FOYNES was in party mode on Sunday, marking 30 years almost to the day since the opening of the Foynes Flying Boat and Maritime Museum.
It was also, recalled Brian Cullen, the chairman of the museum board, 80 years since the first commercial passenger flight from the US to Foynes.
And, as director of the museum, Margaret O’Shaughnessy pointed out, there was now a bright future to be anticipated, with funding of €1.75m secured for the building of a new Maureen O’Hara wing.
Throughout the day, there was music, entertainment and family fun to be had, along with the American experience of drive-in movies. Then in the evening, came the gala reception, with MC Seamus Hennessy and attended by Minister of State, Patrick O’Donovan and UL Chancellor and former Tánaiste, Mary Harney as well as public representatives past and present, leading figures in the world of aviation including Willie Walsh of IAG, the retiring chief executive of Limerick City and County Council Conn Murray and up to 150 other guests.
“This is a great project. I have always loved it,” said Eamonn Brennan, director general of Eurocontrol, the European traffic management organisations, who was one of the evening’s special guests.
“For many years you have given joy to many people,” he continued.
“30 years is a flash in the pan when you look back but it is a long way when you look forward,” Mr Brennan said and he paid tribute to museum director Margaret O’Shaughnessy in nurturing the museum. “She is a powerhouse,” he said.
“This is a very special night for the community here in Foynes and for everybody associated with the Foynes Flying Boat and Maritime Museum,” Minister O’Donovan said. “This is part of our heritage, not only of Foynes and surrounding parishes but it is part of the heritage of Co Limerick and of the Shannon Estuary.”
He recalled how, as a young lad, he and his late father John had come to Foynes on the day the museum opened and he remembered the impact it made on him and the pride it brought to Limerick and the pride it brought to Foynes.
But, he added, the story of the museum had evolved also against the background of the story of Foynes port and he paid tribute to Margaret O’Shaughnessy who had developed the museum into a local, national and international attraction now hosting 60,000 visitors a year. Margaret, he said, had also played a role in bringing the Wild Atlantic Way to Foynes and in helping to develop the Shannon Estuary Way.
Recalling the early days before the museum opened on July 8, 1989, Ms O’Shaughnessy said; “Little did I realise this museum would take over my life.”
And she reminded the audience, it started with a letter to the then county manager Dick Haslam. Things developed rapidly after that and she paid tribute to the board of directors.
“We started with nothing, no artefacts, no memorabilia,” she said. But, she added: “We had hope and we had dreams.”
She thanked the board members who had served over the years and thanked all those who had come to celebrate this milestone in the history of the museum.
“I am still here and still begging,” she said, reminding the audience that the last phase in the development of the museum was now about to start: the development of the Maureen O’Hara wing at a cost of €3.4m. This will house the O’Hara collection as well as a 120-seat cinema cum conference room, art space and a library and archive.