The importance of a
Welcome to my home page.
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
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)
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.
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
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
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.