SUNDOWNER OF THE SKIES: Oscar Garden was the youngest and most inexperienced person to fly solo to Australia from England in 1930. His daughter's book reveals his true story.
SUNDOWNER OF THE SKIES: Oscar Garden was the youngest and most inexperienced person to fly solo to Australia from England in 1930. His daughter's book reveals his true story.

Biography a soulful story of the 'forgotten aviator'

A MALENY woman's journey to discover more about her family has resulted in a "rattling, searing, soulful" story about her father's legendary achievements in aviation.

Mary Garden's third book, Sundowner of the Skies: The story of Oscar Garden, the forgotten aviator, tells the story her father, who achieved notoriety when he became the youngest and most inexperienced pilot to fly solo from England to Australia in 1930.

Unlike other early aviators, the 27-year-old sought no publicity. But after he flew into Wyndham on November 4, a London newspaper called him a "Sundowner of the skies".

"That flight was considered the toughest feat in aerial aviation at that time. They had open cockpits, they had no instruments, he'd hand-drawn maps ... and he did it in 18 days," Ms Garden said.

"Almost all those early aviators died in crashes, it was extremely dangerous. But he kept flying," she said.

The biography delves into the story of a man who's been described as the unsung hero of aviation.
The biography delves into the story of a man who's been described as the unsung hero of aviation.

Oscar went on to a successful career in aviation, including becoming chief pilot and operations manager of the fledgling airline Tasman Empire Airways Limited, the forerunner to Air New Zealand.

But he left his career before his daughter was born and became a tomato grower in New Zealand.

He never flew a plane again, and was soon forgotten.

Until writing the book, Ms Garden said she knew little about her father's flying days. When he died in 1997, it was too late for her to talk to him about his life.

Ms Garden allows her father his achievements in the biography, but is vehement about his failings and his hardness and cruelty as a father.

Oscar Garden died in 1997.
Oscar Garden died in 1997.

She said writing the book turned out to be a "healing" journey as well as finding out why Oscar became the way he did.

"He was such a cruel, authoritarian, emotionally shut-down man," she said.

"We had this deeper understanding of why he was so damaged. It made us much more understanding and much more empathetic.

"No one's either good or bad. We're all impacted by our past.

"It was a very healing process for me. There is no better therapy than going on a historical journey into your past."

Maleny author Mary Garden says writing a book about her father's aviation achievements was a
Maleny author Mary Garden says writing a book about her father's aviation achievements was a "healing” journey.

Ms Garden said since the book's release on Monday, she had received an overwhelming amount of positive feedback.

"I made it my journey," she said. "Even though the focus is on Oscar, and the fact that he is this great aviator that should be acknowledged ... I also wanted my story through it.

"I wanted it to have a much broader appeal. So people who are not interested in aviation and who aren't even interested in history will read it and enjoy it."

Ms Garden will launch Sundowner of the Skies at the RSL Hall Maleny today at 2pm.

Tickets are $10 per person. To book, visit trybooking.com/book/sessions?eid=492637.

Sundowner of the Skies, written by Maleny author Mary Garden, has just been released.
Sundowner of the Skies, written by Maleny author Mary Garden, has just been released.

Sundowner of the Skies retails at $29.99 and is available from all good book retailers or online at newhollandpublishers.com.



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