Butterfly net out; to catch Amy Johnson Inspired Moths

Armed with a net of the internet variety, also known as the moth collector app, the journey began. It was just a short hop to the first moth, within the Diamond building, which is part of Sheffield university. It was here that Amy Johnston, studied for her degree.

It was two weeks into 2017 Hull Year of culture and it was time for a train journey to Amy’s home time in Hull. The moths habitation pre dates the start of Hull’s 2017 reign. The moths arrived  01July2016 which was Amy’s birthday; she was born in 1903. 2016 marked 75 years since Amy died when the plane she was flying crashed into the Thames just of Hermes bay in Kent, hence there is a moth there. The moths are catergorised according to location as Hull city centre moths, Hull suburbs moths, East Riding moths (the area around Hull) and National moths.

Upon arriving in Hull the aim was to see as many as the 26 city centre moths as possible. Amy has become a legend in her hometown in Hull because in 1930 she became the first woman to fly solo to Australia. Following that flight she continued to break and attempt to break other aviation records both on her own and with other pilots. One pilot Jim Mollison asked her to marry him within a week of their first flight together. They married in July 1932 and continued to attempt aviation records both together and solo. Perhaps the stress of competing against each other records or Mollison’s occasional heavy drinking contributed to the break up of their marriage. They divorced in 1938.

Disembarking  from the train in Hull and walking to the end of the platform the first moth was found. it featured the flags of places Amy had flown to.

A second one is further down the train station but as it, was close to the city of culture information  point, it was that which caught our attention. We collected a moth spotting map and was advised to head to Queen Victoria Square where moths clustered around.

Across the road from the station was Product of Hull moth; it had symbols representing the fishing trade. Amy’s Father was a partner in the fish merchant trade. His success meant the family were able to trade houses up during Amy’s childhood, hence she lived in a couple of houses in Hull then later Beverley which also has a couple of moths. Also this allowed Amy to attend small private schools and attend university.

Following graduating Amy briefly worked in Hull before moving to London to seek more employment opportunities. In London she began as a hobby taking flying lessons. After 6 lessons, she wrote home “I have immense belief in the future of flying”. Indeed her future centered around flying despite, It taking her 16hours of duel flying before her first solo flight which was considered longer than average. But as the moth on Carr lane on the way to Queen Victoria Square stated; she was able to Fly High.

Upon reaching Queen Victoria Square, we entered Princess Quay shopping centre. My spirit found outlet in the air was located along the glass walkway overlooking the water of the Princess Quay. The name was inspired by a quote from Amy “Had I been a man, I might have explored the poles or climbed Mount Everest, but as it was my spirit found outlook in the air’.

The next moth could be seen from My spirit found outlet in the air, however it was the other side of the Princess Quay, so we had to leave the shopping centre into  Queen Victoria square and cross to the other side of princess Quay and process along Princess Quay dock road.

We continued straight ahead along the water’s edge. A right turn could have taken us into Zeebeedee yard to see the three moths there. However, we proceeded straight ahead and then across Castle Street to see a very sparkly moth named Cystal Moth on Humber Dock Street.

Venturing on a bridge to the right there was Amy’s Jason. Jason was the name that Amy gave to her first plane the name referenced her Father’s business trade name. Her Father helped her buy the plane along with Lord Wakefield. Lord Wakefield was a philanthropist who founded the company that became Castrol oil. He also provided funding for another female aviator Jean Baton.

Jason was a second hand gypsy moth. Gypsy moth is a type of plan designed by Geoffrey De Havilland.

Retracing steps over the bridge and winding way to the banks of the Humber and round into square on Neslon Street. This was the first moth we saw that beside as all the other’s being in the shape of the insect moth, also related to the insect moth in it’s theme. The idea was it blended into it’s surrounded during the day and came to life at night when it became illuminated referencing how moths are generally nocturnal and fly at night (whereas butterflies are generally diurnal and fly during the day). Therefore we later returned to this moth to see it in the dark.


After winding along the banks of the Humber to the popular aquarium attraction, the Deep we entered the ticket hall to find mechanical looking moth, reflecting Amy’s interest in mechanical engineering. In 1929 as well as gaining her pilots license Amy qualified as a ground engineer.

Across the road on High Street, a small road under the flyway Airmail was situated featuring postage stamps representing Amy’s travels.

Amy became an inspiration figure in aviation hence this moth named I was only a kid but I knew I wanted to be Amy, which is located in museum quarter just off High Street. In the 30s Amy was a celebrity for example she opened Sewerby Hall which now exhibits Amy mementos and in 1936 was the guest of honour at the opening of the first Butlins in Skegness.

From there it was a bigger gap to the next moth which was across a Drypool Bridge and more walking the other side of the bridge to reach Great Union Street. 1930s avaiation poster for Amy was stylised like the aviation posters that publicised aviation in the 1920s, perhaps one such poster inspired Amy to fly.

Similarly the next moth was an an encouragement to fly. We were lucky to be able to zap it on the app, because when we turned to leave someone was just waiting to close the gate of the office car park it was in. A couple of minutes later the QR code would have been out of reach.

Despite seeing the next moth, which was just across the road as photographic evidence shows, we were unable to zap it because the QR code was facing away from the window and the building was closed as it was a Sunday.


Stopping for lunch took us back to the Princess Quay Dock street. On the map there looked to be three moths between Whitefrair gate and Posterngate, so we ended up going a long way round and eventually realizing we could have walked up Princess Quay dock street to Postergate street and turned into Zebedees yard was three moths were housed.

The first two moths could be eyeballed as walked into Zebedees yard.

The third moth moth in the yard referenced Amy’s work as an engineer. It was coloured in browns mirroring what is typically, thought of as moth colouring although, moths can have some colour they are less colourful than most butterflies. The biggest distinguishing features between moths and butterflies are the shape of their antennae and moth caterpillars form cocoons which are wrapped in silk coverings whilst butterfly caterpillars from chrysalis which are hard and smooth.

Out of Zebedee yard a short walk along to the north side of Trinity church, attached to the outside of the indoor market.

Coming out of north side churchside and turning left on to Lowgate there was another short walk to Wonderful Amy. A lot was fitted into this moth; there is a fish pattern to reference Amy’s Father fish merchant business, gypsy moth logo, Hulls coat of arms, 1930s inspired design and covers Amy’s passions of flying and fashion. The ATA (air transport auxiliary) logo is also displayed as in 1941 Amy began transporting planes to contribute to the war effort.

Up to the crossroads and turning right on to Arther Gelder street, with Drypool bridge in sight again a moth inspired by Dehavilland metal moth. It symolises Any and other women contributed in the war.

Around the corner alongside Queen’s Park was a crest like design. Featuring symbols of Amy’s home town Hull, Croydon where her flight to Australia started and Darwin where she landed albeit it, a crash landing. She had set out to beat the record at the time for flying to Australia but with a time of 19 days, did not succeed (and people moan nowadays about taking a whole day to fly to Australia!). Nether less due to becoming the first female to fly solo to Australia she was awarded a CBE.

A walk down the road and it was back to Queen  Victoria square, across the square on to King Edwards Squate and turn on to Storey street opposite the Prospect Shopping Centre. We walked around William Willberforce health centre looking for the moth on the outside of the building, finally we found it by venturing inside. This one honoured not just Amy, but other females, predominately Grace Hopper. Shortly after the 2nd world war whilst working on a place she discovered a moth within that had caused system problems. We learned that this finding was where the common phase computer bug, comes from.

A short walk across the road then it was into the Prospect centre, after some looping around Spirit was finally found just inside the entrance from West Street. Spirit can be interpreted several ways but one reference is to the plane Spirit of Artemis. Spirit of Artemis was a plane flown by Tracey Curtis Taylor from Farnbarough, England to Australia in recognition of Amy’s flight. Tracey set off on 01OCT2015 and had several stops including at Dubai aviation exhibition and to talk to young women in Pakistan.

The walk to the next one was an unknown quantity, as it was one of the moths classed as being in the suburbs and was on the edge of the map with an arrow pointing off the map, but in actual fact was less than ten minutes walk away.

Back to the city centre down Fernsway towards the train station, to find the few remaining city centre moths. Firstly Earth Mother, located outside the Hull Truck theatre.

Along to the third shopping centre on the day; St Stephens next to the train station.

The trial for the 26th city centre moth ended where it began in the train station with one that was misssd earlier.

At the Mecure hotel which is connected to the station there was a moth under the national catergory because it is one that has traveled; two previous locations in Hull and one in Grimsby.

The trial was extended by seeking more moths in what was deemed suburbs. The first was less than ten minutes walk away at Kingston retail park.

Another ten minutes up the same side of the carriage way was a monochrome moth.

The longest walk yet ensued up to Hessle Road. However there was a gold post box there too! Again referencing Amy’s plane Jason.

Another 30minute walk would have  led to cluster to around where Any first lived in Hull on Hawthorn Avenue . However, by this time we had walked 21km (10miles plus), it was dark and drizzling.

Two of the moths  in the cluster around Hawthorn Avenue refer to letters between Amy and her older lover Hans Arreger. Their relationship began when Amy was 18years old but ultimately did not last and Hans married another women. If Amy had married Hans it is doubtful that the letters Hans kept from Amy would now be significant enough to be  held at Hull history centre. The first moth Red Letter days reproduce in Amy’s handwriting part of a letter to Han’s, on a sky blue background as if written by a plane.


The other also features part of one of Amy’s letters to Hans where she talks about having someone to dance with.



The other  moths in Hull are further out albeit the same side of the city.

I like the look of this colorful moth with an intricate design.


This moth is in honour of Geoffery De Havillands and his interest in moths which inspired his plane designs such as the gypsy moth which Amy flew.


I like this design which features different types of planes.


Not sure I will see many, if any more of the moths as they are only in situ until April when they are auctioned. Especially as they are spread out to East Riding including Beverley and Humberside airport (15miles from Hull), which was first used by the RAF in 1941 and did not become a commercials airport until 1974 following being abandoned after the war. Then there is the one at the Science museum in London where Amy’s Jason is exhibited and the one in Kent which is close to where on the 5th January 1941 whilst working for the ATA, Amy’s plane came down in the Thames. Mystery surrounds the circumstances particularly as he body has never been found and information about it, is still covered by government secrecy act.

If all the moths are brought back together again before they are auctioned like the Sheffield elephants were it would be fantastic to get the chance to see the other moths in person.