I know that I shall meet my fate
Somewhere among the clouds above
W.B.Yeats, An Irish Airman Foresees His Death
Ulster has carved its own niche in the history of aviation. Amelia Earhardt completed her solo Atlantic crossing upon the old racecourse in Londonderry. Lilian Bland from Carnmoney was another redoubtable female pioneer who flew into immortality when her bi-plane the ‘MayFly’ took wing at Randalstown. Shorts have dispatched Sky Vans and other notable aircraft to the four corners of the earth. But for every triumph the balance of Fate decrees a tragedy.
The Belfast Telegraph of July 22 1930 provided widespread coverage of a plane crash that wiped out some of the leading lights of Ulster society. The Marquis of Dufferin and Ava, Speaker of the Ulster Senate, was killed when a Junkers monoplane, making a regular taxi service between Berck-sur-Mer and Croydon crashed near Gravesend, in Kent.
The death of the Marquis of Dufferin and Ava, the Speaker of the Ulster Senate, who was one of the victims of the air disaster in Kent yesterday, has occasioned much sorrow, and there is poignant grief in many circles.
The Marquis, who had been spending the week-end at Le Touquet, was returning to England in a large Junkers monoplane when the machine crashed as it was passing over Meopham Green, near Gravesend, in Kent, resulting in the loss of six lives…
The family name of the Dufferins is Blackwood and a search on the Ulster Historical Foundation database reveals a fascinating account of lives dedicated to the service of the Crown, many of which ended violently on a foreign field. The ancestral home of the Dufferins is Clandeboye, Co.Down, and many of the descendants are interred in the family vault there.
The Dufferins appear to have had an uncanny knack of perishing during some of the most noteworthy battles in military history: Robert Temple Blackwood died at the Battle of Waterloo on June 18 1815; Archibald Earl of Ava fell mortally wounded at the siege of Ladysmith in 1900, during the Boer War; Basil Temple-Blackwood was killed in action at Flanders on July 4 1917; Basil, the 4th Marquess, was killed near Fort Dufferin, Mandalay in March 1925, aged 35, while ‘liberating Burma, the country which his Grandfather annexed to the British Crown’..