This week as I perused the ‘Paper’ my attention was vaguely arrested by an item in a report drawn from a Waterford County Council consideration of a Draft Speed Limit Bye Laws – yes, fascinating stuff. There was mention of such distant places as Ring and Knockanore but then my eye saw mention of Knockboy and Blenheim Cross. I thought both of those were in the city but obviously not – depends where exactly, I suppose.

Anyway, the issue was whether or not there are to be new speed limits installed in the above areas. But folks what really grabbed my attention and wonderment was the request by one councillor that in Gaeltacht areas the limits be in both English and Irish as foreign visitors did not understand Irish (there’s another obvious debate here but we will leave that aside for now).

Anyhow I was simply flabbergasted by this request as to how one renders numbers like 50, 60, 80 and 100 into Bearla. Should we recognise the numbers to be as Gaeilge if adorned with shamrocks and leprechauns? Maybe I’m missing something but I don’t think so. However, I would have been much more impressed if a debate concerning speed limit signs ( there was reference to 127 new signs and as many as 169 new poles) included commentary as to reasonable and sensible positioning of speed limit areas. It was promised that this would be done when metric signage was introduced with a fresh review of every speed limit regime in the country. Some Councils did this while others seemed to have been quite cursory.

In fairness there will be a public display and consultation process with an opportunity to make submissions. Perhaps this will afford the public a forum to raise matters of which I speak. While they’re at it – and this includes the City Council – why not have a county/city wide review of all limits and invite submissions? Why should someone be fined for being a few kilometres over a limit that was unnecessarily low in the first place on what are fine, unencumbered stretches of road, well surfaced and lit and all that?

We have all seen 80 km limit signs on what are mere boreens with grass growing down the middle of them while other roads built to the highest spec are restricted to 60, like our outer ring road. By the way I’ve had engineering advice that this limit regime is unwarranted for most of that ring road route as there are only two sites where there are sight/summit issues, well that’s what I’ve been told and I’ll return to this another day. So if you have views on this or any other issue, let me know at

Roundabout Ways

Sticking to the issue of roads and the Dunmore Road in particular, most drivers would have noticed by now that there has been a new lane lay-out approaching the roundabout at the WRH from the Viewmount side. I was uncertain there whether to say a few, some, many or most but hopefully by now it is the latter. In fairness to the Council roads people it was extremely well sign-posted with four large(ish) posted signs with clear graphic indication of the lay-out, equally the legend was clearly emblazoned on the road itself. Despite this it was very much 50/50 if not 60/40 over the first few days with over half of all drivers blissfully/blindly sticking to the inside lane even though their intent was to continue through the junction – the inner lane is now exclusively for left turn traffic. This ‘blissful’ approach led to many close encounters as some motorists pulled into the ‘orbit’ of the correctly laned drivers.

By end of week more and more drivers were waking up to the new requirements but the blind are still leading the blind among a stubborn minority who even have the gall to ‘honk’ at you for cutting across their path. Oh life is tough, alright! Before we leave this subject a word of caution – the bus on leaving the nearby stop now has to cut into that outside lane, so be aware and give it space to do so.

The Whittles and the Jet Set

Two weeks ago I spoke of a worthy fundraising event for Rehab who are hoping to raise €70, 000 for a much needed minibus to facilitate their valuable work. They will be holding a monster auction in the Tower Hotel on December 10, complete with music, comedy and raffles. In bringing you this piece I spoke of the great work done year in year out by Kevin, a local stalwart, but unwittingly (pun intended!) I called him Whitty – another strong local name – when I should have said Whittle of course. So in correcting that name it gave me another opportunity to give a further reminder of their big night – Tower, 10th, 8 pm. To make up to Kevin for this slip-up with his name I’m going to remind you what a famous name it is, being the name of a very clever chap indeed.

But ever before coming to Waterford I had heard of the name of Whittle and I wonder about the origin. Is it a name that originally came from these parts and moved to England or the other way round. The most famous Whittle was Frank Whittle, later Knighted as Sir, the inventor of the Jet Engine. Here is just the beginning of his remarkable story as recorded at the time of his death in 1996. AIR CDRE SIR FRANK WHITTLE died in America aged 89, was the greatest aero-engineer of the centuryWhittle ensured that Britain was the first to enter the jet age when, on May 15, 1941, the jet-propelled Gloster-Whittle E 28/39 flew successfully from Cranwell. During 10 hours of flying over the next few days, the experimental aircraft – flown by the test pilot Gerry Sayer – achieved a top speed of 370 mph at 25,000 ft. This was faster than the Spitfire, or any other conventional propeller-driven machine. Although this was a moment of triumph for Whittle, it was tinged with some bitterness, for he had to overcome years of obstruction from the authorities, lack of funding for and faith in his brilliant ideas. He felt, with justification, that if he had been taken seriously earlier, Britain would have been able to develop jets before the Second World War broke out.

As early as October 1932 he had been granted a patent for the first turbo-jet engine, but the Air Ministry’s indifference had caused a long delay in realising his ideas. Thus it gave Whittle particular satisfaction when, days after the E 28/39’s maiden flight, Sir Archibald Sinclair, the Air Minister and a gathering of officials, stood stunned as Sayer put it through its paces over Cranwell. Concorde’s maiden flight in 1969 set the seal on Whittle’s endeavours.

Frank Whittle was born on June 1, 1907, in the Earlsdon district of Coventry, the son of a foreman in a machine tool factory. When Frank was four his father, a skilful and inventive mechanic who spent Sundays at a drawing board, gave him a toy aeroplane with a clockwork propeller and suspended it from a gas mantle. During the First World War Frank’s interest in aeroplanes increased when he saw aircraft being built at the local Standard works and was excited when an aeroplane force-landed near his home.

Small Beginnings for High Flyer

In 1916 the family moved to Leamington Spa, where Frank’s father had bought the Leamington Valve and Piston Ring Company, which comprised a few lathes and other tools and a single-cylinder gas engine. Frank became familiar with machine tools and did piece work for his father. Frank won a scholarship to Leamington College, but when his father’s business faltered there was not enough money to keep him there. Instead he spent hours in the local library, learning about steam and gas turbines. In January 1923, having passed the entrance examination, he reported at RAF Halton as an aircraft apprentice. He lasted only two days; only five feet tall and with a small chest measurement, he failed the medical. Six months later, after subjecting himself to an intense physical training programme supported by a special diet, he was rejected again. Undeterred, he applied using a different first name, passed the written examination again and was ordered to Cranwell where he was accepted.

He graduated to Bristol Fighters and, after a temporary loss of confidence due to blacking out in a tight loop, developed into something of a daredevil. He was punished for hedge-hopping. But he shone in science subjects and in 1928 wrote a revolutionary thesis entitled Future Developments in Aircraft Design. The rest is history, as they say.

So folks, more serendipity, through that slip of the tongue we have learneded something of the famous Whittle cousin, from Ballygunner too perhaps! I’ve read that the Whittle name has been in the Waterford area since circa 1650.

Go seachtain eile, slán.