The celebrated Alcock and Brown sculpture was moved from its home at the Heathrow Academy to Clifden in Co. Galway on Tuesday 7th May 2019 to mark the centenary of the first non-stop transatlantic flight from North America to Europe.
The limestone statue was commissioned by the British Government and designed and sculpted by artist William McMillen. It was unveiled at Heathrow in 1954. The statue features the pilots dressed in aviator clothes, including caps and goggles. The statue weights 1 tonne and is 11-foot-high and almost 4 foot wide. A transportation casket has been specially commissioned to safely transport the statue to Ireland.
The Ambassador of Ireland to the United Kingdom, Adrian O’Neill, visited Heathrow Academy on Tuesday 7th May at 9am to wish the statue safe passage to Ireland. The statue will be exhibited at Abbeyglen Castle Hotel in Clifden, Co. Galway for the next eight weeks in the run up to the centenary anniversary which falls on 15thJune 2019.
Above - The statue begins its journey
(Heathrow Airport Ltd)
In April 1913 the Daily Mail offered a prize of £10,000 to “the aviator who shall first cross the Atlantic in an aeroplane in flight from any point in the United States of America, Canada or Newfoundland to any point in Great Britain or Ireland in 72 continuous hours.” The competition was suspended with the outbreak of war in 1914 but reopened after Armistice was declared in 1918.
John Alcock and Arthur Brown departed from Newfoundland, Canada on 14th June 1919 in a modified First World War Vickers Vimy and flew across the North Atlantic Ocean in just 15 hours 57 minutes, crash-landing in Derrygimlagh Bog, near the site of the famous Marconi radio station in Connemara.
The Daily Mail had journalists all along the coast of Ireland and France waiting on the flight to land but managed to get beaten by a local Galway journalist.
The celebrations set to continue - The Centenary Festival in Connemara
A commemorative festival, running from 11th - 16th June 2019 in Clifden, has a fantastic line-up to celebrate the aviation heroes. Events will include a live re-enactment of the 1919 landing in Derrigimlagh, bringing the historic episode to life.
The premiere of an Alcock & Brown documentary, featuring the nearest surviving relative to Captain Alcock, Tony Alcock MBE, will be screened during the festival. The Alcock & Brown artefacts exhibition is running throughout the festival, and will offer visitors a fantastic opportunity to see pieces of the plane still in existence.
Tony Alcock, nephew of John Alcock said: “In this centenary year, it seems very appropriate to move the statue to Clifden, particularly as this town was part of the transatlantic story. Moreover, many of the Clifden residents have relatives who met Alcock and Brown on 15 June 1919 and the flight is very much part of the town's history. I look forward to seeing the statue in its new mounting place when I participate in the cntenary celebrations at Clifden in June."
Local historians and archaeologists will give guided tours of the area. Literary figures such as Tony Curtis, Brendan Lynch and others will host poetry readings and discussions, while a series of seminars will explore the Alcock & Brown story and diverse aspects of the flight.
Waterford Crystal are launching a limited-edition miniature replica of the Vickers Vimy biplane to commemorate the centenary. Modelled on the original details of the plane, it is made up of 51 individually hand-crafted pieces and took over 160 hours to complete. The statue and replica plane will be unveiled at a champagne reception in The Abbeyglen Castle Hotel on Wednesday 15th May 2019 at 6.30pm.