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John Dunville Dunville, CBE, DL (1866-1929)
Belfast Aeronaut Crosses the Irish Sea

published in the Belfast Telegraph on Wednesday 16 February 1910



A Descent in Cheshire


photograph: Mr. J.D. Dunville
of Holywood, Co. Down, who accomplished the daring and successful flight across the Irish Channel.
photograph: Mr. Dunville in the car of his balloon

Mr. John Dunville, of Belfast, and the Aero Club, London, whose success in aeronautic circles has already attracted world-wide attention and admiration, has added to his splendid achievements previously accomplished, by crossing the Irish Channel in his balloon St Louis. As already stated in these columns, Mr. Dunville, who was accompanied by Mr. Pollock, a well-known member of the Aero Club, made the ascent from the Dublin Gas Company's works in Barrow Street, Ringsend, shortly after ten o'clock on Tuesday morning, and alighted at Birtles, near Macclesfield, about three o'clock in the afternoon, the voyage having been a complete success. Comparatively few people witnessed the start, and after the preliminary arrangements, which were carried out in an exemplary manner by Mr. Short, of Short & Co., Battersea, an aerial navigation expert, the St. Louis was released and shot up with great speed, travelling in the direction of Howth. The balloon was seen at a high altitude on the Welsh coast, and was moving at a terrific rate, a strong wind prevailing at the time. The weather was not at all favourable, a severe snowstorm being experienced, but this only makes Mr. Dunville's great success all the more gratifying and remarkable.


Our Macclesfield correspondent telegraphs: Mr. Dunville and Mr. Pollock completed their voyage, and landed in the quiet Cheshire hamlet of Birtles at 2.55 in the afternoon. They had got above Welsh soil at Holyhead, and then passed over Chester, and so into Cheshire.

The landing was observed by very few people, but in conversation with one or two who were present, Mr. Dunville said they had a terribly cold passage, and experienced one severe snowstorm.

Whilst over the Channel they reached an altitude of ten thousand feet.

The aeronauts stayed a very short time in the neighbourhood of their landing. In two hours time the balloon was packed up and conveyed to Chelford Railway Station, wher both gentlemen took train, Mr. Dunville to join the Irish mail, and Mr. Pollock to proceed to London.

Mr. Dunville said he hoped to reach home in the morning.

The maximum altitude attained by Mr. Dunville was 10,000 feet, where the thermometer showed 27 degrees of frost. The average speed was 34 miles an hour.


Mrs. Dunville, interviewed by a Press representative, declared herself greatly disappointed at not having been able to accompany the party. "We have been waiting for a favourable wind every day for a week," she said, "and on Sunday we came up to town and stayed there waiting for a suitable occasion.

"I got into the car, and thought we were fairly off, but to my great diappointment I found that they would have to throw out too much ballast. When I was in the car they threw out seven bags, and then I knew I would have to get out. I knew I displaced three bags of ballast, which they would require to throw out, and you know they could not throw me out. I crossed the English Channel last year in the Banshee, with which Mr. Dunville had intended to cross the Irish Sea. We started from London, and reached Belgium, landing at night in a terrible storm. There were four of us, and I may add that it was the first time that a party of four ever crossed the Channel together in a balloon."

Asked why the ascent was so sudden and unexpected, Mrs. Dunville said "It had to be so, for we could not tell when a favourable moment would come. A great many of our friends were anxious to be present at the departure, but as we had to put it off from day to day, it was not possible to ler them know when the time came. If all goes well, we should have news very soon, but, of course, it depends on where the balloon lands. It may alight somewhere five or ten miles from a telegraph office. However, I am sure that all will go well, and that we shall hear good news before very long."


In the course of an interview with a Press representative, Mr. E. Short said the wind was very strong while they were preparing for the ascent, rendering the task of weighing the balloon properly a most difficult one. The wind was so strong that it took forty men to hold the balloon down, and one could imagine the strenuous nature of this work when it is stated that from the basket to the valve at the crown the St. Louis stood 85 feet high.

Asked if the balloon went off with a rush, Mr. Short replied,"Oh, no. It was to see it did not do that I came over here. All that depends on the weighing. With a strong wind catching the balloon underneath there is a tendency for the balloon to rise, but a rapid and a high ascent is most likely to be followed by a collapse and rapid descent and a waste of ballast. The weight has to be adjusted so as to keep the balloon low at the start. This was a rather tricky day for starting, but the St. Louis started well after an hour's hard work getting it properly adjusted, and ascended to about 800 feet."

It was reckoned that the Irish Channel has been crossed twice in a balloon - once about forty years ago, and the first when Sadler made the attempt in 1812, but he only knew of Sadler's attempt.


The St. Louis, in which Mr. Dunville accomplished his remarkable achievement, was built in France for Americans who were competing in the Gordon-Bennett Cup race in Germany. It has 80,000 cubic feet capacity. Two or three balloons dropped into the North Sea, and the St. Louis was one of them. The occupants jumped out, and were saved, and the balloon drifted about for some days, being eventually picked up by Hull fishermen. It was renovated at the works of Messrs. Short, Battersea, and subsequently purchased by Mr. Dunville.


As to the equipment of the balloon, Mr. Dunville said every precaution was taken against accident in the case of a descent over sea. For this trip the car was covered with a canvas bag outside the basket, to prevent the water going through the woodwork. In case the balloon shipped water, it could be worked out by a canvas tube twelve inches in diameter which runs through the car. There was also in the basket sufficient floating material for five people. And as a final precaution, there are two lifebelts on board. There was equipment to keep the occupants afloat until assistance arrived, and in case the balloon was in the sea, and a ship hove in sight, there was a cone sheet anchor of canvas to slacken the pace, so as to enable the ship to reach the balloon. With a strong wind the balloon would be carried at a much faster pace than a ship could travel at, and the sheet anchor would pull down the speed to about ten miles per hour. "The Banshee, in one of her trips, took a ton of sand." continued Mr. Short. "The St. Louis could carry the same amount, but, of course, the quantity of ballast depends on the specific gravity of the gas, and in this case the gas, being coal gas, was rather too heavy for the purpose. It is too good a burning gas to be good for our purpose. We want a lighter gas. We put in about 900lbs. of ballast, but there were other things also which made weight. There were a trail rope, grapple lines, lunch baskets, packing and luggage, which made 160lbs more. Mrs. Dunville was actually in the car, but we should have had to leave some of the ballast behind if she went, and we considered that we could not afford that in view of the possibility of rain or a change in the wind, or other causes which might make it necessary to use a large quantity of ballast. There seemed to be no doubt now that if Mrs. Dunville had gone the journey could have been made with her, as the wind remained so favourable. However the risk was too great. A change of the wind to the south might add 150 miles over sea to the journey. Variation in the temperature had also to be taken into account."


Mr. Dunville sent the following message to the Press Association on Tuesday:- "Ascended from Dublin in the balloon St. Louis, accompanied by Mr. C.F. Pollock, at ten o'clock this morning. Reached the west coast south of Holyhead, and passed over Conway Bay and Chester. Descended near Macclesfield at three o'clock. Maximum altitude, 10,000 feet, where the thermometer showed 27 degrees of frost. Average speed, thirty-four miles an hour."

Mrs. Dunville received the following telegram at 5.30:- "Descended safely near Macclesfield, 2.55. One and a half bags left. Blowing hard. Arrive Dublin by mail tomorrow morning."

The successful aeronaut also wired to his home at Redburn, Holywood:- "Left Dublin in St. Louis at 10.10. Descended safely near Macclesfield 2.55."


This article was provided by Sam Christie. It had been found by his sister June Macormac.

See also:

Col. John Dunville Dunville, CBE, DL (1866-1929): The Famous Belfast Balloonist

The 1908 Coupe Aéronautique Gordon Bennett

Mainly About Aeronauts

Flights by the Dunvilles and Cups Won


Photographs of John Dunville Dunville, CBE, DL (1866-1929)

Robert Lambart Dumville (1893-1931): Chairman of Dunville & Co. Ltd.

The Dunvilles of Northern Ireland and Dunville's Whisky

William Dunvill (c1740-1793): The Distillery Line of the Dunvilles

Family Tree