New Issue: Irish stamp to mark centenary of first trans-Atlantic flight from Newfoundland

The Irish government has commissioned a new postage stamp to mark the centenary of the first trans-Atlantic flight between Newfoundland and Clifden, a coastal town in County Galway, Ireland.

Ireland’s An Post is slated to issue the stamp as part of its 2019 program. On June 14, 1919, British aviators John Alcock and Arthur Brown made the iconic journey after taking off in Newfoundland on Canada’s east coast. The flight came a century after the U.S. brig Savannah became the first steam-engine vessel to cross the Atlantic Ocean in June 1819.

On May 28, 1919, the twin-engine British Vickers Vimy plane arrived at St. John’s, Nfld. On June 9, it was given its first flight to choose a suitable take-off area, which was determined to be Lester’s Field. Another test flight preceded the historic June 14 take-off. According to a Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada bronze plaque in Newfoundland, the flyers “took off nearby on the first non-stop Transatlantic flight in a Vickers ‘Vimy’ aeroplane at 12:58 p.m. Newfoundland time. Sixteen hours and twelve minutes later they landed in Clifden, Ireland, a distance of 1,800 miles.”


On June 13, 1969, Canada’s Post Office Department (now Canada Post) issued a 15-cent stamp marking the 50th anniversary of the first non-stop trans-Atlantic flight.

“Passing over the Newfoundland coastline at some 1,200 feet the crew of two and their plane headed eastward over the troubled Atlantic where they were to require the greatest of courage and determination; aboard were John Alcock, a native of Manchester, England, born in 1892, and Arthur Whitten Brown, born at Glasgow, Scotland, in 1886,” reads a press release issued by the Post Office Department in 1969.

“A comparatively short time had elapsed when dense fog necessitated navigation by dead reckoning; already flying blind, the crew’s communications were silenced and their electrically heated suits rendered useless when blades of the wind driven generator sheared off. White hot metal from a split exhaust was one of many hazards overcome. Near dawn, in a tremendous storm, Alcock and Brown were forced downward to an almost calamitous 60 foot elevation. As time wore on rain and sleet changed to snow whereupon Brown unhesitatingly clambered from his open cockpit to edge along the fuselage wielding a knife to chop the gathering ice. Some 80 miles from Ireland the adventurers passed into clear skies still trying to free choking vital controls. Alcock set his machine into a glide searching for the layer of warmer air which he found at the 200 ft. level; soon thereafter, at 8:25 a.m., the coast was passed. Weather conditions cancelled plans to fly to London, therefore, the decision was made to set down on what appeared to be a grassy meadow; the meadow proved to be an Irish bog in Co. Galway where the plane came to rest at 8:40 a.m., 15th June 1919, tail-up and nose buried in the wet earth. Uninjured, Alcock and Brown completed their crossing at an average speed of about 112 m.p.h.”

Both knighted by King George V, Alcock and Brown had earlier received an award of £10,000.

Alcock died later that year, on Dec. 18, 1919, during an air accident.

Brown died in 1948 at his home in Wales.

According to a March 20 story published by Irish Times, the country’s government also approved new stamps to commemorate the Irish Coast Guard;  the first sitting of the Dáil; the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing; the centenary of the birth of novelist and philosopher Iris Murdoch; the 100th Liffey Swim; and Irish organ donors.

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