27 Sept 2022

First Irish aeroplane built by two Portlaoise brothers to come home

Did you know that Portlaoise has two huge roles in Irish aviation history?

Many will know that one of the three men to make the first flight fly east to west across the Atlantic ocean was Portlaoise man Col James Fitzmaurice, in the Bremen aeroplane in 1928. The Portlaoise CBS graduate is proudly commemorated in a metal sculpture in Fitzmaurice Place gardens in the town.

However it was two Portlaoise mechanic brothers who inspired Col James Fitzmaurice to become an aviator.

The Aldritt brothers built the first aeroplane in the Republic of Ireland by hand over 110 years ago in their garage. 

Miraculously the wooden monoplane survived, found some years ago in a little UK aviation museum.

It will soon come home to Laois, with hopes that in time a Laois museum will be established to give it the pride of place it deserves.

Laois Heritage Society have been working on an exciting project led by Teddy Fennelly to bring back the plane to Portlaoise. They have already returned it to Ireland, to a warehouse in Dublin to be restored. 

Laois Heritage Officer Catherine Casey has shared the exciting news that it is coming home this summer.

"Days you love your job - we went to see the newly restored Portlaoise Plane, designed and built by the Aldritt brothers in Portlaoise with the help of master carpenter John Conroy 100 years ago.

"The saving and restoration of this priceless artefact is a real labour of love and a testament to the vision and craftsmanship of the team involved, led by Teddy Fennelly.

"This plane is a key part of Portlaoise aviation history, and a unique artefact that sets the town apart from any other. We know it was one of the first planes to fly in what was later to become the Irish Republic, and we know that Col James Fitzmaurice, who later flew across the Atlantic East to West for the first time, worked on the plane as a youngster.

"And it will be coming home this summer - watch this space!," Ms Casey said. 

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