Exactly 100 years ago this month, a passionate aviator, Hudson Fysh, flew a light plane that carried just one passenger out of a rough airfield at Cloncurry in north western Queensland to launch a new airline that he had just founded. He called his pioneering venture Queensland and Northern Territory Air Services. To keep it simple, the locals called it QANTAS, a revered name that will carry it into its second century.
While Fysh had a vision for it to become the finest bush airline in Australia, little did he realise that it would one day become an international airline of considerable significance and longevity.
Fact is that Fysh was a World War 1 veteran who had returned home after serving in the fledgling Royal Australian Air Force, mainly in Palestine. He had no money, but had managed to convince some eminent Western Queensland cattle men to back him as the initial investors. He went very close to bankruptcy several times in the early years of QANTAS, but battled on tenaciously to bring his dream to reality and success.
Even in those early tough years, he also provided a great community service to Inland Australia by joining with John Flynn, Flynn of the Inland, to create the Flying Doctor Service. He and Flynn fostered a partnership that flew doctors and nurses to very remote places to save lives, often in dramatic circumstances. For 90% of those flights there was no airstrips in places where people were injured or ill. So they landed valiantly on either unpaved roads or in large paddocks, but did not ever damage a plane or kill a patient. It was an incredible achievement.
Now, an eminent Australian historian, Grantlee Kieza, has written a superb book about Hudson Fysh that has just reached the book shops. Grantlee has given me an advance copy and I can tell you that it is a splendid read about an inspirational human being. I strongly recommend that you buy and enjoy it.
I especially recommend it as I want you to discover that Grantlee has generously dedicated the book to me. The citation, that I have photographed below, reads,
‘For Everald Compton, a nation builder who like Hudson Fysh has encouraged so many Australians to soar.’
I am enormously proud of those words and I gratefully thank Grantlee for them, even though I know that I don’t deserve his accolade.
But any mention of nation builders anywhere reminds us that the noble building a nation is not of much interest to most Aussies. Our nation has too many people who are capitalists with a goal of plundering the economy and there are too many socialists who are convinced that Australia owes them a living permanently. Only a few believe in a society that fosters the ideal of a SHARED GOOD in which we seek to excel.
Grantlee has, during his distinguished career as an author, written several fine books about great Australians who contributed mightily to our nation. I have read many of them and particularly enjoyed four of them. MACQUARIE tells us about our finest Governor who changed our country from being a penal colony to become a prosperous civilisation. HENRY LAWSON and BANJO PATTERSON tell us of how Australia produced literary giants who ranked highly internationally, while MONASH tells us how valiant Australian leadership hastened the end of World War 1 by winning a famous victory against Germany at the battle of Villiers Bretonneux in northern France. He has several more books such as those four in the pipeline.
My own books pale into insignificance in comparison to Grantlee’s literary skills even though THE MAN ON THE TWENTY DOLLAR NOTES (about Flynn of the Inland) and DINNER WITH THE FOUNDING FATHERS (about the creators of the Australian nation, Barton and Deakin, and their eminent team) have sold well and are steadily growing in popularity.
Sadly, QANTAS today would bring tears to the eyes of Hudson Fysh. It is a pale shadow of its former greatness, having alienated far too many of its loyal passengers with very ordinary and unreliable service. I have been flying with them for 70 years now but they cancelled my membership of their Chairman’s Lounge because I am ‘too old’ to be a regular passenger. Fysh would never have done that to me.
This insult, however, does not deter me from flying with them on most occasions that I travel as I want to continue to show my respect to their gallant founder, HUDSON FYSH, a very great Australian. Indeed, one of the very greatest.
The thoughts of a proud Aussie.