Going through files for something else altogether the other night, I found this image from 2001 and realised that it must have been the golden age of the go-kart revival – but with pedals this time. It reminded me too of an incredible dare I and a handful of neighbouring schoolboys undertook about a half century ago.
The age-old boyhood past-time of go-karting made a huge come-back in Ireland in the early 2000s. Castleisland wasn’t left behind in the rush either. There were go-karts parked outside any door in town where boys and, often, young men lived. A generation before, initiative and engenuity were all the rage but you had to have someone pushing or pulling you or the kart itself. Or else you had to lug the ‘machine’ to the top of the nearest hill – if there was a hill nearby – and go with the grace of God downhill with all the speed you could muster and a piece of rope between you and your appointment with your maker.
The devil picked four or five of us Tralee Roaders on our way home from school one evening. We had designs for ages on the four-wheel drive parcel cart in front of the Batty Daly’s Post office. Wednesday afternoons were as quiet as you’d get in Castleisland that time as it was religiously observed as a half-day in town. The fall-of-ground between the Post office and The Market House was a carter’s idea of heaven and the gang of us comandeered the vehicle of our dreams and set forth for the middle of the street. It was all or nothing now and there was no time for a dry run.
The cart had a U-shaped handle which folded back onto the body when stored. The handle was attached to the front wheels and also acted as a steering device. I was elected chief navigator and all our souls were in my hands. We set our sights and faces for the west and after a good run we were on our way. I was standing up attending to my steering and we were going well for a while on the infamously wide street. However, the fountain was coming at us at an alarming rate and two or three of my passengers doubted my ability to avoid it – and certain death.
They grabbed the handle and one way or another we managed to steer her sweetly around the old landmark and down by The Market House and between Hannie Cullinane’s and The Market Bar. We still had a nice head of steam up passing Donal Cronin’s and we were laughing and congratulating ourselves heading into the straight when I suddenly saw the woman on a bike taking swift and evasive action. Thankfully she saw us long before we saw her. Alas, it was my mother. And that was the last time I looked in the direction of the mail cart on my way home from school. But it was still an ambition realised.