The women who led the way in Irish aviation are finally getting recognition.
By day, Myra Gleeson from Whitehall is a window dresser in Boyers department store on North Earl Street Dublin. Her spare time however, is consumed by researching the lives of Ireland’s pioneering women aviators.
Myra's interest in this topic was sparked when she saw a photograph of the Ulster aviator Lilian Band, who at the age of 32 designed and built her first plane ‘Mayfly’ in 1910. At school Myra was taught political and religious history but there was
There was no mention of any women in Ireland who did something like this.
Myra discovered that Lilian Bland was a fiercely independent woman who bucked all the social mores of the day. Liam Byrne author of ‘History of Aviation in Ireland’ agrees that Lilian,
Was considered an oddity, she was considered very much an eccentric, but of course she wasn’t, she was a very brave lady who got hit by the aviation bug.
Myra Gleeson is now researching other early Irish airwomen such as Mary Dillon, Lady Heath, Lady Bailey and Sister Katherine Butler who lives in the Religious Sisters of Charity St Agnes Convent in Crumlin in Dublin. Sister Katherine has been a nun for the last 50 years, but was the third woman in Ireland to get a pilot’s licence. She was attracted to flying primarily by the risk.
When we flew we, it was, oh you were sticking out of an open cockpit and you had no help and you just had to depend on your own initiative and the grace of God to get you up and down.
She enjoyed the freedom of being able to do whatever she liked.
You had to do more yourself, you weren’t depending on instruments and depending on men in a control tower telling you things, I like to do my own.
Myra hopes to write a book that will give these women their rightful place in the history of Irish aviation.
An RTÉ News report broadcast on 13 May 1987. The reporter is Alasdair Jackson.