Home » Regional » Ennis » Ennis book commemorates Pan Am crash

Ennis book commemorates Pan Am crash

WITH the 65th anniverary of the tragic crash of Pan American Clipper Empress of the Skies at Shannon Airport approaching, a grandson of one of the victims has expressed his gratitude to the people of Ennis.

Following the accident on April 15, 1948, a grave was prepared at Drumcliffe Cemetery. Over the years, the grave has been voluntarily maintained by members of the Airport Police and Fire service, Aer Rianta and, more recently, Ennis couple, Bella and Flan Hehir.

 

The grandson of Jacob Ziadeh Farhat, one of the victims of the tragedy, has told how the respect shown by the people of Ennis over the years has been a comfort to relatives of the deceased.

Jeffrey Ghannam stated, “The respect and dignity that the people of Ennis have bestowed to the graveside of the Pan Am accident victims is a testament to their own humanity and nobility for which we are grateful.

Sixty-five years later, we still grieve our loss but we take comfort in knowing that a gravesite existed all along and that it was looked after by the kind-hearted and generous people of Ennis. May God bless the people of Ennis and keep eternal the memory of our loved ones for whom Ennis is their eternal place of repose.”

His comments are included in a new booklet by Ennis historian, Tony Cassidy, which is set to be launched at the Civic Rooms of Ennis Town Council on Thursday, April 18 at 6.30pm. The publication, From a Rock to a Hard Place, detailing the full story of the crash, has been written in association with Clare Roots Society, as part of its local history publishing programme and coinciding with the 65th anniversary of the tragedy.

This follows the success of books on Steele’s Terrace, O’Connell Street, St Columba’s Church and Drumcliffe Cemetery’s Calvary section.

Tony hopes the publication will act as a commemoration to those who died in the accident. Tony, who has been living in Ennis for the past eight years, has had an interest in this accident going back more than two decades.

He stated, “In 2012, I wrote a two-page chapter on the Pan Am burial at Drumcliffe for the Clare Roots Society but in that research, I realised there was a much greater story to the flight, the disaster and especially those on board. When I mentioned this to Larry Brennan, his reply was ‘If you have a story, then put it in print’.

“My interest in this tragic accident actually goes back 22 years, when I was asked by Ronny Vogt to assist with a book that included details of aircraft crashes at Shannon Airport. I reported that the site of this crash was 100 metres short of Runway 23, having found that in print elsewhere. The first review of the book went to some length to point out that it was, in fact, 600 metres. In the broad spectrum of life, that distance might be considered to be of little consequence but it was the first major error that I had passed on and I was determined to resolve how it had arose.”

He went on, “Forty years after the crash, the land and espcially the alignment of runways and roads was greatly changed and to pinpoint the exact site appeared impossible. However, in 2008, during a visit to Clare County Council’s planning office in Ennis, I obtained a copy of very largescale map of the locality, which included Caherteige and the nearby runways, revised close enough to 1948 for it to be reliable.

“Soon I realised that what that map showed was just land and the more I researched, the more I realised that the crash was really about people, those on board and those who rushed to assist. With this booklet, my mind is now at rest. More importantly, I hope that it might provide a clear record and commemoration for all relatives of those who perished.”

The book was written with the assistance of the first man on the scene, Jack Hogan, a Pan American radio officer and aviation experts in Zurich, Switzerland and Belfast, with many of the photos never published before.

The publication covers in detail the crew; passengers; the sole survivor; the first man on the scene; the would-be rescuers; the inquest; the preparation of a mass grave at Drumcliff and the burial on April 17. The care and attention given to the maintenance of the grave of the 19 victims buried far from home is also detailed.

Mayor of Clare Pat Daly has paid tribute to Tony Cassidy, along with Clare Roots Society, for bringing the publication to fruition. “This booklet demonstrates the commitment to all to safeguard our shared history, no matter how sad the event is,” he said.

About News Editor

Check Also

It’s shoe-time for Ennis Men’s Shed

IT won’t quite sound like the thunder of hooves at a race meeting but the …