Till he grew disordered in his mind

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The Reverend Richard Atcherley (or Acherley, as his family’s surname was typically  written), was the eldest son of Thomas Atcherley, ironmonger of Wrexham. A report on a legal case in Chancery stated that “Thomas Acherley died in June 1741; leaving Richard Acherley Clerk, a lunatic, his eldest son and heir at law”. The antiquarian Samuel Garbet, in his History of Wem, referred to Richard’s mental health condition in a different way, describing him thus: “Richard, for some time curate of Wellington, till he grew disordered in his mind”.

Richard’s mother, Mary, was also an Atcherley before her marriage to Thomas. She was from Stanwardine, in the Shropshire parish of Baschurch, and it was there – almost certainly in the home of his maternal Atcherley ancestors – that Richard was born in 1701. He was baptised in his mother’s home parish too. (See Atcherleys Reunited). He was educated in his father’s adopted town of Wrexham, under a Mr Appleton, then on 16 June 1719 aged “near 17” he was admitted to St John’s College at Cambridge University.

Venn’s Alumni Cantabrigiensis shows that Richard obtained his BA in 1722-23 and his MA in 1727. The latter honour was conferred after Richard had been ordained as a priest and appointed to the curacy of Wellington in Shropshire, in 1725. As curate, Richard would have served the parish on behalf of the incumbent, Robert Eyton, who was vicar of Wellington from 1713 until his death in 1751. Eyton was also rector of Wem during this time. In addition, he filled the office of Prebendary for Hereford Cathedral’s prebend of Hampton from 1728 to 1732, and the prebend of Morton and Whaddon from 1732. From 1742 until he died he served as Archdeacon of Ely. Hence his need for curates to attend to his parishioners’ spiritual needs.

It appears that Richard Atcherley remained as curate of Wellington until 1736, when Humphrey Perrott was appointed to the position. Was this when Richard ‘grew disordered in his mind’? Or did he simply move on to pastures new at this point, to tend another flock? I originally thought he may have succeeded Richard Deane (or Dean) as vicar of the Shropshire parish of Ellesmere, as both were named as defendants in a Chancery case (Colchester v Deane) and Deane was vicar of that parish from 1707. However, the online Clergy of the Church of England Database provides no evidence to support this notion.

As we have seen, the death of Richard’s father Thomas Atcherley in 1741 left Richard as the eldest son and heir. Amongst the lands and buildings he inherited was his father’s property at Wrexham, the value of which made him a freeholder of that town. He duly appeared in the list of freeholders for Wrexham parish who were entitled to vote in the 1741 election, and that list showed his place of abode was Wem, in Shropshire. But we have also seen that Richard was regarded as a lunatic at that time.

Concerns that Richard might not be “sufficient for the Government of himself” or of his property eventually led to an inquiry or ‘Inquisition of Lunacy’ being conducted. The two documents relating to this Inquisition, dating from 1748, are held by The National Archives at Kew, and were among the items I viewed during my first visit to TNA in December 2014. I have since completed full transcripts of the documents from the photographs I took during my visit.

The first document appointed the men who were to head the Inquisition, and set out its terms of reference:

George the Second by the Grace of God of Great Britain ffrance and Ireland King defender of the ffaith and so forth To his beloved John fford and John Edwards Esquires John Windsor William fford and Abraham Jones Gentlemen Greeting Knowne that We have Assigned three or more of ye (whereof the aforesaid John fford or John Edwards We require to be one) to Inquire by the Oath of Good and lawful Men of Our County of Salop as well within Liberties as without by whom the Truth of the Matter may be better known Whether Richard Acherley of the Parish of Ellesmere in the County of Salop is a Lunatic or Enjoys lucid Intervals so that he is not sufficient for the Government of himself his Mannors Messuages Lands Tenements Goods and Chattels And if so from what time after what manner and how And if the said Richard Acherley being in the same Condition hath Alienated any Lands or Tenements or not And if so what Lands and what Tenements to what Person or Persons where when and after what manner and how and what Lands and Tenements Goods and Chattles as yet remain to him And of what Person or Persons as well the Lands and Tenements so Alienated as the Lands and Tenements to him retained are held And by what Service and after what manner and how And how much they are worth by the year in all Issues And who is his nearer Heir and of what Age And therefore We Command ye three or more of ye whereof the said John fford or John Edwards to be one) That at certain Days and places which ye shall for this Purpose ye diligently make Inquisition in the Premisses And the same distinctly and plainly made to Us into Our Chancery under your Seals of three or more of ye (whereof the said John fford or John Edwards to be one) And the Seals of those Persons by whom it shall be made without delay ye send And these Our Letters Patent ffor We Command by the Tenour of these Presents Our Sheriff of Our County of Salop aforesaid that at certain Days and places which ye shall make known to him Because to come before ye three or more of ye (whereof the said John fford or John Edwards to be one [interlined beneath the last four words but with no indication as to where they should be inserted: in the Premisses]) so many and such good and lawful Men of his Bailiwick as well within Liberties as without by whom the truth of the matter may better be known an Inquired into In Testimony whereof We have Caused these Our Letters to be made Patent Witnesses Thomas Archbishop of Canterbury and other Guardians and Jutices of the Kingdom at Westminster the Twenty third day of July in the Twenty Second year of Our Reign.

So, by 1748 Richard Atcherley was residing in the parish of Ellesmere, and the Inquisition of Lunacy was to determine whether he was a lunatic and if so, what property he owned, what the value of that property was, and who his next of kin were. The second document (noted “10th Novr 1748 ffyled by Mr Chamber of the Inner Temple”) sets out the findings of the Inquisition, and provides a fabulously detailed account of the lands and ‘messuages or tenements’ which Richard then owned or leased. I have broken the text into paragraphs for ease of reading, but otherwise the words that follow are a verbatim transcription:

Shropshire (to wit) An Inquisition taken at the House of Hester Hayes Widow situate on Porthay in the Township of Tetchill in the County aforesaid The Fourteenth Day of October in the Twenty Second Year of the Reign of our Sovereign Lord George the Second King of Great Britain and so forth Before John Edwards Esquire and William Ford and Abraham Jones Gentlemen his said Majesty’s Commissioners by vertue of his Commission under the Great Seal of Great Britain directed to the said Commissioners and others in the same Commission named to enquire (among other Things) of the Lunacy of Richard Acherley of the Parish of Ellesmere in the said County by the Oaths of Edward Kynaston Thomas Kynaston Francis Lloyd & Roger Jennings Esquiries William Salusbury Richard Chambre Edward Edwards John Edwards Richard Griffiths John Pritchard Edward Edwards the Younger Edward Davies Stephen Denston Robert Jackson Thomas Whilton and Samuel Simcocks Gentlemen Honest and lawfull men of the County of Salop aforesaid who being sworn and charged do say that the said Richard Acherley at the Time of taking this Inquisition is a Lunatick and of unsound mind and doth enjoy lucid Intervals so that he is incapable of the Government of himself his Messuages Lands Tenements Goods and Chattells

And the same Jurors do farther say upon their Oaths that the said Richard Acherley hath been a Lunatick for Space of seven Years last past or thereabouts but how or by what manner the said Richard Acherley became a Lunatick the Jurors aforesaid know not unless by the Visitation of God

And the same Jurors do farther say upon their said Oaths that the said Richard Acherley at the Time of taking this Inquisition is seized in fee Tail of and in All that Messuage or tenement with the lands and Appurtenances thereto belonging situate in Wolverley in the County of Salop now in the holding of David Wilson at the Yearly Rent of Fifty Eight pounds clear of all Taxes except Land Tax of and in severall Peices or Parcels of Land with the Appurtenances lying in Loppington in the said County of Salop now in the holding of Thomas Mainwareing at the Yearly Rent of Ten Pounds and Ten Shillings clear of all Taxes except Land Tax of and in All that Messuage or Tenement with the Lands and appurtenances thereunto belonging situate in New Town in the said County now in the Holding of Benjamin Blakemoor at the Yearly Rent of Twenty two Pounds subject to all Taxes of and in One other Close of Land lying in Newtown aforesaid now untennanted of the Yearly Value of One Pound Seven Shillings or thereabouts of and in a Messuage or Dwelling House situate in Whitchurch in the said County now in the holding of Dennis Eason at the Yearly Rent of Three Pounds clear of all Taxes

And the same Jurors do further say upon their Oath that the said Richard Acherley at the Time of taking this Inquisition is seized in Fee of and in a Messuage or Dwelling House and Garden in Wrexham in the County of Denbigh now in the holding of Peter Challiner at the Yearly Rent of Thirteen pounds clear of all Taxes except Land Tax of and in one Shop in Wrexham afd. now in the holding of Mary Vaughan at the Yearly Rent of Three Pounds Fifteen Shillings subject to Taxes of and in One Messuage or Dwelling house in Wrexham afd. now in the holding of Ruth Beal at the Yearly Rent of Forty Shillings clear of all Taxes except Land Tax of an in a Messuage or Dwelling House in Wrexham afd. now in the holding of Peter Phillips at the Yearly Rent of Four Pounds clear of all Taxes except Land Tax of and in All that messuage or Dwelling House in Wrexham afsd. in the holding of Anne Jones at the Yearly Rent of Two Pounds ffive Shillings subject to all Taxes of and in All that Messuage or Dwelling House situate in Wrexham aforesd. in the holding of Mary Foulkes at the Yearly Rent of Eleven Pounds clear of all Taxes except Land Tax of and in All that Room and Shop situate in Wrexham afsd. in the holding of Mary Owen at the Yearly Rent of One Pound Five Shillings clear of all Taxes of and All that other Room and Shop situate in Wrexham afd. in the holding of Margaret Benson otherwise Roberts at the Yearly Rent of One pound Five Shillings clear of all Taxes all which said last mentioned premises and said to be lying in Wrexham afsd. are subject to a King’s Rent of Twelve or Thirteen Shillings Yearly

And the same Jurors do further say upon their Oath that the said Richard Acherley at the Time of taking this Inquisition is possessed of and interested in by Virtue of a Lease under the Earl of Bradford of and in severall Peices or Parcels of Land lying in Northwood and Whixall or One of them at the Yearly Rent of Four Pounds subject to a reseived Rent of Three pounds

And the same Jurors do farther say upon their said Oath that the said Richard Acherley at the Time of this Inquisition is not seized of or entitled unto any other Messuages Lands Tenements or Hereditaments nor of any Goods or Chattells Debts or Creditts to the knowledge of the Jurors aforesd.

And the Jurors afd. do lastly say upon their said Oath that they beleive Roger Acherley of the Cross in the Parish of Ellesmere in the County of Salop afsd. is the Brother and next Heir to the said Richard Acherley And that Mary the Wife of Roger Kynaston of Lee in the said County Gentleman is Sister and next of Kin to the said Richard Acherley (except the said Roger Acherley) and that at the Time of taking the Inquisition the said Roger Acherley is of the age of Thirty years and upwards And the said Mary Kynaston of the age of Thirty Five Years and upwards In Testimony whereof as well the Commissioners aforesaid have to this Inquisition sett their hands and Seals the Day and Year first above written

The above document, bearing the signatures and seal of the sixteen jurors named within it, tells us a great deal about Richard Atcherley’s property, which lay in Wolverley, Loppington, Newtown, Whitchurch, Wrexham, Northwood and Whixall, and which had been acquired and handed down by his Atcherley ancestors. It tells us very little about the nature of Richard’s mental illness however. He had been “a Lunatick” for around seven years – roughly since the time of his father’s death – and the jurors could only surmise that his condition had been caused by “the Visitation of God”.

As for the circumstances in which Richard lived during the years after he “grew disordered in his mind”, we can only speculate. I hope that his family’s wealth meant that he was cared for humanely, in comfortable conditions, and that he was treated with kindness. Richard lived for another four and half years after the Inquisition into his Lunacy, dying at the beginning of 1753, aged 51. He was buried on 1 February at Ellesmere St Mary, the parish register recording the interment of “The Revd Mr Richd Atcherly of Lee”. The disordered mind of Richard Atcherley was finally at rest.

Picture credits. Extract from Admissions to the College of St John the Evangelist: taken from the Internet Archive website, original publication dated 1903 and so out of copyright. Inquisition of Lunacy documents at The National Archives, Kew: photo by the author.


[1] Francis Vesey (1827), Reports of Cases Argued and Determined in the High Court of Chancery, from the year 1789 to 1817. Volume V. Second edition. Page 566. Copy viewed at Google Books.
[2] Samuel Garbet (1818), The history of Wem. Pages 328-9. Copy viewed at Google Books.
[3] Baschurch, Shropshire, parish register covering 1701; entry for baptism of Richard Atcherley. Copy viewed at Findmypast. Transcript viewed at Shropshire Archives. Indexed by FamilySearch, Batch C03390-1, Film 510651.
[4] Robert Forsyth Scott (ed.) (1903), Admissions to the College of St John the Evangelist in the University of Cambridge. Part III. Page 19. Copy viewed at Internet Archive.
[5] John Venn, J A Venn (1922), Alumni Cantabrigiensis. Part I, Volume I. Page 3. Copy viewed at Internet Archive.
[6] Lichfield Record Office item B/A/4/29 (subscription book). Abstracted details viewed at the Clergy of the Church of England Database (website, accessed 31 Jan 2015). Note surname recorded as Ackerley.
[7] Wellington. At: Clergy of the Church of England Database (website, accessed 31 Jan 2015).
[8] The National Archives, item reference C 11/1899/9. Item described in TNA Discovery catalogue.
[9] Ellesmere. At: Clergy of the Church of England Database (website, accessed 1 Feb 2015).
[10] Stewart Blackwell (1989), Was your ancestor a Freeholder or a Freeholder/Juror? In: Hel Achau, Issue 27, Spring 1989. Copy viewed at Clwyd Family History Society website.
[11] The National Archives, item reference C 211/1/A32. Item described in TNA Discovery catalogue.
[12] Ellesmere, Shropshire parish register covering 1753; entry for burial of Richard Atcherley. Copy viewed at Findmypast.

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A Day at the Air Races (Part 1)

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Flight-Lieut. Atcherley, the British Schneider Trophy pilot, will represent Great Britain in the American national air races at Chicago on August 22. He has been invited to visit the United States by Lieut. Williams, the American Schneider pilot, who has been in Europe during the past two weeks conveying invitations to representative pilots from Great Britain, France, Italy and Germany.  — Singapore Free Press, August 1930.

Richard Llewellyn Roger Atcherley embarked on his first journey across the Atlantic on 10 August 1930, aboard the steamship Leviathan. Although he was to represent his country at the National Air Races, he would not be representing his employer, the RAF. The conditions of the leave he was granted meant that he was to wear plain clothes rather than his uniform, obtain his own passport – and fly his own aeroplane! Fortunately Robert Blackburn was only too pleased to sell Richard one of his new Lincock machines for the knockdown price of 10 shillings, on the basis that its aerobatic capabilities would be demonstrated to a massive audience in America. The Lincock was duly crated up and accompanied its new owner on his transatlantic voyage.

The other Europeans who were to take part in the Air Races in addition to Richard Atcherley were Friedrich Lohse of Germany (whose name was invariably given in media reports as Fritz Loose), Pierto Colombo of Italy, and Marcel Doret of France. The welcome given to these airmen when they arrived in America was far from low-key. In New York they were driven around the city in a motorcade with a police motorcycle escort, sirens blaring, at its head, and presented to the Mayor in a ceremony held at City Hall (see photo below). Then in Chicago the aviators found themselves part of a two mile long procession, headed by five bands. They were  showered with confetti and streamers, while planes flew overhead.

Above: The “European air aces” at a reception at New York City Hall, 19 August 1930. From left to right are Clarence Warden, chairman of the Mayor’s aviation committee; Friedrich Lohse of Germany; Richard Atcherley; Mayor James L Walker; Al Williams (USA); Pietro Colombo (Italy); Marcel Doret (France).

The National Air Races of 1930 took place at Chicago’s Curtiss-Reynolds airfield from 23 August to 1 September. Flight magazine reported that there were “about 34 races spread over the ten days, in addition to many other events on each day’s programme” and that, with the exception of the races, each day’s programme of events was much the same. The daily events included glider contests and demonstration flights, balloon-bursting competitions, dead-stick landing contests, exhibitions by Army, Navy and Marine Corps’ aircraft, parachute jumping contests, civilian aerobatic exhibitions and flights by the renowned American pilot “Jimmy” Doolittle. Plus, of course, Al Williams and the ‘foreign pilots.’ A correspondent for Popular Aviation reported on the the Europeans as follows:

Now, all eyes are on three planes lined up just in front of the stands. They are the foreign flyers’ planes and would have been four except that Capt. Loose washed out his Junkers Junior on the opening day. The red and silver biplane on the left is a Breda brought over from Italy by Marshal Pietro Columbo. And there’s the Englishman, Flight Lieut. Richard Atcherley, standing next to his little black and red Blackburn ‘Lincock’ fighter, powered with an Armstrong-Siddeley, 250 h. p. ‘Lynx.’ But Lieut. Marcel Doret, the Frenchman, has the snappiest looking outfit. Doret is that stocky fellow in the chamois flying suit. His plane is a Dewoitine tapered wing parasol monoplane with a 500 h.p. Hispano and has a top speed of 192 m.p.h. First Atcherley takes off and spends most of his time on his back, as he is a master of inverted flight. Then Columbo, not to be outdone, does a series of outside loops—a remarkable performance for the plane he is flying. Doret’s plane is not equipped for inverted flight so he contents himself with a beautiful exhibition of ordinary aerobatics generously interspersed with terrifying power dives.

Just as Doret lands we notice a Curtiss Fledgling training plane going through some mighty queer antics. It takes off in a zoom, stalls about 50 feet from the ground, slips off on one wing, partially recovers, but comes down on the landing gear and then bounces 20 feet in the air. Coming to the pylon, it starts a turn but banks in the wrong direction and goes into a violent outward skid, crabbing along sideways until the outer wing tip settles on the ground and in this position it rounds the pylon, the wing tip leaving a trail of dust behind. The announcer finally explains that this is Dick Atcherley giving an exhibition of what he calls ‘crazy flying’—everything a good pilot should not do. After watching him round the field with the tail skid dragging and the wheels two feet off the ground, we agree it may be crazy flying, but it is also one of the best exhibitions of skill ever put on.

Richard’s ‘crazy flying’ was a crowd-pleasing addition to his aerobatic displays, which included “outside banks and circles, ending in an inverted falling leaf descent”. This was, according to Reuter, “a manoeuvre never before seen in this country.” The Oakland Tribune reported: “Crowds here eat up the stunt flying. Marcel Doret, the French ace, and Lieut.-Commander Richard Atcherly, of the victorious British Schneider cup team, had the spectators ducking their heads as they streaked back and forth.” But while Richard’s stunts were consumed with awe,  his crazy flying had the crowds convulsed, as The Milwaukee Journal testified:

The great surprise of the day was modest, undemonstrative Flight Lieut. Richard L. R. Atcherley of the British royal air force, providing comedy relief. When an Englishman sets out to be funny he is good. There is a notable example of this in the movies, and when Lieut. Atcherley left his fleet little English pursuit ship on the ground Friday afternoon and took off in a long winged, leggy American training ship, he provided as many laughs as his fellow countryman, Mr. Chaplin. No student on his first solo flight ever gave such a demonstration of how not to fly an airplane.

Throttled down almost to the stalling point, the lieutenant skidded and slithered about the field, first one wing low and then the other. He never rose higher than 20 feet, and more often was somewhere between 10 and the point where altitude and the ground meet. He grazed the high board fence at the east end of the field, skidded out of danger and wobbled back into the clear. He dropped his nose until it seemed that his propeller tips must be splintered, lunged awkwardly up a few feet and zig-zagged back across the field. But the man who has been flipping his little biplane over Curtiss-Wright field the last week, appearing as much at home on his back as right side up, was making no mistakes, and finally slid in for a perfect three point landing, just to show that it was all in fun.

A day or so ago Lieut. Atcherley stood before the microphone in front of the grandstand and in a broadened rendition of his usual Oxonian accent, said, ‘Ai was teold if I speoke to yeou in my ord’n'ry accent yeou would lawf. Well, lawf.’ The crowd lawfed then, and it laughed again Friday, with an overtone of relief in its laughter when the lieutenant finally came in from his performance.

A Blackburn Lincock

Richard obtained permission to practice some of his crazy flying stunts over fields lying close to the Curtiss-Reynolds airfield, which had been pressed into service as a car park for the air races. This resulted in an unplanned addition to Atcherley’s crazy flying routine. The Chicago Tribune takes up the story:

As County Highway Policeman Jack Davies says himself, he is a conscientious policeman. So, when cruising along Lake avenue on his special air race duty yesterday morning, and observing a Curtiss fledgling plane skim over the tops of cars parked south of Curtiss air field, he took notice. Halting his motorcycle, he looked with astonishment as the plane scraped a telephone pole. He watched the strange pilot apparently lose complete control of the plane. Then, as motorists began leaving their cars before they completed parking them, to run from the field, Policeman Davies roused himself to action.

Cop Gets His Orders

“First thing I did,” he said later, “was to speed to headquarters in the hangar. Cliff Henderson had several phone calls by that time from persons who saw the ship. ‘The Curtiss people have some student flyer who can’t manage his plane,’ they’d phoned, ‘and he’s about to crash and kill a lot of people.’ So when I got there Henderson said: ‘Go out and arrest him, quick!’ I hurried off.

“When I get there, by golly, the fool student was hung up in a telegraph wire. It looked like that to me. But he got loose. I set out for him on my motorcycle. But when I got right on him, he turns and begins heading my way. I knew he couldn’t run the darn thing. No telling what the fool would do. So I stepped on it. He was right behind me. Twice he landed, bumping up and down, a few feet from my rear wheel.

He Draws His Gun

“I keeps turning around and yelling and waving at him, but whenever he comes down, he goes up again. People were standing all around the field yelling. Finally I figured there was no use losing my life because the fool couldn’t stop the plane. So I pulls my gun. The the plane stops and he crawls out. Smiling, by golly; he has the crust to smile. Before I could get my breath a motorist rushes up to him on foot. He’s a big shot, see—a big insurance man, I think he was. ‘Who the hell do you think you are,’ he says to the pilot, and other language not fit for me to repeat. It makes him sore, naturally, to see the young green student standing there grinning. Then the young feller asks, just like nothing was wrong, ‘And who are you, sir?’ The big insurance man tells him then just who he is.

The Mystery Is Solved

“The the young feller—he was dressed in some old clothes, didn’t look like nobody at all, see—he says, ‘And I’m with the British air corps. My name’s Atcherley. I’m awfully glad to meet you.’

“Then he turns to me and says, ‘I was just having a little fun, old fellow. Was just getting ready to go up and take a dive at you.’ And he laughs. Well, it wasn’t funny to me. Then he says, ‘I had permission to practice here for a stunt I’m going to do. Sorry, old fellow, if I put you to any trouble.’ Trouble! What does he think it is to go 50 miles an hour over a cornfield on a motorcycle?

“So,” concluded the policeman, “when some of the race officials found out about and thought it was so funny they’d put me in on the program this afternoon I said ‘Nothing doing! You get somebody else!’”

When Lieut. R. L. R. Atcherley performed his stunt of “crazy flying” in a low powered student plane in the afternoon the order was reversed and a policeman chased him. Bill Beyer of a Chicago motorcycle squad played the part Davies declined to play. Beyer’s motorcycle crashed in the stunt, but he was not hurt.

Richard Atcherley’s contribution to the American National Air Races of 1930, attended by a total of some 360,000 people, was beautifully summed up by an article in that year’s October issue of U.S. Air Services:

THE air races at Chicago were a Roman holiday, highly successful as a circus, leaving nothing for the spectators to growl about as to weather, thrills, tragedies, and providing for them innumerable aerial scenes memorable for their excitement and beauty. The feature of the show was the foreign flyers. An international flavor at an air meet is like a touch of lemon in ice tea. One can get just as tired at a meet which does not have an Atcherley, Colombo, Doret, or Loose on the tarmac, but at Chicago it was noted that the foreigners, together with the man who worked so effectively to achieve their participation, Lieut. Al Williams, formerly of the Navy, provided most of the dazzle and took the minds of the masses off their falling arches.

It was impossible to suffer from brooding hyperchondriasis while watching Atcherley’s imitation of a well-bred but inebriated younger son of an old English house. He made his airplane perform close to the ground maneuvers so difficult and ridiculous, that connoisseurs in staple and fancy flying defined his work as being extraordinarily ripping—rawther. Lord Dundreary, in the play ‘Our American Cousin,’ made audiences roar by his rendition of the part of a silly ass. P. G. Wodehouse might have conceived the part played by Atcherley at Chicago, when he astonished the spectators with his matchless performance.

The man in the airplane had no inhibitions, no sense of responsibility either to the Republican or Democratic party, no desire to go from one point to another if a way could be devised which would insure the complete failure of any orthodox effort to keep to anything resembling an itinerary. The crowd was convulsed. The Englishman slipped and slid about, giving the impression that a highly cultivated gentleman, with an Oxford accent and a world-stirring record for speed, had decided to cut loose from the chafing restrictions imposed upon the rest of mankind and devote a few minutes to the execution of a flock of very funny maneuvers only a few feet from the ground.

Twenty years ago at the first international aviation meet in America, at Belmont Park, New York, we had Roland Garros in his little Demoiselle monoplane, imitating an hysterical hen. At Chicago Atcherley created a furore. He was a great virtuoso flyer and as such commanded popular applause. But he was much more than that. He brought to bear on the flying he performed a highly trained and original conception of the art of injecting into piloting a subtle sense of delicate and well-bred humor which made the crowds love him, laugh with, as well as at him, and altogether split their sides at his ability to evade the motorcycle cop sent by the management to arrest him and give him a ticket for disregarding traffic regulations.

The reaction to Richard Atcherley’s airborne antics guaranteed that his first appearance at the National Air Races would not be his last. Before his return visit however, he was obliged to return to his ‘day job’ with the RAF. This would see him journey from North America back to England, only to set off almost immediately for yet another continent – Africa.

Image credits. European Air Aces at New York City Hall: Press photo, believed to be in the public domain. Blackburn Lincock: Photo by Canadian Forces, and taken from Wikimedia Commons, copyright expired.


[1] The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser, 12 Aug 1930, page 11. Copy viewed at NewspaperSG.
[2] Passenger list for the Leviathan, departing Southampton 10 Aug 1930 for New York via Cherbourg. BT27/1294/6/1.
[3] John Pudney (1960), A Pride of Unicorns. Pages 101-107.
[4] Chicago Tribune, 19 Aug 1930, page 14.
[5] Flight, 19 Sep 1930, page 1052. Copy viewed at Flight Global Archive.
[6] Popular Aviation, November 1930, pages 27-28.
[7] Lancashire Evening Post, 26 Aug 1930, page 7.
[8] Chicago Tribune, 30 Aug 1930, page 1. Copy viewed at Chicago Tribune website.
[9] Oakland Tribune, 25 Aug 1930, page 2.
[10] The Milwaukee Journal, 30 Aug 1930, page 2. Copy viewed at Google Newspaper Archive.
[11] U.S. Air Services, October 1930, page 37. Copy viewed at Hathi Trust Digital Library.

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