Podcast Episode 315: Beryl Markham’s Unconventional Life


Beryl Markham managed to fit three extraordinary careers into one lifetime: She was a champion racehorse trainer, a pioneering bush pilot, and a best-selling author. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll review her eventful life, including her historic solo flight across the Atlantic in 1936.

We’ll also portray some Canadian snakes and puzzle over a deadly car.


In 1974, Stewart Coffin devised a topological puzzle without a solution.

In August 1972, Applied Optics determined that Heaven is hotter than Hell.

Sources for our feature on Beryl Markham:

Mary S. Lovell, Straight on Till Morning: The Life of Beryl Markham, 2011.

Beryl Markham, West With the Night, 1942.

Derek O’Connor, “The Remarkable Mrs. Markham,” Aviation History 28:2 (November 2017), 54-59.

Paula McLain, “An Insanely Glamorous Love Triangle,” Town & Country, Sept. 2, 2015.

Nate Pederson, “West With the Night,” Aviation History 20:1 (September 2009), 62-62.

Diana Ketcham, “Bad Girl,” Nation 245:17 (Nov. 21, 1987), 600-602.

Beryl Markham, “The Splendid Outcast,” Saturday Evening Post 217:10 (Sept. 2, 1944), 12.

“Aviator Beryl Markham Went With the Wind,” [Durban] Sunday Tribune, June 4, 2017, 13.

Erin Pottie, “Piece of History?”, [Halifax, N.S.] Chronicle-Herald, Aug. 25, 2015, A1.

“Beryl Markham: An Obituary,” Times, Aug. 5, 1999, 25.

Jane O’Reilly, “Never Down to Earth,” New York Times, Oct. 3, 1993.

Christopher Reed, “Inside Story: Beryl’s Crash Landing,” Guardian, Sept. 29, 1993.

Frances Padorr Brent, “Beryl Markham: Truly Adventurous But Perhaps Less Than Honest,” Chicago Tribune, Sept. 12, 1993, 6.

Sylvia O’Brien, “For Whom Beryl Toiled,” International Herald Tribune, Sept. 9, 1993.

“Ghost Story,” New York Times, Aug. 29, 1993.

Robert Savage, “Rediscovering Beryl Markham,” New York Times, Oct. 4, 1987, A.50.

Nancy Lemann, “Stories Under a Shadow,” St. Petersburg Times, Sept. 27, 1987, 6D.

“Africa Bush Pilot Beryl Markham, 83,” Chicago Tribune, Aug. 6, 1986, 7.

Burr Van Atta, “Beryl Markham, 83, First Pilot to Cross the Atlantic East to West,” Philadelphia Inquirer, Aug. 5, 1986, B.6.

“Beryl Markham, Aviation Pioneer, 83,” Newsday, Aug. 5, 1986, 27.

“Beryl Markham,” Globe and Mail, Aug. 5, 1986, C.12.

“Beryl Markham Is Dead at 83; Flew Across Atlantic in 1936,” Associated Press, Aug. 5, 1986.

“Mrs. Beryl Markham Wed,” New York Times, Oct. 18, 1942.

“Beryl Markham Seeks Divorce,” New York Times, Oct. 6, 1942.

Talbot Lake, “Beryl Markham Writes of Her Hectic Life,” [Mount Clemens, Mich.] Daily Monitor Leader, July 24, 1942.

Jane Spence Southron, “Personal Record Out of Africa; Beryl Markham’s Autobiography Is Vivid, Evocative Writing,” New York Times, June 21, 1942.

“Conquers Atlantic in Daring Flight,” [Washington, D.C.] Evening Star, Sept. 13, 1936.

“Mrs. Markham, English Society Matron, Has Only Headache to Remind Her of Lone Ocean Flight,” United Press, Sept. 7, 1936.

“Woman Takes Off on Lone Hop to Try East-West Crossing,” [Elizabeth City, N.C.] Daily Independent, Sept. 5, 1936.

“Woman Flyer Conquers Atlantic, But Low Gas May Cut Flight Short,” Associated Press, Sept. 5, 1936.

“English Woman Flier Is Grounded in Nova Scotia After Crossing Atlantic,” Henderson [N.C.] Daily Dispatch, Sept. 5, 1936.

“English Woman Begins Solo Hop Across Atlantic,” Associated Press, Sept. 4, 1936.

“Lone Woman Flier Starts West Swing,” Henderson [N.C.] Daily Dispatch, Sept. 4, 1936.

“Beryl Markham,” Encyclopaedia Britannica, July 30, 2020.

C.S. Nicholls, “Markham [née Clutterbuck], Beryl,” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Sept. 23, 2004.

Listener mail:

“Sir Nicholas Winton 1909-2015,” England Fencing.

“Bobby Winton 1914-2009,” British Veterans Fencing.

“Nicholas Winton Honoured by the Czechs for Saving Children From the Nazis,” British Fencing.

CRIBS International website.

“Statue for ‘British Schindler’ Sir Nicholas Winton,” BBC News, Sept. 18, 2010.

“Sir Nicholas Winton,” Maidenhead Heritage Centre, accessed September 25, 2020.

“U-Haul SuperGraphics – Manitoba,” accessed September 30, 2020 (for the specific graphic that Rebecca saw).

“About U-Haul SuperGraphics,” accessed Oct. 1, 2020.

“Manitoba: Female Impersonators,” accessed Oct. 1, 2020.

“Venture Across America and Canada,” accessed Sept. 30, 2020.

This week’s lateral thinking puzzle was contributed by listener Marie Nearing, who sent this corroborating link (warning — this spoils the puzzle).

You can listen using the player above, download this episode directly, or subscribe on Google Podcasts, on Apple Podcasts, or via the RSS feed at https://futilitycloset.libsyn.com/rss.

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Many thanks to Doug Ross for the music in this episode.

If you have any questions or comments you can reach us at podcast@futilitycloset.com. Thanks for listening!