Brynley Fussell, a no-hoper from a poor, broken family rose above the wreckage of his childhood in the most extraordinary way through innate technical talents, luck and driving, if not focused, determination. At 10 he landed in a remand home for accidentally setting fire to a haystack, a place he said was a “sadistic hellhole”. He was then sent to an approved school, where he was systematically abused, causing him to shin down drainpipes and run away multiple times. Every time he was caught, his sentence was extended and after ten years he arrived at Bedford prison. As a serial escaper, he had 77 convictions. During his years in custody had developed a passion for flying and taught himself the basics from watching a pilot on a joy ride and reading magazines and books.
He ran away and stole one plane which ran out of fuel so he was captured. Next time round he stole another and made it across to France, having memorised the instructions from The Aeroplane magazine. He was arrested and imprisoned but became “the most famous pilot in the world, a man fêted on six continents for his superb flying skill and his daring”. A Conservative MP suggested he should be freed and enlisted in the RAF. The author of a book about test pilots wrote with an offer of support if he went straight. “It was the first time in my life,” said Fussell, “that anyone had offered to help me.”
He served another 21 months in jail, during which time he took classes in mathematics and geometry and on his release was given a job in the engine test department of an aeroplane company. He never gained any qualifications but later worked in the metallurgy department at the University of Swansea and after that ran two laboratories at Imperial College in London. Latterly he helped to establish a Swansea laboratory in mass spectrometry which became one of the world’s most influential centres.
He was born 9 February 1931, no birth time sadly – the same year as the mad and intrepid, across-the-globe Irish cyclist Dervla Murphy (see post May 26 2022 below). She also came from difficult beginnings to carve out her own unique path with reckless courage.
Both charts had the generational used-to-tough-conditions Saturn in Capricorn opposition Pluto and it squared onto an innovative, rebellious, trail-blazing Uranus in Aries conjunct the North Node. Such a Uranus can be lawless, overly defiant, a disrupter but is also good at pushing back boundaries and can be suited to an experimental career.
Fussell’s Aquarius Sun was sextile Uranus North Node and inconjunct Pluto so he would have a problem with authority figures. Jupiter conjunct Pluto would give him a wealth of self-confidence and a lucky Jupiter square Uranus would incline him towards risk-taking and adventure. His Mercury opposition Mars was argumentative and a fast thinker; and opposition his Pluto as well would give him penetrating insights – as well as a tendency to obstinacy. His intensely secretive Scorpio Moon was probably square his Sun and trine his Pluto. Not an easy man but what a way to rise above his beginnings. He died this May aged 91, oddly enough just ten days before Dervla Murphy.
I just love mavericks who pull themselves up by their bootstraps and carve out a life for themselves against all the odds.
Add On: Geoffrey Dorman, the ex-military author of aviation books, who set him on the road to redemption and a purposeful life, was born 7 July 1894 in London. His Cancer Sun was conjunct Fussell’s Pluto and Jupiter; and his compassionate Jupiter Neptune in Gemini trine Fussell’s Sun – a supportive figure. Both had an Aries North Node so Dorman probably recognised Fussell’s striving to be independent and stand out. Dorman’s Saturn was conjunct Fussell’s South Node.
Their relationship chart had a powerful, influential Jupiter Pluto conjunction opposition Uranus – so there was a potential for change.