Memories of JLB as teenager

John Logie Baird
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John-Logie-Baird-portrait-wA TEENAGE neighbour of Helensburgh-born TV inventor John Logie Baird sent his recollections of an association with the inventor to the Helensburgh and Gareloch Times in the 1960s.

R.J.Harris, of Second Avenue, Gainsville, Florida, USA, wrote . . .

One day, early in this century, I was present when an attempt at flight was made from the flat roof at The Lodge, West Argyle Street.

I do not know whether this was the only attempt, because I have heard or seen something about Baird being the flyer. In the attempt which I saw, my brother, G.H.Harris, was the flyer.

The plane resembled two large box kites, with open ends horizontally. Between the kites, the flyer supported the structure, which was (I think) of bamboo.

The flight was made from east to west. The impetus was furnished by the flyer running across the roof and some assistance was provided by a towrope in charge of two persons — Baird and myself — running westward along a path in the garden.

The plane, I gathered, was of the same general type as that used by Mr Percy Pilcher for his experiments at or near Cardross. It needs to be added that I was in no way concerned in the attempt, that I had (and have) no technical knowledge of the matter and that I was at the scene by accident.

After leaving the roof, the plane stalled, began to drop in reverse. The structure snapped. My brother fell into the Baird gooseberry bushes.

As to the plane: I recall that it was rumoured that one of Pilcher’s planes was in a shed in a field at or near Cardross, and that, with my brother and Baird I went there.

There was a bull in the field. They proposed that I should enter the field and distract the bull, while they — being technically qualified — ran across the field to the shed, looked in the window, and generally sized up the Pilcher plane.

I refused to help in the project, and, so far as I know, they never saw a Pilcher plane.

It seems to me that my brother said that they went to some trouble in order to get drawings or sketches of the Pilcher model or models. The technical side of the operation was quite beyond the range of my interests; but I could see that flying, or trying to fly, had hazards.

These and other risks were discounted by both Baird and my brother; and their various enterprises — they had several — were full of outright danger.

They operated on the very slightest of safety margins in their telephone and electric-lighting line constructions.

While I was in the north-west (1911-14) Baird sometimes wrote to me, assuming that I was a miner or cowboy; but the connection between us was that he was my brother’s friend, and that we had been neighbours in our teens and early twenties.

Of his mature career I know very little, and that at second-hand.

If I may be allowed one comment, it is that neither Baird nor Jack Buchanan were, in boyhood, what might be called ‘the regulation type’. I wonder whether present ways of handling boys allow for such exceptions to the rules.