Book on the first 10 years of Met Éireann by Tom Keane.
Establishment of the Meteorological Service in Ireland -The Foynes Years, 1936-1945 by Tom Keane
The literature of the Flying Boat Museum at Foynes claims that Foynes was ‘The Centre of the Aviation World 1939-1945’. While this statement may have used some hyperbole, yet due to a combination of circumstances ‘The Foynes Era’ deserves a unique place in the history of aviation and that of aviation meteorology.
A further milestone in the celebrations to mark the 75th anniversary of the foundation of the Irish Meteorological Service (now Met Éireann) was the launch at the last Met Society Conference of a new book entitled: ‘Establishment of the Meteorological Service in Ireland – the Foynes years 1936 – 1945’. This book, by retired Meteorologist Tom Keane, describes events in the lead up to the formation of the Irish Meteorological Service in 1936 and the first ten years of operations in large measure devoted to the flying boat era at Foynes.
After the transfer of the existing meteorological network to Irish control, the British authorities provided the initial expertise at Foynes. The British staff were replaced with the recruitment of professional and assistant staff sourced in Ireland, Great Britain and ‘refugee’ meteorologists from war torn Europe.
The pioneering trial flights out of Foynes have gone down in the annals of history. Subsequently during war time years, the major airlines transiting Foynes were BOAC later joined by Pan American Airways and American Export Airlines.
The functions of the Service expanded in other ways - an increase in the network of observing stations, establishment of a Climatological Division along modern lines and a strong research ethos among forecasters. During World War II years Clerical Officers were seconded from the General Civil Service to encipher weather messages exchanged between landing bases and aircraft. Staff numbers in the Service had increased to 126 by 1945.
The Irish Service overcame many difficulties caused by the onset of World War II with its attendant impacts on a neutral country, limitations in the reception of weather data and insufficient manpower to meet the large increase in flights transiting Foynes due to war restrictions on other routes. Office demands and Social aspects of life in Foynes became a source of discontent to staff as traffic through Foynes rapidly built up.
Yet the Service succeeded in attaining a well-deserved reputation by providing a professional service to aviation at the Shannon (Foynes and Rineanna) and Dublin airports, to Air Defence and at the same time serving, as best it could, other demands of the Irish state.
This book of 200 pages inclusive of preliminary and photographic pages, celebrates those fascinating early years and pioneering Irish meteorologists in a readily readable manner and is very reasonably priced at €15 (includes packaging and postage).
See http://www.irishmetsociety.org/tom-keanes-book for further details or to purchase the book.
About the Author: Tom Keane served in the Meteorological Service and at many meteorological stations over a long career becoming Senior Meteorologist and Head of Research and Applications in Met Éireann. His fascination for the era stemmed from the time in the late 1970s he was first given access to the Service’s ‘Secret Files’ of the WW II years. In recent years a more complete picture has emerged from additional sources in the literature and the various archives both in Ireland and in the UK.