July 12, 2010
On May 20, 1932 Amelia Earhart set off in her Lockheed Vega from Newfoundland intending to fly to Paris. Nearly 15 hours later, she landed in Robert Gallagher’s cow pasture in Ballyarnott, in Derry, Northern Ireland, instead, thereby becoming the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic.
Mrs. Gallagher told the BBC about that day in this 1935 recording: “About two o’clock we heard an aeroplane. And soon afterwards we saw a great red monoplane over the house, flying very low. It circled around a couple of times, and then made for a big field at the back of the house and landed…. The first farmhand who got to the aeroplane saw that there was a woman in it, and asked her where she’d come from. She said America…. After a minute or two I went off to the plane as well. Standing beside it was a tousle-headed girl in trousers and a leather coat. She didn’t seem at all excited…. I suspected she’d be very hungry, so I got a meal ready for her. She said she hadn’t had anything but tomato juice since she left.”
This morning, seven members of the Gallagher family arrived at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. to present curator Dorothy Cochrane with a framed photograph of Earhart with their family, taken on that day in 1932.
Margaret Gallagher Lapsley, granddaughter of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Gallagher, with whom Earhart stayed after her landing, was accompanied by her own daughters Clare and Sarah, and her granddaughters, Josie and Amelia.
Lapsley only recently heard her grandmother’s BBC recording of Earhart’s landing, and was surprised to learn Earhart’s Vega was bright red. “Nobody told me the plane was red,” said Lapsley. “You’d think one of them would have said.”
The pasture where Earhart landed is now part of Foyle Golf Centre; the course’s 14th hole is named Amelia’s Landing (and nicknamed “heart attack hill”).
“When you know the topography of the farm,” said Desmond Doherty, who married into the Gallagher family, “it’s hard to believe she landed there.”