Alcock & Brown statue to sit in Clifden ‘forever’

Chance conversation between hotelier and property developer led to bronze replica of Heathrow monument

The bronze  statue of aviators John Alcock and Arthur Brown which was unveiled in  Clifden, Co Galway.  Photograph: Andrew Downes

The bronze statue of aviators John Alcock and Arthur Brown which was unveiled in Clifden, Co Galway. Photograph: Andrew Downes

 

The men who made history by being the first to fly non-stop across the Atlantic have found themselves a new home close to the west of Ireland landing spot where their plane touched down just over 100 years ago.

And it is all thanks to a chance conversation between a hotelier and a property developer.

The bronze statue of John Alcock and Arthur Brown, which was unveiled in Clifden, Co Galway, on Friday morning, is a replica of one which has been located in Heathrow airport for more than 60 years.

The two aviators from Manchester set off from St John’s in Newfoundland on June 14th, 1919, in a Vickers-designed biplane. They flew through thick fog, heavy snow and driving rain in an open cockpit with no means to keep warm or communicate, either with each other or the outside world, for the duration of their flight.

Just under 16 hours after they left Canada they glimpsed the Aran Islands and made for the rugged Connemara coast nearby. They saw what they thought was a smooth green field and decided to land.

Yet what looked smooth and green from the sky was the sodden bog of Derrygimleigh, 7km south of Clifden, and while the landing was perfect the plane quickly sank into the ground. The pair made their way to the nearby Marconi wireless station and eventually on to London, where they were greeted as heroes and knighted by King George V within the week.

In the 1950s a bronze statue of the men was commissioned by the British government and placed in Heathrow. It has been moved around the airport complex five times since it found its first home.

Fleeting visit

The statue made a fleeting visit to the west of Ireland last year as part of the centenary celebrations of the first non-stop transatlantic crossing.

Just days before it was due to go back to London, property developer Sean Mulryan and the owner of the Abbeyglen Castle hotel Brian Hughes had a brief discussion which led to the former stumping up close to €100,000 for a bronze replica.

Instead of going straight to London a mould was taken in Dublin, and the new statue was born.

“I’ve always thought it was most fascinating story,” Mr Mulryan told The Irish Times.

“I come to Clifton for a week’s holidays every year, and last year I saw the Alcock & Brown statue and was told it was on the way back home to London. So we had a mould taken and had it cast in bronze and brought home to Clifden, where it will sit in the square forever,” said the owner of the Ballymore Group.