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25 May 2022

First ever Irish plane to go on permanent display in Laois

First ever Irish plane to go on permanent display in Laois

The Portlaoise Plane on display on the grounds of the Laois Music Centre. Picture: Alf Harvey

The first aeroplane ever built and flown in the Republic of Ireland has returned home to roost in Portlaoise, and a home is now being actively sought to place it on permanent display for visitors.

The restored wooden Portlaoise Plane, built over a century ago in a Portlaoise garage, is back in the town after a circuitous route and a passionate mission led by Laois historian Teddy Fennelly.

It was the star of Laois County Council's recent first Festival of Flight. Read more below story.

Now the council has revealed their plan to put it on public show in a new permanent home, in the Granary that is inside the Fort Protector walls in the historic Portlaoise town centre. 

The Granary itself will have to be renovated first. It is to also display other items showing the industrial heritage of Laois.

Cllr Willie Aird got the details, after tabling a motion to the April meeting of Laois County Council.

Simon Walton is the Director of Services.

"Laois County Council entered into an agreement with the Laois Heritage Society for the purposes of housing the Portlaoise Plane in The Granary.

"The Council is currently exploring options for both short term and longer term renovations to the Granary that will enable the ongoing accommodation of the Portlaoise Plane, provide suitable public access to view the Plane and also provide for a broader display/interpretative space depicting the industrial heritage of County Laois."

Cllr Aird welcomed the plans.

"You can see how successful the festival was. If they had this in Kerry there'd be busloads. The festival of Flight brought more awareness. I do honestly believe it will be in the curriculum of schools. I ask that it be accessible to schools, we want to promote this to the best of our ability," he said.

Cllr Catherine Fitzgerald seconded his motion.

"I congratulate everyone involved in the Festival of Flight, especially our Heritage Officer Catherine Casey. The concert was magnificent, a pleasure to be at. It will be interesting for schoolchildren to read about the history of the plane," she said.

Cllr Padraig Fleming said that Col James Fitzmaurice who lived in Portlaoise, was inspired by the Portlaoise Plane to study aviation, later co-piloting the Bremen in the first every east west transatlantic flight.

"It was the first plane ever flown in Ireland, a phenomonal story. He went into Aldritt's garage and asked what they were doing. In fairness to Teddy he has done great work, the plane was brought back and put together," he said.

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