Derry and DC to mark Earhart 80th

Amelia Earhart signing autographs for enthusiastic locals at Gallagher's Field, Ballyarnett, Derry shortly after her historic solo Atlantic crossing, May 21, 1932. (2402BM02)
Amelia Earhart signing autographs for enthusiastic locals at Gallagher's Field, Ballyarnett, Derry shortly after her historic solo Atlantic crossing, May 21, 1932. (2402BM02)

Derry’s year as City of Culture will be one of the main themes at the special St Patrick’s Day breakfast for Irish-Americans in Washington next month.

A trade/cultural delegation will be in DC to advise expats and potential investors to come home for the celebrations next year.

But Derry reps will also be using the opportunity to mark one of our city’s most famous connections with America.

Exactly 80 years ago, the US’s most famous aviatrix, Amelia Earhart, completed the very first solo transatlantic flight, when she touched down in Derry after an 11-hour flight from Newfoundland.

Today, the plane Earhart used on that voyage – a Lockheed Vega 5b known as “Old Bessie” – sits in the foyer of the Washington Smithsonian. And the Derry reps want to investigate the possibility of developing a joint exhibition of Earhart memorabilia with the DC museum for 2012-13.

“The message we’ll be delivering to expats is very simple,” said Culture Company chair, Martin Bradley, “Amelia Earhart made it – what’s stopping you?”

Locally, Earhart enthusiasts are appealing for anyone with relics, or “historical gems,” dating from the pilot’s touchdown on May 21 1932 to get in touch with them as soon as possible.

Derry City Council has designated May 21 this year as Amelia Earhart Day, and Greater Shantallow Community Arts (GCAS) will be running a three-day festival from May 19 to 21to mark the 80th anniversary.

GCAS argue that the full story of Earhart’s brief stay in Derry has never been fully told – and they want help collating it.

“We are not only looking for artefacts but are also appealing for local historians who would like to take on the task of putting it all together,” says Olly Green.

“New photos have already come to light featuring never before seen images of America’s most famous lady aviator at Ballyarnett. Given the global interest in Earhart there is little doubt that these images should attract world attention to the images and the city.”

Other commemorative events this year in Derry include the launch of an Earhart graphic novel, and the inaugural Earhart Lecture at the Great Hall, Magee. The lecture is to be delivered by a woman of achievement and will seek to celebrate the spirit of Earhart and women from across the world.

Earhart Day will also see hundreds of schoolchildren gather in Waterloo Place to receive Earhart Medals of Merit in recognition of academic achievement or community service.

Top Boston lobbyist Sean Moynihan has given his public backing to City of Culture in an interview with the New York Irish Echo. The developer, who is principal of the Moynihan Group and a leading light in expat circles, says that while his family hails from Claire and Kerry, he fell in love with Derry on a visit here ten years ago. He sees 2013 as a huge opportunity for the entire Northwest.

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