Pioneering Irish pilot and adventurer Lady Mary Heath came from unpromising beginnings - when she was an infant, her father murdered her mother.
For a five-year period from the mid 1920s, the Limerick-born pilot Lady Mary Heath was one of the best-known women in the world. It was an era when everyone had gone aviation mad, due to the exploits of Charles Lindberg and, later, Amelia Earhart. ‘Britain’s Lady Lindy’, as Lady Mary Heath was known, made front-page news worldwide as the first pilot ever, male or female, to fly a small open-cockpit plane solo from Capetown to London.
Never one to sit still for long, Lady Mary had already spent two years as a dispatch rider during the First World War, pioneered women’s athletics in Britain and helped introduce women’s track and field to the Olympics. Along the way, she was to travel widely and marry three times, eventually returning with her third husband, a Trinidadian, to establish her own air company in north Dublin.
Most remarkably, the woman born Sophie Peirce Evans at Knockaderry, Co. Limerick achieved all this despite the most unpromising of beginnings – when she was just a toddler, her crazed father had murdered her mother and was put away for life after a sensational trial.