Back in early March 2016, Mayo entrepreneur and undertaker David McGowan had a dream. This was no ordinary dream but a dream so great it caught the imagination of many people.
With a 15-acre site, sitting idle in the middle of Enniscrone, Co. Sligo, David had the idea and vision to set up a quirky glamping site using various modes of transport including a plane, train, buses, London taxis and even a giant tea-pot to house a café.
A cynic might say it was doomed to fail with so many obstacles to overcome. Yet, David’s enthusiasm, determination and creative thinking proved to everyone that anything is possible if you set your mind to it.
David wanted the plane to be the centre-piece and found a de-commissioned 159-feet Boeing 767 in Shannon. Paying €20,000, all he needed to do was to get the plane to Sligo.
Word got out and soon one of Ireland’s national radio station TodayFm (and Anton Savage), managed to track David down. What started as a 10-minute conversation escalated into a nationwide media campaign as people wanted regular updates about “THE BIG YOKE”.
Local authorities would not grant David permission to bring the plane back to Sligo by road due to traffic disruptions. Never deterred, on the 5 May David decided to hire a 50-foot crane to lift the plane onto a barge in Knockbeg Point in Co.Claire where they stripped the wings and towed it for 36 hours along the Wild Atlantic Way.
Having left Shannon airport on the Thursday at 5.30am, the barge was due to arrive that Friday. However, the elements and tide were against them. Finally, just after 2am on the Sunday morning, they landed the barge on the beach.
What is interesting about this story was David’s infectious enthusiasm and likeable character. People really wanted David to succeed and got behind him. Many people volunteered to help and even worked through the night.
Without spending a penny on advertising or marketing, the story grew into a worldwide media frenzy. Even twitter showed ‘#planesailing’ to be the third most talked about story that weekend (behind Donald Trump and the Russian President).
The public flocked from all corners of the isle to witness the landing with over 10,000 people lining the beach. There wasn’t a free room free in the town of Enniscrone that weekend and word had it that “the local chipper ran out of chips on the Friday night”.
David’s eagerness and resilience affected everyone. Schoolchildren were motivated to take an interest in engineering, meteorology and the sea. More recently, David entered the Virgin Media Business Voom Award and became the number 1 people’s choice in the pitchathon out of 160 companies. From a marketing and PR perspective, I bet every college in Ireland will now use David’s story as a case-study in their courses.
What started as a dream has become a reality. I believe David’s vision and self-belief has helped to put Enniscrone on the map and instil a confidence in the local people to go out and achieve anything they want. I have no doubt David will build an incredible business and I wish him luck.