The BBM&L’s AGM and Luncheon was a great success

Richard d’Alton chaired his first AGM to a full house, and Colin and Rosemary Mudie captivated the BBM&L’s luncheon attendees with the story of their attempt to fly the Atlantic, East to West, in a home made balloon 50 years ago.

The British Balloon Museum & Library held their AGM at the Elcot Ramada Hotel near Newbury on Sunday October 26th. The AGM was chaired by Richard d’Alton, Chairman. His first since he had been elected to the post in 2007.

This was followed by the Annual luncheon attended by 65 Friends of the Museum who had travelled from all corners of the UK, and Mike Allen, the Founder of the BBM&L had driven from France to attend.

Colin and Rosemary MudieThe after lunch speakers were Colin and Rosemary Mudie, two of the intrepid quartet whom, 50 years ago, had decided to fly in a homemade gas balloon from East to West across the Atlantic to America.

Colin and Rosemary held the audience captive as the tales of how the project evolved, the launch from Tenerife on December 12th in 1958, and the ditching in sea after four days were revealed. Colin was even then an accomplished boat designer, and the car (gondola) of the balloon, the Small World, was designed not only to be part of a balloon, but also to be a stand alone craft (or should that be float alone) should the weather force them to jettison the balloon envelope.

They flew for 96 hours until a strong updraft caused them to jettison the balloon, and the gondola sailed on as a boat for a further 20 days before landing in Barbados. The 24 days had taken toll of the health of the four adventurers but they were in fine spirits, as they were feted as heroes through the streets of Bridgetown, Barbados, and later in the UK.

The other two members of the expedition were Bushy Eiloart and his son Tim. Sadly Bushy has passed away, and, due to ill health, Tim was unable to attend.

The adventure was well chronicled in the June 1959 National Geographic, also the book of the whole project, ‘Flight of the Small World‘ by Peter Elstob, and in Tim Eiloart’s journal, ‘Theoria to Theory‘.

Pages of the National Geographic article were displayed on exhibition stands at the luncheon.

The BBM&L were honoured to have speakers as eloquent as the Mudies, and whose achievement of 50 years ago still held a kind of ‘boy’s own adventure’ appeal to all present.

After the postprandial speakers had finished, the BBM&L Auction was held to raise funds for the BBM&L. All the items had been kindly donated by Friends of the Museum, which, through skilful and enthusiastic verbal persuasion, the President of the BBM&L, Robin Batchelor, managed to raise hundreds of pounds for the Museum.

Other balloon related items donated by Friends, were the prizes in the raffle which raised an equally impressive sum for the coffers.

The luncheon was organised by Jennifer d’Alton who had been concerned that the Bridal Fair in the hotel, running concurrently to the AGM and luncheon, might have distracted the BBM&L attendees. But the models in bridal lingerie and the drive full of vintage cars were no competition to the enticement of the BBM&L lunch and good speakers.