As I write this story, my best friend is taking a flight over Newry on board a microlight. You know, one of those tiny airplanes. And it’s on that account I recall the story of Paddy and Biddy Rice’s flight some eighty years ago over Dundalk.
Paddy and Biddy were simple folk who lived near the top of Feede Mountain up there by Ravensdale. They rarely got into town and had never between them ridden on one of the new-fangled motor cars, much less an airplane. They were in Dundalk to get their monthly provisions – but also for a bit of craic.
On a normal day they had only one another’s company!
‘We’ll settle in a wee snug here in Mallons a while, till I wet me whistle!’ says Paddy.
‘We’ll do no such thing!’ scolded Bridget.
‘I’ll not have ye going home drunk, bawlin’ an’ singin’ to annoy the neighbours.’
Searching round for a distraction, she spotted an advertisement in a shop window for an ‘Air Circus’ out on The Demense on the edge of Dundalk.
‘We’ll go to that!’ she concluded, with finality.
‘Aye! Well!’ was Paddy’s only comment.
It’s hard to accept that motorised transport – on land and in the air – is a mere century old. The Great War was just over and airplanes were used then for the first time. But not for combat. For reconnaissance. They’d fly over the trenches taking pictures. So that the gunners would know where there’d be plenty of people to kill, you understand, when they launched their shells!
It was a broken-down old Wing Commander that had the idea, after the War, to buy up a few of these canvas-covered open-topped planes and create an Air Circus to tour the provincial towns and give people a taste of flying.
There were no airports in those days – or holidays abroad after a long aeroplane journey! Anyway for 10/- anybody could go home from the Air Circus and boast that they’d been flying way up in the air, like a bird!
The Wing Commander could tell that Paddy didn’t get out much, so he began a spiel of talk to flabbergast him.
‘Aye, Paddy lad,’ he began, in a thick English accent,
‘I’ll bet you