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Crosbie Aeronautic Chariot
 
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As detailed in the September 1784 issue of Hibernian Magazine, the gondola portion of the craft – with its windmills, masts, and sails – had been built and were on display by August of that year. The article explains how his craft was supposed to work, which in its own way was quite ingenious and clever, even if it was doomed to fail. As events transpired, it wasn’t until January of 1785 that Richard Crosbie was first able to take to the skies. When he did so, it was in a conventional hydrogen balloon, the fixtures and fittings of his “Aeronautic Chariot” having been left behind on the ground. Crosbie went on to make a series of attempts to cross the Irish Sea, none of which were successful.
 
Crosbie spent much of his childhood devising peculiar contraptions at his family home in Baltinglass, Co Wicklow. By 1783, he was a student at Trinity College, Dublin, listening to the tale of two Frenchmen who spent 25 minutes elevated in the sky within the basket of a hot air balloon.

Crosbie vowed he would one day cross the Irish Sea. His vehicle of choice would be a rubberised silk-covered balloon, filled with hydrogen.

To raise funds for his adventure, Crosbie held an exhibition in Ranelagh Gardens in Dublin. For a small fee, the public was invited to examine both his balloon and the "aeronautic chariot" which would carry himself, his equipment, his scientific instruments and the ballast.
 
On the final day of his exhibition, he launched the balloon skywards with a cat on board. It travelled north-west, rolled up the Scottish coast and was recovered near the Isle of Man the following day. Crosbie let his fans know that next time, he would be on board.
 
Ticket sales for the big event went through the roof, with forged tickets adding to the mayhem. At 2.30pm on January 19th, 1785, Richard Crosbie stepped into his aeronautical chariot. Ever the showman, the tall aeronaut wore a long, fur-lined robe of oiled silk, a waistcoat and breeches of white quilted satin, Moroccan boots and a leopard skin cap. His balloon was embellished with paintings of Minerva, the Roman goddess of wisdom, and Mercury, the messenger of the gods, carrying the coat of arms of Ireland.
 
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He saluted the 20,000 strong crowd, ordered the ropes cut and ascended into the heavens over Dublin. He was visible for three and half minutes, then disappeared into a cloud. Richard Crosbie became the first Irishman to fly.
 
His audience roared with delight. As it happened, he only got as far as Clontarf before loosening the valve and returning to earth.
 
Crosbie might not have crossed the Irish Sea but the flight was hailed as a pioneering scientific achievement across Europe and considered a great victory for Ireland. The event is recalled by a small plaque in Ranelagh Gardens.
 
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