Charles Lindburgh made a historic solo flight across the Atlantic to Paris in 1927. A few years later, he was engaged as consultant to advise Pan America and other airlines about prospective Atlantic routes. Flying boats were being investigated, and after examining possible ‘sites’ in Galway and Cork, he finally settled on the calm land-locked waters of the Shannon estuary, as the perfect stepping stone for such aircraft flying between Europe and America. An intergovernmental meeting in Ottowa in November 1935 formally agreed the introduction of a scheduled mail and passenger air service between the two continents and the little village of Foynes appeared for the first time on an aviation map.
On June 28th 1939, the first scheduled passenger flight from Newfoundland landed at Foynes and it occupied centre stage in transatlantic aviation, until operations transferred across the river to the new airport at Rineanna in 1945. By then, the era of the flying boat was almost over. Now the whole globe is criss-crossed by airlines. But up to the late 1960’s the normal way of crossing the Atlantic to Ireland was by liner to Cobh.
In the mid ‘60’s, Ardmore I.C.A. went on an I.C.A. outing to Cobh. Part of it was on a trip in the tender out to the liner and a tour of the liner. Liners were always some distance out in the harbour and were serviced by tender from the quay in Cobh. There liners went on to Southhampton and Le Havre. A French exchange student to our household in the early 1960’s came by liner to Cobh. I remember meeting two visitors from Germany there too.
My mother Johanna Hurley went on a pilgrimage to Lourdes in 1937. It involved travelling to Dublin by train, going by boat from Dun Laoghaire to Holyhead; by train to London where the pilgrimage stayed the night; by train to Dover; by boat to Calais and then by train to Paris, where there was also an overnight stay before undertaking the long train journey to Lourdes. Now the pilgrims go to Cork and arrive in Lourdes a few short hours later.
When my brother, James Hurley SJ, first went to Hong Kong in 1952 it was by P&O boat from Southampton and the voyage took 4 weeks, (incidentally he was seen off by Fr. Pat Murphy O'Connor, brother of Bishop Cormac Murphy O'Connor now appointed Archbishop of Westminster). When he returned to Ireland in 1955, it was by Italian boat to Naples and when he and his group went back to Hong Kong in 1960, it was also by Italian boat. In 1961, the Jesuit community first used air transport between Hong Kong and Ireland. Now more or less at the drop of a hat, people fly to the ends of the earth and take it quite for granted.
Besides there was the fact that there were just no such facilities as a regular air service at all, as mechanically, planes were in the course of development. During the war period, we were completely cut off from the rest of the world. There was limited and strictly monitored transport (some of it by air from Baldonnel) between England and Ireland but one did not ever, ever entertain the possibility of going to Europe. One might as easily have thought of going to the moon.
Author: Siobhan Lincoln