The exhibition of Éamon de Valera’s Dodge limousine in the newly renovated space at Clare Museum was formally launched on Sunday, 6th November.
The Dodge car was originally presented to Clare County Council by Éamon de Valera and Ann de Valera upon the wishes of their late aunt Máirín in 1988. It had been on display in a customised building at the rear of the Local Studies Centre in Harmony Row since 1992. However, following the refurbishment of the Tourist Office at Clare Museum, last June the car moved to the museum building where it is now part of the long-term exhibition. It has proven to be a major attraction to the public over the summer months.
Now 75 years old, de Valera’s Dodge was a familiar sight to Clare people who grew up in the 1960s and was often seen around the county, particularly at the Clare Show every August. Éamon de Valera had purchased the car from Sean T O’Kelly, the former President and original owner, when he was about to begin his presidency in 1959.
The car had been manufactured in Detroit, Michigan, US, in 1947 and was originally maroon in colour. However, when Éamon de Valera purchased the car he had it resprayed in black, and that is the colour it remains today. In 2011, Councillor PJ Ryan, Clare County Council, generously gave of his time and expertise to restore the Dodge. Original Whitewall tyres and a six-volt battery were sourced from the US, and repairs were made to brakes, exhaust, steering and bodywork. David Browne, of John Browne’s Auto Bodyshop in Cratloe, generously assisted with the bodywork restoration.
Present at the launch of the exhibition were Éamon O Cuív TD, Éamon de Valera and his wife Bridget and daughter Clodagh, and Ann de Valera. Both Éamon and Ann are grandchildren of Éamon de Valera. They were welcomed to the event by the Cathaoirleach of Clare County Council, Cllr Tony O’Brien. Local historian Joe Power presented a talk about the extraordinary relationship between Clare and Éamon de Valera that began with the East Clare by-election in 1917.
According to Cathaoirleach of Clare County Council, Cllr Tony O’Brien: “The de Valera Dodge is just one item donated to the people of Clare by the de Valera family, over the years. Others include a pen used by Neville Chamberlain to sign the 1938 Anglo-Irish Treaty and a luminated address presented to Éamon de Valera by Clare Cumann na mBan.”
Head of Cultural Services at Clare County Council, County Librarian Helen Walsh, said that “the new home for the car is a significant additional attraction for visitors to the museum”.
Clare Museum is open to the public daily from Tuesday to Saturday and admission is free.