By Ian Brophy 

 

On this day, 15 June, 1919, a plane landed in a bog outside Clifden, Co. Galway. It sluggishly came to a stop, up-ended, and took a nose-dive. This most inhospitable, barren landscape – Derrigimlagh Bog – was already the home of the first transatlantic wireless station. It was from the Marconi station nearby that news was transmitted around the world about the first non-stop flight across the Atlantic Ocean.

The pilots, John Alcock and Arthur Brown, would achieve instant fame and become heroes as a result of their heroic flight. In recognition of their achievement of being the first to fly across the Atlantic, they received the Daily Mail award of £10,000. A week later, they were honoured with a KBE ( Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire ) by King George V at Windsor Castle.

The previous day (14 June) they had loaded their modified Vickers Vimy aircraft with a small package of mail and their 2 toy cat mascots; Twinkletoes and Lucky Jim. At 1.45pm local time, they took off from St. John’s, Newfoundland. During the 16 hours and 12 minutes gruelling flight, they encountered many hardships. At one stage they were flying upside-down, only realising it when they looked up and saw the ocean ‘above’ them. The aircraft went into a spiral and they just managed to control it before crashing into the waves. Fog, snow, ice and clouds added to their frustrations.

Most of the townsfolk of Clifden were either in bed or at Mass when they landed that morning. But when they safely stepped away from their aircraft, they were greeted with ‘ are you flying or sailing? ‘. Tom ‘Cork’ Kenny was the first (and possibly only) reporter on site, and he got exclusive interviews. He brought the new heroes to Galway city where they were honoured with a reception hosted by the business community. From Galway, the intrepid reporter was able to radio the story of the first transatlantic flight to newspapers all over the world. Whilst journalists from all over the world flocked to Galway, Mr. Kenny took the pilots in the opposite direction to Dublin, where he saw them safely off to London.

Two memorials were erected near Clifden to honour their historic achievement. The sculpture of an aircraft tail-fin was erected on Errislannan Hill, near the landing site. A second sculpture of a stone cairn lies close to the Marconi station, near where they landed. A memorial statue, commemorating the 2 pilots, is situated in Clifden town square.
After you have visited the 2 memorials, you should pop into Clifden and see the statue commemorating the now world-renown pilots. There is an hotel close by, where you can partake of some refreshments. It’s name………….escapes me at the moment.!

On this day, 15 June, 1919, the first non-stop transatlantic flight was completed by John Alcock and Arthur Brown, when they landed in a bog just outside Clifden, Co. Galway.

 


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