Lilian Bland

Profile of the pioneer aviator

Born in Kent, Lilian Bland arrived in Carnmoney, near Newtownabbey, Co Antrim, in 1906. An emancipated young woman, she scandalised her new neighbours by riding astride her horse rather than side-saddle. Bland was also a professional writer and a talented photographer.

Intrigued by the new science of aviation, Bland studied the approaches taken by the Wright brothers and tested her own design by building a glider model. Her aircraft, the May-fly, first flew in September 1910.

Bland’s father, in an effort to dissuade his daughter from further adventures in aviation, bought her a car. She was soon an agent for Ford in Ulster. In October 1911, she married her cousin, a lumberjack, and went with him to Vancouver Island. She returned to England in 1935, retired to Cornwall in 1955, and died in May 1971, aged 93.

Further reading:
Aviation in Ulster (1981) by J Corlett; Dictionary of Ulster Biography (1993) by Kate Newmann.