Mary Westenra, daughter of the fifth Baron Rossmore, was born on December 1, 1890 in Rossmore Castle, Ireland. She married Sir Abraham ‘Abe’ Bailey, a wealthy South African mining magnate of British descent, in 1911. Mary volunteered to be an aviation technician when World War I began in 1914, and was stationed in Britain and France with units of the Royal Flying Corps.
She gained her pilot’s licence in 1927 and embarked on a record-breaking career:
- Became the first woman to fly across the Irish Sea
- Set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) world height record of 5,268 metres in a light aircraft category
- Set the record for the longest solo flight and the longest flight by a woman flying 8000 miles from Croydon, South London, England, to Cape Town, South Africa and a 10,000-mile return flight.
- She won the Harmon Trophy as the world’s outstanding aviatrix in 1927 and 1928.
Mary Bailey was one of the finest women pilots and one of the most remarkable Irishwomen of the 20th century. She died on July 29, 1960, at the age of 69.