Saturday 10 December 2016

From JFK to Jagger: Exhibition shows 70 years of VIPs at Shannon Airport

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Pat Flynn

Published 02/12/2015 | 02:30

Hollywood legend Gene Kelly chats with staff member Ann Coyne in the Duty Free shop
Hollywood legend Gene Kelly chats with staff member Ann Coyne in the Duty Free shop
No introduction required; boxer, social activist, philanthropist and, actually, great grandson of Ennis, Co. Clare man Abe Grady, Muhammad Ali was and will always remain in sporting fans’ eyes ‘the greatest’. Ali transcended sport and in 2009 travelled to his great grandfather’s birthplace in Ennis and was made the first honorary freeman of the town.
64 photos of some of the world’s best known political leaders and stars of screen and stage have been unveiled at Shannon Airport. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Fusionshooters
JFK at Shannon Airport.
The Welsh film star and actor Richard Burton is pictured arriving in Shannon Airport with his wife Suzy Miller during the actor’s third effort at marriage after twice wedding Elizabeth Taylor in the 60s. A close friend of the late and great Richard Harris, there are fond memories of the pair, together with Peter O’Toole (all three are included in this exhibition) during the ‘60s holding up a bar counter at 3am singing songs while renowned Irish musician and song-writer Pecker Dunne played the banjo to a saxophone accompaniment.
US President Jimmy Carter with Shannon Airport’s Michael Guerin
70 years a-glowing as Shannon Airport celebrates milestone with launch of photographic exhibition. Pic: Diarmuid Greene/Fusionshooters
Hollywood actor Marlon Brando
Princess Grace Kelly of Monaco during one of her three trips into Shannon
SHANNON, IRELAND: US President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush arrive 25 June, 2004, at Ireland's Shannon Airport. Bush arrived in Ireland to take part in a weekend summit between the United States and the European Union. AFP Photo/Tim SLOAN (Photo credit should read TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. President Ronald Reagan arrives at the Shannon Airport June 1, 1984
Jacqueline Kennedy (1929 - 1994) with her children Caroline and John at Shannon Airport, at the start of a family holiday in Ireland, 15th June 1967. (Photo by Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Rolling Stones singer Mick Jagger looking dishevelled
IRELAND - OCTOBER 01: Pope John Paul II waves as he boards an Aer Lingus flight at Shannon Airport following his visit to Ireland on October 01, 1979. (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)
Ted Kennedy pictured at Shannon Airport
Cuban dictator Fidel Castro holds up an Aran jumper during a stop-over at Shannon in 1982
Britain's Prince Charles greets Rose Hynes and Neil Pakey, Shannon Group when he and his wife Camilla arrived at Shannon airport ahead of their official visit to Ireland. Pic: Sean Curtin Fusionshooters.

From US presidents to Hollywood actors and royalty, Shannon Airport has played host to them all down through the years.

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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.

Irish Independent

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