CIE TOURS - July 14, 2018
Foynes: Where Flying Boats and Irish Coffee Come Together
Join our adventurous Social media correspondent Caroline as she travels to the village of Foynes and learns about the history of transatlantic flight!
Who knew that Foynes, a small village on the Shannon River, used to be the go-to destination for the first trans-Atlantic flights and is also where the famous Irish coffee was invented? I certainly didn’t know until we stopped at the Foynes Flying Boat and Maritime Museum during the Southern Gems tour.
Arrival and “Wrong Way” Corrigan
When we first arrived at the museum, we watched a short film that showed original footage and newscasts from the 1940s when the flying boats first started making headlines. Then, we went on a tour through the museum and our guide explained the earliest attempts to cross the Atlantic Ocean.
One memorable story was Douglas “Wrong Way” Corrigan who flew from New York to Dublin in July of 1938. Inspectors said his plane was unsuitable to fly across the ocean, but he went anyway. Corrigan knew he would be in trouble and told customs officers in Dublin that he meant to fly to California but got lost in the fog, which is how he became known as “Wrong Way Corrigan.”
Flying Boats & Transatlantic Flights
There had previously been successful solo flights across the Atlantic. However, there was a push to make commercial civilian flights a reality. In 1935, the UK, US, Irish and Canadian governments decided that Foynes would be the landing point for all trans-Atlantic flights. This was because of its proximity to the coast and its sheltered location on the Shannon River.
The planes were so heavy and required extra fuel tanks to cross the ocean, so flying boats were used. They are able to land easier in water. Flying boats look similar to airplanes but instead of wheels underneath, they have a flat base. This allowed them to land in water.
The first trans-Atlantic passenger flight from the US landed in Foynes on July 9, 1939. Believe it or not, the passenger flying boats were much more luxurious than our airplanes today. The museum has a life-size replica of a flying boat that we could walk around in, and it was impressive. It only held 35 passengers, but had a dining room, sleeping quarters and even included a honeymoon suite.
Irish Aviation in Wartime
During World War II, Ireland officially held a neutral position. However, allied military personnel often flew out of Foynes in civilian clothes with fake passports. Foynes was also the destination for many war refugees hoping to escape to America. After World War II and into the 1950s, landplanes were improved and replaced the flying boats in carrying passengers.
Now the fun stuff: Irish Coffee!
The last part of our visit was a demonstration on how to correctly make an authentic Irish coffee. The first Irish coffee was made in 1943 by Joe Sheridan, the chef of the restaurant at the Foynes terminal. A flight had left Foynes for New York but turned back because of bad weather. The pilot asked to have food prepared for the travelers when they arrived. Sheridan put some whisky in the coffee to make it extra special for the passengers. It was such a hit that the recipe became known as Irish coffee!
Whether you’re interested in history, engineering, airplanes or alcohol, the Museum had a little something for everyone!
By Caroline Bartholomew
Caroline was one of our 2018 Social Media Concierges.
Want to learn more?
- Did you know several different variations of coffee cocktails predate the now-classic Irish coffee by at least 100 years? It’s true – click here to learn more!
- Read more about Charles F. Blair, Jr. at Wikipedia
- Take a deep dive into the colorful history of Irish aviation history at Irish Historic Flight
- Aviation history not your thing? Our other award-winning Ireland tours, Scotland tours and Britain tours are just a click away!