor Euser of the Netherlands. Keen observers might note that Cor Euser’s name doesn’t actually appear on the Leinster Trophy and this is a subject that will be revisited in due course. In recent years, crystal trophies have been awarded to the top-three placed drivers of the Leinster Trophy.

The re-introduction of the original 1934 Leinster Trophy in 1979 must have presented the Leinster Motor Club with some logistical, and probably technical challenges. There was the issue of engraving the names of all the subsequent winners (since 1936) and how future winners would be accommodated for posterity on the trophy. Somewhat coincidentally, the base could fit every winner up to 1978 (Eddie Jordan) and subsequent winners would then be engraved on the reverse side of the cup itself. Other sport’s trophies accomplish this task in other ways, either by increasing the size of the base or by replacing the band around the base with a new one, and retiring the existing base to a museum (as what is done with Ice Hockey’s Lord Stanley’s Cup.) In all likelihood, the original trophy had not been engraved with the names of any winners since 1934 as Fay Taylour’s name on the trophy is misspelled with the more common “Taylor”.

Of more concern perhaps, was the inclusion of John Watson as the 1966 winner of the Leinster Trophy. The 1966 Leinster Trophy at Dunboyne never actually took place. A strike by longshoremen paralysed Irish Sea ferry services for several months and while the strike was resolved shortly before the Dunboyne races were due to be held on July 16th, 1966 a decision had been taken a week or so before to cancel the event as it looked likely that none of the contenders from the “mainland” would be able to get to Ireland. To make up for the loss of the Leinster Trophy feature race, a Scratch race for all-Ireland competitors was held instead. This race, known as the Dunboyne Trophy, was in fact won by John Watson (who also went on to win the Leinster Trophy in 1971 at Mondello), and the fog of history played a part in what was to follow. Indeed, the 1967 event programme for the Bishopscourt Leinster Trophy glossed over the cancellation of the 1966 race but did include a comprehensive list of all the winners of the event from 1934 to 1965.

Watson’s name appearing on the Leinster Trophy in 1979 most likely had other unforeseen consequences. The names engraved on the trophy soon became the accepted history of the event and were used to compile the commonly circulated list of winners in publications and race programmes. In 1992, the Leinster Motor Club celebrated the 50th Leinster Trophy race in a dinner dance while in fact 1992 was only the 49th edition of the race. Ayrton Senna himself even sent a fax of congratulations to Dominic Murphy and Ann Stevens on the occasion of the 50th Leinster Trophy that Ann was kind to provide below. In addition, the Leinster Motor Club were all set to declare the 2017 Leinster Trophy as the 75th running before switching it to 2018.

The single most contentious result in the 76-year history of the Leinster Trophy concerns 1983. Here the trophy records the winner as Russell Spence, 1983 Euroseries FF2000 and UK FF2000 champion. However, Russell finished in 4th place on the road in the 1983 Leinster Trophy race behind winner Cor Euser, second placed (and 1984 winner Mauricio Gugelmin and Martin Donnelly (who recorded three successive third places between 1983 and 1985). These data have been verified in multiple sources (Irish Times, Autosport) and have been confirmed by both Euser (who as we have seen has the 1983 replica in his possession), and Spence themselves.

While there are other instances of the lead driver on the road not being awarded the Leinster Trophy (most notably in 1987 when Martin Boyle finished ahead of JJ Lehto but was excluded due to tyre regulations), there were no such issues that impacted the 1983 result from all available sources and in multiple interviews with officials, marshals, and observers on the day. As a result, Cor Euser will be recognised as the 1983 winner of the Leinster Trophy, unless corroborating evidence to the contrary emerges.

Of the other anomalies appearing on the Leinster Trophy, apologies, on behalf of the engravers and officials who shall remain nameless, go out to 1998 winner Etienne (Eric) Van der Linde, 1992 winner Wym (Eckmans) Eyckmans and 1984 winner Maurico (Guggelman) Gugelmin. There may be others…

One final discovery during the course of the research into the provenance of the Leinster Trophy concerns 1951 winner Mike Hawthorn. It is safe to say that Hawthorn would have been a star in any era of motorsport. Equal parts talent, charisma, starpower and looks, he struck an arresting figure with blond hair and a thousand-watt smile. He always talked about how winning the Leinster Trophy was a big breakthrough for him, and he remained a huge fan of the event visiting multiple times at both the Wicklow and Dunboyne circuits when the race didn’t clash with a Grand Prix event that he would be competing in.

Hawthorn had his fatal road accident on January 22nd 1959 mere days after visiting Dublin as a guest of the Irish Motor Racing Club, where he had consulted on the new layout for the Phoenix Park Motor Races, and to this day that track layout bears the name “The Hawthorn Circuit”. Hawthorn’s celebrity and untimely demise shortly after winning the 1958 F1 World Drivers Championship led to a huge interest in his life and somewhat of a cult following amongst racing fans akin to what Senna has become in this era. Chief among the Hawthorn worshipers is Nigel Webb who has spent the past decades assembling a vast collection of Hawthorn memorabilia, and also cars associated with Mike, for a private museum located in rural Sussex, south east of London.

Of great interest to this ongoing research project, the museum reportedly had in its possession the base of the 1951 Leinster Trophy, so efforts were made to get in contact with Mr. Webb which eventually proved successful. Mr. Webb provided a detailed set of photos and dimensions of the base and upon examination it was shown that this trophy base didn’t come from the Leinster Trophy, but in fact was from the Ulster Trophy Handicap race, also won by Mike Hawthorn in 1951. The Ulster Trophy was a support race for the RAC TT race run at Dundrod and featured many of the same drivers and machinery that would have raced at Wicklow and the Curragh during the same time period. How the base ended up in the museum was also remarkable in that it was purchased out of a car-boot sale many years previously in Bristol and the purchaser heard about the Hawthorn museum years later and offered it to Mr. Webb. On examination now, the engraving has the words “Leinster Trophy” and the date “21 July 1951” added separately from the original wording and must have been added by maybe Hawthorn himself when he was in possession of the trophy in 1951-’52.

Brian Manning

NOTES: Brian Manning, a Mondello Park marshal in the 1980s and 90’s, and now living in the USA,  is now recognised as the source for information on all things Leinster Trophy related. We are very thankful to him for both his hard work in researching the history, and for penning this article. Brian’s previous article on the Leinster Trophy, includes the entire list of winners and can be seen HERE. If you have any information of souvenirs to share with Brian please let him know at and join the Leinster Trophy History Facebook page.

Header Image: The most famous winner of the Leinster Trophy, Ayrton Senna in his Rushen Green Racing Van Diemen RF82. Image with thanks to Con Connolly.

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