Rex McCandless Plaque unveiling

Rex McCandless Blue Plaque unveiling – October 2018.

In his opening welcoming remarks to the large assembly of guests from the motorcycling world in Northern Ireland, Chris Spurr, Chairman of the Ulster History Circle, said that this was a ‘First’ in so many ways for the Circle.  It would be the only plaque in all of the 236 plaques which had been erected throughout the nine Historical Counties of Ireland, where the unveiling would be at the opening of the ceremony, instead of at the closing of the commemoration.  It was also a ‘First’ where a plaque would have the words, ‘Featherbed and Gyroplane’ on the same plaque, and where a vintage motorcycle and vintage racing car took centre stage.

The Chairman spoke highly of the plaque recipient, Rex McCandless who excelled as an engineer and inventor, particularly in the areas of motor sport and aviation.  The development of the featherbed motorcycle frame, the McCandless racing car and the gyroplane were amongst his many achievements.  Before asking Race Ace and household name, Jeremy McWilliams to unveil the plaque, a special word of thanks was extended to the Ulster-Scots Agency for the sponsorship of the plaque, and to the Board of W.A.C. McCandless Limited for permitting the plaque to be erected on their Head Office building, where in the 1960’s Rex McCandless had lived and worked.

Stepping up to the podium, Jeremy McWilliams, said that he was honoured to have been asked to unveil the plaque to the man who had changed the face of motorcycle racing for all of racing fraternity. He told of when he had commenced racing in the 1970’s, some 40 years ago, he had heard of the Norton Featherbed but knew little of Rex.  In the years to come, he was to ride a Norton Featherbed at the Goodwood Revival, and was delighted when earlier, he had been presented with a book by the life-long friend of Rex McCandless, author, Les Jennings, and looked forward to reading the biography, ‘How to make a better Mousetrap’, about the man who had created a winning racing frame amongst his other inventions.

Before leaving the event for a racing engagement in Spain, Jeremy McWilliams climbed on board a vintage Norton Featherbed for Press and TV photographs. The motorcycle had been brought to the ceremony by its owner, Terry Rafter and had been organised by David and Joan Crawford from Lisburn. Special thanks were extended to everyone involved.

The ceremony continued with speeches from the CEO of the Ulster-Scots Agency, Ian Crozier; Ernie Cromie from Ulster Aviation, and from Rex McCandless’s nephew, John McCandless who piloted his own plane from his home in the Isle of Man.  John who is the son of Rex’s brother, Cromie, who rode with Geoff Duke in the 1950’s, told of how his ‛Uncle Rex’ had paid for his first flying lessons as a gift, because John had excelled in his studies at the Belfast Royal Academy. Rex McCandless was responsible for John’s love of flight.

Ulster History Circle committee member, Trevor Parkhill had organised for the McCandless Racing Car to be on show at the ceremony, courtesy of Mark Kennedy of the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum. Mark spoke on the life of Rex McCandless and of his great inventions both on land and in the air. The vintage racing car proved, as with the motorcycle, to be a great attraction with all guests.

Guests and onlookers mingled with names from the motorcycle world such as Ray McCullough and Billy McCosh and members of the 30 motor cycle club, and many photographs were taken of the event.  Guests were then entertained to refreshments by W.A.C. McCandless Limited at the Titanic Hotel, Belfast.


Photographs from Plaque unveiling event. Double click on individual photos to enlarge.

Photographs left to right:

1. Rex McCandless.  Photo courtesy of R.L. Jennings.
2. Race Ace Jeremy McWilliams on board a vintage Norton Featherbed bike.
3. The McCandless Race car – courtesy of the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum
4. L.R. Terry Rafter owner and on board the Norton Featherbed; Mark Kennedy, Ulster Folk and Transport Museum; Trevor
    Parkhill, Ulster History Circle and Chris Spurr, Chairman Ulster History Circle.
5. Mairead Ferguson, Treasurer Ulster History Circle; David and Joan Crawford, 30 Motor Cycle Club and Rosemary Gerring,
    Director-WAC McCandless (Engineering) Ltd.
6. L.R. Terry Rafter: Ciaran Carvill; Rose Gerring, Directors, WAC McCandless; John McCandless, nephew of Rex
    McCandless and John Gibson, Director, WAC McCandless (Engineering) Ltd..
7. Ernie Cromie, Ulster Aviation addresses guests on Rex McCandless’s development of the gyroplane.
8. Les Jennings, Author of ‘To Make A Better Mousetrap’ presents Jeremy McWilliams with a copy of his book.
9. Ray McCullough and Jeremy McWilliams, two household names in the world of  motorcycle racing.
10. Jeremy McWilliams; Chris Spurr, Chairman Ulster History Circle; John McCandless, nephew of Rex McCandless and Ian
      Crozier, CEO, Ulster Scots Agency.
11. Guests in front of the Blue Plaque and the McCandless Building.