Elaine Forrestal

Hidden treasure

Inscription written by Nancy Bird, a very famous Australian pioneer aviator in her own right.

Since John Ulm loaned me his precious copy of Faith in Australia: Charles Ulm and Australian Aviation, written by his father’s secretary, Ellen Rogers, and published privately in 1987, I have dreamed of owning my own copy. I read it first in the National Library and was aware that only 1500 copies were ever printed so the possibility of my dream coming true was very remote. The book is not digitised anywhere and to save me having to go to Canberra again specifically to check on a few facts, John bravely committed his own rare copy to the vagaries of Australia Post. On this occasion they managed to carry it safely across the country – by airmail, of course. I returned it to John but, as with all research, I only know exactly which details will be important as the writing progresses and very often the precise piece of information I need is not in my copious notes. Very frustrating!

However, due to the all pervading internet my husband, Peter, was able to track down a copy of the book to a bookstore in America. There was a snag, though. The bookshop owner was adamant that they did not ship books to customers living outside the USA. To reassure him that Australia is not some planet in outer space, Peter phoned this man, offering ready money up front, to cover the cost of the book and the shipping. Still no deal. Eventually, after contacting his friends in California, Peter was able to buy the book and have it shipped to their address in Carmel, USA. Naturally it took a while. But eventually a parcel arrived in Scarborough, WA, and I opened it with grateful thanks. Imagine my amazement and delight when I opened up the book and found, on the flyleaf, this beautifully written inscription.

“This book is one of 1500 privately printed to record a missing page in Australia’s aviation history. I was on the aerodrome at this time and frequently saw Ulm and his crew. It is great that his story has been told.    Nancy Bird, 1987

To Jack and Liz Murphy with love”

Who could possibly have guessed that such a treasure would accidentally fall into the hands of the one person who would value and appreciate it the most – apart from 95 year old John Ulm himself? He knew Nancy Bird personally but is one of the few people still alive today who did. It has given me enormous pleasure to be able to share this find with John.