Fresson Cairn, Kirkwall

Tuesday, 8 May 1933 marked the start of what would become the longest continuously-operating scheduled air service in Europe and probably the world. It was to be called Highland Airways.

Commemorating this adventure, started by Captain Ernest Fresson, is a cairn overlooking the current Kirkwall airport.

Fresson Cairn overlooking Kirkwall airport

Fresson Cairn overlooking Kirkwall airport

Unveiled in 2008 by Stephen Hagan, the convener of Orkney Islands Council, the monument is positioned at the site of Orkney’s original airstrip at Wideford Farm.

The cairn is topped with a bronze model of a de Havilland Rapide, sculpted by local sculptor Gary Gibson.

The plaque on the monument states: “On 8th May 1933 Capt Ted Fresson in Highland Airways Monospar G-ACEW landed the first scheduled air service from Inverness on this site which was Orkney’s first aerodrome”

Fresson Cairn - Kirkwall

Fresson Cairn - Kirkwall

Almost a year after the first scheduled flight Fresson started the UK’s first scheduled internal airmail service on the 29 May 1934.

Captain Fresson is also credited with the first Tarmac airstrip at the nearby Hatston airfield. These are acknowledged as the first runways in Britain.

He died in 1963.

Fresson Trust

The Fresson Trust was founded in the spring of 1991.

It is a Registered Charity in Scotland.

The principal objectives of the Fresson Trust are:
  • To offer bursaries or similar contributions to residents of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland who wish to begin or pursue a career in aviation within the area as a pilot, engineer or air traffic controller.
  • To support the establishment of suitable local museums and archives to house memorabilia and aircraft (civil and military) with a Highlands and Islands connection.
  • To arrange and promote such events as commemorate the anniversaries of Captain Fressons aviation activities throughout the area, and more recent aviation achievements, as a means of fund-raising and to keep their history alive.
  • To engage in fund-raising activities in a variety of ways, to provide the Trust bursaries, and assist in its other objectives.

Further information

The modern Kirkwall airport

The modern Kirkwall airport

Tributes to legendary Highland flier – BBC News

Mpu Goes Big Game Hunting at Grimsetter -The Special Occasion was the 75th Anniversary of the first scheduled flight from Inverness (Longman) to Kirkwall (Grimsetter).

Flying Scotsmen – The writer Eric Linklater used to tell the story of a memorable flight with Captain Fresson.

Original envelope sent by Fresson Airmail 1934