Morgan Aerial Photographic Collection

These aerial views of Ireland, taken during the mid-1950s by pilot Captain Alexander Campbell “Monkey” Morgan, provide a birds’ eye view of Ireland. The collection comprises medium and low altitude black-and-white aerial views of places and events, many of which were commissioned by clients. Many of the images were published in the Irish Independent newspaper in a weekly Views from the Air series in 1957. Tragically, Captain Morgan was killed in a plane crash in January 1958.

The following biographical information was kindly contributed by Jennifer Baker, Captain Morgan’s daughter...

Alexander Campbell Morgan was born on 21st May 1919 in Hampstead, London. He was educated at Wellington School and it was here he somehow acquired the name of Monkey, which was how he was known for the rest of his life. He joined the Royal Artillery and went for officer training to Woolwich. In 1940 he was selected for the newly formed Air OP (observation post) section of the Artillery. He was a member of the very first training squadron for what much later became the Army Air Corps. Here he learnt to fly in Austers, a single engined manoeuvrable aircraft suited to the job of being a spotter plane over the battlefields. In those days they flew with one small machine gun and often returned with enemy bullet holes in the aircraft. In 1944 he was awarded the DFC for covering bridging operations on the Plain of Naples. At this time he also suffered from a bout of malaria. His next posting in 1945 was to India, two years later he returned to base at Aldershot. Here a colleague introduced him to his future wife Elizabeth Fitzgerald Hughes, they married in December 1947 in Somerset and moved into army quarters. In 1949 Monkey resigned his commission and left the army as Major Morgan.

Monkey and Elizabeth now moved to Ireland to help her parents who had bought  Curraghmore House near Ballinrobe on the shores of Lough Mask, with a view to opening the doors as a Fishing Guest house. After a couple of years of helping his in-laws Monkey was keen to return to flying and in 1950 his parents invested in an Auster Autocrat EI-AGJ. At the time the owner of a plane in Ireland had to be an Irish National, luckily Elizabeth was and could therefore take on the registration in her name. Aerophotos was launched and the family moved to Dublin. The plane was kept at Weston Aerodrome, Leixlip from where Monkey flew all over the country taking aerial photographs and private charter work. Frank Snow did all the film processing not far from the Morgan home in Blackrock.  Monkey, sometimes referred to locally as Captain A. C. Morgan, was a popular figure in Irish aviation circles and at 6'2", broad-shouldered and powerfully built he looked more likely to be a pilot of large commercial plane rather than a light aircraft. He did much to promote flying in Ireland being involved in Irish and International air shows and taking people for maybe their first ever flight from wherever the plane landed it could be from a small rural field, a racecourse but most likely from Weston Aerodrome.

Between his aerial photographic assignments he flew many private charters twice a week he took live lobsters to France; other freight included lamb, birdlime and machinery. He flew passengers to race meetings, took someone to catch a boat, ejected parachutists, instructed pupils and flew his family, including the family pets, for away weekends, most frequently down to Curraghmore. One month his log book showed that he flew 1200 miles, carried 200 passengers and seven tons of freight as well as taking 200 photographs.

Later a company called Irish Air Charter was formed with Monkey as chief pilot. A new Piper Apache EI-AJL was purchased, this was to be flown over from America. In February 1957 Monkey and a veteran American co-pilot Max Conrad left Gander to fly the first Irish registered light aircraft direct to Dublin, others had always landed in the West. The flight was 2,100 miles and took thirteen hours. It was in this aircraft only a year later on 15th January 1958 that tragically Monkey crashed and was killed on take off from Shannon airport. He was returning to Dublin with photos of a second floor collapse during an auction in Carmody's hotel Ennis. Eight people were killed although Monkey's name was later added to the list of fatalities. The investigation showed that conditions on take off were not good and the passenger door on the plane opened, Monkey requested help but sadly he could not control the aircraft and it crashed into the estuary.

Monkey was a pioneer of aerial photography in Ireland and his pictures are a clear record of the country from the air in the mid 1950's. Many of these photos have become iconic images of that time. We are lucky that his collection is now preserved by the NPA for anyone to view online.

Ballybunion, Co. Kerry, ca. 1955 (Ref.: Mor 1019).Ballybunion, Co. Kerry, ca. 1955 (Ref.: Mor 1019).

Back to Photographic Collections.
 
Eviction, Moyasta, Co. Clare, ca. 1886-1890 (LROY 1767).
Eviction, Moyasta, Co. Clare, ca. 1886-1890 (LROY 1767).
Quick Links