The Mayor of Newtownabbey, Alderman Billy Webb joined relatives of the late Lilian Bland yesterday at the re-naming ceremony of Glengormley Park to The Lilian Bland Community Park and the unveiling of The May Fly Sculpture.
Speaking at the event the Mayor commented;
“The Council commissioned this sculpture and the re-naming of Glengormley Park in commemoration of the remarkable achievements of Lilian Bland, who between 1909 and 1911 carried out aviation experiments at Tobarcooran House with the result that she was the first woman in the world to design, build and fly her own aeroplane, flying off Carnmoney Hill.
Today we can fly across the world, breaking the speed of sound. Yet just over 100 years ago, this lady in Carnmoney was taking early strides in the development of aviation. What she would make of modern flight we can only guess and what makes it all the more fascinating is that her first flight was only yards from where we stand today.
It is hoped the story of Lilian Bland will be an inspiration to others as they learn to appreciate this incredible woman, a true pioneer aviator.”
In February 1910, with the assistance of Joe Blain, a Carnmoney man, who worked at Tobarcooran House, Lilian first flew her aeroplane, The Mayfly, as a glider. She later bought an engine, before test flying the Mayfly at the Deerpark in Randalstown. After her successful flight, Lillian married her cousin and emigrated to Canada, before retiring to Kent and Cornwall where she died in 1971 in her 92nd year.
Today’s recognition follows the unveiling of a Blue Plaque by the Ulster History Circle and Newtownabbey Borough Council in 1996 at Lillian’s home in Newtownabbey.