Lanark Museum and Lanark Museum Trust


Aviation and Lanark

Lanark has a unique place in the history of aviation in Scotland: Scotland's first International Aviation meeting was held there between the 6th and 13th August 1910.

Programme from the 1910 airshow at Lanark Racecourse

The meeting was one of the largest events organized in Scotland at that time. The aerodrome had over 9 miles of telephone cable, and the Aerodrome Post Office employed 30 telegraph operators. The Caledonian Railway Company built a new station, and a minimum of 14 special trains ran each day.

Competitions for cash prizes were on offer, including Long Distance, Cross Country Flights, Speed, Altitude, Weight Carrying and Delivery of Dispatches. The event attracted 22 aviators from all over the world, including one from Peru. The prizes offered were (for the time!) very generous. Most first prizes were over £250, and the winner of the Cross Country Flights Competition (over four days) was awarded £1,610.

The meeting, despite having a financial deficit, was regarded as a great success. World records for altitude and speed were set during the meeting, and official figures from the Treasurers to the Meeting gave a total of nearly 215,000 people attending during the six days.

Scene from the 1910 AirshowDrexel's armbandGold badge

Gold badges were presented to members of the organizing committee

Flying week cartoon



Ewen's School of Flying

In May 1911 Lanark Town Council - aware of the potential of their Racecourse as an aviation centre - granted a one-year lease to Mr. W. H. Ewen to establish an aviation school. The school was housed in hangers erected previously for the 1st Scottish International Aviation Meeting eight months earlier.

Ewen, born in Shanghai, a professional church organist and enthusiastic aviator, was taught to fly by Louis Bleriot. He started his school using a Deperdussin monoplane and in September 1911 made a successful flight to Gorgie in Edinburgh. In addition to his flying instruction, several aircraft were constructed at his school.

Ewen was the first Scot to hold a pilot's license, the first person to fly across the Forth estuary and the first Scot to fly across the Channel. At Hendon during World War I he trained over 300 pilots for the Royal Flying Corps.

There appears to have been only sporadic flying at Lanark during the next two years, and, in October 1913, the Town Council, dissatisfied with the infrequent use, terminated Ewen's lease.

Aviation Shows

It was to be another 19 years before Lanark saw any significant activity in the field of aviation despite more than a few of its natives serving in the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Air Force.

In August 1929 Sir Alan Cobham introduced a series of “Flying Shows” to make use of facilities in or near Lanark.

Sir Alan's tour was designed to promote aviation in Britain with the aim of encouraging every town and city in the country to have some form of airfield.

By the time he returned with his National Aviation Day Display in 1932 Lanark had already been visited by the North British Aviation Co. Ltd. Passenger Flights in May 1931 and Capt. C. D. Barnard’s Aerial Circus in September 1931.

These were to be followed by the Jubilee Air Display in July 1935 and British Empire Air Display in June 1936.