A CEREMONY took place in Kilkenny last Sunday to celebrate the centenary of the first flight between the UK and Ireland in 1912.
Some 15 planes flew in from Wales to Kilkenny airfield shortly after noon for the event. The planes came directly over Fishguard, Enniscorthy, Darver House in Kilkenny, and the polo grounds (now Conahy GAA grounds), before landing at Kilkenny airfield.
A coach then brought people through Kilkenny City for a tour, before a barbeque lunch at the Conahy GAA grounds. Two oak trees were planted at the GAA grounds, and a plaque was unveiled at Darver House to commemorate Deny Corbett-Wilson, the original pilot to make the trip.
The chosen route flown by the planes was modelled on the one flown by Corbett-Wilson in 1912, when he flew his Bleriot Mk 11 from Fishguard to Enniscorthy, before returning to his home at Darver House in Jenkinstown. The pilot lived with his mother at the Jenkinstown residence for a number of years.
He was shot down and killed in action over France during World War I.
Sunday’s event was organised by local historian Pat Nolan, and hosted by Cathaoirleach of Kilkenny County Council Paul Cuddihy.
“It went very well, I was delighted,” said the Cathaoirleach, who personally funded much of the proceedings.
“Everyone was made feel very welcome by the local community. The local GAA club went out of their way to show their hospitality, as did Eva and Stephen Holmes. Pat Nolan also did a huge amount of work.”
Corbett-Wilson had been largely forgotten about here until Martin Mulhall, along with Pat Nolan and Edwin Stallard founded the Kilkenny Flying Club in the 1960s. In the 1970s, the club began to hold an annual air rally: ‘The Corbett-Wilson Memorial Rally’ to commemorate the pilot and his historic achievement.
The event grew into the KinAir International Air Rally, which became a major event attracting pilots and enthusiasts from all over the world. It has not been held since 2004, however.
Cathaoirleach Paul Cuddihy said that Sunday’s event was an important one to mark a moment of history.
“Everybody knows of Louis Bleriot who flew the channel - but how many know of Denys Corbet-Wilson from Jenkinstown?” he said.
“He deserves remembering, he is part of our history.”