Hello and welcome to this weeks virtual walk.
I will bet that you never heard of an airport in Derrigimlagh nor of the former Marconi radio transmitter that was located here, so please come along with me on a winter walk to this most unusual and historic location.
As we are still in the depths of winter that days are short , but the light – when we get it – in the west of Ireland it quite amazing . Today we are in Connemara near the town of Clifden and as it’s one of the most westerly points in Europe it has had an interesting role to play in the modern world. So, let’s take drive out of Clifden heading towards Roundstone and park the car .
We are going to take a 5 kilometre ( about 3 mile) walk along the Derrigimlagh Loop Walk and let me show you around points of historical importance as we go along. As you can see the day is dry and there is not too much of a breeze blowing. You will need to bundle up regardless and I hope that you have brought your hiking boots !
Let’s start with our photo at the wild Atlantic way signpost. Derrigimlagh is one of the 15 Signature Discovery Points on route as it is of special significance . The information booth will tell us why. Firstly, the blanket bog is recognised as an important wilderness and wildlife area and has a major historical importance for two reasons … it was the site of the first commercial transatlantic message by Marconi to Newfoundland, Canada in 1907, and in 1919, Alcock and Brown landed here on the first non-stop transatlantic flight !!
Having soaked up some of the information lets head through the gate marked “ Marconi “ and out onto the bog. As I said earlier, the light is simply amazing today, we have the place to ourselves and all we can hear is the wind and the occasional bleating of sheep. As we go along, we can see traces of the Marconi transmission station.
The Italian, Guglielmo Marconi caused a communications sensation when he developed the technology to make long distance wireless messages in the early 1900’s . He built a station in Newfoundland with the help of the Canadian government and then set up a sister station here as it was one of the closest points and considered a suitable site .The station was officially opened until 17th October 1907 when commercial signalling commenced between the two stations .The site was massive with a huge condenser house building, a power house and the massive aerial system .
As time moved on, advances were made in the technology and the station closed down in the 1920’s. We can see traces of several of the buildings and photos of how these structures looked over one hundred years ago, and in fact the site was so huge a miniature railway was constructed to bring the workers from building to building .
Take a look at the ricks of hand cut turf that are standing ready to be collected by the roadside. Isn’t amazing to see such traditional harvesting still done nowadays? Also, there are a few hardy sheep out and about and we can say hello to them before they trot off !!
The other thing that put Derrigimlagh on the record books was the achievement of the aviators John Alcock and Arthur Brown in June 1919. There was a prize offered by a British newspaper for the first transatlantic flight and the two intrepid airmen set out from Newfoundland to make the perilous journey in a converted Vickers Vimy bomber in June 1919. After 17 hours of nonstop flight , dodging fog and ice they finally caught sight of land. Furthermore, they saw the masts of the Marconi station and knew if they managed to land close by news of their feat would quickly be transmitted around the world. Little did they know that what looked like a grassy field was in fact bogland and their aircraft wound is stuck in the marshy ground. Luckily both pilots were uninjured, a remarkable feat achieved and the dawning of transatlantic air travel .
Lets now walk out to the conical monument that is built on the actual landing site and you can see how close it is to the old Marconi station .
Hold on – can you see overhead a jet trail from an aircraft making its way westward out over the Atlantic .. Nowadays long distance air travel is a matter of fact with dozens and dozens of transatlantic flights every day . Isn’t it amazing to stand on the site where the first transatlantic flight happened a little over a hundred years ago?
Let’s now make our way back across the bog, at least the wind is behind us and there is still some light before sunset . I hope that you agree that this is a really stunning place to visit and we have been privileged to have the whole place to ourselves .