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Henry Goya Henry (1901–1974)

by H. J. Gibbney

This article was published:

Henry Goya Henry (1901-1974), aviator and shipmaster, was born on 17 June 1901 at Grafton, New South Wales, third son of Thomas James Henry, medical practitioner, and his wife Emily, née Stephen, a great-granddaughter of John Stephen. Known as Goya, Henry was educated at Grafton High School. He made one voyage in a sailing ship; hoping to transfer later to medicine, he studied science at the University of Sydney in 1922-23. At St Matthew's Church, Windsor, on 11 April 1925 he married Marjory Alison Pursehouse, schoolteacher. He worked as a clerk.

Qualifying for a private flying licence on 28 January 1928, Henry was issued with a commercial licence on 6 June 1929, which he used principally in a barnstorming venture. On 6 July 1930, flying a Junkers Junior monoplane, he was caught in bad weather and crashed at Manly, killing his passenger and losing much of one leg. With a successful artificial leg, he eventually regained his commercial licence in 1932 and was employed by Air Taxi Ltd. About 1934 he bought a Genairco biplane, decorated it with a 'Jolly Roger' and used it for joy-rides.

In September 1934 Henry's licence was suspended for a fortnight for breaches of the air navigation regulations. Considering the sentence unjust, he defied the order: his licence was suspended indefinitely and he was prosecuted. Henry's brother Alfred Stephen, a solicitor, launched proceedings in the High Court of Australia in October 1934 for an order nisi. While judgment was pending Henry was charged with further offences, his licence was suspended again and he was forbidden to enter any aerodrome. The Henry brothers appealed again to the High Court for an injunction. In 1936 the High Court ruled in respect of the action of October 1934 that the Commonwealth had a right to regulate flights but only in conformity with international conventions on the subject; the court considered that the regulations in dispute did not accord with those conventions. The parties then agreed out of court that on the payment of damages by the Commonwealth, the injunction application would be struck out. Charged by a flight controller at Mascot during the ensuing temporary confusion with flying below the prescribed height, Henry appealed, this time unsuccessfully to the High Court.

After a verdict against him in the District Court, arising from a collision while taking off from Mascot, Henry was bankrupted in October 1938 and was not discharged until September 1940. Debarred by his artificial leg from the Royal Australian Air Force at the start of World War II, he joined the small ships unit of the United States Army in 1943 and sailed a small work boat around New Guinea. After the war he worked for the Papua-New Guinea division of the Directorate of Shipping as mate on the Kelanoa plying between Rabaul and Kavieng, and as master of the Matoko in 1950-51. When the shipping service was taken over by the administration of Papua-New Guinea, he became master of the Thetis sailing up and down the Sepik River. He retired about 1963 and returned to Sydney; although his flying licence had lapsed he tried to revive contact with aviation. He died childless at Manly of arteriosclerosis on 14 July 1974 and was cremated.

Short, fair, straight-backed and nimble in spite of his disability, Henry became a New Guinea character. He had collected and sold snakes for many years, thereby reinforcing his reputation as a daredevil. In later years he suffered from some alcoholic excess.

Select Bibliography

  • Pacific Islands Monthly, Sept 1966, p 130
  • Aircraft (Melbourne), Dec 1936, p 8, 1 Apr 1937, p 17
  • Commonwealth Law Reports, 1955, p 608, 695, 1961, p 634
  • Australian Flying, Sept 1974
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 7 July 1930, 11 Nov 1936, 17, 18 Sept 1940, 21 July 1974
  • Smith's Weekly (Sydney), 21 Nov 1936
  • bankruptcy file 249/1938, Federal Court of Australia (State Records New South Wales)
  • service record, (National Personnel Records Center, St Louis, Mo, USA)
  • A518 DB112/5, A432 34/1802, MP274/6 FL3918 (National Archives of Australia).

Citation details

H. J. Gibbney, 'Henry, Henry Goya (1901–1974)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 23 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (Melbourne University Press), 1983

View the front pages for Volume 9

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