St Helens pie launched into space

A pie that made headlines across the globe after being launched into space was made right here in St Helens.

Promoters of the World Pie Eating Championships, which is based deep in the heart of pie-eating country, came up with the out-of-this world idea to publicise their competition.

The St Helens-baked pie arrives in space after being launched from Wigan

The St Helens-baked pie arrives in space after being launched from Wigan

But instead of looking for locally-produced pies in Wigan for the stunt they turned to a St Helens-based specialist.

Ultimate Purveyors of Pies, from St Helens, were asked to cook up a meat ‘n tater delicacy hardy enough to withstand not only crossing over to the dark side of Billinge Hill but being launched out of the earth’s stratosphere.

The mission, which was eccentric and breath-taking in equal measure, made news around the planet.

Pub and club chain boss Tony Callaghan was looking for an eye-catching new way to publicise the annual World Pie-Eating Championships which he was due to host at Harry’s Bar, Wallgate, on Tuesday lunchtime this week.

Organisers of the World Pie-Eating Championships have boffins with a weather balloon to launch a pie (plus lightweight camera for live broadcast) into outer space

Organisers of the World Pie-Eating Championships have boffins with a weather balloon to launch a pie (plus lightweight camera for live broadcast) into outer space

And so he had the brainwave of sending one of the pastry products into the earth’s outer atmosphere.

Boffins from Yorkshire were brought in to provide a helium-filled weather balloon, payload carriage and camera while the history-making meat and potato pie was created by former Wigan Athletic chairman Bill Kenyon who is now plying his trade in the food business.

Lift-off was from the car park of Mr Callaghan’s Fifteens @ The Fox pub in Roby Mill, Up Holland, after the flight was given the go-ahead by the Civil Aviation Authority.

It had been predicted that the balloon would reach a height of at least 100,000ft and, given the weather conditions, wind up crash-landing in Yorkshire.

Organiser Tony Callaghan and pie maker Bill Kenyon look to the skies

Organiser Tony Callaghan and pie maker Bill Kenyon look to the skies

But following a delayed take-off, the pie travelled far higher than that. In fact the zenith of its flight was 18.6 miles before the balloon burst and the pie - now frozen solid - landed in a field in the north Lancashire village of Bentham in the Forest of Bowland.

Fitted with a tracker, it was easy from the wizards from Sent Into Space to retrieve their equipment and study the spectacular footage captured during the brief journey.

The film - which shows first the countryside disappearing into the distance, the pie, travelling up through the clouds and then taking in stunning views of the earth’s curvature before tumbling to earth after the balloon popped in a near silent vacuum - appeared on our site and was picked up by numerous other media.

Together the film and accompanying clips from lift-off have been watched tens of millions of times around the world.

Mr Callaghan said: “I thought that this was one of the more headline-grabbing ways of promoting the championships but I never dreamt it would get this much publicity.

“Less than 24 hours afterwards seven million people had watched it on two websites. I am now off to be interviewed by CNN from America and ABC in Australia!”

Mr Callaghan said he was already working on how to top that mission for next year’s contest.