• Categories: 20th Century
  • parachutist, Dolly Shepherd:
Dolly in black and white sitting on a bench

Dolly Poses for a photo

Edwardian parachutist, trapeze artist, hot air balloon jumper.

Dolly Shepherd was born in Potters Bar, Hertfordshire, as Elizabeth Shepherd. At the age of 16, she overheard two men discussing the loss of a target for an act in which they shot an apple off a girl’s head; she volunteered on the spot.

In 1905 she ascended on a trapeze slung below a hot-air balloon to a height of two to four-thousand feet before descending on a parachute. On one occasion both the balloon and the parachute malfunctioned, and she found herself rising to 15,000 feet. At this height, both the cold and lack of oxygen were threatening to make her lose her grip and fall to her death. Fortunately, the balloon returned to earth before it was too late. She was not so lucky on a later occasion when she ascended with another girl. The other girl’s parachute would not release, so she had to wrap her arms and legs around Dolly so that they could descend on the one parachute. The descent was of course much too fast, and Dolly was paralysed for several weeks. She nevertheless returned to her act.

According to BBC History magazine, she liked to “go high because I had it in my head that if I had to be killed, I’d like to be killed completely: good and proper!” She recalled that on one occasion she almost landed on a steam train “That driver, he had some forethought: he blew the steam and just blew me off into a canal at Grantham.”

Dolly managed a flight with the Red Devils display team a few years before she died at the age of 96 and they even did a fly by at her funeral in tribute to her.

 

Read more about Dolly on our blog post from Debra Cadet-Wallace here

Read an article by actress Kate Dyson on her Great Great Aunt Dolly here

Listen to Dolly’s exploits in her own words on Youtube

Some more photos of Dolly and some of the art created about her from our workshops with Year 5 St Peter School Rickmansworth below

Dolly with balloon

 

Made by St Peters School.

Made by St Peters School.

Dolly By Joanna Scott

 

 


2 Comments

  1. Debra Cadet-Wallace

    3rd December 2015

    Hello, it is wonderful to read about Dolly Shepherd on the http://www.hertshiddenheroines.org.uk/ website, she certainly was a woman who had a very interesting life from a Pioneer Lady Parachutist, thrilling crowds in those Edwardian days to a Female Driver and Skilled Mechanic in France during World War 1 and her Air Raid Shelter work during World War 2. I personally feel Dolly Shepherd is very worthy to have the Hertfordshire Hidden Heroine status - So Thank You – Debra CW

  2. Debra cadet wallace

    5th January 2016

    Hello, it is wonderful to read about Dolly Shepherd on the http://www.hertshiddenheroines.org.uk/ website, she certainly was a woman who had a very interesting life from a Pioneer Lady Parachutist, thrilling crowds in those Edwardian days to a Female Driver and Skilled Mechanic in France during World War 1 and her Air Raid Shelter work during World War 2. I personally feel Dolly Shepherd is very worthy to have the Hertfordshire Hidden Heroine status - So Thank You – Debra CW


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