Grace Marguerite Hay Drummond-Hay

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Lady Hay Drummond-Hay
Grace Marguerite Hay Drummond-Hay.jpg
Grace Marguerite Lethbridge
Born (1895-09-12)12 September 1895
Liverpool, England, UK
Died 12 February 1946(1946-02-12) (aged 50)
Manhattan, New York, US
Occupation Journalist
Spouse(s) Sir Robert Hay Drummond-Hay (1920–1925; his death)

Grace Marguerite Hay Drummond-Hay, Lady Hay Drummond-Hay (born Grace Marguerite Lethbridge, 12 September 1895 – 12 February 1946) was a British journalist who was the first woman to travel around the world by air, in a Zeppelin. Although she was not an aviator herself at first, she certainly contributed to its glamour and the general knowledge about her aerial adventures by writing articles about it in mainstream US newspapers in the late-1920s and early-1930s.

Early life[edit]

Grace Lethbridge was the eldest daughter of Sidney Thomas Lethbridge and his wife Grace Emily (née Willis). She was married in 1920 to Sir Robert Hay Drummond-Hay (1846–1925) at the age of 25, her husband being nearly fifty years older.[1] Sir Robert was born in Tangier, Morocco and had been the British consul-general for years in Beirut, Lebanon. Sir Robert was previously married to Euphemia Katrina Willis Flemming. Four children were produced in this marriage, Arnold Robert, Edward William, Cecil and Florence Caroline. The children were all significantly older than their new stepmother, Florence Caroline being 15 years older. After six years of marriage, Sir Robert died.[1] Lady Drummond-Hay then was 31 years old. As a young aristocratic widow she lived in her apartment in London.


Journalists being photographed before a launch of the Graf Zeppelin, left to right: Karl von Wiegand, Lady Drummond-Hay, Rolf Brand, and Robert Hartmann
Lady Drummond-Hay on board the Graf Zeppelin

Having contributed to English papers such as The Sphere, she became involved as a journalist for the papers of William Randolph Hearst in the late 1920s. As a star journalist, she wrote articles for The Chicago Herald and Examiner, edited by the Hearst Press, as one of the passengers aboard the first transatlantic flight of a civilian passenger Zeppelin in 1928.

This airship, the LZ 127 Graf Zeppelin was also the first one to circumnavigate the world in 1929. This trip around the world took place in August 1929, taking off at Lakehurst, New Jersey and arriving there again 21 days later, after stops in Friedrichshafen (Germany), Tokyo and Los Angeles.[2] Lady Hay Drummond-Hay, or Lady Drummond-Hay, as she was often referred to, was the only female passenger. Among her companion travellers were the Australian explorer Sir George Hubert Wilkins,[2] the American multi-millionaire William B. Leeds,[2] US Navy Commander Charles Emery Rosendahl,[2] Naval observer Jack C. Richardson,[2] renowned American Hearst correspondent Karl Henry von Wiegand,[2] Hearst photographer Robert Hartman,[2] Spanish newspaper correspondent Joachim Rickard,[2] German correspondent Heinz von Eschwege-Lichbert,[2] and Geronimo Megias, a physician and the personal doctor of Spanish King Alfonso XIII.[citation needed] Hugo Eckener was the captain of this flight around the world. Lady Drummond-Hay gained fame after she arrived in New York, her career as a journalist being consolidated for the next decade.

She went to war zones such as Abyssinia (Ethiopia) and was a foreign correspondent in Manchuria (China). She worked closely together for many years with her senior colleague Karl H. von Wiegand. Being praised for her extraordinary beauty and wit, and the intelligence and flair with which her articles were written, Lady Drummond-Hay was a well-known and respected journalist of her time. At her funeral she wore a precious jewel that was given to her by the Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie.

Last years[edit]

During World War II, Lady Drummond-Hay and Karl H. von Wiegand were interned in a Japanese camp in Manila, Philippines.[3] When they were set free in 1945, she was very ill. They returned to the United States, but during their stay in New York, Lady Drummond-Hay died of coronary thrombosis in the Lexington Hotel.[3] At her burial service many notables paid their last respects, including William Randolph Hearst and Marion Davies. After being cremated, her ashes were brought to the United Kingdom by her long-time companion Karl von Wiegand.


Being a star in the late 1920s and early 1930s, the fame of Lady Hay Drummond-Hay has long since faded. Her name is mentioned in a number of books that have been written on the history of Zeppelin flights, but no major biography or other significant document has been written about her life.

An Australian documentary called The Airships: Ship Of Dreams produced in 2004 included footage of her.[4]

Semidocumentary Farewell[edit]

Grace Lethbridge as a young woman

In 2009 a Dutch semidocumentary called 'Farewell'[5] was released, directed by Ditteke Mensink and researched by Gerard Nijssen. It consists of footage of her and the first Zeppelin flight around the world.[6][7] Variety described the documentary as 'absorbing'.[8]

This documentary was later broadcast in the UK, on BBC Four as Around The World by Zeppelin on 7 February 2010. The substantial eighty-minute programme relied almost entirely on extensive newsreel footage from the time which showed in some detail how an airship operated. It was narrated (by Poppy Elliott) mainly by readings from Lady Drummond-Hay's articles and journal and revealed that when she was told by Hearst that Karl von Wiegand was to be her mentor on the voyage she was very concerned because the pair had only ended an affair at his insistence and to her regret six months before. This gave a significant human-interest to the story and clearly led to some tensions. Apparently the affair was briefly resumed during the Tokyo stopover but stopped again after he received a telegram from his wife; after the flight they remained companions until Lady Drummond-Hay's death seventeen years later.

However, some parts of the semidocumentary are fictitious; the airship's tail fin did not rip during the round-the-world flight, but during a previous transatlantic flight in October 1928, and the ship did not have to land on water to do repairs.


  1. ^ a b Sir Robert Hay-Drummond-Hay, website, 28 March 2009.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Los Angeles to Lakehurst, Time magazine, 9 September 1929
  3. ^ a b Time, Time magazine, 25 February 1946
  4. ^ TV Documentary, The Airships: Ship Of Dreams, Rob McAuley Production, 2004
  5. ^ Het Uur van de Wolf: Vaarwel, website.
  6. ^ 1929: Im Zeppelin um die Welt, website (German).
  7. ^ Farewell,, (program viewable in Canada).
  8. ^ Felperin, Leslie. Review: ‘Farewell’, website, 6 December 2009.

External links[edit]

Media related to Lady Grace Drummond-Hay at Wikimedia Commons