Gerry Moran argues that the world’s first solo flight was not made by Orville Wright at Kitty Hawk, Carolina, in 1903 but by a Kilkennyman some 50 years earlier.
In 1903, two unknown bicycle repair men from Dayton, Ohio, made aviation history. In December of that year over a deserted beach at Kitty Hawk, Carolina, Orville Wright did what most people, including some eminent astronomers and scientists, considered to be impossible.
In a flimsy machine made of wood, cloth and wire, and powered by a tiny petrol engine, he defied gravity and flew through the air for several seconds. Orville Wright, brother of Wilbur, was the first man to fly. Or was he?
Almost half a century before the Wright brothers made aviation history at Kitty Hawk, Carolina, a Kilkenny-born man by the name of Godwin Meade Swifte, the second Viscount of Carlingford, built what he called an ‘Aerial Chariot.’
The year was 1854 and he built the machine in the dining room of his home, Swiftsheath, an elegant country house in Jenkinstown, about 12 Km (7.5 miles) outside Kilkenny.
Swiftsheath, is still occupied to this day and was built by Godwin’s ancestor, uncle of Jonathan Swift (1667–1745) satirist, essayist and the author of ‘Gulliver’s Travels’ (which has never been out of print since it was first published in 1726).
Jonathan Swift spent some of his childhood there when he was a pupil in Kilkenny College, where he was a fellow pupil of William Congreve, the playwright, and the philosopher, George Berkeley, after whom Berkeley College in California is called.