The importance of a hobby

Welcome to my home page.

I am a retired person and dinghy sailing is my current hobby. Before that it was designing, building & flying hang gliders and microlight aircraft. On the one on the right I flew from London almost to Paris in 1979. The Thames and Tower Bridge can be seen below.

Even further back, from twelve years old until I was in my forties, I flew model aircraft. 
At first they were free flight models which had to be chased, (it keeps you fit). First they were powered by rubber band motors but rubber was scarce during wartime so we used to strip old inner tubes in desperation, I became more interested in model gliders to bypass this problem. These were towed up by a line, perhaps 100 metres long; usually by running like the clappers and if you were lucky a passing thermal would take the glider higher and higher. If you were very lucky it would come out of the thermal without having drifted very far from the launch point; usually however there was a breeze and the model would drift down wind which resulted in a cross country chase after it, sometimes for 2 or 3 miles.


At age 19 I was called up for service in the RAF and did just over 2 years of National Service as an Instrument Repairer. The last 9 months were spent in Singapore at RAF Changi (now Changi International Airport) where I managed to continue with my hobby, building my first power model and a glider. There was a model club there.

We were allowed to fly from the runway when it was not in use but had to be ready to stop when notified by air traffic control.


Back in Blighty I continued with my hobby and found myself flying with two other like minded souls, Ray Musgrove and Jimmy Shaw. We decided to form a model aero club and called it the Oldham & District Model Aero Club. (It still exists today, nearly 70 years later).

Then, when a radio control frequency was allocated for model control use, I gave up this foolish habit of chasing uncontrolled models and opted for slope soaring radio controlled model gliders, also flying powered models. (me on the transmitter, right)


About this time I designed and made a few small diesel engines of 0.45cc capacity - that's right - 0.45cc with about 5/16" (8mm) bore and 3/8" (9.5mm) stroke - and built my own radio control systems. Going on from this I made my own television set (black & white) on which half the street watched the present Queen's Coronation, also small portable radios and tape recorders. So my hobbies taught me about aerodynamics, electronics, engines and I don't know what else. All this time I have been a keen photographer with very good photo, cine and video records of family life.

In 1972 I heard about hang gliding which originated in California. I had to have a go and as I couldn't find anyone who supplied plans or was was doing it successfully in the U.K. I had to design and make my own based on the meagre information which trickled across from the U.S.A. and my own knowledge of aerodynamics. After a few false starts a successful design was produced and others became interested and as a result I sold hundreds of sets of plans and supplied materials and eventually got into full manufacture along with a couple of partners. Engines were added after much experiment by a number of manufacturers and Microlight aircraft were born, initially very simple foot launched machines, really no more than a hang glider with an engine attached, but eventually they became very sophisticated machines with cockpits and wheels, electric starters etc. Microlights have even been flown around the world.

In parallel I had a full time job in engineering having served my time as a tool maker, eventually becoming Managing Director of a small firm which made special purpose machinery. In small firms you tend to be taken for what you can do rather than what your qualifications are, and as World War 2 arrived just before I left school at 14 I had to go straight into work in an aircraft factory, and didn't have any academic qualifications at that time. However, an engineering apprenticeship and four years night school 3 times each week, plus my time in the RAF made up for that omission.  I can say that I've had a very full and interesting working life and all because of my hobbies. Without them I would not have progressed as far in my full time employment. 

So, as far as I'm concerned, hobbies aren't just something to fill the leisure hours, they are an essential part of a fuller and more rounded education.

Hobbies keep kids off the streets. 
There are no obese kids in my sailing club. 

It should be Government policy, both National and local, to encourage all hobbies. 

In my home life I was married to Hilda for 55
years but sadly Hilda died on June 10 2011 after a long illness. 
We had two daughters, Janet (and husband Nick and Katie and Adam), Lynn (in Perth W.A.), one son Mark (with Jacqui and baby Macy) and 2 other grandchildren, Scott, Paul & Amanda in Australia, with great grandson Blake, all of whom we are very proud of.


  Who could ask for more.   Len Gabriels, Oldham, U.K.