Galway In Days Gone By

Prizewinners at the Bish (St. Joseph's College, Galway), sports in 1969 being presented with their awards.
Prizewinners at the Bish (St. Joseph's College, Galway), sports in 1969 being presented with their awards.

1919

Transatlantic flight

“I’m Alcock – just come from Newfoundland.” In this cryptic sentence Capt. Alcock, D.S.G., announced to the awestricken Marconi operators on Sunday morning that he and Lieut. Arthur Whitten Brown had just arrived from another hemisphere.

The £10,000 prize that had been awaiting some conquering man-bird more daring – and more fortunate – than the rest since April 1, 1913, had been won. The old world and the new had been bridged in flight.

The miracle of ether waves that sent the voice of man over vast spaces from hemisphere to hemisphere had been superseded. Man himself had come on the wings of the wind.

The Atlantic had been flown at the second attempt in a single night. That touching meeting in Derrygimla Bog on Sunday Morning, June 15, 1919, marked a new era in history and made County Galway forever famous.

When Alcock introduced himself to the wondering wireless men, he uttered an epic in six words, and changed, as with a breath, the current of history and romance.

Before we get down to the simple, unvarnished tale told by the pilot and navigator, whose names will rank in the history books with those of Columbus and Capt. Cooke, let us briefly sketch the main facts of the flight:–

The project of the Atlantic flight, originated by Lord Northcliffe in “The Daily Mail” on April 1, 1913, when a prize of £10,000 was offered, was suspended during the war. The offer was renewed last year, with the specific object of securing improved types of aircraft and engines.

In order that the flight should be a direct one, the course – Newfoundland to Ireland – was expressly mentioned, and keeping the same objective of direct flight in view, a time limit of 72 hours was fixed.

The glorious failure of Hawker and Grieve just a month ago is still fresh in public memory. In remote Co. Galway the sporting instincts of the people gave vent in great joy at their rescue in the mid-Atlantic.

First news in Galway

Late on Saturday evening the Editor of the “Connacht Tribune” received a telegram from the United Press of America, informing him that the airmen had started and were making straight for Galway Bay, where they ought to arrive within twenty hours.

On Sunday morning, the “Tribune” received another telegram, this time from the “Daily Mail” giving full particulars of the start of the flight. At the time that telegram was received the airmen had actually breakfasted in the bungalow of the Marconi Works, Ballyconneely, and the first brief message of their arrival had gone round the world on the wings of the Wireless Press.

A few minutes and the news of their arrival at 9.40 a.m., as we reckon Summer Time, was learned. The activity of the airmen from Oranmore told the City churchgoers on Sunday morning that something unusual was afoot. Soon the news spread like wildfire, and it formed the sole topic of discussion throughout the day.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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