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The historic glider hill I live on

Anything to do with gliders & gliding.
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BrianF
Posts: 49
Joined: 19 Mar 2018, 09:36
Location: Brisbane AU

The historic glider hill I live on

Post by BrianF »

Hi, nowhere near as rich a history as the part of the world most of you reading are used to. If you like a story and are a bit bored or locked in, can't get a gliding fix, read on.

After I moved into here 22 years ago, an elderly widower a few doors down regularly came over for a chat. He and his wife built the first house in this area after the large original farm was sold off for a housing development in the early 50s. The house I'm in was the second built. The original large homestead is 5 doors away. He had lived in the area all his life and one day started talking about gliders being catapulted off the top of the hill.

Over the years I've tried to find information, hopefully a picture, nothing much turned up, usually something like "I remember my (insert relative) talking about that". Then one day I was sent this. Its from a handwritten story by a local business leader who has since passed away.

From what I can gather so far, one of the aircraft mentioned was likely a Zogling copy from plans, probably built by Wickner Aircraft. Geoffrey Wickner was an Englishman who came over in 1929, set up a company here in Brisbane, built some gliders for local glider clubs, airplanes and race cars for a few years before returning. The other glider? I don't know, two sources have said they weren't the same shape. If I can track down a photo of either one I'll probably attempt a model of it. I can see the area they launched from from my front door, its tall trees and houses now.

STAFFORD DIARY
by Robert Dunlop 2001

Saturday afternoon and it is glider day - kids and parents would move toward Sparkes Hill - time early 1930's.

My brothers and I would leave Evelyn Street, The Grange and by way of Kedron Brook and head toward the hill. A chance to do things on the way like most "wild" kids of those days - a 2 mile walk would end up being 3 miles by deviations to have a look at your turtle you had in a special creek pond - a small hole in the back edge of the shell and a length of string allowed the animal to stay in his own environment with almost daily inspection to see if he was ok - we would talk to him as if he was one of us. The string always broke at some time.

A few rocks pelted at a lone snag sticking up in the pools of the creek, collect a few corn husks from Hickey's dairy cultivation, chew on the grain (best time is when the corn is milky soft) - food of the god's.

Past the dump, inspect two huge green ants nests near the slip rail fences at the end of Grange road, before the now called Blackall bridge and over the bridge to drop some rocks on targets below. Past the dairy on the north east side - up around the front of the skin drying sheds that held hundreds of cattle hides salted and hung out to dry - the smells were part of the adventure and we thought no more of them than any other scent that crossed our path - up the bank and across flat that descended down to the creek at the back of Gibson's tannery - always a busy industry, down the creek bank to look for wild ducks nests and eggs (there used to be hundreds of them) and we also were able to short cut the Chinese vegetable gardens and below the bank we couldn't be seen and then on a track that is now Shand Street. About where the main bend in the road before the bridge is now, was a slaughter house - a tall building timber framed and walls of hardwood slats with spaces between with weathered white wash paint, a concrete floor and a concrete channel running towards the creek.

In this building in the days I remember it, two gliders were housed and we would arrive as adults would be removing the aircraft in pieces (wings and body and tail sections and we would all lend a hand to carry them up to the top of Sparkes Hill.

I don't remember much about assembly of the gliders but I do remember my favourite was the 'brown paper bag as my brothers and I referred to it (reason - every time it came to grief someone in authority would get a brown paper bag and tear it into a flat sheet and paste it over the tears and holes.

We always lined up on either side of a long rubber rope probably 30 kids and fathers with the middle, of the (rope) being fixed to the Glider's towing and release point. On a signal from someone and the glider pandemonium broke loose as yelling and running boys and girls tore down the hill side until our feet lost traction and the glider was released - we all fell over squealing with delight. If you were lucky you got a skinned knee or elbow to show off that you had been pulling with your best effort.

To look up and see that rubber band fall off the glider and writhe like a snake to the ground between the two pulling teams and the shadow of the gliders wings passing over you was excitement unsurpassed.

Falling over, dusting yourself off and carrying the (rope) up the hill again was done after the glider had finished its flight towards Happy Valley Road.

Having been part of launching someone into the air and watching how bad or well the pilot handled the flight was a young boy's dream - knowing at that time it wasn't for you as we would never have been able to afford even the timber or glue to put a glider together.

To look at Sparkes Hill now is not what it was in those days. If you are on the top of the hill face n/east (direction of Brisbane's prevailing winds) imagine a sloping clear spot at the top and a semi cleared space looking towards Shand Street in the direction of North West News (North West News and a wide area down the creek was Chinese vegetable gardens) I think a Mr.Wu owned the area. The Chinese had that market garden immaculate and supplied vegies to many local outlets. I add here that we heard the fliers saying they would do almost anything so as not to land in the gardens.

I mentioned the cleared spots - one was for spectators assembly and take off. The second was for the rubber rope gangs of kids and parents. The rest of the hill was studded with tree stumps longtime weathered and jutting from the ground like grey teeth. The first hazard facing the pilot was he would have to have enough lift to take off over the stumps. The glider always seemed to slide off the launching area go forward about 20m and dip down before lifting above the stumps etc. It all added to the excitement and then they would veer slightly left to avoid the gardens. The time in the air and the distance they flew was acknowledged by the kids and the spectators. There were a few accidents but I do not recall any fatal ones.

For kids who had nothing to be entertained and by participating in a great adventure and really being part of Queensland's future I think that Sparkes Hill has a place in Queensland's history books.

By the way the running, laughing excited boys and girls who ran downhill pulling the rubber band (rope) were replaced by modern technology - the glider group installed a "T" model Ford (if i remember correctly) car jacked up the back wheels and installed drum to pull the gliders off the hill. This must have given future pilots a lot more confidence than kids pulling on a rubber band but it sure took away the fun of laughing and glider by kid power and we were good at the job.

The gliders were either carried or slid back up the hill to the launching spot with pilots moving their hands in a swerving motion describing movement and wind gusts and all sort of guff we couldn't follow but I know they were thrilled with what they had done.

The towing launch took away the need for us kids to be there on Saturdays and we looked for other exciting things that Stafford and our loved Kedron Brook had to offer and believe me it had plenty to offer an enquiring mind.

The gliders were of wood construction - the body open framed - the pilot sat in front of the wing in his seat above a single metal skid. Construction would have been the same as a Tiger Moth or Avro Avian and covered with fabric and doped over. It always seemed to be that in the event of a crash the pilot would be the first thing to hit something. To say that they were brave is to put it mildly and this proved to be true as this is not the end of the story.

I was at a dinner at Strathpine one night and I related this story at the table and one old fellow across from me had a wry smile. He announced that he had been one of the pilots flying the gliders and when World War 2 started he served as a pilot in the R.A.A.F

Even a small event in your life can have a bearing on your future. The ghosts of those pilots will always be flying over Sparkes Hill
Der Himmel ist blau und die Luft ist gut!
www.seqsa.net

Ray_Eggleston
Posts: 28
Joined: 17 Mar 2015, 21:47

Re: The historic glider hill I live on

Post by Ray_Eggleston »

Brilliant story Brian. Many thanks for sharing.

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BrianF
Posts: 49
Joined: 19 Mar 2018, 09:36
Location: Brisbane AU

Re: The historic glider hill I live on

Post by BrianF »

I have discovered much more than I expected. After researching old newspaper articles and some reference material here on SSUK. I have identified that these gliders flew at the hill. Flying was quite regular for a number of years and was reported in the sports section of the newspapers. The site was cleared and flying began in 1932, it is 60m high. The last recorded "competiton" was 1937, the events were duration and height for primary and secondary type gliders. For example in April 1933, a new duration record of 77 seconds was achieved and a height of 300ft in the "Auk" (below). Luckily in the results, the glider involved was often mentioned. While the club had a limit of 12 active members (pilots), around 50 people attended to help launch and retrieve. There is a lot more to the story, however what did they fly?

These I can prove and I suspect two others.
Primary in Flight Brisbane.jpg

Typical of the Zogling style, a number of similar style primary gliders flew in clubs here. One was called "Volo" and it flew here often.
CW_2view_s.jpg

A glider was built from drawings of a Wright glider. It was called "Bluebird" due to all its supporting frame being painted blue. It was a regular sight. The pilot later designed and built a two seater secondary glider called "Pegasus" that held a number of duration records slope soaring on a range further south. It is very likely to have flown here as well. The owner lived nearby.
Postle Wasp.jpg

The "Postle Wasp" a locally designed and built glider that was covered in brown paper. This flew frequently.
After a crash the "tiperons" were replaced with ailerons. You can just see "Postle" written under the tail (I am doing plans for this one)
QLD Miss Spiller maybe in Auk.jpg

The "Auk" piloted by the club's secretary Elaine Spiller. She held many records and was the Australian first woman to gain A, B and C certificates.

The suspects are "Pegasus" as above and another locally designed and built glider called "Miss Queensland".
Miss Queensland small.jpg


Might model this one later as well.
Der Himmel ist blau und die Luft ist gut!
www.seqsa.net

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larrikin
Posts: 6
Joined: 29 Nov 2015, 01:39

Re: The historic glider hill I live on

Post by larrikin »

Volo? Well I'll be ....
Avatar is K7 VH-GQX in 1980.

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Max Wright
Posts: 78
Joined: 10 Mar 2020, 19:57
Location: Clayton Bay South Australia

Re: The historic glider hill I live on

Post by Max Wright »

larrikin wrote:
13 Oct 2020, 02:19
Volo? Well I'll be ....
Elminster seeks him . . . :?
Max

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BrianF
Posts: 49
Joined: 19 Mar 2018, 09:36
Location: Brisbane AU

Re: The historic glider hill I live on

Post by BrianF »

An F5J and a Dungeons and Dragons reference?

Volo - I fly (Latin) or flight (Italian)
I discovered yesterday it was named after the Latin meaning.

A new addition to my library arrived yesterday, "Gliding in Australia" by Alan Ash 1992, has a section on early Brisbane gliders.
Fills in some gaps, including the reason for the name. What I've found fills in gaps in the book.
Der Himmel ist blau und die Luft ist gut!
www.seqsa.net

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Max Wright
Posts: 78
Joined: 10 Mar 2020, 19:57
Location: Clayton Bay South Australia

Re: The historic glider hill I live on

Post by Max Wright »

As distinct from "Volvo" = I roll. :D
Max

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BrianF
Posts: 49
Joined: 19 Mar 2018, 09:36
Location: Brisbane AU

Re: The historic glider hill I live on

Post by BrianF »

I'm already well into drawing up the plans for a 1/4 scale "Postle Wasp", the "Brown Paper Bag".
One advantage of being housebound (due ankle fusion surgery, not Covid) is that I finally have an opportunity to do things at the opposite end of my build list. Even some that aren't on it!
Der Himmel ist blau und die Luft ist gut!
www.seqsa.net

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