Beryl Markham – Siren of The Skies

ABC Radio National

The extraordinary story of Beryl Markham – a fearless adventurer and notorious beauty who in September 1936 became the first woman to fly east to west across the Atlantic.

Beryl’s second cousin, Sheréll Cunningham, describes Beryl’s wild childhood in Kenya where she learnt to hunt with the local Nandi tribe and ride horses. When Beryl was just 18, she became the first licensed female racehorse trainer in Africa and probably the world. Then Beryl fell in love with aviation and became the first woman in Africa to earn a commercial pilot’s license, pioneered the practice of spotting big game from the air for safari hunters. 

Her greatest exploit came in 1936 when she decided to become the first woman to make a solo, non-stop flight across the Atlantic against the prevailing winds. (Amelia Earhart had taken the far easier route of West to East). We hear from Mary Price who aged 4 saw Beryl’s plane crash into a bog close to her village in Nova Scotia.

Other contributors include James Fox who interviewed Beryl in the early 80s and Paula Mclain, author of Circling The Sun, a historical fiction about Beryl’s early life.

Produced by Victoria Ferran

Broadcast: June 2016