Peter Geraghty. 3rd June 1922 – 13th September 2002

Hello all. Mick here today writing this one.

My father Peter Geraghty was born 100 years ago. Today would have been his 100th birthday, I think we would have had a party!

Born in Hull in the East Riding of Yorkshire. His mother was Olive Geraghty (nee Wright) and his father Tom Geraghty. His father, after serving as an officer in the East Riding Regiment during WWI, was a journalist for the Hull Daily Mail and he ended up as Editor. Olive, as was the norm for the time, looked after the family and home. Peter had an older sister Joan and a younger brother Mark.

Joan, Peter, Mark

Peter went to school in Hull at the St Charles Borromeo School and often told us stories from his childhood of him turning up to school without any shoes or socks! I’m not sure of the accuracy of this and think it was probably his sense of humour coming through.


Before WWII the family moved from Hull to the village of Hessle just to the west of the city. They lived on Boothferry Road next door to the Darley’s Arms. At 17, Peter started work in the office of the Hull firm Spillers, known to all as Spillers the Millers (now part of the Rank Hovis group whose logo is “Rank Hovis the Millers” which doesn’t have quite the same ring to it!). He was working here when war broke out in 1939. The office was moved out to Ferriby where it was considered a safer place to be than in the city centre.

Joan, Tom, Peter, Olive and Mark at the back door of 314 Boothferry Road

At age 18 in 1940, he volunteered for service in the RAF. He had to go to Lords cricket ground in London to sign up and so his flying career started. He did some of his training in North America and on completion was assigned to Bomber Command. After various roles he became a Flight Lieutenant at RAF Pocklington in East Yorkshire flying Halifax bombers. After a tour of 40 operations from Pocklington, he carried out further flying duties training pilots on Lancasters.

The aeroplane Peter first flew solo on
On the back. The sensor must have let it through.
Captain and crew at RAF Pocklington. PG in the centre

When the war ended he was demobbed and went back to Hessle. A company was obliged to employ people that had worked for them before the war but Peter was very sure that an office life with Spillers in Hull was not for him and he declined the guaranteed offer of employment.  Instead he applied for a job as a pilot with the fledgling British European Airways (BEA). This would mean being based at Northolt airport on the outskirts of London.

For a long time he had been “seeing” Ruth Chignell, also from Hessle and when the war finished he proposed, the proposal was accepted. They were married in May 1947 and with his new job they moved to a house near Northolt Airport.

Peter and Ruth
Ruth and Peter

His flying job meant irregular hours and sometimes being away from home overnight. However BEA only flew to Europe so he was never away long. I suspect this is why he chose BEA rather than the long-haul BOAC. Their first child Christine was born in 1948 followed by Marion in 1950 and Anne in 1952.

Proud Dad

They needed a bigger house so moved to Ealing in 1952. Ealing was chosen as a new primary school St Gregory’s was being built there which was thought to be a “very good school”. It also coincided with BEA moving their operation to London Airport, now known as Heathrow.

I came along in 1958 and my younger sister Kathryn in 1966. All us children went to St Gregory’s and my mother ended up being a Governor. Peter was always a family man, every Saturday morning, if he wasn’t working, he would take all of us children to the local library in Ealing to swap books, followed by hot chocolate and a biscuit in a café on the High Street. And if his flying roster allowed every Sunday morning after church we would go to Kew Gardens (I remember it costing 1d) and back home in time for Sunday Lunch. There were often visits to the museums in South Kensington, my favourite being the Science Museum but sometimes my sisters made us go to one of the others!

Another favourite outing of mine was a visit to the cricket. Often he would take me up to Lords to watch the final session of a Middlesex game, as an MCC member there was free entry. We would sometimes go to a Saturday of the Lords Test Match which was a great day out. He also used to play cricket for Northolt Cricket Club.

Tea Interval

We lived a couple of miles from the Hanwell flight on the Grand Union. A regular walk was to visit what we called “The Six Locks”. Working narrowboats were still in operation (mid 1960s) some of them towed by little towpath tractors. I vividly remember one occasion when we had gongoozled a pair of boats down the flight. At the bottom one of the boaters asked if we wanted a ride to Brentford? Well you can imagine a 7 year old’s excitement at this prospect. But my dad came over all practical and said we had to get home in time for tea! But the seed of interest in canals and boating had been planted. It was about 50 years later that we first took our own boat down the flight and carried on to Brentford.

As I grew older Dad would sometimes, during school holidays, take me to work. We would drive into Heathrow and go into the BEA crew room office. I’d be shown the preparations for flying off somewhere, weather charts, route maps, loading weights, how much fuel to have on board etc.

At the controls

I would then head off on my own to the spectator viewing area (a thing of the past now) and with my VHF air band radio tuned to the ground or tower frequencies I’d watch him take off. If he wasn’t going far (maybe a return trip to Paris) I would wait 2 or 3 hours for him to return then meet him at the car park and get a lift home. If he was going further afield (perhaps a “night stop” Nicosia) I would stay watching aeroplanes all day and then get the bus home.

A view I saw many times.

As a family we would sometimes, but not very often, fly off on foreign holidays. I remember one time we all flew to Germany for a family holiday. When the plane was sitting on the runway preparing for take off our Dad (a Captain with the airline who had indeed captained this very aircraft many times) leant across the aisle and shook all his children by the hand and said “Well, it’s been nice knowing you all”. His sense of humour.

Me and my Dad circa 1968

His career with BEA lasted from 1946 until his retirement in 1977, by which time BEA and BOAC had merged to form British Airways. It was policy then that pilots had to retire at 55, it may still be the case. He started off flying DC3s and Vickers Vikings for BEA, then the Airspeed Ambassador (known in BEA as the Elizabethan because the Queen had just come to the throne!), followed by Vickers Viscounts and Vanguards and ending up as a senior training Captain on the Hawker Siddeley Trident.

His family back in Hull had always been staunch Catholics and Peter was the same. He played a big part in the local parish community at Ealing Abbey, always organising things, on various parish committees and for a while was chairman of the Parish Centre. He also played a big part in the running of the parish Youth Club. His religion didn’t get passed on to me though. I think I rebelled at all the religion in my childhood.

In retirement he had more time for his beloved golf, at one time getting his handicap down to single figures. He played at West Middlesex Golf Club then Ealing Golf Club.  He left Ealing GC when they introduced a rule that you had to spend a certain amount of money in the bar per year and if you didn’t they would take the money anyway! He wanted to play golf not drink in the bar.

Teeing off on a golfing holiday
Outside the family home in Ealing 1996

My mother finally persuaded him that they could make use of the concessionary travel that British Airways allowed him. But he never travelled extensively for leisure. He was a big worrier and there would have been too much worry that as staff passengers they would be the first to be off loaded should the flight become full.

One trip away

There was also football to be watched and supported. Hull City as a youngster but on moving to West London it was Queens Park Rangers, holding a season ticket there once he retired.

Peter and Christine on their way to Wembley to watch QPR

In his later life he fell ill with Parkinson’s disease, a disease which was also to affect my mother. He accepted his illness stoically for a number of years but eventually in September 2002 he suffered a stroke and passed away. A big funeral was held at Ealing Abbey with many old family friends there. British Airways sent a representative to his funeral which I thought was a lovely thing for them to do.

Peter on his 80th birthday

Happy 100th birthday Dad. Shame we are not celebrating it with you but you can be sure that we are definitely celebrating!

Thank you to John and Kath for helping collect together all the photographs.

5 thoughts on “Peter Geraghty. 3rd June 1922 – 13th September 2002

  1. christinegeraghty

    This is wonderful Mick, made me cry! I’d been thinking about the Bond St cafe the other day when I went to the library – the wonderful images of Paris on the walls and making little cups out of the foil on the biscuits. I loved the story of him taking you to work at the airport and you seeing him take off and then coming home on the bus. I think the freedom we had to move about (down the River Brent for hours, on public transport) was something that Mum and Dad gave us which is almost unimaginable now. Thank you so much

    1. Pip Post author

      Thanks Christine. I remember the coffee frothing machine in that cafe being very loud and gradually decreasing in volume and pitch as the coffee got frothy. And indeed who could forget the tin foil cups!
      I suppose I would have been about 9 or 10 when we started the airport trips. I think I was even younger when I and Tony Silver were allowed to get a Twin Rover and go off all around London on the Tubes and buses. Such fun!

  2. Jeremy

    Loved reading this, Mick! Great photos and detail about Peter’s life. Brought back many happy memories of hanging around after the QPR match at Peter’s favourite parking place in Askew Crescent in the hope of getting a lift home!

    1. Pip Post author

      Thanks Jeremy. Askew Crescent was a favourite wasn’t it. I nearly put in a paragraph about you and I crashing in a Vanguard simulator at Heston but I’m pretty sure that was with your dad.

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