Captain Weddall’s Bicycle

In 1908 Sean O’Longain was a traveling teacher, who lived on Achill in the early twentieth century. He lodged at Pollagh, not too far from Emily Weddall and her husband the captain. He was introduced to them by his landlady Mrs. Fadden. Sean O’Longain, like many others though that Captain Weddall was Russian, he was in fact an Englishman, Yorkshire born and bred. It was also common knowledge that the couple had a ample income from Russia too. So when the young teacher wanted to borrow the sea captain’s bicycle to travel to a Gaelic League event in Westport some forty miles away he met the prospect of asking him with much trepidation.

Captain Weddall struck an imposing figure. He was large tall and “not very communicative” as Sean O’Longain put it. The though of approaching him to borrow the bike was too much for him so he approached his wife, Emily.

“I went directly to the captain’s wife, Mrs. Weddall, told her my story of how obligatory it was for me to meet the Gaelic League organiser and that I would be exceedingly grateful to her if she’d kindly ask the captain to loan me his bike as far as Achill Sound, that I could catch the train there to Westport.”

Emily did not make any promises that her husband would lend him the bike but she would certainly try to persuade him to do so as it was for the cause of the Gaelic League, the organisation closet to her heart. He kept everything he owned in ‘shipshape’ a habit he never lost, from the years he spent at sea. She disappeared into her house and returned a while later with a pleased smile on her face. The captain would lend him his bike. She motioned for him to follow her husband.

“Come with me.” said the captain. He then took me to the tool house, where the bike was locked and neatly kept, took the large moleskin cover off and it shined like a piece of silver fresh from the mint.”

Now said the Russian captain I’m giving you the loan of this bike on conditions that you take special car of it; do not let it out of you r possession until you return it to me in the same condition as you are getting it.”

“Very well captain” said I, “thank you.”

On the shiny new bike the school teacher began his journey…

Connaught Telegraph 1830-current, 19.05.1956, page 4