Monday, June 25, 2018
Athy, once the largest town in County Kildare, was a thriving commercial centre even in the most difficult economic times of the 19th century. As the brick making industry developed in this area, Athy benefitted from a secondary industrial and commercial spinoff which owed its existence in large to the strong agricultural economy of the surrounding district. The entrepreneurial confidence which supported the continuing economic well being of Athy was undoubtedly similar to that evidenced in the life of a man of a later generation – Henry Hosie of Coursetown. Hosie, who was born in 1891, served in the British Army when commissioned as a second Lieutenant in the Army Service Corps on the outbreak of World War I. He served in France until invalided out in 1916 and served out the rest of the war as officer based in Scotland. On being demobbed, having reached the rank of Captain, Hosie joined the local firm of Duthie Larges, then the largest employer of men in the south Kildare area. Early in the 1920s (exact date not yet known) Hosie set up the Picture Palace company and opened a cinema in Offaly Street. It was the first of several commercial ventures in which Henry Hosie was to be involved over the years. In 1929, in conjunction with Fred Thompson of Carlow, Hosie formed the company ‘Industrial Vehicles Ireland Ltd.’ known to all of us as I.V.I. Ltd. The Irish Times of September 1929 detailed the company’s activities as Fordson tractor dealers and trailer manufacturers. In 1932 Henry Hosie was a member of the Irish Aero Club and that same year his company was appointed agent in Ireland for the de Havilland aircraft company of England. He was responsible for organising in conjunction with the Aero Club what was described as a flying pageant held in a field at Cardenton owned by the Minches in August 1932. Three aircraft took part in the event and the Kildare Observer reported ‘an amusing and exciting interlude when an old woman was seen to enter one of the planes and while the pilot (Capt Hosie) was getting his helmet adjusted, the machine was seen to stagger across the field and rise off the ground, missing the hedge by inches. The spectators were then treated to an exhibition of crazy flying and after one or two attempts, the machine was brought back to terra firma.’ The following March Hosie wrote from Athy to the Department of Industry and Commerce seeking use of the abandoned aerodrome at Collinstown as the Midland and Scottish Air Ferries Company which he represented was negotiating to operate commercial flights from Ireland. Throughout 1933 Hosie was often mentioned in the national press in connection with his representation on behalf of the Scottish company to use the aerodrome at Cork. In July 1933 the Irish Independent reported that Henry Hosie was instrumental in completing the arrangements for the Midland and Scottish Company to operate twice daily flights from Cork to Dublin with links to Britain. That service started on 15th August 1933 with flights between Baldonnell and Hooton. Hosie who was the initiator of the early attempts to operate an airline service in Ireland now found that the Department of Industry and Commerce had taken up the idea. Their initial step was to write to the general manager of the Great Southern Railways inviting the railway company to utilise its powers under the Railway Act 1933 to operate an airline service between Ireland and Great Britain. While the British mainline railways had similar powers since 1929 and had just started to use them, the Irish rail company decided not to enter the airline business. Henry Hosie as representative in Ireland for the Midland and Scottish Air Ferries was still pressing the company’s case to operate an Irish airline service but by January 1934 the Minister for Industry and Commerce, Sean Lemass, had four different applications to provide the service. The national press reported on 30th September 1934 that a new company, Aer Lingus Eireann Teo., was formed to begin early in the new year daily flights between Dublin and Croydon. In fact the Aer Lingus service started in May 1936 with flights between Dublin and Bristol. Henry Hosie, one of the pioneers of Irish commercial air travel was not part of the new venture. With the ending of Hosie’s involvement in the early years of Irish aviation he concentrated on developing his business in Athy. In November 1934 the press reported Hosie’s plans to open a factory at the rear of his existing premises for the manufacture of rain water goods. Hosie is reported as saying ‘Athy wants an industry so we decided to give them one.’ Hosie’s new factory was officially opened on 22nd March 1935 when his wife Laura started the furnace in what became known as the I.V.I. Foundry. The story of the I.V.I. Foundry is for another day but those early years of Henry Hosie’s business involvement gives some flavour of the entrepreneurial skills which Athy so badly needs today. Much of the material for this article comes courtesy of John King of London who came across a previous Eye on the Past and my request for information on Henry Hosie. John, who was initially researching Irish transport, particularly air transport, followed up on my request having come across many references to Henry Hosie and shared his work with me.