He was known to his neighbours and the good folks of Banchory as “Fleein Geordie” but who was he?
William Burnett-Ramsay of Banchory Lodge married Anne Davidson, daughter of Duncan Davidson of Inchmarlo, in 1854. On 11 September 1858, Anne’s nephew, George Louis Outram Davidson, youngest son of Patrick Davidson of Inchmarlo, was born.
George Davidson earned the nickname of “Fleein Geordie” because of his early obsession with trying to prove that, if birds could fly, man should be able to do likewise. His earliest flying machine was intended to rise in a series of lifts followed by horizontal bird-like flights with airflow regulated by flaps in the wings. His idea, which he patented in 1896, was that his Air-Car Monoplane with a wing-span of 30 metres and a fuselage of about 14 metres in length would carry twenty passengers, possibly even across the Atlantic.
In September 1898, curious Press and locals gathered in Banchory to see the trial of one of a number of scale models he constructed to test his design. A report of the test flight and a drawing of the machine featured in the “Aberdeen Journal” of Wednesday 7th September. Unhappily the model craft failed to perform as expected and crashed but fortunately the pilot was unhurt. A syndicate, established in 1897, is reported to have raised in the region of £20,000 of funds for construction of the Air-Car and to purchase the patent rights from Davidson. but, following the unsuccessful trial, the project lapsed. Although not the success he had hoped for, George Davidson had been able to show that his “wing-beat” means of flight was realistically only for the birds. The following month, in October 1898 he delivered a lecture entitled “Mechanical Flight” to a distinguished audience.
Undaunted he revived the idea of a monoplane in 1906 with another patent being taken out to preserve the new design. George Davidson had business interests in London and mining interests in America. Early in 1906 the project to develop the new plane renamed the “Gyrocopter” was moved to USA. Following an unsatisfactory test of the centre section after its construction near Denver this design was also abandoned and the project returned to UK. Despite several attempts to build another machine in England, George Davidson eventually had to admit defeat due to lack of support and money.
George Louis Outram Davidson died, unmarried, at Inchmarlo Cottage, Banchory on 26th June 1939 aged 80. His name may not be up there with others such as the Wright brothers but he lived to see his early predictions about man and aviation come true.
Eileen Bailey. Burnett Genealogist.