Bailey, Mary, Lady Bailey 1890-1960, airwoman, was born in London 1 December 1890, the only daughter of the fifth Lord Rossmore, of Monaghan, and his wife, Mittie Naylor. In 1911 she married Sir Abe Bailey [qv.] by whom she had two sons and three daughters.
Lady Bailey learnt to fly in Moth light aeroplanes at the London Aeroplane Club at Stag Lane in 1926 and took her pilot's licence in 1927. She was the first woman to fly across the Irish Sea, and in July 1927, with Mrs. Geoffrey de Havilland, in a Moth, she climbed to over 17,280 feet, the greatest height to which any woman had flown in a light aeroplane.
On 9 March 1928 Lady Bailey set off alone from Croydon in a Cirrus-engined de Havilland Moth to fly to Cape Town to meet her husband. She was thirty-eight and the mother of five children. Her action emphasized the increasing independence of women and at the same time directed public attention to the practical transport capabilities of the light aeroplane. By the almost casual manner in which she undertook long and difficult flights she showed that light aeroplanes could be used for personal travel in all parts of the world and this gave a wider popularity to personal aviation. In her flight to the Cape she suffered set-backs which would have deterred anyone less determined. A month after her departure, at Tabora, her aeroplane was badly damaged when she landed in turbulent conditions and a replacement had to be sent to her. Travelling southward from Cairo, through Malakal, Kisumu, Tabora, and Johannesburg, she reached the Cape 30 April 1928 and decided to make the return flight. Soon after starting her aircraft was again damaged; but repairs were completed and she restarted from Broken Hill on 21 September 1928. Flying westwards through Kano and Dakar and then north along the French Aéropostale route, she reached Croydon on 16 January 1929. In an aeroplane with a top speed of less than 100 miles an hour, she had completed 18,000 miles in the air. It was for this flight that she was awarded the Britannia Trophy in 1930. She was appointed D.B.E. in the same year for her services to aviation.
Lady Bailey took part in many sporting and competitive flying events. She entered for the King's Cup air race in 1927, 1929, and 1930, the last, which was won by Miss Winifred Brown, attracting over a hundred entries. She flew in the international challenge competition round Europe in 1929 and 1930. Some of her exploits occurred when she was still an inexperienced pilot and her remarkable will power and courage were the determining factors in her success. But she worked hard to develop her piloting technique and took a course of instruction in instrument flying and obtained a certificate of proficiency.
She died at her home at Kenilworth, near Cape Town, 29 August 1960.
The Times, 30 August 1960
Sir Geoffrey de Havilland, Sky Fever, 1961
Terence Boughton, The Story of the British Light Aeroplane, 1963
Royal Aero Club Gazette, November 1963
Who's Who in British Aviation, 1935
Contributor: Oliver Stewart.