Among the treasures from the Trevor Kennedy collection, purchased recently by the Australian National Museum, is a unique brooch. It was made-to-order in Amsterdam for pioneer aviator Charles Kingsford Smith, as a gift for his bride to be, Mary Powell.
The couple had become engaged on Mary’s 19th birthday, December 10 1929. This was very soon after their first meeting aboard the passenger ship Aorangi. I love this report from The Evening News, (Rockhampton) December 15;
Subsequently, Kingsford Smith travelled to Amsterdam, where his famous plane The Southern Cross was being reconditioned at the Fokker factory. He then flew the plane back to Australia, with the brooch in tow.
The story goes that ‘Smithy’ had hidden the jewel deep in the fuselage of the Southern Cross, to avoid paying what would have been a large amount of duty. When custom officials left he quietly retrieved it.
It was fashioned from platinum, diamonds and sapphires, in the shape of the Southern Cross, in which he had made that first flight across the Pacific in 1928.
The letters on the wing picked out in sapphires refer to the registration number VH-USU.
An adoring public flocked to the wedding, and in the crush, the poor bridesmaids’ dresses were torn!
The following is from The Register News-Pictorial on December 11 1930.
Miss Powell arrived amid cheering. In her bridal gown she was just as sweet as the crowd had hoped she would be….The service conducted by Dr. Borland was short, and marred only by the noise made by people at the back of the church, who talked and stood on the pews.
SOUTHERN CROSS BROOCH
Kingsford Smith presented his wife with a diamond and sapphire brooch of the Southern Cross in miniature, and each of the bridesmaids with a gold brooch – a model of his plane. He had autographed each one.
Kingsford Smith was knighted in June 1932. There was further excitement when his little boy, Charles Jnr., was born in late December the same year. The baby was christened by Dr Borland, who had officiated at the couple’s wedding,
THE KINGSFORD SMITHS CROSS THE DITCH
SYDNEY, FRIDAY –
In January 1934 Lady Mary left by the ship Monterey for New Zealand. She was farewelled at the wharf by her adoring husband, who then flew above the ship in a final goodbye gesture. He was due to join her shortly afterwards, crossing the Tasman to take the Southern Cross on a ‘barnstorming’ tour of the country. Baby Charles remained at home.
Here is an extract from a piece published in The Sun, January 10 1934;
Lady Kingsford Smith wore the aeroplane brooch of diamonds which Sir Charles bought for her in Holland, and which is generally her sole ornament. She chose a brown and beige ensemble, with a small hat, today, adding crocheted gloves in the beige shade.
VALE SIR CHARLES KINGSFORD SMITH
On November 8 1935, Kingsford Smith and co-pilot ‘Tommy’ Pethybridge were attempting to break the England-Australia speed record. Their plane, the Lady Southern Cross, disappeared while flying between Allahabad in India to Singapore. The bodies were never recovered. Charles Kingsford Smith had died aged just 38.
Mary remarried, but late in her life she was still wearing that gorgeous, romantic gift.
FOR MORE BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION ON SIR CHARLES KINGSFORD SMITH, CLICK HERE.
THE TREVOR KENNEDY COLLECTION – BEFORE BEING SOLD AND/OR DONATED TO THE MUSEUM.