Bust of flying ace Peggy Salaman to be sold at auction in Newmarket
- Credit: Archant
A bronze bust of flying ace Peggy Salaman, who set the fastest time for a light aircraft flight from London to Cape Town in 1931 at the age of just 20, is being sold by the Royal Aeronautical Society at Rowley’s Auctioneers, in Newmarket, this week.
The flight was accomplished in five days, six hours and 40 minutes, in a fragile single engine De Havilland Puss Moth, aptly named the “Good Hope”. The extraordinary feat brought Peggy instant international celebrity.
The stylised sculpture of her, completed in the 1930s, shortly after her trip to South Africa, was created by Frank Owen Dobson, who later became head of the Royal College of Art.
The bronze bust is expected to raise several thousand pounds when it is auctioned this coming Thursday.
Peggy was the daughter of a wealthy London businessman, she set off for Cape Town in October 1931, just a few months after she had qualified as a pilot, telling her mother, who had given her the De Havilland Moth as a birthday present: “Cheerio mummy, I am determined to do or die and believe me I’m going to do.”
She shared the historic flight with South African pilot and navigator Gordon Store plus a pair of bottle fed lion cubs who she had taken a shine to in Juba, in South Sudan.
The journey, although a success, was not without difficulties.
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On one occasion they were forced to land overnight in the bush only to realise at dawn that there was no hope of taking off again without creating a viable airstrip; while Store set about clearing vegetation with a machete, Peggy felled several trees with her revolver.
Peggy Salaman was 79 when she died in the United States in 1990 - her life-long passion remained flying.
During the 1950s on a trip to the United States, she met her second husband, Walter Bell, also a passionate aviator and the two explored America together by air. They eventually found Arizona, fell in love with the landscape, and decided to stay.
“The Good Hope’ was less fortunate.
It was put into military service in 1941 and was flown throughout the Second World War and survived miraculously unscathed. After passing into new hands in 1948 it crashed just a few months later and was broken up for parts.
Will Axon, Rowley’s senior valuer and auctioneer, said: “The early 1930s was a short period of optimism, people were trying to look forward to the future after the desperate losses of World War I. Everyone was embracing modernity, adventure, new exciting technologies and experiences – Peggy exemplified that spirit and in some ways so did Frank Owen Dobson - his stylised work is both aesthetically adventurous and modern. The early 1930s seemed to have been a heyday for both.”