Ashley Doubtfire


Photo by John Wadsworth and from Steve Pionk


Ashley Doubtfire with Soarmaster power unit Wellesbourne Warwick Power Meeting 1980

Photo From Don Liddard

Everard Cunion remembers Ashley Doubtfire

On a misty day in south Wales in late 1976, two hang gliders bore down on the low hill where I was instructing. I do not recall from where they launched. Maybe the hill was lost in the fog. One of the pilots was BHGA training officer Alvin Russell flying a Phoenix 6B, made by Bennett Delta Wing of California, and the other was Ash flying a Cirrus 3 made by Electra Flyer of New Mexico. Both those wings looked like space ships compared to the kite-shaped 'standard Rogallos' most of us flew.

Ash was an instructor at another school in south Wales, although by then I think he was setting up independently. He was as impressive in real life as he looks in the photos, yet he had a self-deprecating matter that enabled him to get on well with just about everybody. I never heard anyone say a bad word about Ash.

At an instructors' gathering in Wiltshire, we discussed a record-setting attempt - I forget who or what exactly - which resulted in injury to the pilot concerned. Ash observed, "It's not just what you do. It's how you do it." Sound advice, I reckon.

Of course, a memorable name helps with publicity. I recall one television announcer - I think commenting on the British championships held at Mere in Wiltshire in 1977 - say with a wry grin, "...Ashley Doubtfire, no less."

The human brain is of course an unfathomably complex network of inter-dependent specialisms and, unsurprisingly, it can - and does - go wrong. I read that Ash ended up in a mental hospital where he died in early 1983. A television crew investigated and the evidence of neglect they uncovered was aired in a documentary. (I had largely stopped watching telly by then, so I did not see it.) It strikes me that it was only because Ash was so well known that such an investigation was carried out and improvements made in the health care system as a result.

Incidentally, Ash's mother Dianne Doubtfire was an author of 'teenage novels', at least one of which features hang gliding, and she also wrote books about how to write.

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