This week our Motoring columnist Brian McDaid discusses his first driving test, a flat tyre adventure, and says goodbye to a well-known figure in Letterkenny.
Hi, I’m Bob, today I’m going to show you how to change a flat tyre. The camera swings around to an ideal location for changing a wheel. With no traffic anywhere to be seen. The trolly jack appears out of nowhere and already is in the correct jacking position. The wheel nuts are already loosened, and the spare tyre on standby ready to fit.
Spare saves the day.
The first time I remember my spare saving the day was the day I did my driving test. In my dads Mk3 Ford Cortina my driving instructor informed me that he was not going to be travelling in my car because no seatbelt was provided on the passenger’s seat. There ‘was’ a seat belt but it was already in use wrapped around the back of the passenger’s seat to keep it upright.
I asked him could he sit in the back for the test but insisted he needed to sit in the front passenger seat to do the test on me. I then suggested that I put the spare wheel in behind the passenger’s seat to keep it upright and got him belted in nice and tight (long before intra- reels belts) and he reluctantly agreed to do the test. Meaning to reassure him I said “you’ll be grand sure I’ll drive easy!”, which didn’t go down that well, but to my amazement, I passed my driving test that day. Maybe the distraction of his broken seat was a help in me passing my driving test, which was my third attempt.
In the real world, things are slightly different than the polished online videos that are posted up from time to time. Flat tyres arrive at the most unsuitable time in the most unsuitable locations in the most unsuitable weather to the most unsuitable people, me included.
Recently I went from a “Pirelli hard- compound” to “Pirelli super-soft” without even changing a wheel on a trip from Donegal to Dublin.
I was sailing along a country road that my sat nav suggested would be quicker than the main road between Slane and Mondello Park.
At first I thought it was just the wind buffeting from the open window on a summers day, but as I went slower the noise was getting louder so I knew something wasn’t right.
With no good place to stop and change a wheel on this narrow road, I nursed it up the road a bit looking for somewhere to pull in. Even though I had my hazard lights on to explain why I’m travelling so slow, the traffic behind me had no patience whatsoever, sitting right on my bumper forcing me to drive faster.
I opted to pull in at a padlocked gateway leading to an old cottage to change the puncture.
Since the introduction of air wheel braces in garages, getting wheel nuts loosened by hand along the roadside was a big problem, but luckily enough I got them slackened a half turn before I go about jacking or looking to lower the spare, which is located underneath. Things are going well but 35,000 miles of road grime and muck is preventing me from releasing the cradle cable that holds the spare in place.
Lying under my vehicle with the light of my phone to have a closer look, I hear a car slowing down and coming to a stop in the road beside me. Help has arrived, I think to myself. Then I hear footsteps which come to a stop beside where I’m working.
Expecting to hear “are you all right there,” I hear nothing, so crawling out from under, I find an impatient looking man standing over me. “Just changing a flat wheel here,” I explained, but it does nothing to change his mood.
“You are on my property and you are blocking my gateway,” is his short, sharp reply. He is a small man dressed in his Sunday best driving a big BMW and here is me, a big man with a flat tyre in a small Fiat van blocking his driveway.
I thought it would be pointless even asking for a hand here. I don’t even think he even believed I had a flat tyre because he stepped around to the inside and checked the tyre was flat twice. “Aye, it ’s flat sir!” I said, to which a got a muted reply, only a brush of his index finger over the cuff of his white shirt to look at his watch.
I think by this stage, he had shot enough scud missiles across my bow of unfriendly fire so I decided to gather up and limp away from this picturesque farmhouse. With the spare wheel still dangling from the undercarriage like a plane with its landing gear stuck in the down position. I headed off down the country road in search of another location to change my wheel.
The second attempt to change the wheel went a lot better when I found a suitable place and a bit of peace down the road and even the spare wheel came off the carrier, maybe due to it dangling from its carriage for a mile or so which dislodged all the muck and road grime that was jamming the mechanism- or maybe it was me knowing better what I was doing the second time around.
By the way, no driving testers or by the belief that there’s is a good streak in everyone was affected by recalling my memories of spare tyres this week
The Last Post.
This week Letterkenny said goodbye to Daniel Cullen who sadly passed away on Saturday evening.
The late Daniel Cullen from Lower Ard O’Donnell was the last in generations of the Cullen family in Letterkenny who worked in what could only be described as the original promotion and advertising company.
Even if you go back 130 years ago to a directory of businesses in Letterkenny from 1890-1900 where it lists builders, butchers, cart-makers and coal merchants and in there is John Cullen (spelt Cullion back then) as the only billposter listed in Letterkenny.
R McCullagh, watchmaker, and John Robinson, Auctioneer, are the only two other remaining family names that I recognise from that list who still have their name above the shop door of businesses still in operation in Letterkenny today.
As a child, I can remember Daniel and his father, who was also called Daniel, and his nephew Tony, out pasting up posters at various Bill Board locations around Letterkenny.
The posters promoted up and coming events like dances in Termon, pilgrimages to Knock, the circus coming to town and bingo! In them days there were small notice boards around the town, I always remember seeing Daniel pasting up posters on these boards regularly at locations like the foot of the New Line Road.
As the business of bill posting started to fade out some of the last posters that Daniel would have pasted up around Letterkenny was for a new band at the time in Letterkenny called San Quentin, in which Daniels nephew Tony was one of the band members. Daniel became the driver and roadie for that band and in their hay day the travelled to gigs in an old York Diesel powered Ford Transit van with sliding front doors.
Daniel Cullen was laid to rest in his family’s plot along with his parents in Conwal cemetery this week. It was the end of an era as Daniel was the last of the Letterkenny Billposters.
May he rest in peace.Tags: