Blue Plaque for James Viscount Bryce

Blue Plaque for James Viscount Bryce
Unveiling the plaque to James Viscount Bryce at 13 Chichester Street, Belfast on Friday 10 May 2013

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

The 'Mayfly' returns - honouring a pioneer aviator

By invitation from Newtownabbey Borough Council I attended the official opening of the newly named Lilian Bland Community Park in Glengormley. 

There was a good turnout with both the Mayor and Deputy Mayor, representatives of local historical and aviation societies and two of Lillian's descendants, Rev. Edward Pratt, great-grandnephew, and Mrs Imogen Holmes, great-grandneice.  

A major feature of the new park was a sculpture of Lilian's bi-plane, the Mayfly.

Lilian Bland
 Lilian Bland was born in Kent, and at the age of twenty-eight came to live at Tobercoran House, the family home in Carnmoney, near Belfast. By this stage she had earned a reputation as a press photographer and sports writer. Her aspirations were fired by Louis Bleriot's cross-Channel flight in 1909 and she began to construct a bi-plane glider, becoming the first woman in the British Isles, possibly in the world, to design, build and fly her own plane.

Blue Plaque
She named the plane 'Mayfly' with deliberate irony. The 'Mayfly' did fly, and she fitted an engine by A. V. Roe & Co. This modified craft flew successfully in 1910. It is said that her father's offer of a car diverted her attention to running a motor agency, and she then married and left for Vancouver where she married a cousin and carved out a farm on virgin land. In 1935 she retired to Cornwall, 'gambling, painting and gardening' - to quote her own words.  

At the age of ninety-three the Belfast Telegraph quoted her as saying that the only excitement left to her was gambling. 

Some years ago the Circle unveiled a blue plaque on the site of Tobercoran House. Mayfly was presented to the Dublin Flying Club.
 Alderman William Webb, Mayor of Newtownabbey, addressing the guests

The Mayfly, created by Skelton Rainey, who was at the opening

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