IT was in this week of 1910 that Scotland’s first Scottish-designed and Scottish-built aircraft that was both heavier than air and powered by an engine and flown by a Scot took to the skies, albeit very briefly.

On September 17, 1910, Andrew Blain Baird took his self-built monoplane to Ettrick Bay on the Isle of Bute and with a crowd watching, the blacksmith from Rothesay started the engine, assisted by his friend Ned Striven, an electrical engineer who worked with the local council.

Flight Magazine in its edition of September 24, 1910, described what happened next: “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.”

That brief account did not tell anything like the whole story of a project that ended that day as the Baird Monoplane probably never flew again. Technically speaking it never “flew” at all because of the loss of control shortly after take-off, but there is absolutely no doubt that the Baird Monoplane lifted off the ground under its own steam, and thus its pilot became the first Scot to fly a powered aircraft of his own design and manufacture – Harold Barnwell flew his Scottish-built aircraft some 80 yards near the Wallace Monument in July 1909, but he was English.

READ MORE: Crushing Cromwell victories that left Scotland at mercy of Lord Protector

The early days of powered flight inspired many people to think of building their own aircraft, and there is a possibility that Preston Watson, an engineer from Dundee, actually beat the Wright brothers to powered flight in August 1903, five months before Wilbur and Orville Wright definitely made the world’s first controlled, sustained flight of a powered, heavier-than-air aircraft, the Wright Flyer, on December 17, 1903.

No conclusive evidence exists to prove the Preston Watson claim, but there is plenty of evidence of Andrew Blain Baird’s achievements, not least because the estimable Baird of Bute Society promotes their man as the inspirational genius he undoubtedly was.

Baird was born on Ne-erday in 1862, one of three sons of a fisherman and handloom weaver who lived at Sandhead on Luce Bay in what is now Dumfries and Galloway. Apprenticed to a local blacksmith, Baird’s formal education ended early but he became an autodidact, teaching himself many skills over the years.

He served his time and then found work as a lighthouse keeper on the island of Lismore before returning to the mainland to work for Smith and McLean who had several steelmaking and iron works on Clydeside.

At the age of 25, Baird went to Rothesay to set himself up as a blacksmith in the town’s High Street. He was successful, and at the age of 30 in 1892 he married Euphemia Martin at Glecknabae Farm. They would have two daughters who died in infancy but one of their two sons, Andrew Blain junior, was able to attend the centenary of his father’s flight at the age of 91.

Long before he encountered aviation, Baird was becoming well-known for his developments.

As the Baird of Bute Society states: “Baird was a daring thinker and innovator. He was said to have created many improvements to the plough, built a unique model of the triple expansion engine powered by electricity. Even today evidence of his work remains on Bute, including the large ornamental gates at one entrance to the Mount Stuart estate.”

Yet it was flying that came to dominate his life.

The worldwide craze for flying and aircraft sparked by the Wright Brothers created a whole new breed of aviation entrepreneurs and enthusiasts like Baird who did their own thing.

The enthusiasts did cooperate, however, and Baird was one of the founders of the Scottish Aeronautical Society whose archives from 1909 to 1924 are in the care of Glasgow City Libraries.

After Louis Bleriot flew over the English Channel in his self-designed monoplane in July 1909 Baird became determined to build his own aircraft loosely modelled on the Bleriot plane. He wrote to Bleriot, and to others, and exchanged ideas with them.

In October 1909, Baird attended the first official air show in Britain, Blackpool Aviation Week, and came home determined to build his own monoplane.

He commissioned a straightforward 24hp four cylinder air-cooled engine from Alexander Brothers of Edinburgh, and designed his own control system, while his wife must have had the patience of a saint as she sowed the silk for the wings – all 29 feet of them.

READ MORE: Yorkshire national park to commemorate key battle at Bannockburn

Work progressed quickly and Baird was able to display his monoplane at the Bute Highland Games where one visitor was Tommy Sopwith who would design some of the best aircraft of the First World War. He is said to have asked Baird for permission to use some of his design innovations.

Come the great day, news of Baird’s first attempt to fly had spread and Ettrick Bay was lined with spectators who must have been disappointed that the flight was so short.

Nevertheless the monoplane did get into the air and thus Baird made Scottish history though he never made a penny from his work as he never patented any of his inventions.

He died still working as a blacksmith, on September 9, 1951, 70 years ago last week.

The propellor of his monoplane can be seen at the National Museum of Flight in East Lothian to whom it was presented in 2010, the same year that Bute’s airstrip was named after Baird.