… that "Iron Bones" McNamara was our great-uncle.

There are a great many things my Father said and some encompassed his attitudes about what it took to get by in life.  Some were spoken tongue-in-cheek with the most serious poker face only missing the elbow nudge and wink.  Here are a few of the things my Father always said:

  • “Yellow,” was his New York City phone greeting which never changed to the end of his days.  I never knew why he said that until I saw a documentary on the history of the phone in NYC.  The first line in NYC was the Yellow Line and the expected greeting for a person using the Yellow Line was “yellow.”
  • When asked if we were related to Robert S. McNamara, my father always answered, “Sure, that’s our poor cousin” when at the time he was the President of the World Bank.
  • If Dad thought we were being lazy or slacking off from the chores, he might exclaim, “You think the world owes you a living?”  
  • When I left after visiting him and mom, Dad would always say, “Don’t be a stranger.”  It did not matter if I visited every weekend, or once in a great while, that was his standard goodbye greeting.
  • The older he got, the more he said this one: "When you stop getting older you're DEAD!"

When our family was out together and it was time to leave, many times Dad could not be found.  When he was eventually found, he was usually sitting down talking to someone he just met.  He had that gift of being anyone and everyone’s best friend. 

What Dad never said spoke volumes; he would never speak of his WWII service, his golden gloves boxing accomplishments, his experiences as a child soprano singer during the depression, or anything about his immediate family in New York whom we never met.

In 1999 I began doing family history research.  It was my way of reclaiming my family after the death of both my parents.  But back to "Iron Bones" McNamara – I sent an Internet query out that was not answered for more than five years.  The response was incredible.  The respondent was related to "Iron Bones" and he sent me an old sports magazine article by Peter Nye. Iron Bones was Reggie McNamara and more commonly called “Iron-Man” McNamara.  He was the person the term “Iron-Man” was first coined to describe.  

I learned that Reggie won outright 700 of 3,000 races he entered during his three-decade bicycle racing career.  He finished 108 six-day bike races on wooden tracks (typically 1/10th of mile oval laps) and won 19 of these.  Each two-man team on average routinely pedaled 2,500 miles in the six-day races.  Reggie amassed a total of more than 135,000 miles in all the sixes, enough to have pedaled around the world five times.  Reggie broke many bones during his career, mostly in the sixes.  At the URL below you can read a summary of his career and injuries.  It is amazing he was able to come back so many times and even completed races while injured.

Now that I was completely impressed about Reggie, I started to research him more seriously and learned he was born in New South Wales, Australia.  As my Grandfather was born in Ireland, Reggie was NOT my Grandpa’s brother and was NOT my Great-Uncle. I believe my father may have watched Reggie race at the NYC Velodrome, perhaps even shook his hand, but beyond that anything else would be hard to imagine.

Remember to think twice and fairly evaluate anything “Father always said.”     

Dad, December 4, 1954 
Truck Driver Safety Award Dinner
Roger Young Auditorium, Los Angeles, CA


For more information about Reginald James McNamara, see:


NOTE: Top photo and back of sports card are from Google Images

Views: 948

Tags: Bicycle, Family, Iron-Man, Lore, McNamara, NYC, New York, Racing, Sport

Comment by Dr. Jane Lyons on May 12, 2014 at 2:35am

"Do you think the world owes you a living?" was a common saying with my parents here in Ireland Jim.  I don't think I've heard anyone say it in a long time.  

Interesting reading this, I know we met way back then and you've probably told me the reason you got into research but I'd forgotten.

Take care,


Comment by Ryan O'Rourke on May 12, 2014 at 2:42am

Thanks for this, Jim.  You make a good point about taking all our parents' / grandparents' claims at face value.  While charming and fun to talk about, basing important research on them can be counterproductive.

I enjoyed learning about the career of "Iron Bones," as well. 

"Each two-man team on average routinely pedaled 2,500 miles in the six-day races." <----- That's incredible!

Comment by James McNamara on May 12, 2014 at 8:37am

Ryan, the record for a six was just under 2,800 miles, I think 2,795 by Alf Goullet.

Comment by James McNamara on May 12, 2014 at 8:40am

Thanks Jane, I am working on another blog that does explain some of the reasons I got into this as well as why my Macs in NYC estranged us.  It has a good start and just wanting to take it the right direction.

Comment by Rose Maurer on May 12, 2014 at 11:18am

I really enjoyed your post, Jim. I, too have lost both of my parents, and I really regret that the tradition of writing, at least the family tree in the beginning inner pages of the family Bible (in South Africa, and probably elsewhere) ceased to exist somewhere along the way. My Mum was the oral family historian, and with her death in 1999, the wealth of knowledge which she had was lost as well.

My Dad, on the other hand, whilst being quite capable of teasing his five daughters with a straight face, did not run to the wonderful claims which your Dad did - quite enchanting, even though it may have led you up the garden path!

Finally, we have the Iron Man Competition in our Province of KwaZuluNatal, South Africa, which draws overseas competitors as well, and comprises of three events : cycling, running and canoeing.

Comment by Dr. Jane Lyons on May 12, 2014 at 3:56pm

Where is the other blog Jim, I'm interested in reading it please and thanks 

Comment by James McNamara on May 12, 2014 at 8:25pm

Jane, the other blog is in work (like a fallow field) for quite some time.  :-)

Comment by graham hill on July 21, 2014 at 5:52am

Hi james. my grandfather ignaius(nace) was reggies brother.my grandparents had a farm near Tomingley nsw I was born at peakhill pleased to meet you.

graham hill Ballarat Victoria  Australia

Comment by James McNamara on July 30, 2014 at 11:22pm

Hi Graham, I just noticed your post here tonight.  I am curious if you ever figured out where in Ireland your  Macs are from?  

Comment by graham hill on August 1, 2014 at 10:25pm

Hi James, Martin McNamara born about 1809 Ballina Tipperary.Martin married Margret Leo they had 2 children in Ireland Cornelius and Julia. The next child was born in Campbelltown NSW au.5 more where born.timothy was one of these which is reggies father. I would like search more on our Irish line but not sure where to look 

cheers graham    


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