Academic journal article Hecate

About Lores

Academic journal article Hecate

About Lores

Article excerpt

A Few Facts

In Brisbane in the 1930s men didn't swear in front of women. And women tried to refrain from swearing in front of men.

When Lores Bonney, pioneer 'aviatrix,' accused Charles Kingsford Smith of using 'bar-room' language to her I expected something stronger than the statement: 'You might make it if you've got the guts.' Not unaccustomed to bar-room language myself, I waited some time for the offensive word to emerge in the videotaped interview I was watching. It turned out to be 'guts.'

Charles Ulm, who crossed the Pacific from East to West with Kingsford Smith, was more generous with the advice. He wrote:

20th March, 1933

Dear Mrs Bonney,

Following my talk with you on Saturday, I have, over the weekend, given some thought to your proposed Australia-England flight plans. As explained to you personally, I am very much against anyone (man or woman) contemplating flights in light, single-engine aeroplanes over long stretches of water, and therefore most certainly advise you against flying the Timor Sea. However, as you have impressed upon me that you have quite definitely not only made up your mind to go, but have completed practically all arrangements to leave on this flight during the next three or four weeks, then I am only too happy to advise and assist you in any way within my power; therefore I now set out some brief notes which may be of some little value.(1)

Four pages of detailed notes follow. The next year he was killed crossing the Pacific from West to East.

I am writing a novel about Lores Bonney (who died in 1994), and begin here by providing you with a few facts about her life.

Terry Gwynn-Jones tells of her birthplace, date, and bloodline in his biography Pioneer Aviator: 'Maude Rose (later 'Lores') Bonney [sic] was born in Pretoria, South Africa, on 20 November 1897. Her father, Norbert Albert Rubens, an importer, was of German and French descent. Her mother, Rose, was from Dutch and English stock.'(2)

Her parents migrated to Australia when she was seven years old. Between the ages of fourteen and sixteen she attended a 'finishing school' in Frankfurt, Germany to further her music career, being a talented pianist. She returned to Brisbane and at the age of twenty married Harry Bonney. They had no children.

In 1930, at thirty-three, she learned to fly a De Havilland 60 Moth (a 'Gipsy Moth'), and in 1931 her husband purchased a plane for her, the same model. The Gipsy Moth had a cruising speed of 125 kilometres (88 miles) an hour, an open cockpit only slightly sheltered by a small windscreen, and a simple instrument panel. Navigation was done by compass and landmarks.

On Boxing Day of 1931 she set her first record: flying from Brisbane to Wangaratta (in Victoria) in one day, she created a new record for distance-flying in Australia. The journey of 1524 kilometres took her sixteen hours. It was her first long-distance flight.

In 1932 she circumnavigated Australia by air, the first woman to do so. That journey took thirty-seven days to complete. She gained her commercial pilot's licence in that year, and was awarded the QANTAS trophy for 'outstanding performance by a Queensland pilot.' She became the first woman to fly from Australia to England in 1933, and in 1934 was the first woman to be awarded an MBE.

In 1937, Lores Bonney was the first person to fly from Australia to South Africa (this time in a Klemm 32). Soon after, she retired from flying.

For the rest of her life, her favourite occupation was cultivating Bonsai.

Travel During the Depression

In trying to estimate how much the language, landscape and society of Brisbane has changed in sixty years, sometimes it's particularly hard to take that leap across time, class, financial status and the River that is necessary when I write about Lores.

The once ritzy Bowen Hills, where she lived, has been smashed into tiny, triangular-shaped submission by constant traffic passing to and from, you'll never guess: the Airport. …

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