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16 October 2014
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Inventors - Rex McCandless

Rex McCandless was one of the perhaps less celebrated Northern Ireland inventors.


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Gary - Aug '08
My father use to cut Rex grass for him, and he made his own wine, My father stated that Rex had taken to the grave with him an invention that would make 1 shovel of coal last all day on a average house hold fire.

Patrick Cowan - Nov '06
An update - Am glad to see a relative of Fred Smith writing in - he was indeed a great member of Rex's team - It's my understanding that on the day Fred raced at Kirkistown in the M k1 4wd car my dad Billy Cowan raced the Mk 2 - he finished 2nd !!
Always wondered what happened to the Mk1 car...

Marty - Nov '06
My uncle worked for Rex IIRC, He sadly passed away this week - Tommy Bates RIP.

I remember him showing me pictures of himself in a few of the racing cars they built, something which intrigued me even to this day. I also have found memories of me as a young belfast lad of 12 years old discovering Rex's collection in Killough, a mile or so from our Caravan. It was like being part of a James bond movie!

But the Pictures of Tommy in the racing cars is something that will always keep petrol in my blood.

David Bentley - April '06
Yes indeed the autogyro was invented in 1923 by Juan de la Cierva he died in 1936. Helicopters were developed about then. However Ken Wallis in East Anglia developed his own Autogyros from 1961. one appearing in the Bond movie " You only live twice" The one in the article looks like a Wallis to me.
Wallis may have sold kits although I doubt it because they are not available for sporting activities only surveying etc.
I thought telescopic forks were pioneered by Matchless or Triumph, in the U.K.
BMW were the very first with telescopic front forks.

Loretta Kelly (nee Smith) - Mar 06
Interesting to read the comments on Rex and Artie.
My dad, Fred Smith worked with both on the Woodstock and Limestone Roads and they figured largely in my childhood, through outings, photographs and stories. Dad was pictured in the 4x4 D1 with Rex at Conlig and at Goodwood with Rex on the starting line in the R1. Both of these photos were in the display of Rex' work featured in Cultra at one time. My dad worked on and drove the Mk1 to victory at Kirkiston in 1955.

Brendan Mc Intrye - February '05
The autogyro was invented by de la cierva. Rex made some light weight machines. The first machine was powered by a motor bike engine. I bought a mk 4 Mc Candless machine in the early eighties and flew it and displayed it throughtout Ireland, together with a Bensen b8m gyro. Rex came to see me flying his machine at shane's castle and gave me his flying maps and flight bag. He was a great inventor and he was also very good at making wine.

Mark McCluney - December '04
Since making my previous comment back in June I made a few more McCandless contacts.

I got talking to a taxi driver during the summer and mentioned my Dad's interest in vintage motorbikes. This triggered a deluge of information about McCandless which I was happy to soak up. It included the now infamous remark about the invention of the autogyro (which is clearly only a myth.)

But last week I learned this rather more startling contact: Starting at the end of September I taught a QUB night class for the Institute of Lifelong Learning. It transpired, on the very last night of the course, that one of the students had 'blagged' a ride on a firm's aircraft when he worked at Shorts, quite some time ago. Apart from himself there were only two other passengers, one of whom was Rex McCandless.

How is it that McCandless is still such a secret hero when so many people know about him?

Patrick Cowan - August '04
Your research should include the now published biography on Rex written by one of his former employees Les Jennings, entitled 'To Make A Better Mousetrap' - this covers Rex's engineering history in some depth and has some very detailed accounts of his various 'adventures' into the very different worlds of motorbikes, cars, coal, flying, wine making.

Rex was my father's best man at my parents' wedding and a close friend (as much as Rex could ever be called close) to my father and mother.
In later years - early 80's until his death - he often visited my father (and vice versa), indeed it was with much argument and great humour that they (Mum dad and Rex) figured out how to lay out his epitaph on his 'homemade' headstone ....

Mark McCluney - June 2004
When my Dad was an apprentice mechanic (in the the 40's I guess) he worked for a while at the garages of the then famous motorcyclist Artie Bell. The sheds are still there on the Cregagh/Woodstock Road although they are now Cregagh Carpets.

Bell and McCandless were friends, from what I understand, and my Dad remembers 'the mad inventor' who would stay in a shed on the premises, literally for days, often refusing food and so on while puzzling away on a problem.

Somehow my Dad also remembers the autogyro connection but there was definitely no claim that McCandless had invented it. There seemed to be no doubt in the minds of the workshop crew that he would improve on it though! Perhaps McCandless had his autogyro stored at Bell's garages for a while.

Ralph Allison - May 2004
It may have been invented then, yes, but in the article, no mention was made that he *invented* the autogyro - merely that he developed it.

your place and mine contributor:
"Sorry to be a spanner in the works, but was the Autogyro not invented in 1920 by a Spaniard named de la Cierva ?"
Can anyone back up or discount this theory? Let us know what you think.

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