Goya Henry (Steve Meacham’s article)

January 15, 2009 at 3:46 am (expatriates, Papua New Guinea) (, , , , , , )

 

Once a jolly daredevil … pilot’s legacy is museum’s trophy

    Pride of the fleet … Ian Debenham with the Jolly Roger, which the Powerhouse Museum bought for $125,000.Pride of the fleet … Ian Debenham with the Jolly Roger, which the Powerhouse Museum bought for $125,000. Photo: Brendan Esposito
    Sydney Morning Herald
    Steve Meacham December 21, 2007

    BETWEEN the wars Henry Goya Henry was the acknowledged pirate of the Australian skies. Not just because of the skull and crossbones painted on his bright red Genairco plane, nicknamed the Jolly Roger, which he used for joy flights over Sydney Harbour. Nor because, like Long John Silver, he had lost one of his legs – the result of an accident in July 1930, when his monoplane crashed at Manly, killing his passenger. His piratical reputation was mainly the result of his perpetual flouting of aviation laws – most dramatically in 1936 when he became the first pilot to fly (illegally) under the newly built Sydney Harbour Bridge, at a time when his licence was suspended. Henry – Goya to friend and foe – died childless in 1974. But his daredevil legacy lives on thanks to the Powerhouse Museum, which has paid $125,000 for the Jolly Roger, his most famous plane. According to Ian Debenham, the museum’s transport curator, the Jolly Roger deserves to be as much of a celebrity as the man who flew it. “Genairco VH-UOG is a very significant plane,” he said. It was one of nine designed and built by the General Aircraft Company in Mascot between 1929 and 1933, when the company folded. And that makes the Genairco the first aircraft series to be designed and manufactured in Australia. Only three Genaircos survive. Originally they were designed to house the locally made Harkness Hornet engine – the first Australian aircraft engine to be considered for airworthiness approval by the Department of Civil Aviation. Unfortunately, the Australian engine was not as good as its overseas rivals, so was never commercially viable. However, the original prototype is also in the Powerhouse collection. Henry’s father bought the Genairco for him in 1935, a year after his first conviction for contravening air navigation regulations. By July 1936 the authorities were so exasperated by his maverick ways his licence was suspended again. A few days later he flew under the Harbour Bridge to spite them. That same year the High Court ruled in his favour against the Commonwealth, which had sought to suspend him indefinitely. But his flying days were nearly over. After another crashwhen taking off from Mascot, Henry was bankrupted in 1938. He tried to join the Royal Australian Air Force at the start of World War II, but was ruled out because of his artificial leg. Instead he joined the small ships unit of the United States Army in 1943, based in New Guinea where he spent most of the rest of his working life.

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      10 Comments

      1. deberigny said,

        I first met Goya in the early sixties when he was Master of the MV Thetis, a government vessel stationed at Wewak. I spent many weeks with him on this small ship, visiting Manam Island and the islands off the coast of Wewak. What a fascinating character he was; a raconteur full of conversational gems. I remember him mentioning the words of a friend, who told him why the RAAF would not take him at the start of the War: “Well, Goya, you are not a Mason or a Catholic and you can fly a plane.” Of course, the official reason was that he only had one leg. I got an interesting card/letter from him a few months before he died. I wish I could find it.

        • stéph said,

          dear deberigny
          i am currently gathering information on ingeborg de beausacq; the german explorer who came in new guinea in 1957.
          i know she knew henry goya, that you may have met.
          we are about to write a biography; as well as an article in the Tribal art magasine.
          best regards and thanks for your help

      2. Peter said,

        I knew Goya very well for quite a few years. The last of the true gentlemen.

        I was a Customs man in Madang and Wewak in those beautiful years about 1962 through 1966 and then moved to other ports around PNG. He was a guest at my wedding at Alexishaven, [and still have the Sepik carving he gave us]
        and delivered a magnificent speach full of his cunning humour. I am so sorry that I could not have helped him in his latter years. He really had no cause to finish up dying in Sydney when he had so many friends elsewhere. I remember him climbing down a ladder some 30 feet while the Thetis was on the slips in Madang, because some one shouted “We’re going to the pub, and it’s on me, do you want to come?”– —— he came wooden leg and all. Truely a well loved, beautiful man.

        • Deborah Murphy said,

          Good Morning

          Well I have been searching some of my family history and I was so pleased to see my Great Uncle’s article in this review , you see my Grandfather was Gwydir Henry and I only met Uncle Goya a couple of times, but I knew he was a special man and I am proud to be related to him, but I don;t take after him with the Daredevil stuff, I just thought I would get in touch with you as I am sure you would of had some great times with him, thankyou for saying such beautiful words about him, he was one of a kind I think.

          regards Debbie Murphy (nee Henry)

          • don orr said,

            I remember your grandfather very well & in fact bought my first motor car from him when I was visiting Grafton as a young man . it was a Baby Austin vintage 1930 . It had been under the floods but your grandfather had restored it .Your grandfather Gyd ( born 1891 ) was a highly skilled motor enginer & gained the 1st motor engineers licence on the North Coast .He was also the 1st agent for Chevolet cars . He used to tell the story that cars in those days had to be proceeded by a person to warn of their approach so that the horses could be restrained from bolting at the sight of the strange machine .

          • Stephanie said,

            dear deborah
            i am currently gathering information on ingeborg de beausacq; the german explorer who came in new guinea in 1957.
            i know she knew henry goya,
            we are about to write a biography; as well as an article in the Tribal art magasine.
            best regards and thanks for your help

        • Stephanie said,

          dear Peter
          i am currently gathering information on ingeborg de beausacq; the german explorer who came in new guinea in 1957.
          i know she met henry goya,
          we are about to write a biography; as well as an article in the Tribal art magasine.
          best regards and thanks for your help

      3. don orr said,

        Goya was my uncle ( my mothers brother ) . I have a vivid recollection as a 9 &10 yr old of going up at weekends in the “Jolly Roger ” (his all scarlet Genairco biplane ) from Mascot Aerodrome as it was called in the mid 1930`s . It was my reward at the end of the day for helping to sell joy flight tickets at one pound each .Mascot those days was a large grass paddock.with about 6 hangers.
        We would return at dusk with kerosine oil flares marking the perimeter fence.
        I was recently emotionally reunited at Castle Hill with the dear old “Jolly Roger ” which has been bought by the Power House Museum . Goya was was game as ned Kelly .

      4. stéph said,

        dear all,
        i am currently looking for information on ingeborg de beausacq, a german explorer who met henry goya during her trip in new guinea.
        do you know by any chance if goya kept a diary? i would be very interested in meeting someone who knew him, as i am about to write a bioagraphy on ingeborg, with a friend of mine, who is an art collector.
        best regards
        stéphanie

        • deberigny said,

          Stephanie, I’m sorry I can’t directly help you, but I hope some of the others who made comments might get in touch. David Wall

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