IT was billed as “the world’s finest centre for the appreciation of televisual technology” - but almost three decades after the idea for a dedicated John Logie Baird centre in Helensburgh was first proposed, it is only notable for its absence.

Earlier this year, video collector Beth Scott paid the princely sum of 50p for an old VHS tape from the donation table at the Burgh’s Co-op supermarket, intrigued by the plain black case featuring a typewritten label referencing the renowned inventor.

After finally settling down to watch the tape two weeks ago, Beth, who studied archaeology at university, was fascinated to discover the history behind Helensburgh’s most famous son and plans for a specialist hub for brand new media technology, celebrating the man himself and modern technological advancements, to be sited on the town’s pierhead, where the swimming pool currently stands.

Thought to date from the early 1990s, the video was commissioned by the John Logie Baird Trust and created by Scope Picture Productions.

Throughout the seven-minute long film various commentators discuss the proposals to bring a JLB centre to the area.

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The narrator says: “The John Logie Baird Visitor Centre will be a significant new attraction for Helensburgh as people come to honour the memory of one of the great figures of the 20th century and to experience the exhilaration of the latest developments in the technology which he introduced to the world.

“The scenic beauty of Loch Lomond and the surrounding countryside, and Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s architectural masterpiece, Hill House, already draw huge numbers of visitors, but the new Baird Television Centre will greatly enhance this potential, providing a wet weather attraction and offering a fresh focus for tourist development in Dunbartonshire.”

Ken McDonald, then director of the John Logie Baird Trust, said in the video: “In its simplest form, the John Logie Baird Centre is about commemorating and celebrating the life and times of a very famous man whose invention changed the world.”

The working brief for the £5 million centre was to “educate, inform and entertain”, being attractive to all age groups and offering a place where young people “can go and be enlightened as well as discovering and exploring in an interactive way the very latest developments in the rapidly changing television and communications industry”.

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With updated and continually evolving exhibits to reflect new discoveries and inventions, the project was well advertised at the time.

The video adds: “As Baird himself found throughout his working life, an innovative idea ultimately rests with those best placed to bring it to fruition.”

Ultimately, nothing ever came of the grand scheme, as the then Dumbarton District Council pulled the plug on its support for the project amid claims over dubious motives.

That decision was much to the disappointment of those behind the plans, as well as interested spectators now.

A report in The Herald on October 23, 1992 stated that no objections had been raised by members of the public to the outline planning application, adding: “Lord Provost Patrick O’Neil, leader of the Labour group, said that it [the council] had voted against the application because members believed the site on the Helensburgh foreshore was unsuitable for the development.”

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“It would have been so good to have that centre here,” Beth said.

“It would have been perfectly positioned for the rise of internet media, as well as complementing the BBC hub in Dumbarton. If you asked me, Helensburgh missed a gigantic opportunity.

“But aside from what the centre itself could offer, I do find we make remarkably little of the fact Helensburgh is the literal birthplace of the television.

“We could definitely be doing more.”

Local historian Stewart Noble, a self-confessed JLB enthusiast, agrees.

He said: “It was really the first time I became aware of how some kind of museum could be made to work digitally.

“It had all sorts of interactive displays and so on, with demonstrations of Baird and his experiments.

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“It opened my eyes back then to what might be technically possible.

“The digital world was in the very early stages but even then it seemed to be a very far-seeing idea.

“If it had gone ahead it would have been something that could be updated and built upon. It could’ve been really good.”

With the 100th anniversary of the first-ever demonstration of a working television system by Baird, on January 26, 1926, soon approaching, Stewart says he would welcome the revival of the JLB centre idea in the near future.

“I would definitely like to see it happen one day, for a number of reasons,” he said.

“What he accomplished despite all the odds was truly amazing.

“He was a classic inventor: no money, eccentric, working in an attic.

“He had a tremendous mind. There is so much scope not just to celebrate his TV work but all these other things he did as well.”

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