William Bald Commemoration Plaque

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The plaque

On Saturday 30 August 2008, members and friends of the Institution of Civil Engineers and of Burntisland Heritage Trust gathered in the Burgh Chambers, Burntisland, for the unveiling of a plaque to commemorate William Bald, who was born in Burntisland around 1788. (Detailed information about William Bald can be found on the main William Bald page.)

The initiative resulted from an approach by civil engineer Sinclair McLeod to Ian Archibald of Burntisland Heritage Trust. Sinclair's idea of a commemoration plaque in Burntisland, William Bald's home town, was enthusiastically endorsed by David Orr, the President of the Institution of Civil Engineers. The plaque was funded by donations from David Orr's President's Fund, Sinclair McLeod and Burntisland Heritage Trust; and the installation costs were met by Network Rail.

David Orr performed the formal unveiling of the plaque in the Burgh Chambers. (It was later fixed in its permanent position, at the west end of Burntisland High Street - please click here for photos.)

David Orr gave the main speech of the day, and concluded by saying:

     "Ladies and Gentlemen, it is a huge privilege to be the President of the Institution of Civil Engineers, an organisation with 80,000 members whose vision is to see civil engineers at the heart of society, delivering sustainable development through knowledge, skills and professional expertise.
     I truly believe that William Bald was a civil engineer who fulfilled that vision. He left an immeasurable legacy to the people of the Glens of Antrim and created one of the finest tourist routes in the world. He left his mark across Ireland, France and Scotland.
     But despite extensive research, no portrait of him can be found. Perhaps his finest memorial is the Coast Road itself, marked only by a small plaque at the start of the road in Larne. And that is why, to my mind, William Bald is a true unsung hero.
     But thanks to the initiative of Sinclair McLeod, the Institution of Civil Engineers, and the Burntisland Heritage Trust, we now have another means of recognising William Bald, civil engineer. And I hope that will mean he is an unsung hero no more.
     It gives me the greatest pleasure to unveil this memorial plaque to William Bald, civil engineer and a son of Burntisland.
"

Peter Bald, William Bald's great great grandson who lives in New Zealand, was unable to attend, but he sent the following message:

     "I was so pleased to receive your invitation to the unveiling of the plaque in commemoration of William Bald. I am unable to attend, but I am thrilled at the recognition being given to William, whose achievements have for too long been in shadow. Other members of the family in New Zealand are similarly thrilled.
     On the occasion of this memorial to William, tribute needs be paid to Margaret Storrie, David Orr and Iain Sommerville who have done so much to bring the man's achievements to light. They have helped me learn much about my esteemed ancestor and have inspired a growing band of folk who continue to increase the collective knowledge of how important William Bald has been in the surveying, mapping and engineering of Scotland and Ireland.
     I should also like to thank Sinclair McLeod of the Institution of Civil Engineers and Ian Archibald of Burntisland Heritage Trust for bringing the idea of a memorial plaque to fruition.
     I hope that your commemorations proceed successfully. Be assured that the thoughts of the New Zealand Balds will be with you in Burntisland on the 30th."

Unveiling ceremony

Above, from left to right:
Iain Sommerville, who has researched William Bald's family history;
Dr Margaret Storrie, whose 1968 paper is still the definitive work on William Bald;
David Orr, President of the Institution of Civil Engineers;
Sinclair McLeod, who proposed the erection of a plaque;
Ian Archibald, Convener of Burntisland Heritage Trust, who brought the idea of a plaque to fruition.

Below: Frances Melville, Provost of Fife, with David Orr.

Unveiling ceremony

Below: the plaque in its permanent location on the railway viaduct at the west end of Burntisland High Street. In the photo on the right, the plaque is on the pillar on the left side of the road; William Bald's Burntisland family home was on a site to the right of the road, now covered by the viaduct and the trees. It was thought that William himself would have been pleased that his commemoration plaque was fixed to an impressive engineering structure!

The plaque in situ     The site of the plaque

Photos courtesy of Allan Hutchison and Ian Archibald.

Webpage by Iain Sommerville; Help on bookmarking this page.

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