Frank K. McClean
Frank McClean as many older R.Ae.C.
members will recall him.
Collection of Ian Sayer, 10-7-06

Sir Francis McClean
It is a melancholy coincidence that within three weeks of the unveiling of the Eastchurch memorial to Pioneer Airmen, Sir Francis McClean, A.F.C.--whose name is among the 13 inscribed upon it--should have passed away. He died Thursday of last week, on August 11th, in a London nursing home, at the age of 79.
     His name will be inseparably linked both with the earliest days of British heavier-than-air flying and with the progress of the Royal Aero Club. Born on February 1st, 1876, the son of Dr. Frank McClean, F.R.S., and educated at Charterhouse and Clifton, Frank McClean adopted civil engtineering as a profession. After a short time with the Indian Public Works Department he returned to this country and, in 1907, made his first balloon ascent, accompanying Griffith
Frank K. McClean
Frank McClean as many older R.Ae.C.
members will recall him.
  Brewer in the Gordon-Bennett Race of that year. When, at this period, Frank Butler resigned from the Aero Club (it was not to be "Royal" until 1910), McClean was elected to the committee in his place; and he was destined to be an official of the club for nearly 50 years; at the time of his death he was a vice-president. For two periods, from 1923 to 1924 and from 1941 5to 1944, he was chairman.
     To revert to the early days, McClean flew with Wilbur Wright at Le Mans in December 1908, and thenceforth became imbued with a burning enthusiasm for heavier-than-air flying--and enthusiasm that speedily took practical shape in his co-operation with the three Short brothers, Oswald, Eustace and Horace, in the building of aeroplanes; the machines were flown in the Isle of Sheppey, first at Leysdown and later at Eastchurch, in each case on ground bought by McClean. It was at these two airfields that members of the Aero Club made their earliest flights.
     Meanwhile, McClean had himself learned to fly, taking Certificate No. 21 in 1910. He flew the new Short productions, including the then startlingly novel twin-engined biplane, which had a power unit driving a pusher propeller and another, mounted forward, driving twin tractor airscrews outboard of the nacelle. On many of his flights he was accompanied by his sister as passenger.
     Aviation was not McClean's only interest; he was, for instance, a pioneer of under-water photography, and in 1912 took some remarkable photographs of the wreck of the Oceana off Eastbourne. But the air was his favourite medium, and in the same year he caused a stir by flying a Short seaplane up the Thames and through Tower Bridge and several other bridges--a feat that earned the disapproval of the Royal Aero Club.
     In 1914 he took a new four-seater Short seaplane to Egypt, and flew it by stages, mainly with full loads, up the Nile from Alexandria to Khartoum.
     During the 1914-18 war he served with the Royal Naval Air Service, first in Channel patrol flying, and later as an instructor at Eastchurch. He was later commissioned in the R.A.F., but resigned in 1919. In the post-war years he was to be seen at every aeronautical sporting event, usually visiting them either by air or in his big white Rolls-Royce. In 1923 he was the entrant of the winning aircraft (a Sopwith Gnu flown by S/L. W. H. Longton) in the first Grosvenor Challenge Cup Race. Three years later, in recognition of his services to British aviation, he was knighted; and in the same year--1926--the R.Ae.C. awarded him its highest honour, the club's Gold Medal.
     Sir Francis married in 1918, and his wife and two daughters survive him.
     A private cremation took place on Monday last, and it is understood that ashes are to be scattered at Eastchurch. A Memorial Service is to be held next Thursday, August 25th, at Christ Church, Down Street, London, W.KI, at 12 noon.

August 12, 1955
Courtesy of Ian Sayer, 10-7-06
Sir Francis McClean, A.F.C., who died in a nursing home in London on August 11, 1955 at the age of 79 after a long illness, may be said to have been the founder of naval flying as he certainly was the founder of amateur flying in heavier than air machines in Britain.
     A civil engineer by profession, he retired from the Indian Public Works Department at an early age and had his first experience of flight in 1907 as assistant to Griffith Brewer in the Gordon-Bennett balloon race from Berlin. In the next year's race from Zurich he was a pilot and in December of that year flew with Wilbur Wright at Le Mans. The following month saw the beginning of his long cooperation with Short Brothers, of Rochester, in developing the heavier than air machine. Leysdown and susbsequently, Eastchurch, in the Isle of Sheppey, were the sites of these early experiments on ground bought by McClean and subsequently let to the Aero Club of Great Britain (now the Royal Aero Club) at 1s. a year. Interest in heavier than air flight grew rapidly and in February 1911 McClean offered. to lend aircraft so that naval officers could learn to fly, and the Admiralty accepted the offer. An offer to the War Office to give Territorial offricers a similar opportunity was turned down.
     Francis Kennedy McClean was born on February 1, 1876, the son of Dr. Frank McClean, F.R.S., and was educated at Charterhouse and Cooper's Hill. He spent only four years in the Public Works Department in India, from 1898 to 1902. To his flying activities he added submarine photography, in which he was also a pioneer, and in cooperation with the late Hugh Spottiswoode took some remarkable photographs of the wreck of the Oceana at Eastbourne. That was in June 1912. In August of that year he was back in the air and created a record by flying up the Thames in a seaplane, passing between the upper and lower parts of Tower Bridge and under London Bridge without touching water.
     In the winter of 1913 he flew up the Nile with four passengers. He joined the Royal Naval Air Service on August 6, 1914, and was put on Channel patrol, but later became chief instructor at Eastchurch. On the foundation of the R.A.F he was given a commission, but resigned in 1919.
     He was twice chairman of the Royal Aero Club, first in 1923-24 and again from 1941 to 1944, and he was elected a vice-president in 1945. In July 1954 a memorial was erected on the Isle of Sheppey to record that the island contained the first centres of heavier than air aviation in England. Sir Francis McClean'[s name is among those of 13 aviators recorded on the memorial.
     He married in 1918 Aileen, daughter of W.H. Wale, who survives him together with two daughters of the marriage

via email from Charles de Bunsen, 4-10-07
Dear Mr Cooper,
My grandmother, a daughter of Sir Francis McClean, was staying with my parents for the weekend and they did a "google" search for her father and found your website.

They noticed that someone called Helen Landau had been looking for more information on Francis McClean’s family. He had two daughters, the eldest was Frances (neither called Edwina!), who died in late 2004 – see notice of her death from the Daily Telegraph below:

Frances, Lady Eliott of Stobs who died 26 December, 2004, aged 85, was the widow of Sir Arthur Francis Augustus Boswell Eliott of Stobs, 11th Baronet.

She was Frances Aileen McClean, the eldest daughter of Sir Francis Kennedy McClean, AFC, and married Sir Arthur in 1947. He died in 1989.

Funeral at Cavers Parish Church, Hawick, 6 January, 2005.
Source: Daily Telegraph, 30 Dec 2004

The younger daughter Iona, my grandmother, married Peter Carington (Lord Carrington,_ 6th_Baron_Carrington ) and lives in Buckinghamshire.

Recently the family have donated Francis McClean’s papers to the Fleet Air Arm Museum at Yeovilton in Somerset www.fleetairarm. com, and they may be worth contacting if you are still looking for information.

Best Regards
Charles de Bunsen

via email from Helen Landau, 8-23-06
Hi Ralph,
     Francis McClean was born 1st Feb 1876, died 11th August l955 and was the principal benefactor of the early flying pioneers purchasing land for the flying fields at Eastchurch, etc, etc.
     I too have been trying to access more information about Francis (Frank) McClean and although I have been through National Archives and various census sites, I am none the wiser. Have been in touch with the Royal Astrological society, (he was a very well know astrologer as well). There is plenty about his father, christened Frank McClean and born in Ireland. Rusthall House, Tunbridge Wells was his house. But there is nothing about his son Francis who was subsequently called Frank - ie who did he marry and what were the names of his daughters and who did they marry. I believe one daughter was called Edwina and indeed that is what I call his daughter in my book. Although Turner's book gives a lot of technical data there is no personal stuff but reading between the lines there was no doubt he was an immensely generous man, very popular, the leader of the original band of young pioneers, with a huge circle of friends, which makes it all the more frustrating that I can't find out about his descendants.!
Any leads are welcome!
Best Regards, Helen
Editor's Note: As you can see, we really need a lot more information as to his life and career. If you can help us in our search, we would be very grateful and would share it all with our visitors. You can contact Helen through my email. Thank you.

via email from Tracey Runciman, 2-18-08
     I’m fairly certain that one of your correspondents has given you incorrect information on two counts with regard to Frank McClean’s membership of the "Royal Astrological Society" (which does not exist); this should of course be the "Royal Astronomical Society".
      A Frank McClean is listed as having received the Society’s Gold Medal in 1899 for astronomical photography; should this be Francis Kennedy McClean (who is known to have been a keen underwater photographer), then he certainly was very accomplished in fields other than aviation.

Winners of the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society

     However, the following link suggests that ‘our’ Frank McClean, (knighted for services to aviation), was in fact the son of the Dr. Frank McClean (FRS) who earned the Gold Medal .

SAO/NASA Astrophysics Data System (ADS)

     Since Sir Frank McClean was born in 1876, he is unlikely to have earned the prestigious RAS Gold Medal at the tender age of 23!
Thanks and best wishes,
Tracey Runciman

British Aviation, the Pioneer Years
via email from Bob Davis, 4-12-07
Hi Ralph,
     Bingo! Harald Penrose's book, [British Aviation, the Pioneer Years], lists McClean as one of the fifty or so selected biographies in the back of the book and reads as follows:"A.F.C., F.R.Ae.S. 1876 - 1956. Both in civilian and service career was an instructor of great renown. Commissioned in R.N.A.S. and R.A.F., 1914-1918. After the war tested the Saunders Kittiwake flying boat designed by F.P.H. Beadle, and undertook joyriding with Avro seaplanes, but ill-health forced abandonment of flying. Thereafter established an Employment Bureau and aircraft selling agency. On the outbreak of World War II rejoined the R.N.V.R. in advisory capacity as Lt.-Commander, but retired through ill-health in 1944." He is mentioned some 17 other times in this book. Therer is a picture of "Horace Short's No. 1 about to be flown by McClean," p. 169.

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