The Foynes Flying Boat & Maritime Museum in Co Limerick is gearing up to mark the 30th anniversary of the opening of the museum with a day of family fun, entertainment and fireworks on Sunday 7 July in Foynes. Museum admission on the day, from 10.00am to 4.00pm, will be at half price.
On 8 July 1989, the late Hollywood star Maureen O’Hara Blair officially opened the museum at a colourful ceremony attended by hundreds of overseas and local supporters and dignitaries. “It’s hard to believe that 30 years have passed,” said Margaret O’Shaughnessy, Museum Director. “It all started with a big idea, but there was huge support for that idea from the late entrepreneur Tony Ryan and his company Guinness Peat Aviation, from Shannon Development and from former flying boat crew members and staff, as well as from the local community council, and in 1988 a small group of dedicated people set about making it a reality.
“From the beginning, the support of Maureen O’Hara for the project was crucial in helping open doors. Her late husband, Captain Charlie Blair, had flown many times into Foynes and flew the first passenger non-stop flight Foynes-New York and holds many records on the North Atlantic. He also took the last commercial flight out of Foynes and came back to visit in his Sandringham Flying Boat in 1976.”
The museum was intended to record and to celebrate Foynes’ unique place in Irish aviation history and its pivotal role as a transatlantic aviation hub from 1937 to 1945. It was also intended to remember those men and women who had flown and staffed the flying boats in what were difficult times and to illuminate the stories of those who passed through Foynes in those heady days.
“Many of those on the passenger lists were household names, or became household names, people like Bob Hope, Gracie Fields or John F Kennedy, and this generated huge excitement in the village,” added Margaret.
The original GPA Flying Boat Museum was a modest affair, housed in four rooms leased from the then Foynes Harbour Trustees to the rear of the building that once served as the flying boat passenger terminal.
In the three decades since, new memorabilia, new artefacts and new elements to the story have been added and the museum has expanded to house them, as well as the full-size replica of a B314 flying boat. It now occupies the entire original terminal building along with new extensions and the control tower has been restored. The museum has also extended its reach to include the maritime history of the estuary, the story of Irish Coffee, and the Maureen O’Hara Collection. The museum complex now also houses a restaurant, O’Regans, named after the late Dr Brendan O’Regan.
Now known as the Foynes Flying Boat & Maritime Museum, it has garnered many awards and continues to be the global repository for the memories and memorabilia of the flying boat era and is the only museum of its kind in the world.
The museum now employs 26 people and attracts 60,000 visitors each year. These figures continue to increase, making it one of the prime destinations for tourism in Co Limerick.
“So many people have contributed in so many ways over the years to help make the museum the success it has become, and the support of the local community has been vital. We are grateful to all those who have played a role, big or small, and we hope they will all join with us in our 30th birthday celebrations on 7 July.”
The celebrations begin at 1.30pm with a recital by the Army Band No 1 Brigade in Museum Square. From 2pm to 5pm, family entertainment will continue in Museum Square with Disney characters, a circus show, face painting and much more.
At 3pm, in keeping with the spirit of the day, there will be a fly-past by members of the Irish Historic Flight foundation (weather permitting) and at 3.30pm local band Escapade will entertain the crowds in Museum Square.
At 11pm, there will be a spectacular fireworks display over the Shannon.
Over the weekend, Foynes will also enjoy a bit of true-blue American movie-going magic with Retro Drive-In screenings of Grease, Top Gun, The Greatest Showman, and a Star is Born. Experience the giant screen from the comfort of your car. Tickets available at www.retrodrive.ie