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Beryl Markham (nee Clutterbuck) (1902-1986). Her father, Charles Clutterbuck, was a retired British army captain who moved his family to British East Africa (later Kenya) from Leicestershire, England when she was three. She spent the majority of her life there as a bush pilot of some notoriety. Ms. Markham was the first person to fly alone across the Atlantic Ocean from London to North America (east-west; Charles Lindbergh did it the other way around). This flight occurred in September, 1936. She ended up nearly killing herself; her plane ran out of fuel a little east of Cape Breton and she piloted the plane into a peat bog headfirst. It was a brand new Vero Gull aircraft with no radio.

Educated at the Nairobi European School, Ms. Markham was a singularly intriguing woman. She was a daddy's girl from all accounts, her life dominated by men and separated from her mother, Clara, early on - the rugged African life did not really agree with her. She had an older brother, Richard, and considered herself to be "orphaned" at the age of 4 due to her mother and older brother leaving. She spoke at least five dialects of tribal Africans, as well as Swahili.

She published a book in the early 1940s, West with the Night, which chronicled her life and this flight. Rumors mention the author of the book was really her second husband, Raoul Schumacher - the manuscripts (which she kept until her death in 1986) were written in his hand, although she had claimed they authored the book together.

Horses were apparently Ms. Markham's first love, and she returned to training them after a close friend died in an air race and stopped flying. She died in 1986 after a battle with pneumonia.

She had one child from her first marriage to Mansfield Markham in 1927, whom they named Gervase Markham. Her daughter died at 42 in a car accident in Paris; she had two granddaughters.

Sourced from:

  • Woman Pilot Magazine, http://www.womanpilot.com/past%20issue%20pages/2000%20issues/jan%20feb%202000/beryl.htm
  • http://www.karenblixen.com/gale.html
  • http://www.who2.com/berylmarkham.html

No human pursuit achieves dignity unless it can be called work, and when you can experience a physical loneliness for the tools of your trade, you see that the other things - the experiments, the irrelevant vocations, the vanities you used to hold - were false to you.

I could never tell where inspiration begins and impulse leaves off. I suppose the answer is in the outcome. If your hunch proves a good one, you were inspired; if it proves bad, you are guilty of yielding to thoughtless impulse.

-- Beryl Markham

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