Today’s Virtual Museum post pays tribute to inventor Harry Ferguson, who was born on this day (4th November) 1884 just outside Hillsborough, Co. Down. Educated locally, Harry was fascinated by mechanics and technology from a young age. Like many of his age, however, he left school early to work on the family farm. Discovering that farm life was not for him, he left after four years to become an apprentice in the garage business of his elder brother Joseph. Known locally as ‘the mad mechanic’, Harry raced motorcycles and motorcars to publicise the family business, which was the biggest garage business in Ireland by 1907.
Although noted for his role in the development of the modern agricultural tractor, Harry’s innovations also made an impact on the skyline. On 31 December 1909 he became the first native of Britain or Ireland to build and fly his own monoplane. In this picture, part of the Irish Linen Centre and Lisburn Museum’s collection, Harry stands on the first left with his experimental monoplane in the grounds of Hillsborough Park. On this wintry day he flew the monoplane a short distance, thus writing him into history alongside flight pioneers the Wright brothers.