Golden age when jet-setting stars made Shannon a Hollywood hub
MARILYN Monroe sips an Irish coffee, Ted Kennedy weighs up a tweed rug, Charlie Chaplin poses with his family and JFK shakes hands with an adoring crowd – just some of the tourists and travellers passing through Shannon Airport.
Rarely seen pictures show how one of Ireland's small rural airports has been a hub for Hollywood stars and world leaders down through the decades.
Shannon Airport, Co Clare, has entertained the likes of Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra, Gene Kelly and Charlie Chaplin.
It was a major stopover for refuelling purposes as airlines flew between the US and Europe during World War II and in the years that followed, with 80pc of transatlantic flights stopping.
This week, Clare native Valerie Sweeney, author of the sold-out book 'Shannon Airport – A Unique Story of Survival' presented documentation of the airport's most famous visitors and recordings of an eight-hour radio documentary she produced to the Clare county library service. "A lot of them are photos that have never been seen before. These were photos that people had, who were never interviewed before," Ms Sweeney said.
She said that through her research she collected hundreds of photos, which she has categorised into eight volumes – including images of Tinsletown's finest as they passed through the airport since its opening in 1945.
"They were coming through because they were going out to entertain the troops during the war, but they had to stop at Shannon for refuelling," Mrs Sweeney continued.
"It was fantastic. There was a buzz there that wasn't anywhere else," she added. Shannon was Ireland's first transatlantic gateway, and was also where Duty Free shopping originated, with the first kiosk opening in 1947.