UNTIL little more than a year ago, not many people on Bute knew who Andrew Baird was, or about the part he played in putting Scotland on the aviation map.
That all changed with the celebration last September of the centenary of Baird’s achievement, in September 1910, in undertaking the first ever ‘all Scottish’ heavier-than-air powered flight.
So successful was that inaugural event that it’s all happening again this year – on Saturday, September 24, to be exact, when light aircraft from all over Scotland will converge on Bute to mark the 60th anniversary of Andrew Baird’s death.
Last year’s centenary celebrations included the re-naming of the island’s airstrip at Kingarth in Baird’s honour, and the Andrew Baird Airstrip will once again play an important part in the celebrations.
Lovingly-maintained light aircraft from all over Scotland will arrive at the airfield until around 10.30am, and from 11am will be on display to members of the public, who will be welcome to view the planes and to chat to their pilots and to enjoy an eatBute barbecue and musical entertainment. Parking and toilet facilities will be provided.
Then in the early afternoon the spotlight moves to Ettrick Bay, scene of Baird’s landmark flight 101 years ago. A Royal Navy Sea King helicopter and its crew will perform a rescue display above (and in!) the bay at 1.30pm, and half an hour later the fleet of aircraft from Kingarth will perform a spectacular fly-over above the beach.
At 2.45pm a wreath will be laid at the Andrew Baird monument marking 60 years since his death, on September 9, 1951.
One of the most popular features of last year’s event was a kite-flying competition involving some two hundred pupils from Bute’s schools, and children are being encouraged to bring their kites along again this year to make the most of the fun (a fresh breeze is on order for the big day!).
Local schoolchildren have also been invited by the Baird of Bute Society, set up this summer to ensure Baird’s achievements have a lasting legacy, to enter a colouring contest or short essay competition with a Baird theme.
The third and final Baird of Bute venue this Saturday is Mount Stuart - where, from 2pm, there’s a range of family fun and games with an aviation theme, along with displays by the Bute Astronomical Society in connection with their weekend of star-gazing.
Then, from 2.30pm, the University of Edinburgh Hot Air Balloon Club will offer the thrilling prospect of hot air balloon rides above Mount Stuart, and the chance to enjoy spectacular aerial views of the house, the grounds and the Firth of Clyde from on high.
At 4.15pm Scots pilot Jim McTaggart will perform a spectacular 30-minute aerobatic display in the skies above Mount Stuart, before the final act in the day’s proceedings, a ceilidh in Mount Stuart’s beautiful Marble Hall.
Throughout the day the man behind the celebrations, Chris Markwell, will be working hard to recruit new members to the Baird of Bute Society, established last month to help Bute’s young people follow in the footsteps of a man who was a daring, innovative pioneer throughout his life, and whose efforts helped put Bute firmly on the map in his chosen field.
Saturday’s atmosphere promises to be special – so make sure you don’t miss out on the fun!
* In the event of next Saturday being a washout, the programme of Baird of Bute events will be rescheduled for Sunday, September 25. The ceilidh will, however, still take place at Mount Stuart on Saturday evening.