Last week, President Barack Obama received one of Ireland’s prized bikes, the first manufactured High Nelly in about forty years.
Marty Mannering of Goeco, the company that now owns High Nelly, stepped in to revitalize bike history in Ireland. As Marty mentioned in TheJournal.ie article, “nobody had ever historically documented anything to do with the bike in Ireland.” Cycling Ireland, the national governing body of Ireland’s cycling sport, has a topsy-turvy history that dates back to 1878. According to Marty, “The War of Independence was fought on bikes. You even had the Catholic Church trying to stop the use of bikes.”
In the spirit of St. Patrick’s day, I wish I was riding around the city in a classic High Nelly. The history of St. Patrick goes back about fifteen centuries. Philip Freeman, author of St. Patrick of Ireland: A Biography, asks with us, who is this Saint, and why is he remembered?
“Driving the snakes out of Ireland, entering contests to the death with pagan Druids, using the shamrock as an aid to explain the Trinity–all these are pious fictions created centuries later by well-meaning monks. The true story of Patrick is far more compelling than the medieval legends. This story is known best from two short letters written by Patrick himself, his Letter to the Soldiers of Coroticus and Confession.”
What St. Patrick and Freeman remind us is of the importance of letters and their offerings of hope in uncertain and troubled times. It’s not usual to toast to “hope” at a bar on this festive day. Cheers, James Joyce, cheers St. Pat, and cheers to High Nelly’s Irish bicycle flair.
“The HighNelly bicycle in Ireland was more than a mode of transport up until the late 1950’s, it was literally a life line. My very own Grandmother rode 17 miles three times a week to the Smithfield Market in Dublin from Co. Meath.” – The Mannering Family, Limerick Ireland