Auntie Doris’s They Died Too Young #32: Thomas Etholen Selfridge – Died September 17th 1908, aged 26


Sometimes people get so wrapped up in an obsession, they are blind to the ruddy risks involved. Like my nephew Michael. Who became so involved with trying on the tights of the dead that the totally disregarded the possibility that his filthy behaviour could open a conduit between this world and the next, which would allow me to manifest myself through his body, eventually taking it over so regularly that he doesn’t know whether it’s Good Friday or Easter Monday, let alone whether he is a living 53 year old man, or a long dead 100 year old woman. But that’s his ruddy problem, we know which table our bread is buttered under, don’t we, readers?
Any road, Thomas Selfridges obsession was flying, and in the early years of the Twentieth century he had been up in airships, strapped to kites, on gliders and all sorts. His motto was “I wish I could fly!” So nobody was ruddy surprised when he teamed up with Orville Wright, the famous airline pilot, and volunteered himself to be a passenger in one of the planes that he was trying to sell to the US Army. (There was no such thing as the US Air Force in those days, because there weren’t all that many aeroplanes knocking about.
Any road, Orville took him up in one of them ruddy old fashioned planes made out of waxed cloth and sticks, only in those days it wasn’t old fashioned at all, in fact it was new fangled. They did three or four laps around Fort Myer in Golden Virginia, when one of the ruddy propellers smashed of and the whole kaboodle smashed into the ground.
That put the dampers on the day. Orville smashed his leg and half of his ribs and had all blood coming out of his nose, but poor old Thomas split his ruddy head open and never regained consciousness. He was pronounced dead soon afterwards, and was awarded the posthumous Iron Cross, or whatever they ruddy had in America in them days, for being the first man ever to die in an aeroplane crash.
His heroic actions paved the way for Glenn Miller, Buddy Holly, Jim Reeves, and hundreds of other ruddy idiots with no more sense than they were born with to defy the Good Lord and try and fly, rather than stay on the ruddy ground where they belonged.
I can’t understand the ruddy fascination with flying anywhere. If it was of any ruddy use they would have opened an Airport at Withernsea before now. But they haven’t, and they have ruddy loads in London; Heathrow, Stansted, Gatwick, Piccadilly Circus, the ruddy lot. And you can only catch planes to foreign places from them. Which just shows how much London thinks of the rest of Britain. If old Selfridge had known how things would turn out, he probably wouldn’t have bothered getting himself killed.
As it was, the Americans passed a law in his honour, that said that no one was allowed to ride in an aeroplane in future unless they were wearing a crash helmet. That didn’t last more than five ruddy minutes though. Now, modern airports the world over are full of Americans with cameras hanging around their necks, wearing golf trousers and sunglasses, and asking where the Starbucks is in very loud voices. Poor old Thomas, it looks like he died in ruddy vain.

The Auntie Doris Years: 1919

BiplaneThis was the year when flying to America became a reality. John Alcock and Arthur Brown (whose Grandon was to thrill future generations with his Crazy World) flew from Canada to Ireland non stop in a bi-plane that June. It took them less than 16 hours, and as a result they were knighted, and won cash prizes from a tobacco company (booh! – destroyers of millions of decent people, conned by greedy tobacco barons) and the Daily Mail (booh! – destroyers of millions of decent people, conned by greedy Tory Lords)

Two weeks later, Major George Herbert Scott flew from Scotland to New York and back in an Airship, in under a fortnight, with a crew, passengers, a stowaway and a ship’s cat on board. Airships were eventually abandoned as an unsafe means of passenger transport, and Scott had gone some way to demonstrating just how unsafe they were, having crashed a few in his time, eventually breaking his own ruddy neck and perishing in the fire after smashing the R101 into the ground in France.

You would never have got me up in one of those things. Or an aeroplane either. Catching a train was stressful enough for me when I was alive. I never wanted to go to America anyway. Or any of those other foreign places that people seem to want to fly to. The most exotic holiday I ever had was in Blackpool, and to be honest my Raymond ruined that for me by constantly leering at all the dolly birds. We were miles happier in our little caravan at Withernsea. No aeroplanes or airships, or dolly birds either. Just a twice daily service bus from Hull, a couple of fish and chip shops and the jolly sound of the foghorns on the North Sea. I honestly can’t understand why Withernsea never really took off as a holiday destination.

Auntie Doris’s Pop pick of 1919: “My Old Man (Said Follow the Van)” by Marie Lloyd. There went the van with her home packed in it. She followed on with her old cock linnet. A lovely song… with the moral that you can’t trust the modern police force.