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Women Travellers: Lady Mary Heath

I watched this fascinating programme last week about aviator Tracey Curtis-Taylor retracing Lady Heath's 1928 South Africa to England flight in a biplane. I was brought up in Southern Africa, have travelled a lot in Africa and therefore hold a special affinity for it. I was amazed (and slightly embarrassed) that I had never heard of Mary and her incredibly brave and ambitious journey.

Her journey wasn't without its problems when heatstroke caused her to crash in Southern Rhodesia and she was also shot at by local tribesmen as she crossed Libya. On the 17 May 1928, Mary’s small Avro Avian biplane made a bumpy landing at Croydon aerodrome after flying 10,000 miles from Cape Town and she was dressed for the occasion in heeled shoes, silk stockings, pleated skirt, fur coat, pearls and cloche hat! Sadly Mary died penniless and alone after she suffered a fall from a tramcar in London. She was only 42 years of age.

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