Lots of people come to our Irish recipe pages at the European Cuisines website in search of “the genuine Irish Coffee” recipe. We’ve had the recipe in text form for a long time, but now the website of the World Irish Coffee Festival has given Irish Coffee its own online presence detailing its history and the recipe itself…and about time. Because of where Irish Coffee was invented, the WICF website is closely associated to the website of the Foynes Flying Boat Museum, located at Foynes, County Limerick, on the banks of the River Shannon. And thereby hangs a tale, because something new and really marvelous has just opened up there.
The Museum is a refurbishment of the original Foynes Flying Boat Base terminal building, where all transatlantic air traffic of the late 1930’s stopped on its way elsewhere. (If Rick Blaine flew from New York to Casablanca on his inbound leg, he would have stopped or changed planes at Foynes.) The Museum contains a theater, exhibits and graphic displays, and (in the Radio and Weather Rooms) the base’s original transmitters, receivers and Morse equipment.
That said, they’ve for some time wanted a replica of the inside of one of the flying boats that served the base during the wartime years — particularly the most famous of them, the Boeing B314 “Yankee Clipper”, which became the backbone of the original Pan Am fleet. This flying boat, after testing in 1937 and ’38, ran the world’s first scheduled transatlantic passenger air route starting in June 1939. It was quite a plane — a multiple-level vessel with cabins, sleeping berths, reading room, dining room, and lounge, and a flight deck that was big enough to actually be called a deck. (See here and here for more interiors.) One of the passengers on the inaugural flight (Port Washington [Long Island, NY] – Botwood [Newfoundland] – Foynes – Horta – Lisbon – Marseilles) wrote home about his flying experience:
“The public rooms and the upholstery are works of art of the decorators’ guild. The ship is perfectly vibrationless, and is insulated to the point where you can speak in an ordinary voice. A couple of bridge games are in progress. We have a couple of boys who like to play chess, and the letter writing, of course, is about as popular as ever. At 7 o’clock, dinner was served, and what a dinner it was. We had a six-course affair, with breast of chicken, asparagus, strawberry shortcake and, of course, after-dinner coffee…”
(sigh) It was the kind of thing that today’s air traveler can only dream of. Unfortunately, none of the actual planes remained in the world to be bought and refurbished for the Flying Boat Museum: having become obsolete in the early- to mid-1940’s, they were all sold off to start-up airlines, cannibalized for parts, or simply destroyed, and by the 1950’s they were all gone. So, with a replica cabin in mind, the Museum approached a UK-based set designer with the wonderful name of Brian Fallover. However, Fallover apparently refused to build just a replica of a cabin: he insisted in building the whole plane. And now — according to an interview with the museum director this morning on RTÉ Radio 1 — there it sits, a complete replica Yankee Clipper of 1939, parked outside by the old embarkation/debarkation ramp at Foynes. So cool!
(Unfortunately there seem to be no pictures of it on the website as yet — only some artists’ impressions in a “museum expansion plan” PDF document dated 2005. However, we’re going to go out that way in the near future: after we’ve been there, we’ll add pictures to this posting and put some up on Flickr. So watch this space.)
[tags]flying boat, flying boat base, Foynes, County Limerick, Limerick, Ireland, Boeing B314, B-314, B314, coffee, Irish, Irish coffee, golden age of travel, Pan Am, Pan Am Clipper, Yankee Clipper[/tags]