From JFK to Jagger: Exhibition shows 70 years of VIPs at Shannon Airport
Published 02/12/2015 | 02:30
From US presidents to Hollywood actors and royalty, Shannon Airport has played host to them all down through the years.
A new exhibition celebrating 70 years since the first commercial transatlantic flight into an Irish airport is a veritable who's who of VIP passengers.
From President Jimmy Carter sampling an Irish coffee to Richard Nixon addressing huge crowds on the tarmac and probably the biggest visit of them all by Pope John Paul II, the exhibition charts the glamorous side of life at the airport.
While the airport was used by Hollywood royalty, including Marlon Brando, Gene Kelly and Richard Burton, it also welcomed Princess Grace Kelly who was en route to tracing her family roots in Co Mayo.
Other images in the exhibition include a dishevelled-looking Mick Jagger, a grinning Russian premier Boris Yeltsin - on the occasion when he did manage to get off the aircraft - and a bemused Cuban leader Fidel Castro admiring an Aran jumper during a stop-over in 1982.
It also reaches into sport, with Mohammed Ali’s visit included, as is the Munster rugby team's 2006 homecoming following their Heineken Cup victory, and the single biggest crowd event of all at the airport - the homecoming of Clare’s 1995 All-Ireland winning team.
Former airport directors Michael Guerin and Liam Skelly along with retired Duty Free Shop staff member Ann Coyne attended the opening of the new exhibition in the airport's transit lounge yesterday.
Mr Guerin said the most important visit of them all was that of Pope John Paul II in 1979.
He also recalled Mr Yeltsin's infamous no-show when he left then Taoiseach Albert Reynolds waiting on the tarmac.
"The arrival was delayed by an hour or so and he still didn't come out to meet us. Eventually somebody else was delegated and sent down to attend the formal government meeting in the VIP room," Mr Guerin added.
Ms Coyne (78) was photographed in one of the iconic images with Gene Kelly in 1959.
"I remember Gene Kelly well...He almost glided around, he was very charming," she said.