Bellaghy Historical Society – February 2011

February 8th, 2011
Michael Clarke: Harry Ferguson, Aviator.

1884, Harry Ferguson was born a farmerʼs son, one of eleven children.
No petrol cars/motor cycles; pushbikes 5/6 years away.
His father was an austere, religious man (Plymouth Brethern). harry was very independent
and reacted against his restrictive childhood.
He attended primary school til the age of 15. He then worked on the family farm for a few
years but didnʼt get on with his father.
1901, Harry was offered an apprenticeship in his brotherʼs (Joe) engineering business in
He showed a natural ability for things mechanical.
1903, the firm moved to lwr. Donegall St. to a bigger premises.
Harry and Joe were well known as successful competitors in racing car competitions.
Roads then had no bitumen or tar but were rolled. Motor bikes had rear wheel drive,
calipar brakes, spindly wheels, a top speed of 40m.p.h.
1907, the well run firm moved to Chistester St.
1908, Harry started to build an aeroplane. (1903, the Wright brothers had already flown.)
1908, Wilbur Wright flew a bi-plane in France.
1909, Blairot flew a monoplane across the channel and got £100,000 for it.
Harry and John Williams (whom he had met at Belfast tech. while attending a tech.
drawing course), tried to build a plane and travelled to big shows in Paris…
1909, harry gave up the job in Chistester St., to build a plane -in six weeks!-tried a demo
flight on the beach, but the plane broke.
After several more attempts and modifications to the engine, wing span and undercarriage,
he managed to fly 15 feet high fir 150 yards-with several witnesses and a photo was
published in the Belfast Telegraph.
1910, after yet more modifications, he flew on Newcastle strand, 40 feet high up to 100
feet high for three miles and landed at Donard Hotel. He went back to more modifications
and more trials at Magilligan.
Joe Fergusonʼs firm was funding the project.
Harry started his own firm in May St., Belfast.
He built a new plane-changed from stick to wheel control; closed in fusilage; proper seat &
1911, Newtownards tidal sands venue for show-harry was late, landed on boggy ground &
destroyed the plane.
1911-1912, Harry got the agency for Vauxhall racing cars at May St. Motors.
He worked at the grand Prix in Paris as a driver.
1913, he married Maureen, also Plymouth Brethern, in a registery office. His family didnʼt
attend. They had one daughter. His grandc ildren are still living.
World war 2, Harry was asked to work in agriculture -hence the Ferguson tractor and

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