Kirkpatrick Macmillan

Kirkpatrick Macmillan (1813 - 1878) was a blacksmith working at Courthill Smithy on the Drumlanrig estate of the Duke of Buccleuch when a local woodturner visited riding a hobby or Dandy horse. The hobbyhorse first appeared in Paris in 1808. It consisted of two wheels joined by a connecting bar. In 1818 an improved version was patented by Baron Von Drais, becoming known as the Draisinne or "Dandy horse". This type became very popular, and in 1819 hundreds were in use in Hyde Park in London. Intrigued by the simple machine, which was propelled by pushing with the feet, Macmillan built himself one. He became a familiar sight on the lanes and roads around Thornhill and Keir, but tired of its slow means of propulsion. Around 1839 he fitted pedal operated cranks to the rear wheel. This was the first time a driving gear had been fitted to two wheels, and so the world's first bicycle was invented.

In 1842 and aged 29, Macmillan set out from Courthill Smithy to visit his brothers in Glasgow - a round trip of 130 miles. He stayed in Cumnock overnight, and arrived in Glasgow the following day. A large crowd gathered to watch him pass, and in the confusion he knocked down a young girl when he was travelling through the Gorbals. The child was uninjured, but Macmillan was fined 5 shillings (25p). The Dumfries Courier reported the incident, concluding, "This invention will not supersede the railway." 

This sentiment was understandable. The bicycle weighed 26kgs (57lbs) and must have been hard to start. It would have been uncomfortable and dangerous to ride. The wheels were made of wood, and the tyres were of iron. The position of the pedals restricted the turning of the front wheel, and the machine had no breaks. 

Although Macmillan built only one bicycle, he willingly helped others to make theirs. Thomas McCall, a joiner and wheelwright of Kilmarnock, built and sold copies of Macmillan's bicycle for £7.00 each. 

The rear driving principle was not generally adopted until 40 years after Macmillan had first applied it to the hobbyhorse. 

Macmillan's bicycle did not become popular. The French velocipede or boneshaker, with its cranks and pedal on the front wheel invented by Michaux of Paris in 1861, gained the bicycle true acceptance. 

From the velocipede developed the high wheeled ordinary or "penny farthing" style bicycle in the 1870s, followed by the rear wheel driven "safety" bicycle of the 1880s.

You must enable javascript to view this website