A Curious Noise

Early on the morning of the 15th of June 1919 a strange noise was heard in the air around the quiet town of Clifden in the heart of Connemara. Most people were at mass and never saw what was making it, but a lucky few saw the Vickers Vimy aircraft that was flown by the two intrepid airmen circling the town and then heading off to the south. These were the first people to ever witness an aircraft completing a trans-Atlantic flight.

After circling the town the aeroplane then landed near the site of the Marconi radio station on what they thought was an area of grassland, but it turned out to be soft bogland and after a short landing run the wheels sank and the plane nosedived and stuck fast.Captain John Alcock had been an aircraft designer with the Royal Naval Air Service and had flown a great deal in the first world war, Lieut. Arthur Whitton Brown had failed to get into the air service initially, but transferred to the Royal Flying Corps later in his army career. Both of them were held as prisoners of war, Alcock was released at the armistice, and Brown was returned to the Red Cross because he was not expected to survive his injuries sustained in a plane crash behind enemy lines.

The crossing was far from easy and they few through fog, snow and rain, with awful visibility and little to rely on barring their compass and the odd sighting of a star. Their radio transmitter failed and their intercom didn’t work, so communication was down to a minimum between the two men as well as the outside world.

Apart from the personal reward of succeeding in their adventure the two men won a prize of £10,000 and were knighted by King George V.

The adventure these two men undertook has been widely remembered in the Clifden area ever since and there is a monument to the flight on a hill near Derrygimlagh and from here you can see the white tower erected in the bogland where the plane landed. This used to be inaccessible but now a really interesting walk has been built with interpretive installations for both the Marconi Wireless Station ruins and the Alcock and Brown Landing site.

An Alcock and Brown Festival.

As a celebration of 100 years since the flight took place a festival is being held in Clifden and remarkably the statue that was made of the two men, which has lived in Heathrow Airport is to be brought back to Clifden and spend a month there in the grounds of the Abbeyglen Hotel. There will be lots of things to do and see, and information about the events can be found here https://alcockandbrown100.com/

The festival runs from the 12th to the 18th June