Chester-le-Street Heritage Group
Raymond Selkirk was born in Chester-le-Street in March 1931 where his love of flying began whilst at school. At age fourteen he joined the Air Training Corps and began his pilot training in primary gliders. Whilst in the Corps he also received instruction in navigation, signals, engineering, automatic weapons, small arms, and square-bashing.
At the end of the World War II there was a surfeit of experienced pilots from the Royal Navy and RAF, so Ray became a Merchant Marine officer as a temporary measure until an opportunity presented itself to break into the post-war flying world. However, worldwide experience as a sailor gave Ray his skill as a qualified navigator, radio operator and meteorologist. He then, luckily, got a job as an air mechanic with Freddie Laker's airline, "Air Charter Ltd" and eventually became a qualified radio officer and received his first flying badge on Avro Yorks and Avro Tudors. He then began his overseas flying career with Cyprus Airways, West African Airways, and East African Airways, On his return to Europe he had various free-lance flying jobs for German and Swiss companies.
When be came back to England he became an Air Traffic Controller serving at Hum, Aberdeen, Prestwick and London airports. including a tour of duty in Northern Ireland, during the Troubles, and many years at RAF Boulmer. It was while he was at Boulmer that he joined Sunderland Flying Club and eventually became the President of the club. There were various long-distance flights including a trip to Oshkosh, USA where he won a prize for the longest distance to the air show. Ray also took part in the Paris - New York Air Race of June 1981 in aircraft Piper Aztec G-BAVL (No 80), and came 5th in a class of 120 entrants.
On his early retirement Ray returned to college to renew his ship’s officer’s certificates and was involved with free-lance temporary work on all types of ships, all over the world, including an ammunition carrier in the first Gulf War, The Falklands, underwater weapons trials in Norway, fishing trawlers in the Arctic and the rescue of a sinking ship in the Atlantic with the guidance of an RAF Nimrod. He was also first mate on the replica “Golden Hinde”.
It was while he was flying a university professor around Northern England in connection with aerial archaeology that he developed his love of Roman history and eventually took a BA (Hons) degree in archaeology at Newcastle University, where he received the “Martin Harrison Prize“. With his professional knowledge of logistics he realised that the Romans could only have supplied their armies by water and not ox-wagon as originally advised by the establishment. His controversial book on the subject “The Piercebridge Formula” was written while he was berthed in The Falklands. He won the Rolex International Prize for Exploration which was a Rolex watch and was presented to him by the explorer Sir Vivian Fuchs.
Ray also gathered together a group of enthusiastic amateur archaeologists and thus began the Northern Archaeology Group, which is still going strong. Although Ray is no longer with us they are continuing with his research into the Roman occupation of our area. It was from Ray’s information that the Group divers found the great Roman Treasure on the site of the Roman bridge crossing the River Tees at Piercebridge. The divers have been there for 25 years and are still bringing up fascinating Roman artefacts.
Raymond Selkirk - 1931 to 2006
Books written by Raymond Selkirk are:
“On the Trail of the Legions” and
“Chester-le-Street & it's Place in History“.
Both the books are now out off print, but a small supply can still be obtained at a cost of £29.95 + P&P at the email address given below:
The book is also available on loan from:
Raymond Selkirk -Adventurer, Sailor, Aviator, Archaeologist and Explorer.
"Chester-le-Street & it's Place in History".
by Raymond Selkirk.