Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Flights of Fancy?

At the weekend I attended the second Baird of Bute event on a day of glorious sunshine. It was amazing to see all these planes come in to land on Bute's airfield and for those with an interest in flying it was a great opportunity to see so many small planes in action - in spite of the wind. The pilots were more than willing to let those attending potter around the aircraft and for some of the children it was an awesome experience.

The airfield at Bute

Some of the aircraft on display

A model of Andrew Baird's original aircraft(the propellor is now in the Glasgow Riverside museum)

Andrew Baird - the Flying Blacksmith

Andrew Baird was born in Galloway in 1862 and became an apprentice to a local blacksmith before going to work as a lighthouse keeper on Lismore. Later he travelled to Glasgow and worked as an Ironworker in the Clyde shipyards before setting up in business for himself as a blacksmith in Rothesay, on the island of Bute. It was an exciting age of developments in all fields, many of which we take for granted today - the first radio receiver, the modern escalator and the vacuum cleaner as well as the teabag and instant coffee. With this range of innovations in progress it is not surprising that Andrew Baird’s early achievements were varied.
  He was responsible for a number of improvements to the plough and succeeded in building a model of the triple expansion engine powered by electricity. His wide ranging pursuits led him to join the Scottish Aeronautical society, then very much in its infancy.This interest in aviation was particularly inspired by the achievements of the Wright brothers and he sought to find out all he could about this new mode of transport, initiating and sustaining a correspondence with Louis Bleriot and with Franklin Cody.
            After Bleriot completed his powered flight across the English Channel in 1901, Baird made the journey to Blackpool where an aeronautical exhibition was being held. What he learned there inspired him to start a project to build a plane in partnership with a friend, Ned Striven, who was the Burgh engineer in Rothesay. The engine itself was built in Edinburgh and its wings were sown in silk by Andrew’s wife, Euphemia. The plane they finally built was not only displayed at the Highland Games on Bute, it was also a key attraction on Rothesay’s Esplanade for most of that summer. Later that year it was towed away to a farm at Cranslagvourity in preparation for the trial flight nearby on the sands of Ettrick Bay. Most unfortunately the sands of Ettrick Bay did not provide a good enough surface for the trials but the plane did rise, though briefly.
            Baird’s fascination with flight was typical of the time, but few had his drive and technical skills to turn their interest into reality.

                                                                The 'Mascot'!


  1. That is fascinating, Myra, and great photos - this deserves a tweet (which I'll do!)

  2. Thanks,Rosemary..I really should join!