Saturday 10 December 2016

Spot anywhere familiar? Stunning aerial views of Irish landscape caught in time

See all the photographs in the gallery below

Published 29/10/2016 | 02:30

Croke Park in a photo taken on All-Ireland final day, September 23, 1951 Photo: Independent Aerial Photographic Collection
Croke Park in a photo taken on All-Ireland final day, September 23, 1951 Photo: Independent Aerial Photographic Collection
Croke Park this year
Arklow, Co Wicklow, taken on July 11, 1952 Photo: Independent Aerial Photographic Collection
Aviator Alexander 'Monkey' Campbell Morgan
University College Cork on March 4, 1955 Photo: Independent Aerial Photographic Collection
Lucan as it is viewed from the air today Photo: Independent Aerial Photographic Collection
An aerial view of Lucan in west Dublin Photo: Independent Aerial Photographic Collection
The River Lee and Cork City Photo: Independent Aerial Photographic Collection
Tralee, Co Kerry, taken on September 7, 1951 Photo: Independent Aerial Photographic Collection
A steamboat navigates the River Liffey in Dublin Photo: Independent Aerial Photographic Collection
'Ireland from the Air - Independent Archives 1951-1958' features stunning photography and isp ublished by The Collins Press

These striking images of Ireland during its formative years were captured from above by a former RAF pilot who specialised in aerial photography until his untimely death in a plane crash.

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Before Aer Lingus made its first transatlantic flight, at a time when few Irish people could dream of taking to the air, intrepid aviator Alexander 'Monkey' Campbell Morgan roamed Ireland's skies, documenting towns and villages.

The images lay among the vast collection of pictures owned by Independent Newspapers and highlighted by employee Michael Hinch, who was archiving material for a series of magazines.

He had been directed to a series of boxes that held the Morgan collection, which the 'Independent' had owned.

Croke Park this year
Croke Park this year

He discovered the cache of 300 aerial photographs taken over the cities, towns and villages of this island between 1951 and 1958.

"I realised that here was a goldmine of images of Ireland in its formative years as a nation. Until I scanned them, I had no idea of what they contained or what areas they covered. I was elated by what we found," Mr Hinch, who worked for Independent Newspapers for more than 46 years, said.

"Covering the 32 counties, they showed an Ireland in transition. Images of old towns and villages caught in time mixed with new housing estates sprouting up around our cities.

"Places that were once little villages have today developed into sprawling towns surrounding Dublin. Belfast at the Albert Bridge in the 1950s looks nothing like it does today, with a factory, railway yards and a power station replaced by hotels and the Central Station."

An aerial view of Lucan in west Dublin Photo: Independent Aerial Photographic Collection
An aerial view of Lucan in west Dublin Photo: Independent Aerial Photographic Collection

He learned more about Captain Morgan - a wartime pilot for the Royal Artillery Air Corps. After the war, Morgan launched a career in aerial photography before his death in a plane crash after flying from Shannon in 1958. Independent Newspapers had bulk-purchased enough images to continue publishing them even after his death.

"This book is a crystal ball into our past. The images are of such high quality that the detail just leaps out. I hope you will be as enthralled by the images as I am. Every time I look at them, I see something new: the more you search, the more you will see," Mr Hinch said.

The River Lee and Cork City Photo: Independent Aerial Photographic Collection
The River Lee and Cork City Photo: Independent Aerial Photographic Collection

Photographs range from Dublin's Trinity College in 1951, with a cricket match clearly underway on College Park in the centre of the busy city, to Doe Castle standing alone on a strip of land running into the sea near Creeslough, Co Donegal.

The images were unearthed after Independent Newspapers donated what was left of its entire collection of photographic negatives to the National Library of Ireland. These encompassed the years 1912 to 2000, covering most of the major political and social events of the century.

The collection is complemented by the original captions. It forms a portrait of Ireland that existed before Teilifís Éireann, Vatican II or the European Economic Community, giving an insight into how the landscape and infrastructure of the nation have evolved.

'Ireland from the Air - Independent Archives 1951-1958', compiled by Michael Hinch, is published in hardback by The Collins Press, priced €29.99. It will be available in all good bookshops next week, and online from www.collinspress.ie.

Tralee, Co Kerry, taken on September 7, 1951 Photo: Independent Aerial Photographic Collection
Tralee, Co Kerry, taken on September 7, 1951 Photo: Independent Aerial Photographic Collection

Reader offer: Get 15% off at www.independentarchives.com with code BOOK15

Irish Independent

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