Wales Online has profiled retired engineer Thomas Merlin Maddock who lives in the same Valleys house on Meadow Street, in Pontycymmer as pit carpenter and would-be aviator pioneer Christopher Carlyon did in 1904. Carlyon is not going to be a familiar name to aviation history buffs, but just months after the Wright brothers took to the air, the 17-year old started building his own flying machine in a shed he built 400 feet up a mountain near Bridgend called Coedcae.
His plan was to build a flying machine to glide across the Garw Valley at its narrowest point of about half a mile. However and after several tests on the slopes below his shed, it and the shed were destroyed by a violent storm in 1910.
Demoralised that his flying machine was destroyed before he could do a full fledged flight, Carlyon never returned to the project. Maddock only learned about the would-be aviator pioneer after his father attended the 59 year old Carlyon’s funeral in 1947.
Today and despite being 78-years old, Maddock, who has spent the last decade researching Carlyon’s plans, is taking up the challenge. He believes that Carlyon was inspired to build his flying machine after reading up on the Wright brothers and studying pictures of their aircraft. He also visited Carlyon’s who lent him a box full of glass slides to build prototypes first with a wingspan of 12 inches, then 24 inches and now eight feet
However, Maddock has no intention of taking the final craft for a test flight over the Garw Valley as he says that Carylon picked the most exposed part of south Wales and could have been killed trying to fly it there. Instead, he has found two pilots willing to fly the aircraft once its built, but it will be towed along on the ground to see if it lifts eight or 10 feet to prove this unsung local aviator pioneer right.
Merlin Maddock in his Pontycymer workshop with the 1/3-size replica of a glider first built by Christopher Carlyon, WalesOnline .