The paintings of the first woman in the world to build and fly an airplane, which she herself designed and built in Northern Ireland, will be on sale.
ilian Bland was born in Kent, England, in 1878, but spent her early adulthood in Carnmoney, County Antrim with her father and aunt, and made history with her biplane the “Mayfly” – so named by the young woman because “he can fly, he cannot”.
Inspired by the accomplishments of French aviator Louis Blériot and her own study of birds, Ms. Bland tested the capabilities of the aircraft on Carnmoney Hill and in 1909 successfully flew for the first time.
Ms. Bland meticulously tested the aircraft’s weight capacity and designed the wings with the help of local police and other men, and by 1910 the Mayfly was able to fly at a height of 30 feet and go a quarter of a mile.
She scandalized her neighbors by smoking, wearing pants, hunting and practicing jiu-jitsu and was also the first woman to obtain a jockey license in Ireland. She applied several times to ride in the Grand National, but was turned down because of her gender, before becoming a sports journalist and photographer for London newspapers.
Ms Bland married but her later life was marked by tragedy, after which she found solace in gardening, playing and painting – the fruits of which are auctioned in Penzance.
Mimi Connell-Lay, of David Lay Auctions, said she expects Ms Bland’s dramatic backstory to spark interest. “She’s wonderful – I had never heard of her, so when the salesman brought her parts we were all completely thrilled and wondered how she wasn’t a household name,” he said. she declared.
“These are classic amateur paintings which are very charming and on their own they are not particularly remarkable, they probably would have been sold more generally. But the woman who painted them is so remarkable, it makes them so much more desirable. I would love to own one just because of who she was and what she did, ”she added.
The four paintings, which are up for auction and are expected to cost between £ 50 and £ 100 each, are sold by someone whose father was a friend of Ms Bland. Ms Connell-Lay said: “The person selling them said that Lilian was a pretty great woman and totally awesome. She just wants her name to be known again and putting them in the public arena gives the opportunity to tell Lilian’s story.
Before getting married, Ms Bland’s father persuaded her to stop stealing for a motor car, a Ford Model T bought in Dublin, which led Ms Bland to set up Belfast’s first Ford dealership.
She married her cousin, Charles Loftus Bland, in 1911 and immigrated to Canada, where they had two children, Patricia and Jackie. Patricia died of a tetanus infection at the age of 16, while Jackie drowned in a boating accident off Vancouver Island in 1962.
Mrs Bland returned to Kent in 1935 to live with her brother, Captain Robert Bland, until her retirement in Cornwall in the 1950s. She died at the age of 92 in May 1971 and is buried in the Sennen cemetery, near Land’s End.
The sale of works of art will take place on July 22 and 23. For more information, contact David Lay Auctions on 01736 361414.