Baird the fiction writer

John Logie Baird
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Magazine Committee

TV INVENTOR John Logie Baird is always thought of as a brilliant scientist . . . but he had another talent, writing.

His forays into fiction, as an enthusiastic contributor to the Royal Technical College Magazine, won him admirers amongst his student peers.

Writing under the pseudonym of ‘H2O’ — the chemical formula for water — Baird published eighteen stories, articles and features in the magazine between 1909 and 1914.

In his final year at the College, popularly known as ‘the Tech’, these literary efforts were rewarded with a position on the committee in charge of the magazine.

The editor, Alexander Rhind, wrote to Baird on October 12 1913: “Many thanks for your welcome contributions. Keep it up.

“By the way, I have been chasing you nearly all over Glasgow. I want to tell you that you are evening sub-editor . . . and will be pleased to hand over your badge of office if you will let me know when I can see you in the Tech.”

The position was readily accepted, and the image above shows a proud Baird (back row, first on the right) with his fellow Magazine Committee members for session 1913-14.  

One of his most atmospheric pieces, ‘The Invisible Man’, appears in the Royal Technical College Magazine for December 1912.

Though subtitled ‘A Creepy Christmas Drama’, the story seems equally appropriate, if not more so, for Hallowe’en.

Working late and absorbed in trying to finish an exercise for his engineering drawing class, a lone student finds himself accidentally locked in the College buildings overnight. Suddenly, he detects a muffled footfall within the empty room, followed by a rustling and a clanking noise . . .

As well as injecting a nicely-judged degree of suspense, Baird incorporates some of his own experiences of College life into the tale, including a familiarity with the classroom layouts.

He also makes a wry reference to the heavy workload of the engineering students: “There is the drawing to finish, and the maths. exercise, and the mechanics problem for Friday, and the Thermodynamics for Tuesday, and the Chemistry and Motive Power exercises for Wednesday, and the Natural Philosophy and Strength of Materials examples for Thursday.”

Intrigued? Why not read the full story below!

invisible man

  • Helensburgh Heritage Trust would like to thank Dr Anne Cameron and the University of Strathclyde Library, Department of Archives and Special Collections, the source for the text and images, for permission to reproduce them on the Trust website.