We impulsively ventured over to the old Maze / Long Kesh prison to visit two aircraft hangars erected in 1941 for use during World War II. The hangars house a collection of planes and helicopters owned and maintained by the Ulster Aviation Society.
I am happy to say I haven’t actually been on the Long Kesh site before, little is left of the original prison and it is hard to believe that such an infamous location could be the home of Heritage protected World War II hangars.
The museum is funded and run by a team of volunteers who source and look after the various aircraft. Ray Burrows gave us a tour of the site and explained how is currently rebuilding one plane that lay partly underwater for years and was actually used by fishermen to fish from before being rescued.
I wasn’t actively planning to take photos but brought the X-Pro1 and 18mm lens to grab a couple of ‘snaps’, to be honest I wasn’t expecting as many artefacts in a single hangar.
The visit was of historical interest rather than a photographic excursion but it was great to discover the hangar housed an old fire engine on which I may have travelled a number of times.
If it is the same engine it was previously owned by the late father of a good friend of mine. The fire engine would have its annual run out at Lisburn’s Lord Mayor’s Parade and we and a single mannequin got to act as firemen for the day.
The vehicle didn’t look any different, it was surrounded with aircraft spares so I couldn’t get a good photo of the vintage fire engine but it still look as well preserved and stunning as it was back in the early 1990s. It was great that this team of dedicated engineers are caring for these heritage pieces.
I discovered the location in Will Leitch’s piece on the BBC website in which Ray commented “We consider we’re Northern Ireland’s best-kept secret at the moment.” The media coverage is putting the society on the map and with the Balmoral Show moving to the site this year I would expect the hangars will be busy with visitors.
The Museum doesn’t receive any public funding so it is utterly remarkable the collection has grown to include so many valuable aircraft.
You can find more about the Ulster Aviation Society and how you can visit the hangar on their website here.