#OTD in 1785 – Duellist and aeronaut, Richard Crosbie, became the first person to make a manned flight in Ireland.

A native of Baltinglass Co Wicklow, Crosbie’s brother Sir Edward Crosbie of Carlow was executed in Carlow town for his part in the United Irishmen Rising of 1798.

As a pupil at Trinity College, Richard Crosbie led the notorious gang, Pinking Dindies on the rampage through the streets of Dublin. Many of them connected with Trinity College, became notorious for extorting and roughing up brothel-keepers, gamblers and ‘single men and citizens who neither wore fine clothes nor swords’.

Using a hydrogen balloon Crosbie began his flight from Ranelagh Gardens, Dublin. He made the flight 14 months after the Montgolfier brothers made the world’s first ever manned flight in France.

In preparation for his first flight Crosbie used a tethered balloon to send up various animals over a period of several days. Finally he launched a free flight with a cat on board. The flight, which was reported over Scotland on the same day, eventually descended near the Isle of Man. The cat and the balloon were recovered by a passing ship.

For his own flight, it was Crosbie’s intention to cross the Irish Sea in his ‘Grand Air Balloon and Flying Barge’ painted with the Arms of Ireland. News of the flight caused great public excitement and attracted widespread publicity. A crowd of over 20,000 assembled in Ranelagh Gardens on the south side of Dublin city to witness the take-off of the first human flight in Ireland.

With the balloon fully inflated, lift-off was achieved around 2.40pm. A report from the time said: ‘he mounted awfully majestic, while the air resounded with the shouts, the prayers and the admiration of the delighted multitude’. Ten minutes after take-off Crosbie brought the balloon down safely near Clontarf on the north side of Dublin.

Crosbie made several other flights in Ireland and America. In July 1785 in an attempt to cross the Irish Sea bad weather forced him to land in the sea within sight of the Welsh coast. Crosbie became famous in Ireland and abroad for his aeronautical exploits.

Photo: A memorial was unveiled to him in Ranelagh Gardens, Dublin on 28 September 2008.

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