Cabinet maker Tom Piper arrived in Ulverstone from Victoria in 1921 and set up business in Reiby Street. What an asset he proved to be.
If I were asked to describe the furniture showroom of Mr. T.H. Piper, cabinetmaker, Ulverstone, at the main entrance to which is the coveted sign, “Under Vice-Regal Patronage” – I should do so in one word – Elegance. For it is a word which embodies so much. Mr Piper’s furniture is known far and wide for its elegant finish, beauty of form, and refinement of line. The State Governor (Sir Ernest Clark) and Lady Clark, with their English ideas of perfection in manufacture, have realised the beauty and finish of Mr. Piper’s goods. Hence the sign in gold lettering at the entrance. The Vice-regal customers have purchased articles of furniture from time to time, and numerous souvenirs have been sent by them to friends in the Old Country. This a fine advertisement for Tasmania and for Ulverstone!” (Advocate December 7 1937.)
Mr Piper was soon making his mark far beyond Tasmania.
WOODWORK FOR WEMBLEY
There is a very fine exhibition of woodcraft in Mr A.S. Lakin’s shop window, Ulverstone, exhibited by Mr. T.H. Piper, of that town. There are articles all made from Tasmanian figured blackwood grown on the North West Coast. Mr Piper is exhibiting them in the British Empire Exhibition. This work will show the possibilities of the Tasmanian figured woods. The articles comprise a fruit bowl, a tea tray, a nut tray, a serviette ring, and a paper knife. (Examiner, Launceston August 23 1923.)
DIFFERENT WORLDS, BUT OLD FRIENDS
Tom Piper had served in the Royal Airforce during WWI with the pioneer aviator Bert Hinkler. They had both piloted Sopwith Camels. In 1917 Hinkler had been awarded the Distinguished Service Medal. He had a creative mind, and several of his wartime inventions made life safer for pilots and their crews.
During a speech at Ulverstone in the middle of WWII, Tom spoke of becoming a prisoner of war in Turkey in 1917.
His air squadron, he said, was attached to the British Fleet in the Eastern Mediterranean, its special job being to bomb the Berlin-Constantinople railway line and destroy bridges etc. In a duel between ships of the British and German navies he witnessed from the air the wonderful sight of the German cruiser Breslau striking three mines and foundering; while the Goeben was severely damaged by striking two mines. He and a fellow pilot (Flight Commander Hackman) were detailed to make a search for the base at which repairs were being effected, and it was while doing so that they were shot down. After disposing of everything that might be of use to the enemy they landed at Gallipoli, and were in the act of setting fire to their machine when taken prisoner by the Turks. There they remained for the duration of the war. (Advocate, December 3 1940)
A REUNION FOR TOM AND BERT
In February 1928 Hinkler made the first solo flight from England to Australia, becoming a national celebrity. Just a few months later he made a tour of Tasmania, and Tom Piper was behind Ulverstone’s success in being included on the itinerary. Tom also made a special presentation gift for the occasion. It was a figured blackwood cigarette box decorated with a silver map of Tasmania and inscribed; ‘Presented to Squadron Leader Bert Hinkler by members of the Ulverstone sub-branch of the Returned Soldiers’ League, May 12, 1928.’ (Advocate, May 11 1928)
Three thousand people turned out to welcome the aviator when he landed on Ulverstone beach. There was some disappointment when it was discovered that his wife Nance had not accompanied him. One little girl had a bouquet for Mrs Hinkler, which her husband promised to deliver at the next stop; Burnie.
When the diminutive Bert stepped from the cockpit he quipped, ‘Pipe, whatever are you doing moldering away in a little burg like this?’, Tom smiled and replied, ‘We can’t all be Hinklers you know Bert‘. It revealed their very different characters.
Hinkler died in 1933 aged just 40, when his plane crashed in Italy. He had been attempting another solo flight from England to Australia. Poor Nance had been waiting for him to arrive in New Zealand.
There was shock and confusion when another woman claimed Hinkler’s estate. It was revealed that despite being together for many years, he and Nance never married as Nance already had a husband. In fact, Bert had secretly wed Catherine Rose in the United States on May 21 1932, less than a year before his death.
From The Australasian, 23 December 1933;
Squadron-Leader Bert Hinkler’s estate is valued at £12,181, consisting almost entirely of bank deposits and war bonds in Queensland. As there is no will, the estate will be distributed according to the English intestacy law. His widow, Mrs Katherine [sic] Hinkler will receive £1,000 personal chattels and a life interest in the whole of the residuary estate……’
Oh what a tangled web. But how different times were in 1933 compared to today’s world of unrelenting media scrutiny. Nothing further was published on the matter for many years.
Tom Piper continued to live in Ulverstone; busy with his cabinet making business, his family and community affairs. He was the natural choice to make an honour board for the nearby village of Forth in1948.
Tom also loved fly fishing and was a grower and hybridiser of flowers, especially daffodils.
Tom was awarded the Order of Australia Medal. He died at Ulverstone in 1993, aged 102.
FOR MORE ON AVIATOR BERT HINKLER CLICK HERE.