Home Limerick Culture Light festival celebrating iconic women is to hit Limerick this evening

Light festival celebrating iconic women is to hit Limerick this evening

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As part of the nationwide HerStory project, the facade of the Hunt Museum will be illuminated with the story of Limerick’s own adventurer and explorer Lady Mary Heath this Friday evening from 5pm.

This will one of the first times that Lady Mary Heath is properly acknowledged and celebrated in her homeland.

HerStory is a project focusing on the achievements of Irish women throughout history who may have overlooked because of their gender. The new light projection festival is a four day event which takes place from Thursday, 5th January to Sunday, 8th January, during Nollaig na mBan (Women’s Little Christmas).

When the Christmas lights go out, Herstory will bring women’s stories from the shadows into the light, sharing the lost tales of national heroines, women from our own towns, cities and families, and women admired across the world, to the fore.

heath-3In Limerick images of Lady Mary Heath, the first person to fly solo across the length of Africa will be projected onto the facade of the Hunt Museum today.

From Cork to Omagh, county and city councils have commissioned light installations and events that will take place across four days. Exhibitions, performances and talks will take place in every province in Ireland for Illuminate HerStory.

Founder and director of HerStory, Melanie Lynch, is asking people to get involved by hosting their own Illuminate Herstory event to celebrate the women they love: “Nollaig na mBan is a treasured Irish tradition, especially in rural Ireland,” she said. “In the dark month of January we chose the theme of light. We want to start the year with optimism and hope, as we strive for equality for all. The Irish are known as the best storytellers in the world, but until now we have only told half the story. Illuminate Herstory is an event for the people, and it’s really easy to get involved and pay tribute to the women you love.”

Don’t forget to take a photograph and share on social media with #IlluminateHerstory to join the movement across the world.

For a full list of activity, visit www.herstory.ie. Follow Herstory on Twitter @HerstoryIreland or Facebook Facebook.com/herstoryireland, and use the hashtag #IlluminateHerstory.

About Lady Heath

Mary, Lady Heath was an Irish aviator and began life as Sophie Catherine Theresa Mary Peirce-Evans in Knockaderry, County Limerick near the town of Newcastle West. She was one of the best known women in the world for a five-year period from the mid-1920s.

Lady Heath became the first woman to hold a commercial flying licence in Britain and along the way, set records for altitude in a small plane and later a Shorts seaplane, was the first woman to parachute from an aeroplane (landing in the middle of a football match). After her great flight from the Cape, she took a mechanic’s qualification in the USA, the first woman to do so.

In an era when the world had gone aviation-mad due to the exploits of Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart, Lady Heath was more than able to hold her own.

“Britain’s Lady Lindy,” as she was known in the United States, made front-page news as the first pilot, male or female, to fly a small open-cockpit aircraft from Cape Town to London. She had thought it would take her three weeks; as it turned out, it took her three months, from January to May 1928.

A scale model of the plane used by Lady Mary is on display at The Little Museum of Dublin. She wrote about the experience later in a book Woman and Flying, that she co-wrote with Stella Wolfe Murray. In July 1928 she became the first woman appointed as a co-pilot with a civil airline, KLM.heath

Just when her fame was at its height, with her life a constant whirl of lectures, races and long-distance flights, Lady Heath (she married Sir James Heath in October 1927) was badly injured in a crash just before the National Air Races in Cleveland, Ohio in 1929. Before her accident Lady Heath applied for American citizenship, intending to promote aviation among American women. Lady Heath was never the same.

After divorce in Reno, Nevada, from Heath in 1930, she returned to Ireland with her third husband G.A.R. Williams, a horseman and pilot of Caribbean origin, and became involved in private aviation, briefly running her own company at Kildonan, near Dublin in the mid-1930s, and helping produce the generation of pilots that would help establish the national airline Aer Lingus.

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