Commemorative plaque to honour Rothesay aviator

Fiona Hyslop MSP, Scotland's cabinet secretary for culture, Europe and external affairs.
Fiona Hyslop MSP, Scotland's cabinet secretary for culture, Europe and external affairs.

Bute aviation pioneer Andrew Blain Baird is to be one of the latest recipients of a commemorative plaque from Historic Scotland.

The Rothesay blacksmith, who flew an aircraft of his own design and construction at Ettrick Bay 105 years ago, was one of eight individuals or groups unveiled by culture secretary Fiona Hyslop on Thursday as the latest recipients of Historic Scotland commemorative plaques.

Baird, born in Galloway in 1862, was so bitten by the aviation bug which swept Europe in the early years of the 20th century that in 1910 he took the long trek to Blackpool in order to attend Britain’s first Aero Exhibition.

It was this fascination which led to him designing and building his own monoplane, which in September 1910 he took to Ettrick Bay and managed to fly a short distance - the first all-Scottish attempt at a heavier-than-air powered flight, and an important moment in Scottish aviation history.

The plaque - part of Historic Scotland’s nationwide Commemorative Plaque Scheme - will now be installed on Broadcroft Lane, where Baird had his blacksmith’s workshop and where his monoplane was built.

The Historic Scotland Commemorative Plaques Scheme, now in its fourth year, is designed to celebrate the life and achievements of significant historic figures, through the erection of a plaque on the home where they lived, or a building synonymous with their achievements.

Nominations for the scheme are submitted by the public before an independent panel of experts review and select the final recipients.

Speaking at the ceremony Mrs Hyslop said: “This latest round of plaque recipients celebrates a range people from different walks of life and various periods of Scottish history.

“It’s especially encouraging to see a greater representation this year for women, including Florence Horsburgh, who championed social welfare in the 20th century; Christian missionary Jane Haining, who sadly lost her life in Auschwitz concentration camp; and of course The Edinburgh Seven, who in 1869 blazed a trail which eventually led to legislation allowing women to finally be admitted to universities in this country.

“I hope that today’s announcement will lead to a far greater recognition of the contribution each of these remarkable people have made to Scottish society and, in many cases, to the wider world.”

Martin Ross, policy and projects manager at Historic Scotland said: “In the last four years the number of nominations to the scheme has grown rapidly, and this latest round produced a wide range of potential recipients, from a broad spectrum of society. The end result is eight recipients who have undoubtedly contributed significantly to the advancement of their particular field, both in Scotland and further afield. In many cases their legacies continue to make a difference, many years later.

“I would like to thank all those who submitted applications, and remind them that nominations for the next round of plaques are being accepted from the end of this month.”

The latest Scots honoured by the Commemorative Plaque Scheme are:

* Henry Bell, Scottish engineer who introduced the first successful passenger steamboat service in Europe.

* Sir William Alexander Smith – 1854-1914, Founder of the Boys Brigade.

* Baroness Florence Horsburgh 1889-1969 Scottish Conservative Party politician and Champion of Social Welfare issues (especially child welfare).

* Jane Mathison Haining 1897-1944 Christian missionary, killed at Auschwitz, along with orphan children in her care

* Sorley Maclean – 1911-1994 One of the most significant Scottish poets of the 20th century (Gaelic poetry).

* Hercules Linton - 1837-1900 - Scottish surveyor, designer shipbuilder, antiquarian, & local councillor, - best known as the designer of the Cutty Sark.

* The Edinburgh Seven – 1869 The first women to be admitted on a degree programme at any British University-led by Sophia Jex-Blake

* Andrew Blain Baird, 1862-1951- First All-Scottish Heavier-than-Air Powered Flight aviation pioneer.