Seamus (‘Shay’) Elliott

(04/06/1934 - 04/05/1971)

Seamus ‘Shay’ Elliott, was born 4 June 1934 at Old County Road, Crumlin, the second of three sons of Jim Elliott and his wife Nell. His parents were part of the republican contingent that seized the Four Courts in Dublin in 1922 at the outset of the Irish civil war. The family moved to Crumlin during Shay’s childhood and he attended the Christian Brothers School in Crumlin, where he played hurling and football. He did not take up cycling until he was fourteen.

Elliott’s journey into professional cycling was unconventional. He initially joined a small cycling club attached to St. Brendan’s Catholic Church, Coolock, showcasing his early talent in local races. Progressing through various clubs, including the Southern Road Club and the Dublin Wheelers, Elliott’s successes paved the way for his transition to continental Europe.

In 1955, Elliott embarked on a training camp in Monte Carlo, signalling his ambition to turn professional. His remarkable performances caught the attention of French cycling authorities, leading to his integration into the prestigious Athletic Club Boulogne-Billancourt (ACBB) team based in Paris. As an amateur, he claimed numerous victories, setting world records and earning the title of top amateur rider in France.

Transitioning to the professional ranks in 1956, Elliott continued to impress, consistently winning minor races and showcasing his prowess in important classics. Heralded as Ireland’s first major international rider, setting records comparable to cycling legends Sean Kelly and Stephen Roche, Elliott’s impact on the sport was monumental, marking several firsts in Irish cycling history. He was the first Irish cyclist to compete in and win a stage of the Tour de France, don the prestigious yellow jersey, and lead the Vuelta a España. His achievements extended beyond national borders, as he became the first English-speaking rider to triumph in stages across all Grand Tours.

However, Elliott’s career trajectory took a downturn in 1965 when internal team politics led to a betrayal by his teammates, shattering his trust and ultimately prompting his departure from the team. Subsequent financial struggles and personal turmoil culminated in Elliott’s retirement from professional cycling in 1966.

Following his retirement, Elliott exposed widespread drug use and race-fixing within the professional cycling world, shedding light on the darker aspects of the sport. Despite his efforts to transition to a new career and rebuild his life, Elliott’s tragic end came on May 4, 1971, under circumstances clouded in uncertainty.

He is buried at Kilmacanogue, Co. Wicklow, beside his father, who had died two weeks previously.

In 1998 the Tour de France passed his grave as a mark of respect; Bray Wheelers stage an annual event in his memory. In 2023, a plaque was unveiled by Dublin City Council at his childhood home at 96 Old County Road. The commemoration was proposed by film-maker Martin Dwan, whose film ‘Shay Elliott: Cycle of Betrayal’ was filmed at a special screening after the unveiling.

– Photos taken from Shay Elliott Appreciation Page

Person Photo
Connection with area: Cyclist who was born and lived on 96 Old County Road, Crumlin.