Mount Stuart helps mark Bute’s place in aviation history

Roger and Lesley Paton with Andrew McLean and Chris Markwell at the handover of the Louis Beriot monoplane model at Mount Stuart.
Roger and Lesley Paton with Andrew McLean and Chris Markwell at the handover of the Louis Beriot monoplane model at Mount Stuart.

A PERMANENT reminder of Bute’s small but significant place in the history of aviation has moved a step closer this week.

Hanging in an exhibition space at Mount Stuart is a ¼ scale model of a monoplane almost identical to the one Andrew Blain Baird tested at Ettrick Bay in September 1910.

The model – soon to be joined by other Baird-related information and memorabilia – replicates a plane built by aviation pioneer Louis Bleriot, who met Baird at the first airshow to be held in Britain, at Blackpool in 1909.

The model has been purchased by Chris Markwell, organiser of last September’s ‘Baird of Bute’ centenary celebration.

“I first saw the model when I visited the Lanark Museum last year to pick up the propeller from Baird’s plane, which was part of an exhibition of the centenary of Scotland’s first air show,” said Chris.

“I was immediately taken by how it so resembled Baird’s plane, and what a lovely work of art it was in itself.”

Following discussions between Chris and the model plane’s owner, Roger Paton, Chris agreed to purchase the model with a view to gifting it to a museum of Andrew Baird’s work once a permanent facility is in place.

On hearing about the historic acquisition, Mount Stuart generously offered to hang the model in a room adjoining the courtyard next to the main house, directly above a spectacular topographical map of Bute – which itself was created in 1910, the same year as Baird’s first Scottish heavier-than-air powered flight at Ettrick Bay.

Roger and his wife Lesley travelled to Mount Stuart on Thursday to deliver the model – which has a wingspan of 102 inches – to its new owner, and to Mount Stuart’s archivist Andrew McLean.

“I am very happy to have been able to acquire such a historically meaningful model,” Chris continued, “and I’m also very grateful that the team at Mount Stuart has found the perfect place to put it on show to their visitors, and to help spread the word about Andrew Baird.”

Plans are already well advanced for the 2011 Baird of Bute celebrations – which, Chris hopes, will be even bigger and better than the inaugural event last year. Watch The Buteman for more details over the coming weeks.

Louis Bleriot, best remembered for undertaking the first heavier-than-air powered flight over the English Channel in the year of that Blackpool exhibition, gave his plans to Baird at that Blackpool airshow in 1909 – though Baird, who ran a Rothesay blacksmith’s at the time, made some unique technical modifications to his own craft.

Those modifications, most notably to the rudder and steering mechanisms, were incorporated into later aircraft, including some by Tommy Sopwith, who had visited Baird’s plane in Bute prior to its first flight.