Illustrated last week was a history of William Wallace printed in Dundee in 1770. Now fast forward to the 20th Century and a rarer work – the very scarce pamphlet on flying penned by the pioneering local aviator Preston Watson.
Apart from a contribution to Flight magazine in 1914, Power Necessary in flight was Watson’s sole contribution to the emerging aviation canon and was taken from articles in the Dundee Advertiser.
Printed in Dundee by John Leng & Co in 1908, it runs to 18 stapled pages with cover wrappers and illustrations. I have seen only one other copy in 30 years – and I don’t think it featured in the biography of Watson published in 2014.
From 1907, Watson constructed aeroplanes, flew them locally, and pioneered his own method of controlling an aircraft in flight by using his rocking wing method of lateral control.
He joined the Royal Naval Air Service during the Great War but, in 1915, died in an accident when his aeroplane crashed near Heathfield, East Sussex. He was buried in the Western Cemetery, Dundee with full military honours.
Almost half a century after his death Watson’s family and friends claimed he had made the world’s first powered flight over the Carse of Gowrie in the summer of 1903, several months before the Wright brothers took to the air in America. Although improbable, Watson was certainly one of the first Scots to embrace powered flight and deserves his place in its development.
The rare booklet appeared at Dominic Winter in Gloucestershire on January 20, contained in a contemporary fold-over case. A little rubbed, it sold for a mid-estimate £190.
Picture: Preston Watson pamphlet, £190 (Dominic Winter Auctions).