User Menu

Fledgling hostesses in flying form

The Times We Lived In: Published: January 24th, 1968. Photograph by Kevin McMahon

Newly graduated Aer Lingus air hostesses on January 24th, 1968, at Dublin Airport. Photograph: Kevin McMahon

“Applicants must be between the ages of 21 and 26: they must be between 5ft 2ins and 5ft 6ins in height, and their weight must be from seven-and-a-half to nine stone. They must also be beautiful, intelligent, and well-educated, have a good knowledge of Irish and French and, if possible an extra language, such as Spanish or German. . .”

Thus did a 1945 newspaper article set out the requirements for the first crop of Aer Lingus flight attendants.

By the time our photograph was taken, of course, that would have been regarded as pretty old hat. The image shows a new crop of air hostesses receiving their wings at Dublin airport at the beginning of 1968.

There are 22 of them altogether – and while it’s impossible to assess their language skills from this distance, they do appear to be impressively consistent in terms of height, weight and general comeliness.

The shot has been set up – I’m guessing deliberately – in order to emphasise the conformity rather than the individuality of the women. All those skirts, exactly the same length: and look at the shoes. Were there special Aer Lingus-issue shoes? There must have been. And some of the wearers must have been crippled by them, despite the dainty foot-poses on display here.

Still, there’s one rebel third from the right: her hands are crossed instead of at her sides. She’s also looking to the left rather than at the camera.

There’s another rebel hand as the woman eighth from the left straightens a stray lock of hair. Number 11 has just done the same thing. It’s a windy place, Dublin airport.

Back in 1945 Captain Ray Wells had declared that the job of air hostess would be “as exciting as that of a movie queen”. But for my money, there’s more of a boarding-school vibe to this photograph – something to do with the ivy-covered house and smattering of cars, maybe. And the energy of all those young women, about to set off on life’s big adventure.

These and other ‘Irish Times’ images can be purchased from: A book, ‘The Times We Lived In’, with more than 100 photographs and commentary by Arminta Wallace, published by Irish Times Books, is in bookshops now priced €19.99.