Thursday, January 20, 2011

Land Rover Ladies

Copyright, Lora O'Brien
First UK Publication, Land Rover Enthusiast Magazine (first of a series)
Rights Available: First International Serial Rights, First Re-print Rights, First Regional Rights.
Please email for further info.


You are bored. Just another rainy Monday morning, dropping the kids to school before you head for work. Waiting at the gates, watching your little ones scamper safely inside, your head is abruptly turned by the vision that slides to a halt a few feet away.

A 1994 Discovery, 300 TDi. Colour uncertain, due to the mud, caked and dripping in the downpour, running in rivulets over the Michelin XZL 235 x 85 x 16 MT tyres… and with the wheel arches trimmed right back to accommodate those monsters! No side steps, or even bumpers, for better off road clearance, and a quick check underneath reveals diff guards front and back, and a snug steering guard. It sports a roof rack from an old Series III that would hold as much camping gear as anyone could want. And a CB aerial! Seriously kitted out for serious off road action, which it has obviously seen over the weekend. As the rain starts to wash this vision of Land Roverness cleaner, the multiple scratches and dents in the once pristine body tell their own tale; one of action and adventure. Parked there beside the shiny town 4 x 4’s, it’s showing them all how a Land Rover really should look.

The pre-school scramble inside the vehicle is done, and the door opens. Two boys are hustled out, followed by the driver. She grins as she notices your double take on seeing HER, and politely pretends not to notice the line of drool you’ve leaked out because of her Land Rover. Dear reader, we would like you to meet Lynda, our first ‘Land Rover Lady’.

Lynda McIlroy is from Carrickfergus in County Down, Northern Ireland. She has been a member of the Northern Ireland Land Rover Club for about 2 years now. She is very much involved in the local scene; attending an event every fortnight, a monthly meeting, and at least 4 weekend camping events during the summer. She is the only Lady driver about 90% of the time, though she reckons the lads in her club would love to see more Lady drivers. Perhaps for reasons best left unsaid, in some cases!

It was her (now ex) husband who first introduced her to the marque, when he bought a Range Rover Vogue SE. This was replaced with a Discovery, and a chance meeting with the Northern Ireland Land Rover Club, at a camp site, led to club membership. At that stage, Lynda was “the passenger and sandwich maker, nappy changer and child minder”. Hard work in itself of course, but it was getting to the stage where she was sick of being the side kick.

That Discovery met with a sticky end when a 30 tonne pile-driving machine fell off a lorry and landed right on top of it, with Lynda inside. She says the Land Rover saved her. It was replaced with the current Disco, which she had a hard time getting used to. She was a nervous wreck from the accident, and had a hard time driving anywhere. The interior was so similar to the first one that it just brought back horrific memories every time she climbed in. But she says of the vehicle: “her and I have conquered a lot together”. With the painful passing of Lynda’s mother after the suffering of Alzheimer’s, came the decision to create a life of her own. She left her husband, but kept the Discovery. About 3 months later she met up with an old friend from the club, who suggested she come back as a driver. So she did, with her sons (then aged 12 and 2) right there with her. The addiction began, for her and for her boys, and now every dent and scratch in that Disco bears witness to the endless fun and achievement of a life with Land Rovers.

Much has changed since then, with the vehicle and with her. Originally there were side steps, bumpers, lovely body work, spotlessly clean interiors, and other luxuries; such as door handles. Quite different from it’s current look. The Lady herself has learned much on the matter of off road driving, with the encouragement and coaching of her fellow club members, and is continually amazed by what her Disco can actually do. She has learned: “how not to bend my steering arm or wreck my gear box, where not to tie my recovery rope, when to keep my windows closed, where to pee and where not to in a club full of men, and how to clean lots and lots of muck inside and out”. Lynda has basic knowledge of what to do in a breakdown, but other than that does not maintain her own vehicle. For this, she is eternally grateful to many people. A whole club full of men who just shake their heads when she asks for help, but of course still do it. A lovely boyfriend who gets well paid for his labour in bacon butties and roast dinners. She also gives credit to two businesses in particular, “4 x 4 Store” and “BLRC”, who have never let her down and have kept her driving even when money was tight going through her divorce. She says they all kept her off roading through the bad times, which was entirely necessary, as off roading was “my escape and my sanity. Yes, I said sanity”.

Lynda feels that the last two years have been nearly the best of her life, due to the off roading. She hates driving cars and would forgive her Disco anything. She says, “I LOVE IT”, and you can’t say it more clearly than that! In her own words: “I reckon I will still be driving some sort of old Land Rover when I am on my pension. Best vehicle on the road. And to all those critics who keep running 4 x 4s down, get out there in the mud and see what you are missing!”

Good advice, from a Lady who’s Land Rover has changed her life.



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