Recently, I spent a week as a guest at the Powerhouse Museum as part of a mentorship through Museum and Gallery Services Queensland. I was asked to write about an item I discovered while I was there but it’s been a difficult choice.
Being an older bloke who remembers some of what was said about the Leyland P-76 when it was new, I was stunned to find that anybody (Castle Hill Discovery Centre) actually put one on a pedestal!
Less exalted but interesting is the undercarriage leg – the only part ever found – from the ‘Lady Southern Cross’ in which Sir Charles Kingsford Smith died in 1935.
It was fascinating to learn that Gordon Taylor’s Catalina doesn’t just hang from the Powerhouse roof – but helps hold the roof down.
The Discovery Centre storage area has an amazing collection of aero engines and aircraft models.But, sitting quietly is Goya Henry’s Genairco biplane VH-UOG.
Few Australian designed aircraft have gone into production and even fewer have had a lengthy production run. The General Aircraft Company, formed at Bankstown in the late 1920s, produced 10 (or 11, depending on which history you believe) Genairco aircraft with wings based on the Avro Avian and a fuselage similar to but wider than de Havilland’s DH-60 Moth.
This one is particularly special because it achieved notoriety as ‘Jolly Roger’ when Henry flew it under the Sydney Harbour Bridge in 1934 and sparked a High Court challenge which forced the federal government to remodel its approach to aviation legislation.
The Genairco aeroplane stored at Castle Hill is significant also because it reminds us of a character trait of Australians that didn’t knuckle under when officialdom needed to be put back in its place – acquiring such objects can help preserve that collective memory and enrich our own heritage reminding us of the ‘Jolly Roger’ fire of rebellion that once, and on occasion still does, burn in our bellies.
Curator, Qantas Founders Museum