Sicele O'Brien

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Sicele O'Brien
Full nameSicele Julia Mary Annette O'Brien
Born1 April 1887
Died18 June 1931
Hatfield, Hertfordshire
Aviation career
Known forPioneering Irish pilot

Sicele O'Brien (1 Apr 1887 – 18 June 1931) was one of Ireland's pioneering pilots. She was one of three women who raced and set records in Europe and Africa in the 1920s. She was the second woman in Britain or Ireland to get a commercial pilots licence. She was the first woman in Britain or Ireland to run an air taxi service.[1]


Born in England as Sicele Julia Mary Annette O'Brien to Sir Timothy Carew O'Brien, 3rd Baronet, England cricket captain and Deputy Lieutenant as well as Justice of the Peace for County Cork. Her father fought in the First World War. Her mother was Gundrede Annette Teresa de Trafford of Lancashire.[2]

O'Brien grew up in Dublin, London and Cork. One of the family homes was Lohort Castle, Mallow, was burned in 1921.[3] O'Brien was living there in the census in 1911.[4] O'Brien was initially well known as a hunter and tennis player. O'Brien was a member of the London Light Airplane Club. She got her commercial pilots licence in 1927 and was the second woman in Ireland and the UK to do that. She won the first women's air race – the Aerial Oaks in 1926.[5][6][1] With Lady Heath she set the 1928 British Altitude record. In June 1928, she wrote an article on “Flying as a Career for Women” in The Women Engineer, the journal of the Women’s Engineering Society.[7] On 20 October 1928 she lost a leg in an accident near Mill Hill golf course Middlesex. Her leg was crushed in the crash and had to be amputated.[8] O'Brien was passionate about aviation, writing a number of articles and organising air rallies such as the May 1929 rally in Gleneagles. She continued to fly herself using an artificial leg.[9][10][11] She worked on behalf of the Air League of the British Empire and was one of the two founders of the Aviation Ambulance Association of England.[12] However she was killed in 1931 when her plane crashed on take off at Hatfield, Hertfordshire. The plane's co-owner, the explorer Enid Gordon-Gallien, was in the plane and also died in the crash.[13][14]


  1. ^ a b "Havre Daily News Promoter, November 13, 1927, Page 3". Newspaper archive. Retrieved 4 December 2016.
  2. ^ "Person Page". The peerage. Retrieved 4 December 2016.
  3. ^ "Irish Castles – Lohort Castle". Britain Ireland castles. Retrieved 4 December 2016.
  4. ^ "National Archives: Census of Ireland 1911". Census national archives. Retrieved 4 December 2016.
  5. ^ The Aeroplane. Temple Press. 1931.
  6. ^ "Sunday, November 13, 1927, Havre, Montana". Havre Daily News Promoter.
  7. ^ "The Woman Engineer". Retrieved 30 April 2019.
  8. ^ Kate Herbert-Hunting (22 September 1986). Universal Aunts. Constable.
  9. ^ Julie Wosk (2003). Women and the Machine: Representations from the Spinning Wheel to the Electronic Age. JHU Press. pp. 157–. ISBN 978-0-8018-7313-3.
  10. ^ Constance Babington Smith (1 January 1988). Amy Johnson. Patrick Stephens. ISBN 978-1-85260-097-6.
  11. ^ Flight International. IPC Transport Press Limited. April 1931.
  12. ^ Flying Magazine. September 1931. pp. 54–.
  13. ^ The Aeroplane. Temple Press. 1931.
  14. ^ "Friday, June 19, 1931, Syracuse, New York". Syracuse Herald.

Further reading[edit]