Andrew Baird - aviation pioneer - son of Bute
"First Attempted All-Scottish Heavier-than-air
All Scottish Powered Flight "
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BAIRD DAY CELEBRATIONS - Ettrick Bay, Bute, September 8th
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Andrew Baird was born in 1862 in Sandhead on Luce Bay in the Rhinns of Galloway, Scotland. One of three sons, his father was a fisherman and handloom weaver. He became an apprentice to a blacksmith in Sandhead, worked as a lighthouse keeper on Lismore, then as an ironworker at Smith and McLean's on the Clyde shipyards before finally setting up on his own as a blacksmith at 113 High Street in Rothesay, Isle of Bute, when he was 25.
In 1892 at the age of 30 Andrew married Euphemia Martin at Glecknabae Farm on Bute.
Baird was a daring thinker, a pioneer and innovator. He created many improvements to the plough, built an unique model of the triple expansion engine powered by electricity and was one of the original members of the Scottish Aeronautical Society.
Eager to expand his knowledge of aviation, it has been reported that he corresponded with the early aviators such as Louis Bleriot and S. F. Cody and received information about construction of aircraft and their flight. Inspired by a visit to Blackpool for Aviation Week in October 1909, he returned to Rothesay resolute to design and build his own sophistocated monoplane - very similar to Bleriot's but with an engine built by the Alexander Brothers in Edinburgh that was 4-cylinder, air-cooled and with water-cooled valves. The control system he would fashion was said to be unlike anything that had been developed at the time. His wife sewed brown trussore silk for the wings.
Sharing the Dream
The Baird monoplane, once completed in his own shop in the summer of 1910, went on show at an exhibition in the Esplanade Flower Garden at the front of Bute. and then to the amazement and excitement of all it was moved to the Bute Highland Games on August 20th 1910.
From there it was taken for storage and readying directly to a barn owned by Willie Dickie at his farm at Cranlasgvourity, Bute.
The Historic Day
Scottish aviation history was about to be made when in the very early morning of September 17th, 1910, the Baird Monoplane was taken by a Mr Scott on his horse-drawn wagon to Ettrick Bay - with its wide expanse of sand remeniscent of the Kitty Hawk N.C. site chosen by the Wright Brothers for their historic flight.
In the sunshine and amid the wide golden sands of Ettrick Bay the first all Scottish plane sat ready to make history.
Andrew Baird was, on that day, assisted by his friend Ned Striven, an Electrical Engineer with the Burgh of Rothesay, who had assisted him with the engine and related design considerations.
The Baird Monoplane
There on the beach she sat - described as having an exceptionally wide-tracked undercarriage, acanvas pilot's seat, a uniquely designed joystick/wheel for steering, and a 71 inch propellor, as seen here being displayed by Andrew Baird II (son) and Andrew Baird III (grandson) in Rothesay during the Centenary Celebrations in September 2010.
It had a fixed tailwheel and a specially selected Scottish 24 hp Edinburgh built engine. The plane was 25 feet long and weighed 380 pounds. It was constructed of a complex tubular steel forward frame and triangular wire braced rear section made with bamboo longerons and tubular steel spacers. The rectangular wings covered in Mrs Baird"s sown silk had a 29 foot span and were placed at a slight angle for stabilty in flight. The plane was ready. Andrew Baird was ready.
The Attempt at History
There on the wide expanse of Ettrick bay, Baird and Ned Striven started the engine. All was ready. Hearts raced with anticipation. A small crowd looked on in amazement. And the attempt at his flight into history began.
Flight Magazine on September 24th, 1910, described it as follows:
"Mr Baird was seated in the machine and on the engine being started the plane travelled along the sands at good speed. Naturally, on clearing the ground, the swerving influence of the axle ceased and the influence of the steering wheel brought the machine sharply round to the right causing it to swoop to the ground. The contact was so sharp that the right wheel buckled and the right plane suffered some abrasion by scraping along the beach."
Andrew Blain Baird had realised his dream - he had piloted an aircraft of his own design and construction.
Today there is little information regarding what became of the Baird Monoplane body. It is, however known that the Edinburgh-made engine rested in Baird's workshop on the High Street until its demolition in the early 1950's to make way for council housing and it was then on show at the Museum of Transport in Glasgow, having first been transported to the Glasgow Museum & Art Galleries. The original propellor, which is in excellent condition, was acquired for the private ownership of a Mr Hunter who was a bank manager in Bute. Upon his retirement, he returned to his home in Lanark where he displayed the propeller on a wall in his house for decades. On his death it was left to his family with the hope it wopuld be presented to the Museum of Flight in East Fortune - where it now resides.
Andrew Blain Baird died on September 9, 1951, aged 91 years.
He had been predeceased by his wife, Euphemia, on January 19, 1938 and by their two daughters, Agnes in 1909 (aged 5) and Susan in 1909 (aged 1 year). They had a son, John Baird, who joined Andrew in his blacksmith business. Another son Andrew II and his grandson Andrew III and their family today live in Arbroath.
On the 4th of July 1952, the local newspaper, The Buteman, ran both an advertisement for his business and a tribute to the man. The ad simply read: "A. B. Baird & Son, General Blacksmiths and Horse-shoers, Implement Makers and Mechanical Engineers - and Ornamental Iron Workers" The tribute read:
"A valiant Scotsman with a creative mind.
His hand was ever open and against no man. A man of mettle".
Andrew Baird - aviation pioneer - son of Bute
See also the "Dates and Data" page for more detailed information about
Andrew Blain Baird and his historic achievements.