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What's a 'gilhooley'?


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#1 tsrwright

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Posted 27 May 2014 - 08:04

In Autosport of 1951 there are frequent references such as to HW Norton at Ibsley, 4 August,  "accomplishing a record number of gilhooleys probably aggrevated by an engine which would suddnely cut out in one or both cylinders." At Boreham on 30 June the reporter makes frequent references to "Gilhooley" Corner (sic).

 

I Googled this name and apart from a large number of eponymous bars could only come up with a baseball player and a lesser auto race driver.

 

Would a 'gilhooley' be the same as a 'revolver' as in, 'Edmund Burke's phrase "a nursery of future revolutions", might have been coined with this corner in mind'.

 

Could it be something that 'doodlebugs' do?


Edited by tsrwright, 02 June 2014 - 05:29.


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#2 Vitesse2

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Posted 27 May 2014 - 09:44

My guess would have been it was of Irish origin, since Mr Gilhooley is a novel by Liam O'Flaherty and a hooley is Irish (and indeed Scouse) slang for a party. However, gilhooley doesn't seem to be a word which ever gained much traction, since it doesn't appear in the online version of the OED - and I tried several spellings! Ellery Queen used it in a novel called The Murderer is a Fox, apparently to mean 'nonsense' - so hardly a motor sport context.

 

However, the excellent Concise New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English defines a 'gilhooley' as:

 

noun: in motor racing on an oval track, a spin. US 1965

Now, obviously that's some years afterwards and apparently from an American source, but certainly in context.

 

So, I wonder if it's perhaps a bit of American (Air Force?) slang which the writer had heard? Or maybe even an American writer? It doesn't seem to be RAF slang, but I'll try to find time to get to the library to check Partridge's definitive book on that.

 

Urban Dictionary, OTOH, says a 'gilhooly' is:

 

a person with questionable instincts; a crowd follower; an adherent to conventional wisdom.

 



#3 Michael Ferner

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Posted 27 May 2014 - 09:50

It's American slang, and it's actually about the "lesser auto race driver". Ray Gilhooley (though there are variations in spelling) crashed an Isotta-Fraschini during the 1914 Indy 500, and caught crowd favourite Joe Dawson out. I read that story about "doing a Gilhooley" in a book about Indy many, many years ago, and I always thought "yeah, right", but then I watched a non-racing US movie and one of the characters actually said something about doing a Gilhooley, and I nearly freaked out!



#4 Vitesse2

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Posted 27 May 2014 - 11:13

Having seen Michael's reply and googled 'doing a Gilhooley', I found this, which seems to have been syndicated across a number of newspapers - this is actually from the Jefferson City Post-Tribune of Monday, October 19, 1936. Apologies for the size, but this was what stitching three screen grabs turned out like!

 

pano.jpg

 

 



#5 RA Historian

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Posted 27 May 2014 - 13:38

....and here I always thought that Gilhooley was the character played by Lee Marvin in the 1963 John Wayne movie, "Donovan's Reef".



#6 Marc Sproule

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Posted 27 May 2014 - 23:50

actually he's a distant cousin of the totally unknown midwestern driver zub arhoolie.


Edited by Marc Sproule, 27 May 2014 - 23:51.


#7 tsrwright

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Posted 29 May 2014 - 06:00

Just fabulous, thank you. The Indy reference looks like the one.

 

Now, what about "doodlebug"? There are numerous references to midget racing cars being called such in both the UK and USA pre WW2. One can imagine midget cars looking like little insects as they scoot and wiggle along the back straight.

 

I have seen a website that gives information about the distribution of the term as applied to little insects in the US and what the species are (it varies from place to place). Seems to be a generic term and one species it applied to, and for which there is even a website,  is the 'ant lion'.

 

Be that as it may, V1s flying bombs in SE England 1944 became known as 'doodlebugs' but how? One plausible explanation is that they sounded a bit like V twin Skirrows which were commonly referred to as 'doodlebugs'. I contacted the author of the 'ant-lion' website and he hadn't heard this story but he recalled a NZ RAF pilot telling him it had something to do with a girl doing a striptease!

 

If anyone can link midget racing to striptease it will be a good story, will it not?

 

But the Skirrow allusion seems plausible not forgetting that there were quite a lot of V twin midgets in the east coast US late 'thirties so the connection is not necessarily to UK racing.

 

Any more information welcome.



#8 Sharman

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Posted 29 May 2014 - 06:17

I seem to recall a fashion during the war for attaching the "bug" suffix to various phenomena which drew approbation. One which springs to mind is "squanderbug" which was used to describe a wasteful individual.



#9 tsrwright

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Posted 29 May 2014 - 06:18

 

Having seen Michael's reply and googled 'doing a Gilhooley', I found this, which seems to have been syndicated across a number of newspapers - this is actually from the Jefferson City Post-Tribune of Monday, October 19, 1936. Apologies for the size, but this was what stitching three screen grabs turned out like!

 

 

 

Interesting lesson here, Richard. It was only by Googling the whole phrase and putting it in inverted commas that  I got the same result.

 

I can't print your post or access the reference - would you  mind emailing a copy of the screengrabs -- tsrwright%gmail.com?  Thanks again.



#10 Vitesse2

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Posted 29 May 2014 - 08:22

Motor Sport, quoting Ralph Secretan's speedway programme notes, refers to 'brightly flashing DoodleBugs' in June 1937 and according to an article called 'Best Answer to Flying Bombs' in The Times of June 22nd 1944 it was RAF pilots who originally coined the term in reference to V-1s: JS McDonnell had built an experimental aircraft called Doodle Bug in 1930 so perhaps that might be the root of that?

 

Having found both those, I then checked the online OED and found that was slightly earlier than their earliest citation for the racing usage - they quote an August 1937 Lea Bridge programme (so again probably Secretan). The first American citation they have for doodlebug as a midget racing car is from Collier's in 1940 - although a quick search of NewspaperArchive.com shows it in use from 1935 onwards. The article in The Times is their earliest citation for flying bombs.

 

However, just to add another strand to this, the term 'doodlebugger' was apparently used in the United States and Canada to refer to water diviners and dowsers. There is a reference to this - again in The Times - in 1931 and it was brought up again in 1944 during an inconclusive correspondence on the origins of the term - which also touches on midget racing, although the writer refers only to Australia. Again, the OED gives citations for this usage, starting in the early 1920s, and - having evolved - it was still apparently in use in the oil industry in the 1980s. Partridge (as above) also gives these oil industry usages.

 

Whether we can make the leap from a dowser discovering something hidden from view and a stripper I don't know!



#11 Stephen W

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Posted 29 May 2014 - 08:39

I seem to recall a fashion during the war for attaching the "bug" suffix to various phenomena which drew approbation. One which springs to mind is "squanderbug" which was used to describe a wasteful individual.

 

Of course the Squanderbug title was applied to a 500 F3 Special.



#12 Vitesse2

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Posted 29 May 2014 - 10:20

I also dug back into the archive at Racing History on Yahoo. This is from a post by Larry Ball in 2006:
 

 

Calling midgets "doodlebugs" started with the big car drivers who
looked down on the midgets that were becoming so popular in the late
30's. Walter Bull, who founded the Illustrated Speedway News, then
started a contest to crown "King Doodlebug". The following six
drivers were all crowned "King Doodlebug": Cletus "Cowboy" O'Rourke
(1938), Bill Holmes (1939), Al Bonnell (1946), Ed "Dutch" Schaefer
(1947), Bill Schindler (1948), and Ralph Pratt (1949).



#13 Eric Dunsdon

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Posted 29 May 2014 - 16:42

Just fabulous, thank you. The Indy reference looks like the one.

 

Now, what about "doodlebug"? There are numerous references to midget racing cars being called such in both the UK and USA pre WW2. One can imagine midget cars looking like little insects as they scoot and wiggle along the back straight.

 

I have seen a website that gives information about the distribution of the term as applied to little insects in the US and what the species are (it varies from place to place). Seems to be a generic term and one species it applied to, and for which there is even a website,  is the 'ant lion'.

 

Be that as it may, V1s flying bombs in SE England 1944 became known as 'doodlebugs' but how? One plausible explanation is that they sounded a bit like V twin Skirrows which were commonly referred to as 'doodlebugs'. I contacted the author of the 'ant-lion' website and he hadn't heard this story but he recalled a NZ RAF pilot telling him it had something to do with a girl doing a striptease!

 

Dont know about striptease, but when huddled in the cupbooard under the stairs as a kid  during the air raids in the 1940's, 'Doodlebugs' were pretty scarey  things. Especially when those horrible sounding engines cut out!.



#14 tsrwright

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Posted 31 May 2014 - 13:01

Do you have a sub to online OED, Richard? I sometimes use the hard copy volumes in the local liibrary and  find that I have motoring references to terms that are quite a bit earlier than it has..

 

Can't remember for sure, but I think 'speedway' might have been one. There is still a street called 'Speedway' in Venice California, but it was nothing  to do with the sole big car Venice race of 1915 (or was it 1916?).  It was just a paved road, still rare then, built for 'speed' to link new beach front suburbs.

 

Now back on doodlebugs, thank you for the memories, Eric, glad they missed you. I gather the V2s were much worse - no warning at all and a much bigger hole.

 

I like the big car driver story, makes sense.



#15 GMACKIE

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Posted 31 May 2014 - 22:48

I'm wondering if this counts as a 'Gilhooley'?

 

At Oran Park, late '60s, I [unwisely] managed to get my Elfin Vee in between Gary Campbell and Aub Revell. The result was 2 or 3 cart-wheels, and about 4 barrel-rolls for me, ending up in the dirt on the side of the track, upside-down! :eek: The flaggies lifted the car off me, and I walked away....they couldn't believe their eyes.

 

Don't know how many times I thanked Garrie Cooper for building such a strong chassis. Thanks again, Garrie :up:



#16 DanTra2858

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Posted 01 June 2014 - 07:43

If the chassis was that strong then I presume that a wheel alignment was not required!!!!!!!

#17 GMACKIE

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Posted 01 June 2014 - 07:56

A wheel alignment was required, Dan.  ;)

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#18 Michael Ferner

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Posted 01 June 2014 - 08:56

Boy, look at that roll-over hoop!! :eek: :eek:


Edited by Michael Ferner, 01 June 2014 - 08:57.


#19 Michael Ferner

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Posted 01 June 2014 - 08:59

Terry, "speedway" is certainly much older than any motor racing usage. I've seen it in many 19th century newspapers.



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#20 Vitesse2

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Posted 01 June 2014 - 09:33

Terry, "speedway" is certainly much older than any motor racing usage. I've seen it in many 19th century newspapers.

Seems to have been an 1890s coinage in connection with trotting - particularly the Harlem Speedway. OED's first citation is 1894, but there are some slightly earlier ones in US papers. Within ten years it was being used to refer to fast motor roads.

 

Oddly, OED's first citation as a motor racing track is 1925: even The Times was using it in 1919.

 

However, it should be borne in mind that the OED have an enormous backlog of work: it's like painting the Forth Bridge! I submitted some corrections regarding the entry for 'blitzkrieg' in English-language usage some time ago: as yet no change. They admitted at the time it might be several years!



#21 ensign14

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Posted 01 June 2014 - 10:08

Do you have a sub to online OED, Richard? I sometimes use the hard copy volumes in the local liibrary and  find that I have motoring references to terms that are quite a bit earlier than it has..

 

Check to see whether your local library offers online access remotely.  Birmingham does - I can get onto the OED and the DNB, as well as several others.



#22 Vitesse2

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Posted 01 June 2014 - 10:24

Check to see whether your local library offers online access remotely.  Birmingham does - I can get onto the OED and the DNB, as well as several others.

He's in Orstrylia ... :p



#23 ensign14

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Posted 01 June 2014 - 11:42

Well, maybe there's online access to the Strine Dictionary there.



#24 DanTra2858

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Posted 01 June 2014 - 22:16

A wheel alignment was required, Dan.  ;)
2e348d5f-3e37-42c8-8e5f-afc0c3682911_zps


Greg you were very lucky, I have never seen a roll over bar bent forward like that before, was the chassis straighened or did the car need a new chassis let alone body,you were one lucky man.

#25 275 GTB-4

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Posted 01 June 2014 - 23:00

"Gilhooley Mackie" don't exactly roll off the tongue...but he has certainly earned the right to use the term :)
 
[maybe "Gilhooley Greg" would be better]

#26 tsrwright

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Posted 02 June 2014 - 05:26

 

I observe that in Britain from the introduction by Australian entreprenuers and riders in 1928 of what we now call (motorcycle) speedway, it was for quite a while called 'dirt-track' although in Australia it had long been called 'speedway'.

 

Was it applied to motor or motor cycle racing or venues in the US before the building of the Indianapolis Speedway was announced in 1907?


Edited by tsrwright, 02 June 2014 - 05:31.


#27 tsrwright

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Posted 02 June 2014 - 05:36

Greg you were very lucky, I have never seen a roll over bar bent forward like that before, was the chassis straighened or did the car need a new chassis let alone body,you were one lucky man.

 

I suppose you could call it a 'Gilhooley bar'

 

I gather a gilhooley involves a crash and a dnf, in which case the man from Autosport at Ibsley lon ago didn't quite get it right.

 

Clearly you can't have multiple gilhooleys.



#28 GMACKIE

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Posted 08 June 2014 - 23:14

Greg you were very lucky, I have never seen a roll over bar bent forward like that before, was the chassis straighened or did the car need a new chassis let alone body,you were one lucky man.

The chassis straightened up nicely, with a few new tube sections welded in. I spent a few months - and not a lot of money - getting the Elfin back into shape. Jack Bono re-built the engine, using a S/H crank-case [original broken in the crash]. I learned how to repair fibre-glass. :well:

 

Had it finished for Catalina Park, 25th January, 1970. Managed to snatch a win....after a nervous start.



#29 Ivan Saxton

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Posted 22 July 2014 - 12:18

Ralph Stein was a friend of people such as Henry Austin Clark, and Ralph Buckley, to name just two.  If you enter his name in the aggregative book sites, you may find several of his excellent books on better built early cars at very good value.  Two titles are "The American Automobile",  and "The Great Cars" if my recall is accurate.   Stein remarks that Ray Gilhooley, after his retirement as a racing driver of less renown,  ran what Stein called an "emporium" for distinguished used cars of sporting capability in New York City.   

Those big overhead camshaft Isottas must have been a handful to drive with their pioneering four wheel brakes.  There were two brake pedals plus handbrake, and the un-coupled and probably un-compensated brakes probably could make the handling unpredictable for a driver less experienced with them than Minoia or Trucco.  

It may seem heresy to suggest that one of Isotta Fraschini's earlier  short stroke, Tipo Taunus T-head racing cars may have performed more competitively at Indianapolis that the OHC Tipo IM.  If you care to study Angelo Tito Anselmi's  book on Isotta you can see why.   The cars that were built for the 1907 Kaiserpreis regulations were effectively prior art in the double-sided form of a T-head, of Sir Harry Rickardo's  high efficiency "turbulence" combustion chamber design for L-head engines.  The engine cross-section drawing on

p 228 shows that the dome of the piston almost touched the chamber roof..  The Two-spark Bosch magneto fired plugs on both sides of the engine by a segmented slip-ring with two hot ends of the secondary winding.  The compression ratio may have been as high as 8 to 1,  judged by the performance of one of these cars with which Minoia won the 1907 Coppa Florio.  The winning car averaged just under 65 mph over the 302 miles,  using only 19.8 gallons of petrol !!!!  That is 15 miles per gallon for an 8 litre T-head, driven flat out!!!    Three similar racing caes were built for the Isotta Import company, and raced in 1908 and later in USA by Harding, Strang, Poole, and probably others.   Yet it seems that Cattaneo may not have fully understood the significance of what he had done;  and F R Porter may have been the only other designer to do likewise by fluke or copy with the later T-head Mercers.



#30 Vitesse2

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Posted 15 September 2014 - 12:45

The word 'gilhooley' was uttered during the commentary on the final race from Goodwood yesterday. I think it was Marcus Pye ...