A Brief History of Lady Mary Bailey

By Willie Bodenstein


Born on 1 December 1890 Dame Mary Bailey, Lady Bailey, DBE, the daughter of aristocratic parents was an Irish aviator born at Rossmore Castle, County Monaghan.

Adventurous from a young age, Dame Mary bought a motorbike in her youth and by 1914 was gaining a reputation for speeding. During the first world war, she volunteered as an aviation mechanic and served in Britain and France, associated with the Royal Flying Corps.

Mary was awarded a pilot's licence in early 1927 and became the first woman to fly across the Irish Sea. On 5 July 1927 she set a world's height record of 17,283 feet (5268 m) in a light aircraft category, flying DH.60 Cirrus II Moth.

Leaving Croydon in the UK on 9 March and 30 April 1928, she flew solo for 8,000 miles in her de Havilland Cirrus Moth arriving in Cape Town on 30 April. She left Cape Town in September 1928 again her Cirrus Moth now fitted with extra fuel tanks. The return journey took her across the Congo, up the west coast of Africa, then across Spain and France back to the UK. At 18000 miles it was the longest solo flight and longest flight accomplished by a woman then.

Mary Bailey passed away on29 July 1960 aged 69 in Kenilworth, Cape Town, South Africa.

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