I remember my father telling me about the warplane that crashed into a field in Figullar,
near Mullan Village, during WW11 and that he was part of the LDF (FCA) force sent
to guard the plane until the Irish Army arrived to take it away. He also told me
that they were unsuccessful in stopping everyone sneaking in and taking a piece of
the plane as a souvenir. However the Army only took what was on the surface but the
engine and other parts which were buried quite deep were covered over with clay and
the surface levelled. I had forgotten all about it until I was told during the week
that there was going to be a dig to recover the remaining parts of the plane on Sat.
May 13th. It turns out that this plane had fought in the Battle of Britain and was
damaged on at least two occasions and limped back to an airfield during those battles.
The authorities decided that it was past its prime and sent it to Belfast Aldergrove
as a weather monitoring station plane to fly out over the Atlantic and assess the
coming weather patterns for use by British bombers going to the continent and the
ships coming back from the USA. On September 20th 1942 Flight Lt. Gordon Hayter Proctor
was flying it on such a mission but when he was over the Border area the plane developed
engine trouble and a fire started and he bailed out. He landed by shute just North
of the Border and was picked up by British forces. The plane glided on for a time
but then crashed heavily into a field in Figullar belonging to Michael McKenna. It
is estimated that it hit the ground at about 400 Miles per hour and so would lodge
itself deep in the meadow terrain there. The engine was a 750kg Merlin Rolls Royce
V12. The pilot was taken back to England and continued in the RAF. He was sent to
Burma and while on a mission there 2 years later, his plane went missing and his
body was never recovered. It is unknown if he has any family members alive but efforts
are being made to make contact with them if that is possible.
Recently Jonny McNee, an aviation historian, gained a licence from the Museums of
Ireland to remove, clean and catalogue whatever remains of the plane and the most
interesting pieces will go on display in Monaghan Museum. A team of archaeologists
and specialists in excavating together with interested parties including Liam Bradley,
Curator of Monaghan County Museum, gathered on May 13th to recover the parts of the
plane. They also had students from Foyle College and two from Beech Hill College
and two from St. Macartan's College. Some locals also gathered to watch the work.
The 'dig team' had specialised equipment which placed them in the correct location
and helped them identify the direction in which the plane was flying on impact. Lots
of pieces were discovered in the early part of the dig but it was only when they
went down about three metres that they uncovered the main part of the engine. The
smell of oil was very strong and the clay was a blueish colour from the oil and fuel.
Aiden McKenna of McKenna Environment was doing the main digging with a mechanical
digger but spades, shovels and trowels were used to extricate pieces without damaging
them. Every bucket full of soil removed was sifted through by the students and others
to make sure that everything belonging to the plane was recovered. Then about 2.30pm
the engine was freed from the earth and the team was delighted with the find. All
will now be taken to begin the process of cleaning and cataloguing. We look forward
to the display in Monaghan Museum.
These are all parts of the plane which Jonny McNee was able to identify for us including
the Cockpit door which he holds above here while on the right is the photo of the
butt of a cigar found in the rubble.
Above St.Macs students clear around the peeping engine
Girls from Beech Hill College
Jonny describes a part, which was recovered, to Liam Bradley and locals
Josie McCusker is interviewed. She heard the bang when the plane came down in 1942
Jonny cleans up anther piece
Members of the team wait for the next step in the process.