Hull: Amy Johnson Cup for Courage returns after 12 years

Amy Johnson
Image caption,Amy Johnson in 1930 at the London Aeroplane Club

Hull City Council is inviting nominations for the 2024 Amy Johnson Cup for Courage after a 12-year hiatus.

Nominees must be 17 or under, have been born in Hull and have to have committed a “signal act of courage” in the previous year while living in the city.

The Cup for Courage was first awarded in 1931, arising from the famous local aviator’s solo flight to Australia.

Midge Gillies, Miss Johnson’s biographer, said: “A part of [Amy Johnson] would always be a Hull girl.”

The last award-winner was Keleighsha Thorpe in 2012, who was 10 when she saved her grandmother’s life after their home in Clarendon Street was targeted by arsonists.

She had woken in the night and smelt smoke, then woke her grandmother in time for them both to escape the burning building.

Her name was entered in the city’s roll of honour at the Guildhall as a result.

Alison Henderson, of Hull City Hall, explained that the 12-year break since 2012 – the longest ever without the trophy being awarded – had happened because the responsibility for organising it had fallen through the cracks after staff changes.

The award originated shortly after Amy Johnson made her record-breaking solo flight to Australia in 1930, in her Gipsy Moth biplane called Jason.

One of the many gifts she received after her arrival down under was gold bullion worth £25, the money for which had been collected and presented to her by the children of Sydney, New South Wales, as a gesture of appreciation.

On her return to Hull she donated the sum to the city corporation, as it was then, along with a trophy.

A deed was drawn up establishing the Cup for Courage to be awarded annually. The deed stated that Miss Johnson intended it to establish “some connection between the children of Australia and the children of England”.

Cup for Courage
Image caption,The trophy has been awarded on 34 occasions since 1931

Ms Gillies, author of Johnson’s 2003 biography Queen of the Air, said: “The Cup for Courage is harder to award than you would imagine.

“You have to go through the schools, police and fire service to find a suitable candidate. There have been many years when it wasn’t awarded at all because it wasn’t possible to find anyone.

“Amy said at the time that she thought of it as being not just for physical courage but for moral courage too.”

‘Moral courage’

According to city council documents, the terms of the 93-year-old trust “indicate that it was Miss Johnson’s wish not to encourage any foolhardy acts by young people but… to foster and encourage those acts which occur from time to time in respect of rendering assistance to others and saving others from injury”.

“The idea of courage is so interesting,” said Ms Gillies. “These days women have the chance to be physically courageous, more so than in Amy’s time.

“But on the other hand we all have to stand up and be counted. Moral courage might be something like standing up to prejudice.”

British aviator Amy Johnson
Image caption,British aviator Amy Johnson died after her aircraft crashed into the Thames in 1941

Ms Gillies said that Amy Johnson was already an inspiration to young people after her Australia trip. “She used to get all sorts of letters and the envelopes would say things like ‘For Amy who lives in Hull’. But they still got there.

“She looked like a young girl, you see. But then with the flying she did something that was so physical. And then she became a motor mechanic as well because if you’re going to fly a biplane all the way to Australia on your own you have to be,” she said.

“I think she felt a heavy responsibility to continue to inspire young people,” said Ms Gillies.

‘A Hull girl’

“Amy was very fond of Hull and very loyal to Hull. But she didn’t have a Hull accent in the recordings of her, which bemused her friends. She sounded like Joyce Grenfell because she lost her accent when she went to London.”

Amy Johnson died in 1941 in circumstances that have provoked a lot of speculation over the years. But she has been immortalised in popular culture, including as a character in a Doctor Who story.

“Something else tragic about her life was that she lost a younger sister to suicide, so Hull had painful memories for her,” said Ms Gillies. “But a part of her would always be a Hull girl.”

Nominations for the 2024 Amy Johnson Cup for Courage should be sent to Hull City Council by 29 February.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *