Lives Remembered

Adrian Boyd: Gentleman king of the road

Adrian Boyd prepares for the final test in the 1960 Circuit of Ireland which he won aged just 19

MOST young boys are content to have a teddy bear beside them when tucked up in bed at night.

But when Adrian Boyd was three or four years old, he wouldn't go to bed without a plate.

The plate was his steering wheel, for little Adrian had already decided he was going to be a racing driver.

No-one quite knows how the passion for cars began, but it never left him.

There was no connection to motorsport in the family, but they had owned a quarry and contracting business in Carnmoney, Co Antrim since 1895 and there were always cars, trucks and tractors about the house.

In the early days Adrian was almost as interested in horses as horsepower, but once his legs were long enough to reach the pedals, he would spend his days driving around the private lanes and fields near his home.

Adrian with his mother and brothers John and Derek in 1948

The eldest of four boys and a girl, he boarded at Vernon College in Dunmurry and that was where he met his first co-driver, Maurice Johnston.

As soon as Adrian turned 17, he did his driving test and bought his first car, a Ford Anglia costing £400.

Adrian Boyd with his first car, a Ford Anglia bought for £400 shortly after passing his driving test

They entered some navigation rallies and test events and then the Circuit of Ireland in 1959, the Anglia limping home with just one of its three forward gears intact.

Then in 1960 he switched to a two-seater Austin-Healey Sprite and never looked back.

Aged just 19, Adrian became the youngest winner of the Circuit, a record which is unlikely ever to be beaten.

The Austin-Healey Sprite Adrian Boyd drove to victory in the 1960 Circuit of Ireland

One of the oldest and most celebrated rallies in the world, the gruelling five-day, 1,500-mile race from Bangor to Killarney and back was the ultimate test of speed, control, navigation, courage and endurance.

In the days when being a racing driver was every young man's dream, Adrian's victory that Easter holiday was a sensation - even if he somehow managed to take it in his stride.

Although a fierce competitor behind the wheel, he was never one for the limelight and remained a gentleman in every aspect of his life.

Adrian kept rallying over the next two decades, driving a Ford Cortina GT, Sunbeams and Humbers, a Mini Cooper, several Escorts, and a beautiful blue Renault Alpine.

The only car he never parted with, the Renault finished fourth in the 1975 Circuit and still turns heads at retro events.

Adrian's stunning blue Renault Alpine which he never parted with

Career highlights included winning the Circuit again in 1971, this time alongside Beatty Crawford, and the Manx Rally two years later.

His privately-owned Ford Escort Twin Cam also just narrowly missed out on winning the British rally championship, despite the imbalance of resources when competing against factory teams.

Adrian driving the Ford Escort which led the 1973 Circuit of Ireland until mechanical failure denied him in the final miles

Throughout his whole career Adrian somehow never managed to break skin or bone, despite one particularly bad crash on the Isle of Man when his car overturned and caught fire.

And while he always took his driving seriously, he was one of the most popular and down to earth drivers off the track as well as in the family business, which he joined immediately after leaving school and worked as transport manager as well as a director.

Adrian with a Volkswagen Beetle in 1961

In later years Adrian enjoyed sailing as well as the occasional spin in vintage motor events.

He suffered ill health in recent years but was cared for lovingly at home in Killinchy by his partner Caryl.

Adrian with his partner Cary

Adrian Boyd died of Covid-19 on October 12. He was in his 81st year.

He is survived and sadly missed by Caryl, daughter Sara and son Jonathan, brothers Derek, John and Henry and sister Margot, and six grandchildren.

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Lives Remembered