Baltinglass Balloon Pioneer
Baltinglass Balloon Pioneer
Richard Crosbie (1755-1824) was the first Irishman to make a manned flight He flew in a hydrogen air balloon from Ranelagh, on Dublin’s southside to Clontarf, on Dublin’s northside on 19 January 1785 and was 30 years old.
Crosbie, who was six feet three inches, was from Crosbie Park, near Baltinglass, County Wicklow. He studied at Trinity College, Dublin. His brother, Sir Edward Crosbie, was executed for treason.
Crosbie launched several balloons containing animals before attempting the first human flight on Irish soil. One of which, containing a cat, was seen passing over the west coast of Scotland, before descending near the Isle of Man. The cat and the balloon were both rescued by a passing ship. The balloonists of the eighteenth century, pioneers in the first successful method of conquest of the air, were men of science comparable to the astronauts of the 1960s, attracting the same public excitement and receiving similar international publicity.
On 19 January 1785 at 2.30pm, Crosbie launched, from an exhibition area at Ranelagh Gardens, Dublin his “Grand Air Balloon and Flying Barge” in which he intended to cross the Irish Sea.
Extract from the old Limerick City Journal
“Late In 1784, Crosbie exhibited his “Aeronautic Chariot” at an exhibition at Ranelagh Gardens in Dublin. Made of wood covered with cloth, designed and built by himself, the Chariot resembled a boat, with rudder and sails, intended to enable navigation in the air, reducing reliance on wind direction. His first flight took place on 19 January 1785 at Ranelagh, witnessed by more than 35,000 people. The balloon and Chariot were beautifully painted with the arms of Ireland supported by Minerva and Mercury, and with emblematic figures of the wind. Crosbie’s aerial dress “consisted of a robe of oiled silk, lined with white fur, his waistcoat and breeches in one, of white satin quilted, and morocco boots, and a montero cap of leopard skin”. Crosbie intended to cross the Irish Sea, but as darkness fell early in the winter evenings, he decided to land at Clontarf. He attempted a channel crossing on 19 July 1785, (defying a ban on balloon flights by the Lord Mayor of Dublin because the population of the city was spending long periods gaping at the sky instead of working), but came down half way across due to a severe storm, and was rescued by the Dun Laoghaire barge Captain Walmitt, which was following his progress”.
His achievement occurred just 14 months after the first-ever manned balloon flight by the Montgolfier Brothers in France and is commemorated by a memorial located at the site of this historic event & commissioned by Dublin City Council
Ascend or Die: Richard Crosbie, Pioneer of Balloon Flight Paperback
This book tells the dramatic story of the intrepid scientist and showman, Richard Crosbie, and places his extraordinary achievements in the context of European ballooning. It reveals new information about Crosbie’s subsequent career as an actor in New York, where he also organised a balloon spectacle for public entertainment in 1800. It includes a poignant account of Crosbie’s final years when he was living in poverty in Baltimore, Maryland
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