Woodbank, Whiteabbey was the residence of the Rev. Robert Winstringham Bland, Dean of Belfast. Built on a bluff overlooking Belfast Lough, it is said to date from 1810 on the site of, and possibly still incorporating, a much earlier Grecian or Elizabethan style house.
Lilian Bland (1879 - 1971) grand-daughter of Rev. R W Bland was possibly the first woman in the world and certainly the first in the United Kingdom to design, build and fly her own aeroplane, which she fabricated in the original Coach House.
Influenced by the Wright Brothers in America, she first constructed a glider and experimented successfully close to her aunt's home at Tobercooran House on Carnmoney Hill. Having established adequate 'lift' capacity and directional stability, she added a two cylinder engine built by AV Roe and an Avro propeller and this was mounted on its stand behind the pilot's seat. She playfully christened her creation 'Mayfly' which in view of its still untried airworthiness was a nice double entendre - in other words "it may fly or it may not."
In August 1910 Miss Bland became the first Irish aviatrix, flying her homemade 27' 7" wingspan biplane on Lord O'Neill's 800 acre estate at Randalstown. She improvised by using a whiskey bottle as a makeshift petrol tank and the petrol was fed into the carburettor through her deaf aunt's ear trumpet!
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Abbey Self-Catering - May Lodge | The Coach House | The Old Rectory - Tourism NI approved 5 star accommodation