My friend Pat Matthews

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My late friend Pete the plumber, who was a wonderful source of gossip, always prefaced each tasty morsel with the words ' If I've been told a lie I'm tellin' you one '. Therefore borrowing Pete's words, much of what you are about to read comes with the rider ' If I've been told a lie I'm 'tellin'n you one'.

Not many people knew Pat, but I enjoyed a too short acquaintance with him. He had the reputation of being something of a curmudgeon but that was undeserved. In order to build my house I needed his permission to bring my JCB through his land and up the railway track to the back of my site to begin to construct a driveway from the top down to the road. So bearding the lion in his den I went to see Pat who surprised me by readily giving his permission for the work to begin.

After that first meeting I often went to see him at his fireside and mainly listened.

It would appear that during the nineteen twenties his father and a business acquaintance called Granville Bradshaw had tried to buy Ternhill aerodrome with a view to turning it into a race track for cars and motorcycles. Bradshaw deserves a short explanation for I was already conversant with the man. He was the owner and developer of 'DOT' motorcycles at Manchester. He was a very fine engineer and the inventor of a revolutionary petrol engine which I had remembered from the 1950s.He called it the 'OMEGA' engine. It was never built and so disappeared in to oblivion.

His great disadvantage was that though he was very able to develop new ideas but was poor at committing them to paper. In short he could not make legible drawings. And that was where Pat came in.

Well! during visits to Ternhill to conduct negotiations it was discovered that the hangers were full of WW1 stored aircraft and Pat lusted after one of them, but he didn't get one as the negotiations failed.

However, Bradshaw had designed and made a three cylinder radial engine and gave one of them to Pat who then designed and built an aircraft to attach to it. Now Pat had never flown an aircraft let alone had a pilot licence : nevertheless he did some practice taxiing across the field in his newly built aircraft and becoming a little more adventurous each time until finally during a fast taxi towards the canal he found himself airborne and with the canal before him he brought the stick back and flew over (not into ) the canal.

Recovering from his surprise he did a circuit of the village and attempted to land. Like many before him he found that landing an aircraft was more difficult than taking off and he had to do several circuits of the village before he got it right and came back to earth rather chastened. These short local flights were repeated several times until one day and attempting to impress a group of his father's clients he took off and stalled into a large hawthorn hedge and spent the following half day lying in the bath pulling out thorns from various parts of his anatomy. His aviation career was alas at an abrupt end, though he did fly with me one afternoon.

His association with Bradshaw did not end there for I am sure you know that modern car engines have the facility to deflect unburnt fuel back into the engine to be re-ignited. This feature does two things, it reduces the fuel consumption and cleans the exhaust gases for improved emission. Well! In the nineteen fifties long before this system was common, Bradshaw designed such a system and in order to market this revolutionary idea drawings had to be produced and armed with a converted Ford Consul and drawings made by Pat they went about selling the idea. It transpired that car manufacturers didn't want to know and neither did oil companies, so the drawings were consigned to the plan chest and so far as I know I am the only other person who has examined them. Shame it had to wait for another generation and another set of urgent needs.

Pat held many patents for his inventions and designs ; one of which you have walked across. It was a design now universally used to cover a barrel drop in the pavement beside a pub.

When Pat was about nine years old his parents sent him away to "school''. I think it was to Devon. He took a dislike to the school and determined to leave it. He escaped and moved across country with a view to returning home. He kept as far as he was able to travel through fields and at night and to eat from the fields. Within a few days his parents became frantic and publicised their worry in national newspapers; but Pat could not be found. Without a map or any other navigational aid he doggedly pursued his purpose until finally nine weeks later he walked into his parents house here at Audlem. They didn't send him back.

One last anecdote from Pat — in his youth he became known locally as something of harem scarem on a motorcycle until one day he collided with a car on the Drayton road where the Swanbach mill lane crosses the road into the canal field. He hit the car so hard that it was written off and describing the incident he said the crash threw him so high that he momentarily saw moss growing in the spouting of the nearby house.

Pat, like my friend Bob Cartwright should not be forgotten and they lived only Yards from each other.

Geoff Farr

April 2018