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THE man who made aviation history on a Bute beach one hundred years ago, when he made the first all-Scottish heavier-than-air powered flight, will be remembered during a weekend of celebrations on the island next month.
Rothesay blacksmith Andrew Blain Baird took off from Ettrick Bay on September 24, 1910 in a monoplane aircraft he had designed and built himself – and Mr Baird's son, grandson and family are among those who have been invited to Bute to mark the centenary of the landmark occasion.

A weekend of events from September 24-26 will include the unveiling of a memorial monument at Ettrick Bay, a ceremony at Mr Baird's grave in Rothesay Cemetery, and even the renaming of the island's airfield at Kingarth in his honour.

The full story of Andrew Baird's pioneering flight is told at a brand new website – – which, along with next month's centenary celebration, has been put together by Chris Markwell, who was born in Rothesay in 1944 before emigrating with his family to Canada seven years later.

Mr Markwell, now retired early from a career in finance which included a spell as president and chief executive of the Royal Bank of Canada Insurance Group, has for more than ten years divided his time between Toronto and Port Bannatyne.

He has spent several months putting together a programme for the Baird centenary which also includes a fly-past over Ettrick Bay by some of the present-day aviators who regularly use the Kingarth airfield, talks at the island's schools before the celebratory weekend, and a display of Baird-related artwork by local children – possibly using a site close to Andrew Baird's blacksmith's workshop in Rothesay's High Street.

The programme, planned for Saturday September 25, at Ettrick Bay 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, the ceremonial flyover and as many as two hundred local children selected by their schools flying rainbow coloured kites sent over from Canada by Mr Markwell.

"When I was here in January," Mr Markwell said, "I was invited to attend a planning meeting discussing the life of Bute over the next decade.

"At the same time I was introduced to the story of Andrew Baird by one of his relatives, Janet O'Sullivan at the Port Bannatyne Post Office.
"As I researched Baird at the museum and spoke with the few locals who are aware of his story, I became more and more gripped and inspired by his historic achievements.

"When I noticed in a 1910 Flight Magazine that this September is the centenary of his flight, I realised it must be celebrated this year."
Mr Markwell is also hopeful that the propeller from Baird's pioneering monoplane, currently on loan to the Lanark Museum, can be brought to Bute for the occasion.

The aircraft's engine also still survives, but is currently in storage with the Glasgow Museums Resource Centre – though it is due to return to public display when the city's new Museum of Transport opens on the banks of the Clyde.

Mr Markwell is in the process of establishing the Andrew Baird Society, which will serve to perpetuate the name and achievements of Andrew Baird, and he also hopes to create a permanent Baird of Bute Museum on Bute. Negotiations are under way with the Museum of Transport and the owner of the propeller to have the two items reunited in Bute as the centrepieces of the new museum.

Local MSP and enterprise and tourism minister Jim Mather, who said: "I am delighted to congratulate Christopher Markwell and his colleagues on their work in ensuring that the achievements of Andrew Baird are celebrated around the centenary of his pioneering flight on Bute in 1910.

"At a time when we all need role models and reminders of those of our predecessors who have achieved great feats, Andrew Baird is well worth remembering and honouring.

"His success was built on solid foundations that included his technical, networking, collaborative and project management skills that were coupled with the raw courage necessary to get his plane in the air.

"The net effect is that he is a man who is well worth remembering; for he had attributes that are well worth triggering in new generations.

"I am particularly pleased to hear that Andrew Baird's son, grandson and family will be returning to Bute for the celebrations and I look forward to hearing their stories."

Baird's landmark achievement, and next month's centenary celebrations, have also been endorsed by the Wright Brothers' First Flight Society, of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, who told Mr Markwell: "The First Flight Society is honoured to acknowledge your honouring of Andrew Baird, a Scotsman and true aviation pioneer.

"What is remarkable is that he flew an airplane of his own design and construction at a time when aviation was in its infancy."


Scotland on Sunday - September 19, 2010 



The Sunday Post  September 19, 2010



 October 1, 2001   

      Baird of Bute celebrations a "flying success"

Many people wandered up and down the line of planes, enjoying the opportunity to see them up close.

Many people wandered up and down the line of planes, enjoying the opportunity to see them up close.
Bute's very own pioneer of aviation, Andrew Baird, was celebrated at the weekend in a series of events, designed to commemorate the first all-Scottish, heavier-than-air powered flight, which took place at Ettrick Bay in September, 1910.
For those of you who perhaps missed the preview in last week's Buteman, Baird was born in 1862 in Sandhead on the Rhinns of Galloway, and became an apprentice blacksmith. In 1897 he set up his own business of Bute at 115 High Street, Rothesay.

He was hugely fascinated by aviation - spurred on by the achievements of the Wright brothers - and was one of the original members of the Scottish Aeronautical Society.

In spring-time of 1910, Baird set about building his plane - the plane which was to fly, albeit briefly, from the sand flats at Ettrick Bay.

Organised by Chris Markwell, born in Bute now a resident of Bute and Canada, the celebrations began on Friday evening, where a centenary plaque was unveiled at Andrew Baird's graveside, witnessed by local councillors and Deacon Raymond Deans, and most importantly, Baird's family - his 91-year-old son Andrew, grandson Andrew and his wife Dorothy.

Saturday morning really started off things with a bang, with over 20 planes and aircrafts gathered at the Kingarth airstrip, in preparation of the re-naming ceremony.

Johnny Bute, Marquis of Bute, had graciously agreed to the re-naming of the airstrip in recognition of Baird's achievement.
Chris said, "It's a historic day for Bute - we're here to commemorate the centenary flight of Andrew Baird, which is a meaningful distinction."

He continued, "We knew we couldn't let such an important milestone pass without recognition, and it is with great pleasure that we officially re-name the airstrip, Andrew Baird Airstrip - or Baird International as some fondly say."

The new sign was unveiled to the large crowd which had gathered at the airstrip, to raptuous applause.
Local woman Gillie Banks treated those gathered to a rendition of Caledonia - an excellent choice given the nature of the event.

The pilots of the various aircrafts which lined almost the full-length of the strip, briefly introduced themselves, the plane they were flying, and where they'd flown from, which included Fife, East Fortune, Straven, Cumbernauld, Thornhill and Prestwick. Andrew Baird II then presented a commemorative picture to each of the pilots for playing their part in the celebrations.

As everyone in attendance was able to wander around and look at the planes, 91-year-old Andrew went one better, and was taken up into the air by one of the pilots in a short flight overhead. What better way to appreciate the importance of the day than by seeing it from the air?

The next stage of the celebrations was taken out to Ettrick Bay, which on approach, was breathtaking - brightly coloured kites lined the shore, the Rothesay and District Pipe Band led a procession from the car-park, and hundreds of people gathered around. It was even suggested that Ettrick Bay hadn't been this busy since the 1950s!

The unveiling of the Andrew Baird Monument was dedicated by Raymond Deans, and commented on by councillors Isobel Strong and Len Scoullar. Also speaking of the importance of the day were Wendy Brownlie, principal of Rothesay Joint Campus, and Elizabeth MacMillan, head teacher at North Bute Primary School - representing all three primaries on the island, school children flew kites which had been provided to
them, filling the beach with a rainbow spectrum.

Then came, arguably, the most spectacular event of the whole day - the fly past involving all of the aircraft who'd landed at the airstrip earlier in the morning. Watching them soar over the hills, following the coastline round into the bay was a truly memorable phenomenom - flying so low you could actually see the pilot smiling down at the spectators, waving his hand. With the sun shining brightly - remarkable considering the horrendous weather on Wednesday evening - it made for a wonderful family day out.

Speaking after the event, Cllr Strong said, "I was amazed at the number of planes and microlights landing at the re-named Baird 'International' Airfield. The weather was fantastic and the display was most impressive.

"The afternoon event at Ettrick Bay was even more exciting with the Pipe Band, lots of kites, a flypast of planes and even an eagle flying high above."

She continued, "I would like to thank Chris Markwell for his vision in planning this weekend of celebration for a local hero hitherto unknown to me at any rate - Andrew Blain Baird - and it was lovely that his family could join with the people of Bute in commemorating his great achievement of heavier than air flight of 1910"




Letter to the Editor - October 7, 2010




Article in "Microlight Flying" by Fergus McCann  (one of the Baird of Bute Pilots)