Radar pioneer remembered in Heathrow’s St Andrew’s Day celebrations

A rare studio photograph, c1960, of Sir Robert Alexander Watson-Watt without his hallmark spectacles.
A rare studio photograph, c1960, of Sir Robert Alexander Watson-Watt without his hallmark spectacles.

Heathrow airport is marking St Andrew’s Day with a tartan takeover that features Scottish greats - including Angus’ own Sir Robert Watson-Watt.

Known for his work with radar, Watson-Watt, who was born in Brechin, will be remembered alongside other Scottish pioneers, namely McAdam (the inventor of the road surfacing material known best known as Tarmac), Graham-Bell (telephone inventor) and Logie-Baird (creator of the television).

On Scotland’s national day, Heathrow is taking the opportunity to thank those pioneers by symbolising items in Heathrow that are made in Scotland with a tartan tag. But it’s not just engineers, scientists and inventors, Scotland’s natural produce and food and drink maestros are being recognised too.

The airport also worked with Glasgow born and based textile artist and designer Jilli Blackwood, who’s most famous for creating the outfits for the Scottish team at last summer’s Commonwealth Games, to create its own unique purple-hued tartan which has been used to tag Scottish exports within the airport’s walls. Inventions including ATMs, invented by John Shepherd-Barron, televisions and telephones have been covered in the bespoke plaid.

Talking about creating the tartan, Jilli Blackwood said: “It’s been really exciting working on this project with Heathrow. Being asked to work with the airport’s iconic colours was really quite challenging and forced me to think outside of the box. The final design is instantly recognisable to all as a tartan, yet one based on such bold and contemporary colours. It’s a brilliant symbol of Scotland and Heathrow’s relationship and has been used in some really interesting ways.”

But it’s not just the airport’s fixtures and fittings that have had a Celtic makeover as even the Scottish food and drink now sports a tartan design.

Travellers visiting Gordon Ramsay’s Plane Food restaurant in T5 can enjoy a set menu of smoked salmon and sourdough with a special tartan butter, followed by the traditional Scottish pudding Cranachan with a white chocolate tartan garnish, both of which have been developed by the head chef Andrew Winstanley and given a special twist with Heathrow’s new tartan.

For those looking for a little tipple before take-off, the Made in Scotland Martini served in a specially created tartan glass is bursting with Scottish ingredients including Hendrick’s gin, Drambuie and Tayside raspberries.

In addition to the tartan takeover, Heathrow’s runway, which has seen approximately 770,0000 planes fly to Scotland carrying over 42m passengers has been renamed the John McAdam Runway in homage to the Scottish inventor of tarmac. An estimated 378,000m2 of tarmac has been used across the two runways – that’s enough to fit ten-and-a-half Edinburgh Castles. As well as being made from a Scottish invention, it is expected that a third runway at Heathrow would create up to 16,100 new skilled jobs in Scotland and deliver up to £14 billion in economic growth.

As part of the week-long celebrations, Passenger Ambassadors at Heathrow will be sporting limited edition tartan sashes and will be happy to explain to interested travellers about the Scottish takeover.

Commenting on the Made in Scotland event, Emma Gilthorpe, Strategy Director at Heathrow said: “Scotland has always played an important role in innovation and export and it’s fair to say that we wouldn’t be where we are today without the originality of some great Scots.

“From John Loudon McAdam, to Preston Watson and Alexander Graham Bell, Scotland is the birthplace of many revolutionary inventions and it’s these revolutionary inventions, which make Heathrow the UK’s Hub airport that it is today. From Tarmac to telephones, some could argue that, in some way, Heathrow was actually made in Scotland so we simply wanted to pay homage to the Scots by hosting a week-long celebration. Thank you Scotland.”