Limerick native Mike Kelly was inspired by one of Ireland’s pioneering airmen, Arthur Toppin, as he flew over his home in Rathbane, a housing estate on the Southside of Limerick City, and his house ‘Willmount’, in the early 1960s in his four-seater Piper Tri-Pacer plane every day.
His love of all things aeronautical began there in Rathbane and led him to amass the largest collection of die-cast model airplanes in the world, which is now on display in the departure lounge of Shannon Airport.
A memoir of his life and times, written by Limerick writer Kieran Beville, and titled Pulling Back the Clouds has just been published by the Limerick Writers’ Centre and is available to order online!
In the memoir Michael tells how he networked and befriended some of the world’s most renowned model aircraft distributors and how the collection has some of the rarest and most prized aircraft models in the world.
Since its inception the collection has become a ‘must see’ for all who pass through the airport and quite a few well know personalities from the world of politics and entertainment have been hugely impressed with what Michael has put together. Niall Maloney, Operations Manager at Shannon Airport, said "The collection is an obsession, an act of love by Mike Kelly and it has found its home here in Shannon Airport".
It was in the 1950s, a time when aviation was about to usher in a golden age in air travel and Shannon Airport was in its infancy, that Mike was bitten by all things aeronautical. The collection and exhibition contains aircraft from the earliest days of aviation to the present day and even contains a model of the space shuttle.
His love for planes has led him, over 45 years, to collect nearly 2,500 die-cast model aircraft and spending an estimated EU500, 000 in the process. This incredible aircraft collection, consisting of 1,500 models rotated, is now on permanent display in the Shannon Airport departure lounge.
His life and times are lovingly portrayed by writer Kieran Beville in this heart-warming story of a remarkable Limerick man - Mike Kelly!
Due to present restrictions on large gatherings the official launch of Pulling Back the Clouds has been postponed until a future date but the book is available to order direct from the publisher at www.limerickwriterscentre.com.