On 18th July 2004, the hot air balloon registered as G-OLLI was brought out of retirement from the British Balloon Museum and inflated for what may be the last time. The event was organised as part of the Sunday Lunch Club. Difficulty had been experienced in obtaining permission to inflate in either the grounds of Kenilworth Castle or Stoneleigh Abbey as it was felt to be "inappropriate", but finally a field near the Castle was agreed upon. Golly has still not been accepted as part of our English Heritage.
It was previously inflated last year when it was donated to the The British Balloon Museum, the photos on their web site were taken on that occasion. As the envelope was rolled out it was obvious that large sections of it had been replaced. The arms were a brighter blue than some of the body and it seems the trousers had also been replaced. The first attempt at inflation failed because the tape holding the top section of G-OLLI's head came undone and the hot air merely escaped. Having re-fastened the tape, the second attempt was successful and the balloon remained fully inflated for about a minute. There was one large hole in the trouser section near Golly's foot and the bottom of the envelope started to close, so the deflation was allowed to proceed.
The vast size of the balloon was only apparent once it was fully inflated. Only two crew members associated with the museum attended, the rest of the crew were recruits from the Sunday Lunch Club. Although the wind wasn't extreme, it took a lot of man (and woman) power to keep the balloon stable. Even then, once fully inflated the balloon swung quickly from side to side.
There are also more photos documenting the inflation
Golly III was the the U.K.'s first fancy shaped balloon, It was built for Robertson's and flown by Neil Robertson. When the Balloon was retired from use it was donated to the The British Balloon Museum. It was the British Balloon Museum who were hired to inflate the balloon for what may be the final time - it is in no condition to be flown untethered.
G-OLLI is around 80 to 90 feet tall (31,000 cubic feet).
Kavanagh Balloons created a Golly balloon which was registered on 22nd April 2004 and first flown on 12th June 2004. This means there is still a Golly balloon capable of untethered flight. If you are located in Australia you may be lucky enough to see it! This new balloon is around 50 feet tall and is called Black Magic II. Owned by Kay Turnbull, it is photographed below with a balloon called Possum. Kay gained her ballooning licence in the UK in the late 1960's and enjoyed seeing Neil Robertson's balloons here before she emmigrated. Neil Robertson has given his encouragement for the new balloon.