The Bush Poets Night is an Outback Air Race tradition. The Bald Eagles (Geoff, Peter and Marie Nicholson) sponsor the night, which is in honor of the late Keith and Joy Nicholson (the original Bald Eagles) and involves teams producing their own poem. The theme and winner are picked by Geoff, Peter and Marie.
Some info about Keith and Joy:
Keith joined the Empire Air Training Scheme in the early 1940, flew Beauforts on anti submarine patrol up and down the east coast, and then Beaufighters with 30 SQN in New Guinea were he had a close call with Japanese AA fire (see photo below). The Beaufighter, called whispering death because of its quiet engines (sleeve valves, complex muffler) 300kt attack speed and four 20mm cannons out the nose and 6 machine-guns on the wing. Very successful at destroying Japanese positions in the jungle and ships – instrumental in the destruction of a Japanese invasion convoy at the battle of the Bismark Sea. Keith’s ability to “hit the target” on time using visual methods only has helped the Baldies win many OAR legs – when the finish point is identified visually, we go visual and adjust speed based on estimated time to target.
After New Guinea, Keith was the (sole) test pilot at the RAAF Aircraft Depot in Kalgoorlie which was a strategically important base for aircraft maintenance and ferrying of aircraft across the country. He was involved in the night–time search and rescue of a crashed spitfire pilot (no GPS or navaids in those days). While in Kal, he flew most of the RAAFs aircraft including Spitfires. One of his roles in Kalgoorlie was to ferry staff to and from FORREST (the next strip east of Kalgoorlie on the East–West air communication route during WWII). During the 1998 OAR he was interviewed in Forrest by the ABC to talk about his WWII experiences.
During the 1998 OAR Keith and I flew KFR at night from Esperance (which was completely socked in because of a cyclonic front) back to Kalgoorlie, dodging storm cells and I did my first solo night landing there. Two OAR aircraft made emergency landings on paddocks and roads and another had to be rescued by the race director flying out into the storm to escort them into Esperance. KFR got back to Kalgoorlie because of her 384litre fuel tanks
In the 1960’s Keith founded the Northam aeroclub including building the strip. Was involved for many years with the RAAF Association Aeroclub. He and I bought KFR in the early 1990s. Flying until he got suddenly sick at age 84, just before an OAR, so he never got to go on another one.
We decided to sponsor the Bush Poets night because Keith was renowned for reciting poems that he had written and very much enjoyed doing so on the early OARs
Joy went to university before the war and was a School Teacher a East Boulder School (under the flight path of the Kalgoorlie strip) when she met Keith, she flew with him very regularly – he was the only pilot she ever trusted. Joy did the ‘time-keeping’ for the race legs contributing to Baldies winning a few race legs. Joy made sure that her 3 sons went to university and onto postgraduate degrees.