My only obstacle to calling Ireland is coordinating the time difference. From my iPhone, I reach out to family and friends from home, office, or while traveling. The device’s digital connection also allows me to text and Tweet, and read The Irish Times as easily as The Washington Post.
Communications were not always so instant, as just remembered at the north Kerry seaside town of Ballybunion. There, on the eastern edge of the Atlantic, on March 19, 1919, an engineer working for Guglielmo Marconi transmitted the first spoken words across the ocean to Nova Scotia.
“Hello Canada, hello Canada.”
Ballybunion “pulled out all the stops” for the recent centenary, the Ballybunion News boasted, including a visit by Marconi’s 89-year-old daughter, Princess Elettra Marconi Giovanelli, who recreated the famous greeting. The Kerryman reported:
Sadly, the original wooden wireless station hasn’t been around since the Civil War era, but the Irish College made for a perfect replacement as all decamped there for the repeat broadcast. It was successfully picked up at a station close to the original receiver in Nova Scotia in a communication that gave many present a thrilling sense of the history – not least the numerous amateur and professional radio operators from across the county and region gathered.
Three months after the original transmission from Ballybunion, British aviators John Alcock and Arthur Brown made the first nonstop transatlantic flight from St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada, to Clifden in County Galway, about 100 miles north of Ballybunion. Their trip in an open cockpit took just under 16 hours.
Today, I fly from Washington, D.C. to Dublin in less than seven hours. Even as airline seating has become more cramped, the safety and amenities of commercial aviation is taken for granted.
A century ago, communications and travel each entered a new age.