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British Industrial History

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John Gibson

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John Gibson (c1860-1935), early aviator of Leith.

1910 March. 'Built at the Caledonian Cycle Works, Leith, in one month by Mr John Gibson to his own design, an aeroplane is being despatched to be shown at the London and Berlin aeroplane exhibitions.'[1]

1910 July. 'Mr John Gibson at his aeroplane works in Leith has just completed a biplane from his own design, and it is to be taken the flying grounds next week. It is of graceful build, and weighs, without the aviator, 700 lbs. The aeroplane as 10 feet in height, 30 feet long, and has a span 28 feet, with biplane elevator, biplane tail, and two rudders. It is slung on four wheels, and is mounted on long skids, which extend right up to the elevator. The engine is of the water-cooled type, and is 30 horse-power, and the two-bladed propeller is 6 feet 8 inches, working 1100 revolutions minute. A feature of the machine is that the tail, which is fitted with double spring skids, may be operated as an elevator in conjunction with the elevator itself. The angle of incidence for the tail is variable, and is adjusted by a small wheel, placed at the aviator's left hand, while the elevator proper and the four balancing ailerons are operated from one universal jointed lever, and the rudders are worked by a foot yoke. Two radiators form effective screens on either side of the aviator's seat. With the exception of the skids, which are made of elm, the woodwork is of silver spruce, and the machine is covered with the North British Robber Company's fabric. The only part of the aeroplane not made in Scotland is the engine, which is of English make, and is fitted with a Simm's magneto. Mr Gibson states that he built the biplane with the intention of flying at the Lanark meeting, but was practically excluded, all other Scottish aviators would be, by the conditions imposed. The meeting being an international one, the committee was determined to have experienced aviators only, and entrants had to deposit £40 as a guarantee that they could fly twelve miles without, touching the ground. Failure to accomplish that meant forfeiture the deposit.'[2]

1913 September. 'Mr Gordon T. Cooper, son of Mr F. T. Cooper, K.C., and secretary of the Edinburgh Aeronautical Association, while flying at Cramond turned a complete somersault. The feat was unintentional, and there was no mishap to the machine. Mr John Gibson, automobile and aeronautical engineer, Caledonian Motor Works, Leith Walk, Leith, who is responsible for the report, has had a letter from Mr Cooper telling him of the feat. Mr Cooper was flying about 30 miles an hour on a biplane named Caledonia XI, built entirely by Mr Gibson. It is fitted with a 30 h.p. Humber engine, and has 30-ft. span. Mr Gibson has built eleven aeroplanes, and, so far as he is aware is the only aeroplane builder in Scotland. Four of his machines were smashed during experiments, and himself has had a leg broken while flying one of them. Another was burned in the Brussels Exhibition, and a sixth was also burned in his own premises. The others have been sold, one of them at Glasgow Exhibition. Mr Gibson, who is 53 years of age, does not now fly himself, but his son, who is in business with him, has had one two flights.'[3]

1832 Advertisement for John Gibson and Sons, Leith and Aberdeen. Main dealers for Morris Commercial.[4]

1935 August 9th. Died. 'Scotland's pioneer of aviation, Mr. John Gibson, died yesterday at Leith, aged 79. Founder of one of the largest engineering concerns in the East of Scotland, lie constricted, years ago, one of the first aeroplanes to fly in Scotland.'[5]

1935 Obituary.[6]

After an adventurous career, Mr John Gibson, head of the firm of Messrs John Gibson & Son, motor engineers, Leith, died at his residence, 19 Pilrig Street.

He served a sea apprenticeship on a three-decker sailing ship, and for time he sailed on tea-clippers. On one occasion the ship on which Mr Gibson served engaged in a race with the world-famous Cutty Sark. Once Mr Gibson was shipwrecked off Cape Horn, and was 18 days in an open boat before being picked up. Later he tried his luck at the gold diggings in Australia.

In 1897 he founded the motor engineering firm of which he was the head. Mr Gibson, who was 79, was an aviation pioneer, and constructed the first aeroplane to fly in Scotland some 25 years ago.

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. Northern Daily Telegraph - Friday 04 March 1910
  2. Dundee Evening Telegraph - Wednesday 13 July 1910
  3. Dundee Evening Telegraph - Thursday 18 September 1913
  4. Edinburgh Evening News - Wednesday 28 September 1932
  5. Birmingham Daily Gazette - Saturday 10 August 1935
  6. Sunday Post - Sunday 11 August 1935