Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

The first Scottish powered flight

Early monoplaneIt looks as if one of the least known Scottish achievements is going to become a little better known by the end of September.

I first learnt of Bute blacksmith Andrew Baird some time back in the early 2000s, when I happened to pick up a book containing a number of photographs of old Bute. Flicking through the new acquisition to see if there was anything out of the ordinary on offer – and I thought I had at least heard of most of the unusual event on the islands, even if not in great detail – I was more than a little surprised to see photographs of an early monoplane included, both in a workshop, and on the green of the Esplanade.

According to the notes, Baird had a long standing interest in aviation, and had been in contact with other early aviators, such as Louis Bleriot. After attending an Aviation Week in Blackpool in October 1909, he returned to his workshop on Bute, inspired to design and build his own monoplane. While this would be outwardly similar to Bleriot’s, Baird would develop his own design and control systems. Significantly, these would go on to be adopted in later designs by subsequent manufacturers.

Baird went on to display his aircraft statically, on Rothesay’s esplanade, and went on to make a test flight on the beach at Ettrick Bay, on September 24, 1910. Although the short flight was deemed a success, part of the undercarriage was buckled in the heavy landing, and after returning the aircraft to his workshop, Baird never flew the aircraft again.

You can read much more about Baird, his aircraft, and the developments which followed in his wake at:

Baird of Bute Home – First all-Scottish heavier-than-air powered flight

A weekend of events is due to take place between September 24 and 26 of 2010, to mark the centenary of the flight. These will include the unveiling of a memorial monument at Ettrick Bay, a ceremony at Mr Baird’s grave in Rothesay Cemetery, and will even see the renaming of the island’s airfield in his honour.

The programme, planned to begin at Ettrick Bay on Saturday September 25, 2010 will include the Rothesay pipe band, possibly playing the new song ‘Baird of Bute’ written by Charlie Soane, the unveiling of the Baird of Bute monument on the patio at the Tearoom, a ceremonial flyover, and up to two hundred local children selected by their schools to fly rainbow coloured kites sent over from Canada by Mr Chris Markwell, responsible for the Baird web site, and much of the research into the history of Baird and his aircraft.

The story was also featured, together with a photograph, in one of a series of books:

Stenlake Publishing – Old Bute

The aircraft’s original engine still survives, currently in storage while Glasgow’s Museum of Transport is relocated to its new premised on the banks of the River Clyde, and the 4-cylinder, air-cooled engine with water-cooled valves – built for Baird in Edinburgh by the Alexander Brothers – is due to go on public display in the new museum.

The propeller has also survived, and negotiations are in progress with the hope of possibly uniting it with the engine in the Bute Museum – it is currently on loan to the Lanark Museum.

Full details of the weekend, and of the remaining artefacts can be found in Bute’s local paper:

Bute to celebrate a pioneer of aviation – Buteman Today


The day went well, and was even blessed with fine weather for the various ceremonies and activities.

Baird of Bute celebrations a “flying success” – Buteman Today

Johnny Bute, Marquis of Bute, had graciously agreed to the re-naming of the airstrip in recognition of Baird’s achievement.

Baird airstrip

Baird airstrip opening - Courtesy of Zak

Seen holding the new sign for the airstrip are Andrew Blain Baird II and Andrew Blain Baird III.

More pictures of the day’s celebrations and activities can be found here: Baird of Bute Photo Gallery by Zak

03/09/2010 - Posted by | Aviation | , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. Reblogged this on By the Mighty Mumford and commented:


    Comment by Jonathan Caswell | 19/08/2019

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: