Butler’s Farm via Minlaton, Harry Butler Centenary Celebrations

Centenary Celebration: Harry Butler’s famous flight across Gulf St Vincent

3-4 August, 2019

Les and Eileen had invited club members to the centenary event in Minlaton to celebrate Harry Butler’s famous flight. On 6th August 1919, Harry Butler flew his plane the ’Red Devil’ from Adelaide to Minlaton carrying airmail. This major event was the first flight over water in the Southern Hemisphere.
Provided with a wealth of information on the much anticipated event by Les and Eileen, some of our members travelled to Butlers Farm on Friday while the rest of us made our way there on Saturday morning. It is always a treat to stay at the farm with plenty of opportunities to sit around the campfire, go for a walk and see Colin Butler’s Clydesdale horses or dabble in some photography.
Les and Colin are great-nephews of Captain Harry Butler.

Saturday morning we had a choice of relaxing at the farm, joining volunteers from Friends of ‘Walk the Yorke’ to participate in the 20km Harry Butler Trail, or stroll around the Pepper Tree Markets in Minlaton. A delicious BBQ lunch, home made cakes and jams and other goodies were on offer at the markets (too hard to refuse!).
In the afternoon, we made our way just south of Minlaton to the unveiling of the impressive interpretive sign at the crash site. The Governor of South Australia, Hieu Van Le, along with other dignitaries and special guests welcomed everybody to the site. Les had previously informed us that in 1922 while Harry Butler was flying over some wheat fields near Minlaton, the engine seized on his Avro biplane, the ‘Red Devil’, causing the plane to crash. Harry survived, but never recovered from his serious injuries. After the ceremony, we had the opportunity to partake in the Harry Butler History Walk in Minlaton.
That night after dinner, some of us attended the Town Hall for the launch of two books on Harry Butler and Lainie Anderson’s book on Sir Ross and Keith Smith. Lainie was the MC and introduced the authors of the two books on Harry (Butler, that is). It was a packed house much to the delight of the organisers. Of course no country event is complete without a memorable supper! When growing up in Minlaton, I don’t remember seeing so many people in the Town Hall. Outside, an early film of aviation was projected onto the side wall of the Town Hall.
On Sunday morning, Trevor and Barb joined us as we gathered at the farm to follow Les and Eileen to Minlaton ‘airport’. At our campfire gathering the previous night, Les informed the men he had volunteered them to be marshals at the airfield! They must have done a good job as they kept people at bay from incoming planes and no one was injured!
When we arrived, a carver with a chainsaw was creating a wooden statue of Harry Butler with a propeller. Unfortunately if you were downwind, you were embellished with a cloud of sawdust.
As well as over 50 light aircraft, several model airplanes, a cavalcade of classic and vintage cars and motor bikes from Yorke Peninsula, there were food stalls, merchandise and local fundraising stalls. The day also included sky jumpers, a crash rescue demonstration and aerobatic displays. A helicopter pilot was kept busy all day taking visitors on flights over farms and parts of the southern coastline. Mark and Kerry enjoyed a flight on a biplane and Kerry was hoping to have some aerobatics included, but that was not allowed!
A highlight of the afternoon was the arrival of a Tiger Moth mail plane with the pilot delivering our special centenary postcards. The event was a great success with an estimated crowd of between 2,500 and 3,000 people. It was a beautiful sunny day and all profits went to the Royal Flying Doctor Service. Thanks to Les and Eileen for all their planning, accommodating us and providing such good weather for this historic event.