A Manorhamilton flight of fancy 1908.

OCTOBER 31, 1908. RECORD AEROPLANE FLIGHT IN MANORHAMILTON.  WILBUR WRIGHT ECLIPSED. MAN’S MASTERY OF THE AIR AN ACCOMPLISHED FACT. (From a Correspondent.) On Friday last Captain Lawrence Harpret, of Deerpark Cottage, having fully tuned up his aeroplane determined to haul it out of shed and essay to beat the records now held by Mr. Wilbur Wright. For hours great crowds watched the preparations of the king of the, air, anxiously giving vent to much good-humoured chaff, one would call out, “Eh you old sausage, open your sardine box and let’s look at your face.” “He is opatant, (omnipotant?) never knew a man like him,’ muttered one of the mechanics, who had received a scolding for losing one of the starting ropes. There is nothing extraordinary in the appearance oi the Captain’s machine. Two superimposed canvas planes, the framework of which is almost entirely of spruce, two similar but smaller planes in front, and a double vertical rudder in the rear; such are the essentials of the machine that up to the present has penetrated furthest into the mystery of the birds. All being ready the Captain, helped by many willing hands soon had the machine on the rail. Having started up the motor he took his seat amidst the plaudits of the vast concourse and, soon the huge canvas bird could be seen making graceful evolutions and pirouetting coquettishly under the masterful control of the air king. Having remained in flight for over an hour the Captain descended to allow his passenger to board. I give the details of the historic flight in the words of the passenger: — “It was with no small trepidation I took my seat beside the gallant Captain, but a glance at his stem and immobile countenance had the effect of somewhat reassuring me. Having ascended to a height of about 180 feet we proceeded in the direction of Lurganboy, where owing to a short circuit in the electrical apparatus of the motor we had to descend in Mr. Crown’s orchard. The worthy proprietor rendered every assistance, and, the Captain nothing daunted soon had his machine again under way. Then we flew toward the ancient town of Manorhamilton, so justly famed for the literary skill of its inhabitants, and the dazzling brilliancy, of its electric light installation, and as being also the scene of the all-too-short life of the Utopian novelist, Mr. Sinn Fein. Passing over the Workhouse we could easily discern the jovial features of the worthy Clerk of the Union telling one of his inimitable anecdotes to the solemn and ascetic visaged Master. The motor being now in first rate working trim the Captain determined to soar to a higher altitude. This he at once he proceeded to do, when I experienced the most exhilarating moments of my life, sensation as of floating on filmy nothingness, of thrilling turns of graceful swooping, such were merely the outward manifestations of the subconscious feeling of extreme pleasure I felt. My cogitations were brought to an abrupt termination when a most ominous jar brought me back to earth, or rather to air. On peering through the gloomy mists, we could see the skeleton framework of the Manorhamilton boot factory, which was evidently the cause of our mishap. The Captain swore lustily, as befitted a son of the sea and a prototype of the famous Captain Kettle. “Who the b….s owns this infernal claptrap,” he angrily exclaimed as the aerial custodian hastily appeared. With profuse apologies and  salaams, the latter explained that the structure was erected by an amiable crank, who, however, did not witness its completion owing to a bad fall back to mother earth he got some time ago, while floating his company, Utopia, Ltd. “Serve him right,” quoth the air king, “for trying to sell gold bricks to a lot of dopes; we would lynch that fellow in the States for his puerile tomfoolery. Having been assured that the “Factory” would soon be dissolved into the thinnest air my pilot soon had the machine again on the swing, and we continued our flight “until the shades of night were gathering fast,” and fearing that Constable Healy would apprehend us for not having a lamp lighted we swooped through the stillness of the mighty void towards where a glow of unearthly radiance told us the town of Manorhamilton lay nestling amidst the hills. By the most skillful manipulation of the levers, the aeronaut at my request took the machine over St. Clare’s Hall, where a concert was observed to be in progress. The weirdly discordant notes of the local “McCormack” singing “The Men of the West” were wafted towards us on the peaceful air of the night. The discordant element was scientifically explained by the Captain, when he remarked that the oscillations of the ether were confused and disturbed by the rapid revolutions of the rear propellers, and that mutatis mutandis, the mellifluous vocalization could not be adequately auriculated. At this I was strangely comforted, not to say stupefied, by the magnificent cerebration of the air king. Having been for over three hours in the air it was decided to drop down at Mr. Jeiter’s Hotel to replenish our petrol tanks. Whilst maneuvering for a suitable spot to alight we espied the familiar figure of “Veritas” pensively scanning a well-known, advertisement of Bovril at an adjacent hoarding. The descent was successfully negotiated, and we were at once interviewed by Councillor McGuinness on behalf of the “Fermanagh Herald,” who said that our flight marked an important epoch in the struggle of man in his efforts to conquer the air. The tanks being duly filled the worthy Captain said it was time to be moving towards Deerpark Cottage, as he found his Opsonic Index depressed owing to the severe strain imposed on him by the “lengthy flight.” Thus ended the longest trip yet made on a heavier-than-air machine; and, it is confidently expected that it is but the forerunner of still more ambitious aerial performances on the part of the distinguished Manorhamilton aeronaut, Captain L. Harpret.

I would be glad to hear from anyone who could tell me more of the characters featured here. J. C.

One comment on “A Manorhamilton flight of fancy 1908.

  1. Seamas McCanny says:

    Lawrence Harpret appears in Manorhamilton in the 1911 census, an American born retired police officer aged 45, RC., widower. I presume the while article is a ‘flight of fantasy.’


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