Saturday, December 01, 2007

Frank O'Boyle

Back in the late 1930s Frank O’Boyle must have been the leading racing driver in the Irish Free State, his Alta Voiturette competing against the likes of Bira, Mays, de Graffenreid and Villoresi. O’Boyle’s car was maintained by the Evans family’s Bellevue Garage in London but Frank never once accompanied the machine when it was sent to and fro across the Irish sea; that task usually falling to Bellevue’s chief mechanic, the legendary Wilkie Wilkinson. The reasons for O’Boyle’s reluctance to leave Ireland have been hinted at, some trouble with the English authorities that may have occasioned a spell in jail. Here‘s some more detail.

O’Boyle was born around the end of the 1890s but by the summer of 1920, it seems, he was already the owner of a garage in County Tyrone. In September of that year he took part in a payroll ambush in which a driver, William McDowell was shot dead. The raiders getting away with the not inconsiderable sum of £1300. O’Boyle and two companions were soon arrested and after a jury trial failed to reach a verdict they were sentenced to life imprisonment by a military court martial.

One night in May 1927 O’Boyle, together with his companions from the payroll robbery, overpowered two prison guards at Belfast’s Crumlin Road jail, making their escape in a waiting motor car which was driven at great speed through the early morning Belfast streets. By 1929 Frank O’Boyle had been re-arrested by the authorities in the Free State for extradition back to the North. Dublin’s High Court disagreed and decided that it was unconstitutional to return a man who had been sentenced by a military tribunal, O’Boyle was free as long, of course, as he did not set foot on British soil.

What became of O’Boyle I don't know, he must have been well respected by the Irish motor racing crowd, a Frank O’Boyle Trophy race was held at the Curragh after the war, Stirling Moss even won it in 1951. The Alta was at the Bellevue Garage when war was declared in 1939 and could not be returned to Ireland, it was eventually sold back to the company for £250. Was O’Boyle a member of the IRA? He certainly claimed he was a political prisoner, although the British courts insisted he was a common criminal.


Ray said...

I would like to get in touch with kjj, as this article refers to my late father Frank O'Boyle and is of great interest to our family. I am anxious to do some more research on this and would be grateful for any help

Anonymous said...

Hi Ray I believe (I am 100% certain) we are first cousins. Your father was my mother's brother. I too was very interested in this article. If you want to contact me perhaps I could put you in touch with other family members, or I myself might be able to fill in some gaps for you. I can be contacted by email or facebook Mary M