EVER heard of Joseph Shrigley, a Poulton man who appeared to be “still on the right side of 30” when, 100 years ago next Tuesday, he conducted a bold experiment in remote control?
There are no photographs of the ground (or rather air!) breaking event on June 28, 1911, but a packed audience at the Palace Theatre, Blackpool, witnessed what the Gazette News called “an interesting experiment in the direction of controlling and steering a small dirigible airship by an application of the Marconi system of wireless telegraphy”.
The article said “the possibilities of the dirigible type of airship for war purposes, if the weight carrying difficulty could be overcome” led Joseph to persevere with his ideas, resulting in the Blackpool trial.
The experimental airship had a holding capacity of 580 cubic feet of hydrogen, with a 9ft aluminium carriage fitted underneath.
In the carriage’s centre was the Marconi instrument and an appliance consisting of, among other parts, four tiny toy motors, a strong spring and an arm passing over four levers in a circle.
The reporter marvelled: “The ease with which these can be controlled by an operator sitting at an instrument some distance away, and merely watching the coloured lights above each motor to see which propeller is working, is really remarkable!”
After an initial trial, which saw the airship rise to the ceiling, Joseph made several adjustments and “set the machine off again from the stage and succeeded in directing it round the auditorium and back to the starting place.”
Joseph told the audience: “The carriage has never been fixed to a dirigible before, so this is the first time we have had the chance of giving it a real test.
“We ought to do better at the next trial.”