2018 sees the 100th anniversary of the death of Major Robert Gregory in Padua, Italy made famous by the poem “An Irishman Foresees his Death” by William Butler Yeats – one of three poems written by Yeats eulogising the son of his great friend, Lady Augusta Gregory of Coole Park, County Galway, Ireland.
In celebration and commemoration of Robert Gregory and other fallen airmen throughout the world, and in recognition of Yeats’s great elegy (An Irish Airman Foresees His Death), the late Cmdt. Geoffrey O’Byrne White envisioned the Robert Gregory Cairn Project – a striking bronze sculpture depicting a Sopwith Camel aircraft mounted on a cairn made of local stone – to be situated in the landmark setting of Kiltartan Cross in Gort, County Galway.
Sadly, in June 2018 Geoffrey O’Byrne White passed away suddenly following a suspected heart attack while swimming in Kinsale Co Cork. In honour of Geoffrey’s wishes to create a place of reflection for fallen airmen, his family and friends now wish to bring his project at Kiltartan Cross to fruition. Geoffrey was a fellow aviator who had served in the Irish Air Corps and at the time of his untimely passing was a board member of the Irish Aviation Authority. He and Robert were also related - Geoffrey’s great-grand-father, Frank Persse, was a brother of Robert’s mother, Augusta. Frank Persse, an architect, had also designed the Kiltartan School, now the Kiltartan Gregory Museum.
This project was first introduced by Geoffrey at the Lady Gregory Autumn Gathering at Coole in 2017, when he, being a pilot, shared his own personal interpretation of Robert Gregory’s experience flying fearlessly among the clouds above northern Italy at the controls of a fast but somewhat flimsy biplane FE8 Pusher, and Sopwith Camel before ultimately plunging to his death at the age of 36. He further shared his findings of his own research into the circumstances of Irish airman’s death, specifically that Robert had likely fainted before crashing, having received an inoculation earlier in the day. This is of course contrary to the commonly held view that Robert’s plane had been shot down.
Geoffrey O’Byrne White believed that the unique skill and strength of character displayed by Robert Gregory was present in all pilots, and he wished to commemorate and acknowledge all aviators Irish and internationally, including those who hold Yeats’s poem (An Irish Airman Foresees His Death) in a special regard to their profession. It is a tribute to all aviators throughout the world.
He further recognised that Kiltartan Cross, the Kiltartan Gregory Museum and the proposed Robert Gregory Cairn could be a place where aviators from around the world, as well as those with an appreciation of Yeats’s poetry written in memory of Robert Gregory could visit.
Geoffrey also commission a bust of Lady Gregory which is on display at Coole Park Visitor Centre and at last year’s Lady Gregory Autumn Gathering donated two paintings by Robert Gregory to the Kiltartan Gregory Museum which are now on display at the museum.
Friends of Kiltartan Gregory Museum
As a follow-up to the Robert Cairn Project, there are plans to reintroduce Friends of Kiltartan Gregory Museum, this will be in the format of an annual membership subscription in support of the upkeeps and maintenance for the museum. Membership will also allow free entry to the museum and a quarterly electronic newsletter.
More details of both the Robert Gregory Cairn and Friends of Kiltartan Gregory will be unveiled on the Saturday 29th September at Kiltartan Gregory Museum as part of the annual Autumn Gathering of Lady Gregory at 2.15pm. As part of the afternoon schedule members of the family will recite WB Yeats poems. Dr. Robyn Rowland, Officer in the Order of Australia, Poet, will read from her work on WWI and history. John Coll Sculptor will also attend and show a model of the Robert Gregory Cairn envisaged by the Late Cmdt Geoffrey O’Byrne White . Traditional Irish Music by Gallimh Theas Comhaltas .
For more information
Contact Derek O’Byrne White email firstname.lastname@example.org Mobile Phone 086 083 0267
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