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First aeroplane engine built near Balgonie, 1905.
Saskatchewan Archives Board R-B628

Town, pop 1,239, located approximately 24 km E of Regina on Hwy 1. The Balgonie post office was established in 1883, named after the 14th-century Balgonie Castle in the county of Fife, Scotland. While Scots did settle in the Balgonie area from the 1880s, large numbers of English from both eastern Canada and Great Britain also took up land in the area, together with a significant population of Germans from eastern Europe and southern Russia. The economy developed around agriculture, particularly the large-scale production of wheat. The completion of the TRANS-CANADA HIGHWAY in the late 1950s ushered in a period of significant growth. During the 1970s substantial residential development began, and today construction of new subdivisions continues as Balgonie further develops into a bedroom community for people who commute to work in Regina. One of the oldest remaining buildings in Balgonie is the former United Church: a stone structure built in 1901 for the community’s Presbyterian congregation, the building was designated a heritage property in 1987 and most recently has served as a community museum and heritage centre. Balgonie was also home to one of Canada’s Pioneers in aviation. During the first years of the 20th century, while the Wright brothers were experimenting with their own heavier-than-air aeroplane, William Wallace Gibson, also known as the “Balgonie Birdman,” was building a four-cylinder, air-cooled engine for an aircraft he was designing; he worked in secret and tested his model airplanes in the early morning hours to avoid ridicule from sceptical neighbours. Gibson built the first Canadian-made aircraft engine and installed it in an aircraft of his own design, which he successfully flew in Victoria in 1910, the first completely Canadian-built aircraft. Gibson has been the subject of both an animated short film produced by the National Film Board of Canada, and a 60-minute documentary produced by the Regina-based film and video production company, Partners in Motion.

David McLennan

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