The History of Leith

October 15, 2011

The first Briton who ascended with a balloon

Lord Alemoor, whose town house was in Niddry’s Wynd, was resident at Hawkhill, where he died in 1776; and five years before that period the village was the scene of great festal rejoicings, when
Patrick Macdowal of Freugh, fifth Earl of Dumfries, was married to ” Miss Peggy Crawford, daughter of Ronald Crawford, Esq., of Restalrig.”
From Peter Williamson’s Directory it appears that Restalrig was the residence, in 1784, of Alexander Lockhart, the famous Lord Covington. In the same year a man named James Tytler, who had ascended in a balloon from the adjacent Comely Gardens, had a narrow escape in this quarter. He was a poor man, who supported himself and his family by the use of his pen, and he conceived the idea of going up in a balloon on the Montgolfier principle ; but finding that he could not carry a firestove with him, in his desperation and disappointment he sprang into his car with no other sustaining power than a common crate used for packing earthenware; thus his balloon came suddenly down in the road near Restalrig. ” For a wonder Tytler was uninjured; and though he did not reach a greater altitude than three hundred feet, nor traverse a greater distance than half a mile, yet his name must ever be mentioned as that of the first Briton who ascended with a balloon, and who was the first man who so ascended in Britain.”

source-Old and New Edinburgh

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