BY MARTIN WALSH
BRIAN Patterson’s contribution to Irish rallying, and rallying in general, is immeasurable. His recent passing, following a brief illness, leaves a huge void. Tributes on social media from all over the world illustrate the profound effect he had in the sport.
Brian (76) passed away on Sunday, August 2nd, and was interred in Drumbo cemetery in Belfast on Wednesday, August 5th.
The Patterson family have made, and indeed continue to make, an enormous contribution to rallying, but Brian spearheaded the process. He began his working career as a health inspector before becoming a butcher and subsequently entering the motor trade. He was a talented driver at the wheel of his three-litre Ford Capri but it was through other sectors of rallying that he, and indeed his wife Liz, gained global prominence.
In the early 1970s Liz together with Alan ‘Plum’Tyndall (pater of RPM Motorsport) published an ‘on event’ newspaper for the Donegal International Rally called the Ballyraine Bugle. As Plum concentrated on televising rallying, Brian saw the niche and so began the RallyNews service.
Before, during and at the end of each rally, Brian and Liz would produce these information sheets with up-to-date results – long, long before the advent of on-line results – and stories on how the event progressed. They were an ever-present at events throughout the country. Indeed, having the service at events was a prerequisite of the promoting clubs.
Brian had a great fondness of the West Cork region, whether it was in Clonakilty for the West Cork or especially in Glandore for the Fastnet.
The RallyNews bulletins were crafted by Brian and typed by Liz before being run off, initially on a Gestetner (in the back of a Mercedes estate) and then handed out to an inquisitive public that feasted upon the information. On event, Brian spoke with drivers and co-drivers at the end of the opening stage, drove back to the service area and then began calling the rally jargon as Liz typed at fever pitch and another RallyNews bulletin was ready before crews and public funnelled back after the opening loop of stages. There, another bulletin was prepared and distributed and while the interim results topped the sheet, it was the information beneath that was legendary.
It wasn’t just about the top crews, it also had information about how many of the locals were getting on and how some were coping, even like borrowing parts from a farmer’s car to stay in the rally. As well as being informative, they could also be amusing.
The business grew, Patterson Agencies, with the addition of creating pacenotes and subsequently DVDs. The red Mercedes estate was replaced by a Vito with much better facilities as Liz had her ‘office’ while Brian, sitting in the driver’s seat, relayed the text for Liz to type on the computer or, indeed, Macbook before it went into production.
But all the time, the public waited with anticipation for the latest news, crowding about the Patterson vehicle for the hot-off-the-press news. It was only in the last decade that they dispensed with this great service. Brian also wrote for Motorsport News and Autosport along with reporting for BBC Radio Northern Ireland.
Up until lockdown Brian continued travelling the country and the UK making pacenotes with his son Michael. He just loved the sport and never thought of retirement. Sadly, he fell ill some two months ago. Ironically, in his final days, West Cork played a part as one of the nursing staff that was looking after him hailed from Bantry.
In garages, attics and offices all over the country there are complete sets of RallyNews bulletins from events. They are collector’s items, now all the more treasured because of Brian’s sad passing. They are a record of how this form of communication – between competitors, press and the public – revolutionised the rally world.
Brian is survived by his wife Liz, sons Michael, David, Chris and Jonathan, daughters in law, grandchildren and a huge circle of friends and pre-deceased by his daughter in law Susan. May he rest in peace.