A few years ago, during research for a local history article, an intriguing headline in the newspaper archives caught my attention: “Mystery Disappearance” read the headline in the Northern Whig newspaper on September 18th, 1945. The words “mystery” and “Sligo” within the article piqued my curiosity. I decided to save the article for later, when I could delve deeper into its contents. According to the newspaper report, three Royal Air Force officers, stationed in Ulster RAF bases, had vanished after visiting Sligo in the north-west of Ireland. Among them was Group-Captain George Ninian Warrington, RAF (Volunteer Reserve), who had journeyed to Sligo with the purpose of purchasing a Bermuda-rigged ketch, which is a two-masted sailing craft.
Warrington and his wife Quenelda had arrived in Sligo on Wednesday 5th September. Two days later on Friday 7th September, the couple were joined by Warrington’s colleagues Flying Officer David Alexander McGregor, RAF (Volunteer Reserve) and Flight Officer Clarice Sybil Ellis, W.A.A.F. (Women’s Auxiliary Air Force).
The Australian newspaper The Argus reported that Quenelda Warrington, formerly Clegg was born in Melbourne and was the daughter of Lieut-Colonel Humphrey Clegg, of London, and Mrs Clegg, of South Yarra, Australia. Mrs Warrington visited England and remained there during the war years, where she worked as a Land girl in Shropshire, England. Group Captain Warrington joined the Royal Air Force in 1929 and by 1941 he was stationed at Shropshire, where he met and married Quenelda in St Edith’s Church, Pulverbatch, Shropshire. In 1942 he was posted overseas to the Far East for three years. In 1945 he was thirty-seven years old and stationed in the RAF headquarters at Aldergrove airfield which is now Belfast Airport.
Warrington had purchased the Ketch called The Charm, from a Mr H. C. Gordon McCormack, a solicitor from Tanrego, Beltra, County Sligo. Before leaving Sligo the party told the Sligo Harbour pilot, who accompanied them as far as the Sligo lighthouse, that they intended to sail to Belfast and then possibly onwards to the Isle of Man.
Sadly, on the 18th September, the Northern Whig newspaper reported that wreckage belonging to the Charm was found off an island on the Scottish Hebrides but no trace of the four occupants was found. The island mentioned in the Northern Whig newspaper report is misspelt, it was Tiree Island.
On the Scottish historical website Aniodhlann, it mentions that the wreckage of the Charm yacht had washed up on Hynish bay on Tiree Island in September 1945. The website refers to the yacht encountering gale force winds and collided with a free-floating sea mine left over from World War II.
Despite extensive searches conducted by the RAF at the time of the incident, no remains were reported to have been found. However, upon further investigation through the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website, I discovered two listings on the RAF Memorial Runnymede in Surrey, England. This memorial is dedicated to RAF officers whose bodies were never recovered. Both Warrington and Ellis were included in these listings, but I could not locate any record for McGregor on this particular memorial.
Undeterred, I continued my search and eventually came across a record for David Alexander McGregor on the CWGC website. Tragically, his remains were discovered washed ashore about a month after the accident. McGregor was laid to rest at Bowmore New Parish Churchyard on the serene Isle of Islay in the Scottish Hebrides.
In 2020, I was contacted by a relative T. Leggett, who kindly shared some insights into David McGregor’s life and even provided a photograph of him. Covid and life got in the way for me and I’m only now getting to update this blog post. David was T. Leggett’s great-uncle, the younger brother of her paternal grandmother, Jean. Born in 1922 in Clifton, Bristol, David was the second eldest son among five siblings. His father, Reginald James McGregor, served as a housemaster at Bristol Grammar School, the very institution where David received his education.
Interestingly, Reginald James McGregor also had a creative side, writing children’s adventure stories under the pen name RJ McGregor. Among his notable works were two books titled “The Young Detectives” and “The Secret of Dead Man’s Cove,” which revolved around the thrilling escapades of the five Mackie children: Alan, Jean, David, Michael, and Elizabeth. T. Leggett’s grandmother and her siblings served as the inspiration for these captivating characters, making the connection all the more intriguing.
In the era before instant communication, when obtaining information could take days or even weeks, the initial reports of a missing boat might have seemed like a puzzling mystery. The situation intensified when the boat washed up onshore a week later, devoid of any sign of its occupants. Ultimately, the truth unfolded, revealing a heartrending and tragic accident. It was a sorrowful twist of fate that after surviving the war and embarking on new lives, they would become victims of its aftermath.
Adding to the poignancy of the tale, Warrington and Quenelda were loving parents to a young boy named Alastair, who, at the time of the tragedy, was merely three years old. During the incident, he happened to be staying with family friends, sheltered from the sorrowful events that unfolded. A. Warrington was very kind to provide information to me on his family history and how his life turned out as I had wondered what had become of the child when first reading the newspaper account. He also shared some mystical anecdotes connected to the incident and Sligo.. which I will leave for him to share.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.
Photographs of Warrington family and Ketch by kind permission of A. Warrington
Photograph of D. McGregor by kind permission of T. Leggett
Northern Whig Newspaper, 18th September 1945
The Argus Newspaper, 11th October 1945 https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/12146414
Quenelda Warrington nee Clegg Obituary: http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/warrington-quenelda-17150
Scottish Tiree’s Historical Centre: http://www.aniodhlann.org.uk/?s=warrington
RAF thread on Group-Captain Warrington: http://www.rafcommands.com/archive/06276.php
RAF thread on Group-Captain Warrington: http://www.rafcommands.com/forum/showthread.php?12055-former-218-squadron-pilots
Quenelda Clegg marriage record: http://bit.ly/2Egd9NX
Commonwealth War Graves Commission records:
Runnymede Memorial, Warrington listed: https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/1809688/warrington,-george-ninian/
Runnymede Memorial, Ellis listed: https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/1269560/ellis,-clarice-sybil/
McGregor, Bowmore churchyard Isle of Islay: https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/2457452/mcgregor,-david-alexander/
First Published on 29th December 2017 on melcoo.com and updated on 29th April 2018.
Re-published on 22nd August 2020 on SligoWalkingTours.com/blog
Updated 1st August 2023