The Falkirk Wheel started turning in May 2002, after three years under construction. Replacing a run of ten locks, it cut the best part of a full day off the time required to travel between Scotland’s two largest cities on a waterway that had been closed since the 1930s.

That wasn’t the only project to debut in May that revived a long-lost means of transport. Edinburgh commuters were riding the city’s trams for the first time that month after close to 60 years as the city’s new, 16-station line opened for business.

It was the month in which the Empire Exhibition opened in Glasgow, the last flights departed from Renfrew Airport, and the Hillman Imp went into production at a factory in Linwood. Factory bosses had hoped that the car would go toe-to-toe with the Mini but, despite success at the time, we see very few of them on the roads today.

May saw the Clydebank-built RMS Queen Mary take her maiden voyage, the reconvened Scottish Parliament hold its first meeting, and the STV brand return after an absence of several years. Dictionary publisher William Chambers died, although his name lives on through countless bookshelves, tea magnate Thomas Lipton was born, and Rudolf Hess fled Nazi Germany for Scotland, hoping to negotiate an end to the war.


Also in May…

The Acts of Union come into force 1st
Jenners opens on Princes Street
The National Trust for Scotland is founded
Deacon Blue releases its debut album
Hillman Imp rolls off production line in Linwood 2nd
Cash machine is patented
Renfrew Airport’s last flight departs
The Empire Exhibition opens in Glasgow 3rd
SNP forms its first Scottish government
Greyfriars Bobby is born 4th
Construction begins at Sutherland Spaceport 5th
Scotland gives 16-year-olds the vote
East Kilbride becomes Scotland’s first New Town 6th
Massacre at the Battle of Spoiling Dyke 7th
Mhairi Black becomes Britain’s youngest MP
Biological weapons tests begin in the Outer Hebrides 8th
Cancer pioneer Henry Littlejohn is born
Author JM Barrie is born 9th
Tea magnate Thomas Lipton is born 10th
Rudolf Hess flees to Scotland
The Wigtown Martyrs are drowned 11th
Labour leader John Smith dies 12th
First meeting of the new Scottish Parliament
Count Roehenstart is baptised 13th
Poet Duncan Ban MacIntyre dies in Edinburgh 14th
Waterbed inventor is born in Arbroath 15th
Explorer and diplomat Alexander Burnes is born 16th
First Minister Donald Dewar is born 17th
Turnberry Golf Course is opened
Motherwell FC is founded
“The Disruption” splits the Church of Scotland 18th
Braveheart opens in cinemas
Lord Leverhulme buys the Isle of Lewis 19th
Dictionary publisher William Chambers dies 20th
Edinburgh Cathedral foundation stone is laid 21st
Eliza Fraser is shipwrecked off Australia
Williamina Fleming dies in Boston
Hundreds killed in the Quintinshill rail disaster 22nd
Scottish pirate William Kidd is executed 23rd
The Falkirk Wheel opens for business 24th
Journalist and political adviser Alastair Campbell is born 25th
Scotland’s first commercial railway signed off 26th
Tearoom founder Catherine Cranston is born in Glasgow 27th
Clydebank-built RMS Queen Mary takes her maiden voyage
Dozens of miners killed at Udston Colliery 28th
Cardinal David Beaton is assassinated at St Andrews 29th
STV returns to Scottish airwaves 30th
Royal Bank of Scotland invents the overdraft 31st
Edinburgh’s trams carry their first passengers