In Memory of Ken Duff by Pat McQuaid

Posted on: August 1st, 2017

It was in the late 70’s when I moved house from Ballinteer to Roundwood that I first met Ken Duff. Bray Wheelers held a club meeting every Thursday evening and after that a group of them including Pat Ryan, Harry Dawson, Phil O’Brien, Tommy Campbell, Liam McKenna and several others would head up to Ken Duffs Pub for a few drinks. Over the years these evenings went long into the night behind closed doors and cycling in all its aspects were discussed and indeed many Classics and Tours de France were won and lost.

Then came the Kelloggs City Centre events and of course the Nissan Classic. These guys were the core of the technical staff on all those events and usually in October Duffs became the un-official Nissan de-brief headquarters where ideas to improve the race were thrown around, many of which were implemented. Indeed Ken placed framed posters from each Nissan Classic around a corner of the pub, which he always referred to as Nissan Corner.This was the start of what is now an iconic cycling pub with some incredible memorabilia spread throughout.

Ken Duff Pat McQuaid and Tony Ryan

As Ken went through phases of renovating sections of the pub over the years, work done by Bray Wheeler Pat Ryan he searched for new elements to display on the walls. Alongside Sean Kelly’s Tour de France bike and green jersey, Stephen Roche’s world championship rainbow jersey, one of the most treasured and unique pieces of memorabilia on display is Shay Elliot’s Yellow Jersey from the 1962 Vuelta a Espana. Shay passed it on to Bray Wheeler Jimmy Doyle who in turn gave it to Ken. Also there is a Stephen Roche bike, photographs, newspapers cuttings etc all of which provide the visitor with a great insight into parts of Irish cycling history.

Though not a political man, he, as a publican knew all that was going on in local politics and on one occasion in 1993 he told me that Enda Kenny, then Minister for Tourism, would be speaking at a Fine Gael function in Greystones the following week. There as to be a private reception for Enda after the meeting and he had got invites for both him and I to go along. This would be an opportunity for me to speak to Enda about my Tour de France project. I did that and some weeks later Enda invited me to his office in Leinster House where we discussed at length the project and indeed he pledged his support from that day onwards.   

The 1998 Tour de France passes through Bray town centre

And so, in 1998 the Tour de France coming through Bray, with a PMU Sprint outside his front door was a recognition of his pub as a cycling pub and his contribution to getting the event in Ireland. It was a very proud Ken who hosted a group including Jean Marie Leblanc, Race Director of the Tour de France and many of his colleagues during the week of the Tours visit to Ireland as they walked around the pub looking at the memorabilia and drinking what was and continues to be pints of the best Guinness in Ireland.

Ken travelled on all the Nissan Classics as a VIP guest, but never wanted to travel in a guest car, preferring to be in a neutral

Ken hosting a Bray Wheelers Christmas gatheringservice, routing or Commissaires car, and never stayed in the guest hotel again preferring to stay with his friends in their hotel. The stories coming from that group as they travelled around the country are legion, indeed many would be unprintable!

He also travelled extensively with Pat Ryan and Tommie Campbell to events in Europe and several times visited the Tour de France for a few days and has been practically every World Road Championship over the past 20 years.

Ken indeed loved cycling, and his smile was never bigger than standing in the guest area of a big race, pint in hand. But he also supported the grassroots and annually he sponsored events organised by the Bray Wheelers, including in recent years the Christy McManus Trophy.
The best way to describe Ken is as a gentle, gentleman. Soft spoken and indeed a very private person. Very few people outside his family and inner circle were aware this past six months as to how ill he was – he preferred it that way.

He will be missed by many in the cycling community and of course his loyal customers around Bray and further afield. And indeed none more so than his partner May, his family, sister Madeline, nephews and nieces who have had him taken away from them far too early.

Ken Duff, Tony Ryan and Pat McQuaid at the Tour of Switzerland


May he Rest in Peace

Ken will be buried in St Peters graveyard in Bray following 10 0’clock mass at the Church of the Most Holy Redeemer in Bray on Wednesday 2nd August.

Pat McQuaid