Lilian Bland 1878 - 1971 Pioneer Aviator
A new sculpture incommemorates the remarkable achievements of Lilian Bland, the first woman in the world to design, build and fly her own aeroplane. In 1900 Lilian and her father came to live in Carnmoney, County Antrim, at the home of her aunt, Sarah Smythe.
Inspired by the daring exploits of the first airmen such as Louis Bleriot, Lilian constructed her aeroplane in the workshop and stables of her home, Tobercooran House. In February 1910, with the assistance of her aunt’s gardener, Joe Blain, Lilian first flew her aeroplane ‘The Mayfly’ as a glider on the slopes of Carnmoney Hill. She then bought an engine, brought it back from England and fitted it to her aircraft.
The Lilian Bland scuplture being constructed in the workshop.
Requiring a larger field for powered flight she arranged for it to be towed to Lord O’Neill’s 800 acre park at Randalstown. Her flying field was also home to a bull and as Lilian later wrote, “If it gets annoyed and charges I shall have every inducement to fly!” Her first flights from this location were made in August 1910. She continued to fly and improve her design until the spring of 1911, when her father encouraged her to give up this dangerous activity by offering to buy her a motor car. She later married and moved to Canada, but returned to England in 1935 and died in Cornwall at the grand age of 92.