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Vincenzo Lunardi


1759 - 1806

Ballooning pioneer. Most likely born in Lucca (Italy), Lunardi came to Britain as Secretary to the Prince of Caramanico, the Neapolitan Ambassador. In 1784, he made the first balloon ascents in England. The following year he came to Scotland and made several ascents from Edinburgh and Glasgow causing great excitement. In Edinburgh, in October 1785, a large crowd assembled to witness his flight; his hydrogen-filled balloon rose from the grounds of George Heriot's School and travelled for 46 miles (74 km) over the Firth of Forth to land in a field at Callange (Fife). This followed the less successful ascent by James Tytler (c.1747 - 1804) the previous year. A plaque on a stone by the roadside commemorates Lunardi's feat. He next took off in a hot-air balloon from St. Andrew's in the Square churchyard in Glasgow on 23rd November and floated southeast over Hamilton, Lanark before landing near Hawick just over two hours later, where he was met by two frightened shepherds. The wife of the elder shepherd was summoned and after some encouragement became the first Borderer to fly in a balloon. Lunardi was feted by the magistrates of Hawick, who presented with the freedom of the town and hosted a grand dinner in his honour. He published An Account of five Aerial Voyages in Scotland in 1786.

In Scotland, a balloon-shaped bonnet was named after him, which is mentioned by Robert Burns (1759-96) in his poem To A Louse. There are streets in Cupar (Fife) and Errol (Perth and Kinross) named in his honour.


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