Bertie Donnelly’s Stenton Glider Tandem
In 1927 the Irish Olympic Council sent Bertie Donnelly to the shop of the renowned frame builder Percy Stenton in Manchester to be measured for a tandem and a solo bike that he was commissioned to build. Percy actually built three solo bikes and the tandem seen here. The solo bike (which is now on display in the museum in Croke Park by permission of the Donnelly Family) was ridden in the 1,000 metres sprint and the 1,000 metres TT in the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam and the tandem was to be used in the sprint. Although the tandem wasn’t eventually used in Amsterdam, Bertie did compete in the sprint and time trial events at the Games. He was second in his heat in the Preliminary round and second in his heat in the Repechage so he didn’t make it to the quarter finals.
In the photograph below Bertie is on the front the stoker was Herbie Braedon. The boy in the left of the photograph is Bertie’s son Seán who went on to be the owner of the well known ‘Shanty’ pub on the old Navan Road in Mulhuddart . Seán’s son Bernard also competed as a cyclist and is still cycling and has appeared at some OldVelos events.
Bertie and Herbie both passed away from natural causes in the same week in 1977. Both are buried in Mullhuddart cemetery. Herbie’s funeral mass was held in Blanchardstown and Bertie’s in Marino. Blanchardstown was closer to Mulhuddart so Herbie’s funeral cortege entered the funeral gates a few minutes ahead of Bertie’s. According to Bernard Donnelly (Bertie’s grandson) the news headlines the next day were that for once Herbie (who had been Bertie’s stoker) finally got ahead of Bertie!
Although the tandem did not get used in the Olympics it did see use as Seán and his wife used it. It is said that when Seán wife went into labour on the of the tandem and they both pedalled in to the Rotunda and 20 minutes after their arrival Bernard was born! That was some start to Bernard’s cycling career.
The tandem has been restored and is on display, along with other significant cycling memorabilia, in Quay Cycles in Drogheda. Thanks to Austin (of Quay cycles) for the photographs and the background to this unique piece of Irish cycling history. For more information on the Stenton company please <click here>. The photographs of the original shops are by kind permission of DV Harries.