Town mouse on air travel

If you want to get through immigration quickly, register for an iris scan. We contemplated this, snaking dolefully towards Heathrow’s passport control after a half-term holiday, but you have to be over 18.

However, the service would surely have appealed to Charles Rolls. Rolls wasn’t much of a student at school, being captivated by what the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography calls ‘things electrical’. No doubt his parents would have had a job keeping him off the computer, if it had been invented. But he went on to establish Rolls-Royce.

Next July will be the centenary of Rolls’s death. An aviator, he was killed at Bournemouth, when his tailplane collapsed. It is a moot point as to whether Rolls was the first Briton to die in an aero-plane:

Percy Pilcher, a less famous name, may have beaten him to it when the Hawk he was developing crashed in 1899. It depends what you call an aeroplane. Pilcher’s memorial, in a Midland field, is trumped by a statue of Rolls, unveiled in his home town, Monmouth, in 1911.

Rolls is shown admiring a model of an aircraft: good, but excelled by the Spirit of Ecstasy (supposedly modelled on Lord Montagu of Beaulieu’s mistress), epitomising the glamour travel had before queues.

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