A 92-Year-old former Army engineer has told of the excitement that gripped an Irish town after the crew of a US warplane, which included a rum-loving monkey, made an unexpected visit during World War Two.
The warplane – a Boeing B17 Flying Fortress – was travelling from Morocco to England when it was forced to make an unscheduled stop in the marsh near Clonakilty, Co Cork, in April 1943 after running out of fuel.
The 10-strong crew, one passenger and their mascot, a spider monkey called Tojo, who was named after the Japanese prime minister, were welcomed into the town and stayed at O'Donovan's Hotel for two days.
The monkey, which was well fed and watered by the attentive locals, died just 24 hours after landing in the country and was buried in a flower garden in O'Donovan's hotel. Dena O'Donovan, who runs the hotel, said his arrival and time in Clonakilty was one of the town's most-loved historical tales.
"Before his burial, Tojo was laid on a bed in one of the rooms upstairs and people queued throughout the hotel to see his body," Ms O'Donovan said.
"People were devastated when he died. Some say his little body couldn't handle the cold in Ireland, others say it was the food – monkeys have not been known to eat black pudding. But others have said he was given quite a bit to drink." Tojo was known to favour rum.
Yesterday, up to 100 locals gathered in Clonakilty where a statue of Tojo was unveiled.
They included 92-year-old former Army engineer Private James 'Jim' Galvin, who was instrumental in laying the runway in Clonakilty to allow the plane to be flown to Northern Ireland, three weeks after its arrival.
Lieutenant Colonel Sean Cosden, of the US Defence Attache, was also at the unveiling ceremony.
Speaking yesterday, Mr Galvin said the crew members were ferried back to Northern Ireland by mini-bus just two days after their unexpected landing in the marsh.
He said the locals had been frightened after the plane flew low over the town prior to making its emergency landing, but that there was great excitement afterwards.
"It had a soft landing. His problem was lack of fuel," said Mr Galvin.
"After landing, one of the American crew approached a local and asked 'where are we?' and the answer he gave him was 'You're in Pat White's marsh'."
He added the pilot thought he was on the Welsh coast.
"He circled around to see and then he discovered. . . I better land while I have a drop of fuel," Mr Galvin said.