DC&SDC: Events will mark 90th anniversary of Amelia Earhart landing

Derry City & Strabane Council plans to develop a programme of events to mark the 90th anniversary of Amelia Earhart’s historic landing in Derry.

Monday, 28th June 2021, 10:22 am
Amelia Earhart. The 90th anniversary of her landing in Derry falls next year.
Amelia Earhart. The 90th anniversary of her landing in Derry falls next year.

On May 20, 1932, the 34-year-old became the first woman to fly across the Atlantic solo, landing in Ballyarnett, Derry.

Earhart’s unexpected, yet historic flight and landing broke three records for the intrepid aviator as not only did she become the first female to fly across the Atlantic alone, she also held the fastest flight time over the ocean (15 hours) as well as being the only person to have flown the Atlantic twice.

A motion was brought to council by Sinn Féin Councillor Sandra Duffy calling for Council to ‘appropriately mark the occasion' and that 'Council will work with the interested groups to develop and deliver a programme of events. This should include a major event in Ballyarnett to link the anniversary with the landing site.’

Councillor Duffy said: “The story of Amelia Earhart is known throughout the world, particularly her journey across the Atlantic, landing here in Derry City in a grassy field in Ballyarnett.

“She was a formidable and fearless woman and one who would be reminiscent of the many strong women who are the backbone of our City.

“Amelia was a trailblazer, she was feminist and one of the ERA (Equal Rights Amendment) movement. She has been celebrated across the globe for her achievements.

“We have many groups in our City who celebrate Amelia, her achievements and her link to our City. These groups have been working tirelessly over the past number of years to keep her name alive and they must be congratulated for this work.

“As a City, we have a housing development, we have an airport lounge, we have a small visitors' centre and at one time we had an Earhart Festival but I believe we are missing a huge opportunity locally to tap into the tourist potential of the epic achievement of this honorary Derry girl.

“Since tabling this motion I have been contacted by groupings across the world but mainly from America who use the name Amelia Earhart to promote female achievements in many fields including aviation.

“Some have sent their good wishes but others have offered their assistance and desire to get involved in marking this significant 90th anniversary. Some have really exciting ideas and activities they are developing. I believe this opportunity has the potential to increase our visitor numbers, promote stronger links with America in what can only be a beneficial opportunity for our tourist product here.

“I for one would like to see a bright red Lockheed 5B Vega plane fly over Ballyarnett next year as part of this event.”

SDLP Councillor Rory Farrell said it was ‘right and proper we celebrate and commemorate one of the seminal moments in aviation history.’

He said: “Amelia Earhart was a Kansas girl and she flew for 15 hours across the Atlantic aiming for Paris. She didn’t make Paris but instead, she landed in Ballyarnett and as all Ballyarnett people know Ballyarnett is the Paris of the north, so she wasn’t far off.”

Alliance Councillor Philip McKinney added: “We believe this is a great opportunity to bring tourists into our District from America and the wider field.”

UUP Alderman Darren Guy described the tale of Amelia Earhart as one that ‘keeps everyone captivated’, saying: “Anywhere else they would be shouting from the rooftops that the first woman to cross the Atlantic solo landed on a field. It is a gem of a story and an attraction for tourists, not only from America but across the world."

Alderman Hilary McClintock, Councillor Shaun Harkin and Councillor Donnelly echoed the sentiments of the other speakers before Councillor Duffy summed up saying: “There should be a permanent legacy here, she is an honorary Derry girl and we should be celebrating her life.”

The motion passed unanimously.