Sundowner of the Skies - Updated edition
The story of Oscar Garden , the forgotten aviator
|Format||Paperback / softback|
|Book Size||123 mm (H x W x D)|
|Imprint||New Holland Publishers|
|Release Date||16 Aug 2021|
|Subject Classification||The natural world, country life & pets / Wildlife: general interest|
In the early morning of 16 October 1930, Oscar Garden taxied his tiny Gipsy Moth he had named Kia Ora, across London’s Croydon aerodrome. His plan was to fly to Australia, which was sheer madness as he only had a mere 39 flying hours under his belt. When he landed at Wyndham 18 days later no one was expecting him. However, his flight — the third fastest after veteran aviators Bert Hinkler and Charles Kingsford — captured the world’s imagination.
The press dubbed him ‘Sundowner of the Skies’. Unlike most of his contemporaries who died in crashes, Oscar survived and went on to a career in commercial aviation. In April 1940, he delivered the flying boat, Awarua, to Auckland for Tasman Empire Airways Limited (TEAL), the forerunner of Air New Zealand. In 1943 he became TEAL’s Chief Pilot and Operations Manager; as the ‘Boss’ of this fledgling company, he steered it through its formative years, but left suddenly in 1947. He never flew a plane again.
Sundowner of Skies is a deeply personal study told by his daughter Mary Garden. ‘He was an absolutely bitter, cold, authoritarian bastard of a father’, says Mary. ‘This is a warts and all account of a flawed character.’ Until recently, she knew little about her father’s life as an aviator. As well as digging up his amazing flying adventures, she uncovers his tumultuous childhood in north Scotland, the ghosts of his past, which he could not escape and shines a light on the intergenerational trauma that impacted her own life.
New Zealand born Mary Garden is a freelance writer and has a PhD in journalism. Her first book The Serpent Rising: a journey of spiritual seduction (1988; 2003) is a memoir of her years in India in the 1970s where she fell under the spell of various self-appointed ‘god-men’. It was one of the first books to shine a light on the danger of the guru-disciple relationship, especially for naïve Westerners.
In 2005 she wrote a long-form feature on her father’s epic flight which was published in the Australian Financial Review. The huge response to this from readers all over the world led her on a journey to research his life and write his remarkable story.