Ireland’s Earliest Orienteering Maps
Pat Farrelly of the Defence Forces Orienteering Club has found evidence of the earliest known Orienteering event in Ireland: Sunday April 13th 1969 in Harney’s Cross, Clonmel. While we don’t have any maps from the event Pat has managed to find a report on it from the Carlow Nationalist newspaper. Also Pat has found an article introducing the sport of Orienteering from the Defence Forces magazine, Cosantoir, dated March 1969.
Eoin Rothery of Ajax, now an active Orienteer in Australia, found this copy of the Glen of the Downs map in Wicklow that was used for the earliest known non-military Orienteering event in Ireland in October 1969. The event crosses the road twice, something that would not be contemplated nowadays - it has been upgraded to a motorway. Eoin also demonstrates a visionary RouteGadget prototype from the late ‘60s (a blue marker). The Glen of the Downs east was re-mapped by Setanta in 2006.
Eoin comments: “The event was in the Glen of the Downs in October 1969 and was followed in November by Niall Rice's event at the Blessington sand pits/woods, and then by Mike Lunt's event at Devil's Glen which was 26 December, 1969. Paddy O'Leary was the Glen of the Downs organiser and Nigel Bark had the fastest time. I don't have the results and don't know if there was more than 1 course - the course we did (Sean, Colm and I as a team, aka the Rothery family) is on the map, however faintly. I appear to have drawn in our route to no. 7 at some stage. The course had a number of innovative features - it was a real point to point, with Start and Finish in different locations. Paddy O'Leary did some map corrections, and used colour to highlight various things - blue stream, red road; green and orange both appear to indicate ways through the woods either forest roads or rides. Some of these were actually mapped by Paddy - so he was already updating the available Ordnance Survey map.”
Courtesy of Barry Dalby of EastWest Mapping we have a copy of the Devil's Glen map used for the 26th December 1969 event and also Ireland’s first colour map - a 1970 two-colour map also of the Devil’s Glen. Both are by Michael Lunt.
There were possibly earlier events than these organised by the Defence Forces, possibly as far back as the late '50s, but to date no documentary evidence has been found.