On October 5 1785, Vincenzo Lunardi, a minor Italian noble, famously flew from George Heriot's Hospital in Edinburgh to Coaltown of Collange, near Ceres, in Fife. My ancestors were farmers on several nearby farms, and I like to imagine they were among the crowd who saw Lunardi land. He wasn't the first aeronaut in Scotland - that honour belongs to James "Balloon" Tytler - although he was ultimately more successful than Tytler. [As it happens, Tytler and his wife were Glasites, members of a small but radical Presbyterian sect found by John Glas, who was born on October 5 1695.]
The illustration on the left is by celebrated Edinburgh caricaturist, John Kay (1742-1826), from his wonderful Original Portraits.
Lunardi evidently enjoyed the attention his ballooning exploits afforded him, as can be seen from this account of his first Scottish flight, 228 years ago today
"Melville House, October 5 1785
My Dear Friend,
I now proceed to give you the particulars of my late glorious voyage, which in many respects has been the most remarkable I ever made.
At twelve o’clock on Wednesday the 5th of this month, I began the operation of filling the balloon, with one pipe from each of the cisterns, communicating with another to which the balloon was connected: at two o’clock it was sufficiently inflated to carry me, with the ballast, instruments &c, but the wind still continuing to blow from the SW I fastened eight bladders to my car; then, having taken in 60lb of ballast, several ropes, a basket of provisions, sent my by Mrs Corri, and a cork jacket with which I was furnished by Dr Rae. I put on my regimentals, and ordered the machine to be carried quite to the eastern part of the area, that the Ladies might have a better view of the ascension.
Before my departure, I shook hands with Sir William Forbes, and requested him to advertise, that I would make another experiment on the Wednesday following, for the benefit of the Charity Workhouse.
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