Canadian Aviatrix #45 – Lillian McNeil (born 1910)

Amy Lillian McNeill was born on 18 December 1910 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, to John William McNeill (travelling salesman for a drug company) and Emma Julie Tagley.

1911 census

1916 census

1921 census

Winnipeg MB

Winnipeg MB

Winnipeg MB

John

27

30

35

Emma

26

30

35

Clifford

2

7

11

Lillian

5m

5

10

George

-

-

4

 

In 1934, Lillian’s older brother, Clifford, was hit by a car and died. He was radio editor of the Winnipeg Free Press.

By 1935, Lillian was working for a Regina grocery firm and had joined the Regina Flying Club. She worked during the day and Alice Blake worked at night, so the two friends met up early in the morning to take their lessons.

On 18 October 1935, Lillian passed her flying test and received her PPL, making her the 45th female pilot in Canada. She was 24 years old.

Canadian Aviatrix #45 – Lillian McNeil (born 1910) 

Photo: The Brantford Expositor (May 11, 1936)

In July 1936, it was announced that Lillian was going to enter the Webster trophy flying contest. Five days later, she had a “hard, flat landing” and badly damaged the plane she was flying. It’s not clear how Lillian fared in the contest, but her future husband came in third.

Robert John Crossley was an Englishman who worked for the civil aviation branch of the department of transport. In 1939, he was “instrument man” for a flying survey of proposed airfields in the Northwest Territories – at least he was, until he accidentally shot himself in the foot on a hunting trip. A month later, he was engaged to Lillian.

On 20 January 1940, Lillian and Robert were married in Regina and spent their honeymoon in Winnipeg and Grand Forks, North Dakota (where Lillian’s grandfather lived).

Robert flipped his plane in 1948, when he mistook a farmer’s field for the airport. He was uninjured, but the plane had a bent propeller and buried the tail fin into the ground. In 1957, he was appointed as Canadian representative on the Air Navigation Commission of the International Civil Aviation Organization.

The couple had at least one child and lived in Ottawa before moving to White Rock, possibly in retirement.

It’s unclear when Lillian died, but Robert predeceased her in 1993, aged 86.

Note: Lillian was listed with an asterisk in No Place for a Lady – meaning the author hadn’t been able to find her. I just had “A.L. McNeil” and the date of her PPL.

The First 100 Canadian Women Pilots