WHEN Paul McGinness looked into the sky as a boy growing up in Framlingham he could not envisage the legacy he would leave in aviation.
Every Qantas passenger can be thankful for his vision in starting what is now one of the world’s oldest and best airlines.
The spotlight will shine on him today in Melbourne at the launch of his biography, The Man Australia Forgot, written by his daughter the late Pauline Cottrill to give her father his rightful place in Aussie history.
Many of the words and illustrations contained in the book came through painstaking research by another local hero, the late Gwen Cole, also from Framlingham, and veteran Warrnambool historian Elizabeth O’Callaghan who first edited Ms Cottrill’s original manuscripts.
It’s a story of tenacity, bravery and adventures of a hero, nicknamed Ginty, who was born and raised in the Framlingham district, the youngest of 10 children.
Even in his younger years the prosect of flying took his fancy — he put wings on top of a bicycle and hurtled downhill, only to crash.
His horseriding skills served him well when he enlisted at the age of 18 and headed off to the First World War, arriving at Gallipoli in 1915.
He was one of the few survivors of the charge at the Nek in which he was wounded and was later awarded a Distinguished Conduct Medal for his many acts of courage at Gallipoli.
His daughter, who brought her manuscripts to Mrs O’Callaghan about six years ago, said he graphically described to her every detail of those horrible war scenes 30 years later.
As he watched military planes flying overhead it rekindled his desire for the skies and prompted him to transfer to the Royal Flying Corps.
After his first flight he is said to have remarked “that is why I was born”.
That revved up his quest for adventure and in 1918 he was posted to fly for Lawrence of Arabia for five weeks in a secret squadron called the X-wing.
A few months later he was shooting trains and German aircraft. On one occasion he engaged seven enemy aircraft at once and downed two.
With seven confirmed hits he was recognised as an air ace and later awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.
His war medals were purchased by Qantas in 2011 and this week were loaned for display at Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance for five years.
The gunner in McGinness’ fighter plane was Hudson Fysh, a young Tasmanian, who would become his business partner and co-pilot in setting up Qantas.
Years later Fysh described McGinness as “an adventurous spirit with loads of guts” and “the one who supplied the first spark and then the others would come along”.
On the boat trip home after the war they decided to enter the 1919 England to Australia air race, but their plans were abandoned when financial backing fell through.
They found employment doing survey work for the air race route in northern Australia before McGinness led a push to establish an air service known as Qantas (Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services Limited).
His hunt for backing even entailed a trip to Terang to board a train carrying prime minister Billy Hughes to lobby for the Queensland mail service contract.
Unfortunately, McGinness had a distinct dislike for red tape and after piloting the first official mail service flight from Charleville to Longreach, walked away from the enterprise and headed off to Western Australia for farming.
Mrs O’Callaghan says the resignation came after he was outvoted in a board meeting regarding a total ban of alcohol for pilots.
Fysh stuck with the company and had the entrepreneurial skills to take the fledgling airline to its full international potential.
Today it is the oldest airline in the English-speaking world and has the second oldest surviving airline name — KLM being a few weeks older.
McGinness experienced several financial and personal setbacks and at one stage wrote to Fysh asking for a job, but was turned down.
At the age of 44 he rejoined the air force to help with the war efforts rising to the rank of squadron leader, before a heart attack prompted his repatriation to Melbourne where he investigated air crashes including one at Purnim.
After the war he tried rural enterprises in Queensland and Western Australia before being hospitalised in 1951 and dying in 1952 at the age of 55.
Sadly, at his graveside in Karrakatta the only two people apart from the undertakers were his first wife Dorothy and his daughter Pauline.
In her manuscripts Pauline wrote the sad words: “Paul McGinness is indeed a forgotten hero in a lonely grave. The only person who visits his grave is his daughter Pauline who still sheds tears when she goes there”.
Sadly she didn’t live to see the publication, but the book’s cover lauds her with the words: “This is the story of a true Australian hero. A story almost lost but for the life-long, unswerving tenacity of one woman — his daughter and greatest champion, Pauline Cottrill”.
The preface gives due credit to Ms Cole saying “without whom this book would never have been written”.
For Mrs O’Callaghan there’s the quiet satisfaction that her editing work helped get the book to print.
It is available from the Qantas Founders Museum in Longreach at $19.95 plus postage.