Cat-lantic stowaway’s four-day feat

lWilliam Ballantyne and Wopsie the Cat.
lWilliam Ballantyne and Wopsie the Cat.
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SHE was the globe-trotting world traveller whose story of stowing away captured the imagination of the public on both sides of the Atlantic.

And now, a group of budding engineers are set to be given the chance to follow in Wopsie the cat’s pawprints by designing their own way to travel from Scotland to the United States as part of an RAF-backed national invention competition.

NMoF_East_Fortune_Apprentices hold up items relating to the incredible story.

NMoF_East_Fortune_Apprentices hold up items relating to the incredible story.

The feline stowaway and owner William Ballantyne were discovered aboard the first airship to travel East to West across the Atlantic when it left a farm in East Fortune almost 100 years ago.

The four-day intercontinental voyage started in East Lothian on July 2, 1919, before ending in Long Island, New York.

However, rather than being punished for boarding the ship in secret, William – who was left behind to save weight on the trip – and Wopsie became minor celebrities stateside as one of the first cases of an aeronautical stowaway, even appearing on the front page of the New York Times.

Capital engineering firm Leonardo now hopes to use the story to encourage more youngsters to move into the profession and has asked for designs for a feline aircraft to be submitted as part of the contest, with the overall winner picking up a trophy designed by the company’s aviation apprentices.

When asked why he stowed away on the 108-hour trip, William – who lived in Edinburgh until his death in 1979 – told reporters: “You see, I’d never been to America, had my heart placed on it, and my mind, too.”

Entrants will be able to access a copy of a cartoon story which recreates some of the real events on the journey, from turbulent storms, to sightings of icebergs and whales.

Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier, chief of air staff for the Royal Air Force, said he hoped the competition would “inspire the next generation of engineers and inventors”.

ACM Hillier said: “That first flight from East Fortune was a great example of the combination of daring, innovation and courage which characterises so much of the history of British aviation and the Royal Air Force.”

He continued: “Many children will not have been aware of this story and going back in time to share that spirit of adventure with them will inspire them to imagine, and hopefully build, the future of aerospace.”

Entrants must tweet a picture of their design to @Leonardo_UK using the hashtag #WopsiesTale or e-mail them to wopsie@leonardocompany.com before Friday, October 12 to be in with a chance of winning.