Richard Crosbie

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Above: Richard Crosbie—never realised his ambition of reaching England in a balloon.

In Ireland, early aeronautical ambitions had centred on Richard Crosbie (1755–1824). Crosbie’s aeronautical ambition had always been to reach England; although he never managed to do so, he did at least become the first man to fly in Ireland (and the first Irishman to fly) when he ascended from Dublin’s Ranelagh Gardens on 19 January 1785. Others who either attempted or contemplated the same goal were the Scot James Dinwiddie, the Frenchman Dr Potain, an English brother and sister called Durry, and, in May 1786, Vincenzo Lunardi himself. Finding only lukewarm support in Dublin, however, Lunardi instead returned to England to make some of the last balloon flights seen anywhere in Europe that century, as social unrest in France was followed by the turmoil of the Napoleonic Wars.

By July 1810, however, with the French threat apparently contained, the British nation was in a more celebratory mood—or, at least, they were in Oxford, where James Sadler, the sole survivor of the original cohort of dedicated aeronauts, treated his home city to a sight not seen there since a flight he himself had arranged 25 years earlier. During the war years Sadler had applied his restless genius to a wide range of activities, including the design of steam engines, guns and explosives, and as the Navy’s official chemist. Now, dubbed the ‘King of all Balloons’, Sadler embarked on his second phase as a professional balloonist.

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