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I'm off to Dunfermline tomorrow for a seminar on "Vibrant Town Centres".

Now these things have me on a knife edge so I'd like to give andvance warning to those who will be speaking at this event that if I see anyone making that wee semiphore for inverted commas, or hear any of the following phrases or words:

Inclusion, partnership, stakeholders, strategy, blue sky thinking, thinking out of the box, wholistic, solution, consultation or process (or indeed any other such meaningless nonsense),

Or if anyone is speaking with that wee intonation in their voice where the pitch is raised at the end of each sentence making everything sound like a question, I am liable to get very annoyed and could turn extremely violent at any minute.  

Oh aye and as part of the day I am going to a "workshop" It was Alexei Sayle who said that anyone who attends a workshop who isn't involved in light engineering is a twat!

If I haven't posted by 10pm GMT tomorrow, send help. I may have assaulted someone and could require legal advice.

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Percy Sinclair Pilcher

As any schoolboy knows, the first powered flight was by Orville and Wilbur Wright at Kittyhawk Beach in 1903. However in the final years of the nineteenth century a Scottish based English aviation pioneer, Percy Sinclair Pilcher was working on a powered plane. Many of his experiments with gliders were conducted at Kirkton Hill in Cardross about three miles as the glider flies from where I type.

Percy Sinclair Pilcher

1867 – 1899

Engineer and pioneer of unpowered flight. Born in Bath (England) of a Scottish mother, Pilcher briefly served in the Royal Navy before becoming an apprentice at the Govan ship-builders Randolph, Elder and Co. He took up a lecturing post in the University of Glasgow (1891) and proceeded to design and build gliders. His first machine, the Bat flew successfully from a hill overlooking the Firth of Clyde at Cardross. With his fourth machine, the Hawk, Pilcher was able fly for a record-breaking 228m (250 yards) from a field in Kent (England). This caused a sensation, making Pilcher the undisputed leader in the field of unpowered flight.

Image:Hawk hangglider Pilcher.jpg

Percy Pilcher, "Hawk" glider, the "Knob", Eynsford, 1897



Pilcher was also a pioneer of powered flight. He designed and built both an aeroplane and an engine to power it. He collaborated with French-American aeronautical designer Octave Chanute, who gave Pilcher the idea of using multiple wings, and with British engineer Sir Hiram Maxim, who had designed a suitable propeller.

Pilcher arranged a demonstration of his new machine, but at the last minute his engine failed. Not wanting to disappoint the assembled party, he decided to show the Hawk once again which, by this time, he had flown successfully on many occasions. However, its structure failed and Pilcher crashed, fatally injured.

The Hawk is now preserved in the Museum of Flight (East Lothian). In 2003, the BBC television programme Horizon rebuilt Pilcher's aeroplane. They demonstrated it was more than capable of flying and that he could easily have beaten the Wright Brothers triumph by four years.


The 2003 replica from Pilcher's design.

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