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How Two Boys Stowed Away on a 747 from London to NYC

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 24, 2022

Ahh, the 80s — when children were given much more freedom than today, an autonomy that two Irish boys used in 1985 to travel from their house in a Dublin suburb all the way to New York City — via two trains, a ferry, and then stowing away on a JFK-bound 747, with nothing more than a few coins in their pockets.

When the boys arrived at John F. Kennedy International Airport, in New York, they tried to bypass a security checkpoint with a sly bit of street smarts, saying to the officer, “Our ma’s just behind us.” It aroused suspicion, but the pair ran when the airport official turned his head away. They then spent a few hours in the airport before wandering outside, astounded by yellow cabs and lofty skyscrapers. A policeman, Kenneth White, stopped them and asked where they were headed. After they lied to White about how they were meeting their mother at the center of town, White pressed further, and Byrne and Murray admitted that they were alone. White radioed for a supervisor, and Sergeant Carl Harrison came to assist him. After more questioning, the two boys were placed in the back of an N.Y.P.D. car and driven to a precinct, where they were held in a room for several hours — they eventually confessed what they had done. After calling other overseas jurisdictions and the boys’ parents, the police officers fed the boys chips and soda, and unloaded their own guns and let the boys play with the firearms. Air India put Byrne and Murray up in a gigantic suite at a five-star hotel and plied them with McDonald’s and movies. “I was never in a hotel before, so it was brilliant,” Murray says. The next day, the security guards who were tasked with supervising the boys asked them why they had come. Byrne and Murray told the officials that they wanted to meet the character B. A. Baracus from “The A-Team.” The guards then brought the boys on sightseeing tours throughout the boroughs, gave them some cash, and bought them “I Love New York” T-shirts.

What a story! It’s wonderful to hear the two men talk about their now long-ago adventures with a mischievous twinkle in their eye — and the old footage of Dublin, Heathrow, and NYC is a great accompaniment.