Cars in Books, February 1977

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Sir,

As an Ulsterman I had forgotten that the Marquess of Dufferip and Ava who lived at Clandebove, Co. Down, had been killed in living accident.

While Harry Ferguson and Miss Lillian Bland are acknowledged to have been the pioneers of flight in Ireland, the Marquess’ neighbour, Leslie Porter, was the first person to give a flying display above the streets of Belfast. This was in August 1916 when, as a Captain in the RFC, he flew a Sopwith to his home in Carnalea, Co. Down. This flight was said to have been of a private nature but one imagines that it may have been allowed to boost public morale following the unprecedented losses to the Ulster Division on the Somme. Unfortunately Leslie Porter only survived eight days’ active service in France. He came down on a photographic mission and lost his life two days later in German bands. In a letter of condolence to Mrs. Porter, the Marquess wrote: “I shall never forget the thrilling experience of seeing your husband fly, it made a great impression upon us all, and toy sister and I have often spoken of it”. So we know when the Marquess first became enthused with flying.

Leslie Porter had driven a Wolseley “Beetle” in the 1903 Paris-Madrid, and finished fourth in the 1908 TT on a Calthorpe—does any reader know of any other appearances in racing? According to his daughter he was an associate of those other Irish drivers, Kenelm and Sir Algernon Lee Guinness, and there is a family rumour that he took a car to America and raced there.

Incidentally, Porter’s closest colleague in the RFC—killed a few months after him— was Eric Lubbuck whose brother would, I believe, have been the Lord Avebury who raced at Brooklands.

In the context of pioneer Irish racing drivers performing outside their native land. Harry Ferguson (the tractor magnate) crashed a Works Vauxhall in practice for the 1912 Coupe de L’Auto at Dieppe—can anyone direct me to other racing appearances by him?

Newtownabbey MICHAEL C. WYLIE