The Prescotian Webzine

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Here are some members of the Model Aircraft Society round about 1963.  Can anyone help with names?  Jim Cruise (design guru) is third from the left, next but one is Dave Carman then Ken Fleming.  Geoff Johnson is looking down in the middle then a couple of people I really should remember before David Twamley at the back, David Bagley, Bug Mitchell peering through, ??? was exceptionally enthusiastic, Ken Wildsmith (who notably had a Triumph Tiger Cub before getting the first Honda 175 in the country) then someone else whose name sadly escapes me. Good to see the headmaster's house and water tower in the background. [David Bagley]
I am writing because I ( yes me !) actually founded the model aircraft society featured , so I am the founder member . I guess that makes me a member ! Can't remember , but I think I was in the third form, because I was thrown out of a geography class for dismantling a diesel engine at the back , while Australia was going on at the front . I think third form because after that I needed glasses and so sat at the front! It was me. Please tell me when.

My father, and his friends, had served in WWII in the RAF, and wouldn't talk about aircraft, which of course made me more interested in them. I started off with gliders and then made control-line aircraft , because I had got my hands on a couple of old glow-plug engines, ( hence the dismissal from geography , which I did well in, incidentally ,having learned to make it up as you go along ). My father relented because the control-line Spitfire flew well, and more importantly , did not crash. And so I got a decent engine , one Christmas. A 5cc Enya !!, and I still have the scar on my flicking finger to prove it !

Such was the enthusiasm generated by this and another Enya engine , that I got interested in aerobatics , and combat control-line, though I always loved the form and function of the scale models.I made all my models from plans , not kits , and there were techniques where you could convert a plan accurately into an aircraft, in fact , much more easily and cheaply, than buying a kit.

I became fascinated by what I now see to be realizable form and function .I got a few of my mates interested, and tried to interest one of the teachers . Everyone , it seemed, wanted to knock off at four. But the sports fields were unused in general, after this time, and if there is a real hardship for a budding Reginald Mitchell ( NOT! ), the problem was somewhere to fly them .

Whereas during WWII, people were quite happy to see Spitfires flying over , a few years later , they couldn't stand the noise of an Enya , on the only land available , which at that time belonged to Huyton Secondary modern School. Bill Major was (DFC) was the headmaster of the school, and allowed us to use the land to fly these aircraft. The land was unused for any other purpose at that time. It was wasteland. But people complained about the engine noise , particularly on a Saturday when the Football was on the new TV. Bill Major the headmaster, had had a complaint, and said , as far as he was concerned, it's a lot healthier flying model aircraft, than watching football. But somebody , one day , came out , and broke the wing of of one of my aircraft. This was a child.

I founded the model aircraft society so that we could fly our aircraft and inventions with agreement from everyone ,on the School playing fields. There was much opposition to this idea from teaching staff ( apart from two who got the idea through, and I thank them). I put a notice on the board, asking if there was any interest, and at what level, and there was some. A lot more than I expected . So, with some fear,I did a little lecture after school about the various kinds of model aircraft. Free flying/controlled /powered/unpowered/speed/duration/weight/etc.Combat and scale was my speciality at the time. I remember borrowing from Mr Thompson , a couple of spring balances from the physics lab. to show the different designs, and kinds of model aircraft, to show the compromises between power weight and lift, and differences in design. I was very surprised how many people turned up ( after school ) , I was expecting about six, but there were thirty or more.
Better modelers than me, and , well, it took off! It actually became a very good club, in my time. People gathered out of school hours to fly these creations, after countless hours of preparation, with at least the dedication of any sportsman, on the same sportsfields. Actually may of us were sportsmen, which was what in the end won the argument for us.

I was delighted when I came down from University College Durham, after my Physics degree , to visit the old site of the School, and,to my amazement and delight the model aircraft society was there, and up-and-running ! I actually was invited to fly one on control-line,and I have to say it was a lot faster, than any I had built. I was worried I might crash it, but it flew beautifully . Much better than mine.

I have no lasting interest in model aircraft per se., but I am pleased that other young people from Prescot have a passion for the realisation of intellectual invention. Don't knock it !

Not for us alone.

[John Barnett]

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