ERNEST ALFRED CROME, “JOINT FATHER of AEROPHILATELY”
This cover has been seen on 3 different websites, but two distinct copies were involved. These two were almost totally identical, and both were prepared by E.A. CROME, c/o J. Dougherty, Esq., Mission Station, Mornington Island, Gulf of Carpentaria. The 2d red KGVI head stamp is postmarked G.P.O. SYDNEY/ AIR/3-P21DE39/ 5/ N.S.W-AUST and there is a black manuscript “Received by parachute/ 23/12/39/ John Dougherty” with a purple handstamp MORNINGTON ISLAND. In addition, there is a purple handstamp QANTAS EMPIRE AIRWAYS LTD, associated with a black handstamp PER FLYING BOAT. “CORIO.” G.AEUH. PILOT. with the pilot’s signature (Capt.) R.B. Tapp.
At the bottom of the envelope there was a blue handstamp: If not claimed within days please return to, 43 Enmore Rd., Newtown, N.S.W. This cover is listed as #887 (70 flown) in Nelson Eustis The Australian Air Mail Catalogue, 4th Edition 1984 with the following additional information: The ordinary postage rates of 2d per oz applied and urgent supplies were also dropped (Figure 1).
Crome prepared, was sent or acquired a large collection of aerophilatelic covers and photographs of aviators, their planes and their autographs, and the following are just 2 more examples: One celebrating the South Australian Centenary Air Race Brisbane Adelaide, signed by P. Knapman VH-UTI/ PER KLEMM. EAGLE. VH. UTI./ NO. 29 (Eustis #677). All of the pilots (total of 31) in the race carried mail. The cover had the red 2d Centenary of South Australia stamp, postmarked SEMAPHORE/ 16 DE 39/ STH AUSTRALIA. The cover was addressed to Ernest A. Crome, Cavendish St. Stanmore, N.S.W. (Figure 2).
The postcard was sent to Crome c/o a New Zealand address on the first regular trans-Tasman flight from Sydney to Auckland on 2 May 1940 in the flying boat Aotearoa to Auckland, postmarked the day before. It was signed by the commander Capt. J.W. Burgess and the rest of the crew (Figure 3).
Ernest Alfred Crome (1902-1987) worked his way up from office boy to manager of the Newtown & Enmore Starr Bowkett Co-operative Building Society. In the 1920's when aviation at nearby Mascot Airport in Sydney was in its infancy he gave envelopes to pilots to sign and mail back to him. It was not until 1939 that he married his wife Virtie, and she continued to encourage him in his hobby. He went on to form one of the first aerophilatelic collections in Australia, and he may be considered as the joint father of Australian aerophilately, Nelson Eustis being the other. Crone sold his first collection to the National Library in Canberra in 1965, but soon began to build another one, now known as the EA & VI Crome collection.
The strength of his collection is early Australian aviation from 1910 to 1939, with a particular interest in the flights of Charles Ulm and Patrick Taylor. Crone also saw the space age as a logical development from aviation, and he continued to collect space stamps and covers. He was also a noted collector of music, in particular the violin, which he also donated to the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney. He was the author of the book From Ships to Helicopters: Aerophilately and the Sydney Harbour Bridge 1983. A picture of Chrome in 1963 is shown in Figure 4.
Mornington Island is the largest of 22 islands, part of the Wellesley Islands, in the Gulf of Carpentaria, in Queensland, located at 16 30 S, 139 30 E. The population was estimated to be 1007 as of 2001. The majority of the population are Aboriginal and the most populous town is Gununa, which began in 1914 when the Presbyterians sent missionaries to the island. The missionary John Dougherty has been a very elusive person, with multiple searches and enquiries giving minimal information, as follows: The South Australian Museum in its Archives mentions Dougherty as the sender or receiver of information concerning Mornington Island oyster picks, aboriginal vocabulary and fire making, as well as Mornington Island spear-throwers. The position of Mornington Island in the Gulf of Carpentaria in north-west Queensland is shown in Figure 5.
Addendum: Qantas produced an orange and brown vignette on 24 December 1946 (Eustis 1089a) for the parachute drop on Mornington Island (Figure 6).