Fighter pilot’s proud sister shares her many memories

By Julie Magee


By Julie Magee


A retired RAF fighter pilot who died in America on Christmas Day at the age of 96 spent his boyhood in Garvagh and Kilrea, his proud sister has revealed.

Air Vice-Marshal Paddy Harbison, who was better known as Paddy, saw combat flying Spitfires in the Second World War and, unusually, American jets in the Korean War.

Born in Glasgow in 1922, to the former Isobel Strachan and William, a police officer in the Royal Ulster Constabulary, Paddy attended Coleraine Technical College before Ballymena Academy. Many years later he returned to Ballymena Academy to present prizes there.

The oldest of five siblings, his 85-year-old sister Audrey Dickson still lives in Garvagh. She said: “I am so proud of Paddy; he was an excellent brother and I've photos of him all over the house. Before developing dementia in the last six months of his life Paddy rang me every single day from America.

“He came here quite a lot; although his wife was worried about him during The Troubles. The last time I saw Paddy was three years ago when my daughter Alison and I visited him in Virginia.

“My second eldest brother Eric, who was a teacher, was so impressed by Paddy's achievements that he followed in his footsteps and also joined the RAF.

“Sadly, Eric died after his training when his Vampire crashed into the sea off Denmark during target practice and that was the last we heard of him.”

*For the full story see this week's Chronicle.

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