The first man to successfully fly an aeroplane across the Irish Sea a century ago this week gave an air display in Clonmel’s Powerstown Park Racecourse after completing his historic feat.
But while Lieutenant Denys Corbett Wilson’s Bleriot X1 plane, made from wood and fabric, survived atrocious weather conditions while crossing the Irish Sea on April 22, the plane didn’t survive its visit to Clonmel.
The pioneer aviator flew from Kilkenny, where he had relatives, to Powerstown Park for the occasion, which was greeted with much interest by locals. But while giving the air display at the racecourse, the light weight air craft was forced to crash land.
Luckily Lieut. Corbett survived uninjured but his aeroplane was a wreck.
The pictures published here show the aviator with his plane at Powerstown Park and the wreckage after the crash with his mother looking on.
The crashed plane was stored in the stables at Lord Donoughmore’s Estate (now Marlfied Estate) for many years. When Marlfield House was sold the wreckage was purchased by a Clonmel man interested in its history and he later donated it to a museum in Kilkenny.
Lieut. Corbett Wilson made his historic flight across the Irish Sea in the early morning of Apil 22, 1912. He left from an airfield in Pembrokeshire in Wales at 5.27 on that day and after battling terrible weather conditions on the 100 minute journey across the Irish Sea he crash landed in a field at Crane near Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford.
He was one of three pilots to attempt the Irish Sea crossing in April 1912 and two of them didn’t survive.
The dashing airman went on to become one of the first airmen to do battle in World War One as a member of the Royal Flying Corps. He was killed in France in May 1915 when his plane was shot down by enemy fire while he was on a reconnaissance mission.
Celebrations are taking place in Enniscorthy this week to commemorate his historic flight and his remarkable story will be featured on RTE’s Nationwide show this evening, Wednesday.