Friday, 19 June 2020

And the Clan piper plays his pibroch

My uncle David Coles died this morning.

He was in his late eighties.

He had been terribly ill for a long time: An aortic aneurism was threatening to pop, he had Parkinson's disease.............. He was, all in all, clinically speaking, a bit of a mess.....

Dear old David.

As daffy as they come...........

If you want to know what he was like, go and have a look at the film 'No Highway in the Sky' from the original book 'No Highway' by the author Neville Shute.

Or better still, read it.......

The 'hero' of Shute's book, Theodore Honey, is a, on the face of it, a totally ineffectual, deeply eccentric, (and rather wet) aircraft engineer/scientist.

He is our Uncle David, bless him!

(And James Stewart played him in the movie, you know!....... :-)

The book was written six years before the De Havilland Comet airliner was dropping out of the skies in unexplained circumstances in the 1950's.

Shute's book is about the fictitious 'Reindeer' aircraft, which has the same problem.

Uncle David, an apprentice at R.A.E. Farnborough at the time, was convinced that the author Neville Shute (who was, in real life, the aircraft designer Neville Norway..... who had worked with Barnes-Wallace on the R100 airship......), had evolved a theory as to why aircraft like the 'Comet' could crash. And that theory was so 'off piste' that he could only publish it as fiction...........

If you look at what was eventually determined to be the structural problem with the real 'Comet' and that of the fictitious 'Reindeer' you will see some very interesting similarities..........

 It would seem both Neville Shute and Uncle David were on to something......!

My favourite bit in the whole book/film is when the 'hero', Theodore Honey, puts a 'Reindeer' aircraft down on it's tummy at Gander airport in Newfoundland by deliberately collapsing the undercarriage. He is convinced it is about to suffer catastrophic structural failure. (And he's right....!)

That was Uncle David all over.

He was brought up an Anglican, got 'converted' during a Billy Graham Crusade, married a Baptist, adopted two children, got divorced, married again, embraced Methodism. then as a widower, was received into the Catholic Church.....

A lot of us thought dear old David was as mad as a sack of badgers.

But he was as true and as honest and as decent a man as you could possibly hope to meet.

He, like Theodore, would have definitely put himself, his job, and his professional reputation on the line to help, save, and protect others.

On graduating from R.A.E. Farnborough in the 1950's, David was offered a very lucrative post in the aerospace industry, where his stellar intelligence and ability to think outside the box would have been real advantages.

The job was on Britain's nascent rocket programme, working to bring nuclear weapons down upon the Queen's enemies.

David would have none of it.

I am very proud of him.

God speed, my dear.

And Happy Landings.


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