As part of Heritage Week, Laois PPN were delighted to invite its Member Groups to a Tour of the Portlaoise Plane.

The event which took place on Saturday the 20th of August 2022 included a guided tour of the Portlaoise Plane led by Teddy Fennelly Chair of The Colonel Fitzmaurice Commemoration Committee.

The Portlaoise Plane, which was the first aeroplane built and flown in what is now the Republic of Ireland, was designed and built in Aldritt’s Garage of Portlaoise. The Portlaoise Plane has been restored to its original glory thanks to the hard work of Brendan O’Donoghue.

The Portlaoise Plane has a close connection with Ireland’s most famous aviation pioneer, Laois native Colonel James Fitzmaurice. According to his memoirs, Colonel Fitzmaurice worked on the plane as a young boy and was present for its first flight. It was this that helped to inspire him in his career as an aviator.

Teddy Fennelly spoke about the rich history of the Plane, from its construction to flight, and how it was tracked down and returned to its original home of Portlaoise. Alan Phelan of the Portlaoise Plane Group answered any questions attendees had on the specifications of the Portlaoise Plane and Brendan O’Donoghue was on hand to answer any questions about the restoration process.

Attendees on the day were given a rare opportunity to sit in the cockpit of the beautifully restored Portlaoise Plane. This was a special moment for attendees as it gave them an idea of the skill, courage and daring involved in piloting the first plane to take to the skies over Ireland.

Dan Bergin, Resource Work Laois PPN said: “The Portlaoise Plane is an amazing piece of Laois and Irish Heritage. It was the winner of the Arts Culture and Heritage Category at the 2021 Laois Community and Voluntary awards. Great credit must be given to Alan Phelan, Brendan O’Donoghue and especially Teddy Fennelly for returning and restoring this amazing piece of history and heritage to Laois.”

Teddy Fennelly, Chair of The Colonel Fitzmaurice Commemoration Committee said: “It was a pleasure to welcome the group from Laois PPN and show them around the Portlaoise Plane. It is a wonderful part of our Portlaoise history and we are always delighted to share this with a wider audience. The committee is grateful for the support of Laois County Council in storing the Plane and working with us to find a suitable permanent home and public accessibility for this unique piece of Irish aviation history. Heritage Week is a great opportunity for all of us to learn more about our own local heritage and we commend Laois Public Participation Network for all they do in promoting awareness of Laois heritage.”

The day finished with tea coffee and sweet treats provided by Ken Macpherson of Caffe Latte at the Dunamaise Arts Centre.

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