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Biographies : Scotland



Baird, Agnes 1770-1832 [ Writer - Historian ]

Was a writer and historian of Glasgow whose forthright style provoked controversy. Born in King Street, she was the daughter of William Brown, a glove manufacturer. Her parents and grandparents had a fund of stories about the city from the early 18th century and this inspired Agnes Baird's lifelong interest in history. However, her early years were difficult. Her father and then her tailor husband, James Baird, were dogged with financial problems. It was only much later in life, when her children were grown and she had inherited sufficient money to live securely, that she developed her writing talents.

Baird first came to prominence in 1830 when she produced a pamphlet highly critical of James Cleland (1770-1840), a well-known civic official. She evidently knew Cleland personally and felt that his fame as a historian and statistician of the city was not entirely merited. She itemised a long list of factual errors appearing in his various publications and rigorously corrected these. Baird felt herself superior in scholarly abilities and aggrieved that in 1826 Cleland had been awarded the degree of Doctor of Letters by Glasgow University, an honour that as a woman she could never aspire to. There were also sharp political differences between Baird and Cleland. He was an active promoter of the Tory cause; she was much more of a radical.
Her pamphlet caused a minor sensation and although the Glasgow Courier, a Tory newspaper, dismissed her as "an antiquarian dame", she won many admirers for her robust and irreverent views. Encouraged, she planned to write a history of modern Glasgow, giving a "warts-and-all" assessment of city politicians and worthies. However, she died suddenly in 1832. Her biographer noted that although an artist had been approached, he had never got round to recording her likeness.

Baird, Sir David 1757-1829 [ Lieutenant-general - Baronet ]

Born at Newbyth East Lothian in December 1757. Fifth son of William Baird, he entered the British army and was posted to Gibraltar 1773-1776 and was sent to India in 1779 with the 73rd (afterwards 71st) Highlanders, in which he was a captain. Immediately on his arrival, Baird was attached to the force commanded by Sir Hector Munro, which was sent forward to assist the detachment of Colonel Baillie, threatened by Hyder Ali. In the action which followed the whole force was destroyed, and Baird, severely wounded, fell into the hands of the Mysore chief and subsequently imprisoned at Seringapatam - released in March 1784. Baird's mother, on hearing that her son and other prisoners were in fetters, is said to have remarked, "God help the chiel chained to our Davie." The bullet was not extracted from Baird?s wound until his release.

He became a major in 1787, visited England in 1789, returning to India in the following year. He held a brigade command in the war against Tippoo, and served under Cornwallis in the Seringapatam operations of 1792, being promoted colonel in 1795. Baird served also at the Cape of Good Hope as a brigadier-general, and he returned to India as a major-general in 1798. In the last war against Tippoo in 1799 Baird was appointed to the senior brigade command in the army. At the successful assault of Seringapatam Baird led the storming party, and was soon a master of the stronghold in which he had long been a prisoner.
He had been disappointed that the command of the large contingent of the nizam was given to Colonel Arthur Wellesley; and when after the capture of the fortress the same officer obtained the governorship, Baird judged himself to have been treated with injustice and disrespect. He afterwards received the thanks of parliament and of the British East India Company for his gallant bearing on that important day, and a pension was offered to him by the Company, which he declined, apparently from the hope of receiving the order of the Bath from the government. General Baird commanded the Indian army which was sent in 1801 to co-operate with Abercromby in the expulsion of the French from Egypt. Wellesley was appointed second in command, but owing to ill-health did not accompany the expedition. Baird landed at Kosseir, conducted his army across the desert to Kena on the Nile, and then to Cairo. He arrived before Alexandria in time for the final operations.

On his return to India in 1802, he was employed against Sindhia, but being irritated at another appointment given to Wellesley he relinquished his command and returned to Europe. In 1804 he was knighted, and in 1806, being by now a lieutenant-general, he commanded the expedition against the Cape of Good Hope with complete success, capturing Cape Town and forcing the Dutch general Janssens to surrender. But here again his usual ill luck attended him. Commodore Sir Home Popham persuaded Sir David to lend him troops for an expedition against Buenos Aires; the successive failures of operations against this place involved the recall of Baird, though on his return home he was quickly re-employed as a divisional general in the Copenhagen expedition of 1807. During the bombardment of Copenhagen, Baird was wounded.
Shortly after his return, he was sent out to the Peninsular War in command of a considerable force which was sent to Spain to cooperate with Sir John Moore, to whom he was appointed second in command. It was Baird's misfortune that he was junior by a few days both to Moore and to Lord Cavan, under whom he had served at Alexandria, and thus never had an opportunity of a chief command in the field. At the battle of Corunna he succeeded to the supreme command after Moore's fall, but shortly afterwards his left arm was shattered, and the command passed to Sir John Hope. He again obtained the thanks of parliament for his gallant services, and was made a K.B. and a baronet. Sir David married Miss Campbell-Preston, a Perthshire heiress, in 1810. Resided on an estate in Perthshire which Lady Baird had inherited from her maternal grandmother. He enlarged the house, embellished the grounds and entertained in a style of splendid hospitality.

He was not employed again in the field, and personal and political enmities caused him to be neglected and repeatedly passed over. He was not given the full rank of general until 1814, and his governorship of Kinsale was given five years later. In 1820 he was appointed commander-in-chief in Ireland, but the command was soon reduced, and he resigned in 1822. Died: 29 August 1829 at Ferntower, Perthshire. Ref: Hook, T. The Life of General, The Right Honourable Sir David Baird London: Richard Bentley, 1832 [2 vols]; DNB Vol. I pp. 914-917; Wilkin, W.H. The Life of Sir David Baird. London: George Allen, 1912.

Baird, George Husband 1761-1840 [ Minister - University Principal ]

Was born in 1761 in a now-demolished house attached to the holding of Bowes, in the hollow to the west of Inveravon farm-house, in the Parish of Borrowstounness. His father, James Baird, while a considerable proprietor in the county of Stirling, at that time rented this farm from the Duke of Hamilton. Young Baird received the rudiments of his education at the Parish School of Borrowstounness. Upon his father removing to the property of Manuel the boy was sent to the Grammar School at Linlithgow and in his thirteenth year he entered as a student in Humanity at Edinburgh University.

In 1787 he was ordained minister of Dunkeld, and in 1792 was appointed minister of Greyfriars Kirk, Edinburgh. In the same year he became Joint Professor of Oriental Languages in Edinburgh University. Then in 1793 he became Principal of Edinburgh University at the early age of thirty-three.
Baird had married the eldest daughter of Lord Provost Elder, who had paramount influence in the Council, and exercised it for the election of his youthful and untried son-in-law. We believe it use to be jocularly said that his chief claim to the Principalship was as "Husband" of the Lord Provost's daughter. Nevertheless the appointment turned out well and Baird held the Principalship for the long period of forty-seven years. He lived through many long battles and litigation., and died leaving the Senatus still at war.

Early in 1791, Baird wrote to Robert Burns telling him that he was preparing an edition of the poems of Michael Bruce, the proceeds to be used to alleviate the condition of Bruce's elderly mother. George Baird wanted Burn's to consider Bruce's manuscript, and to supply some memorial couplet's for Bruce's tombstone. Burns replied asking: "Why did you, my dear Sir, write to me in such a hesitating style on the business of poor Bruce? Don't I know, and have I not felt the ills, the peculiar ills, that Poetic flesh is heir to?" He then offered the choice of 'all the unpublished poems' he had among them, apparently, 'Tom o' Shanter.' News of this offer leaked out among Bruce's admirers, and Baird was prevailed upon not to use Burns's masterpiece in a context which, to the admirers of Bruce's religious poems, seemed inappropriate. Bruce's poems were published in 1799

Towards the close of his life he threw his whole soul into a scheme for the education of the poor in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. He submitted his proposals to the General Assembly in May, 1824, advancing them with great ability and earnestness. Next year the Assembly gave its sanction to the scheme, and it was launched most auspiciously. So intense was his interest in this work that in his sixty-seventh year, although in enfeebled health, he traversed the entire Highlands of Argyll, the west of Inverness, and Ross, and the Western Islands from Lewis to Kintyre. The following year he visited the Northern Highlands and the Orkneys and Shetlands. Through his influence Dr. Andrew Bell, of Madras, bequeathed 5000 for education in the Highlands of Scotland. In 1832 the thanks of the General Assembly were conveyed to him by the illustrious Dr. Chalmers, then in the zenith of his oratorical powers. Baird died 1840 at his family property at Manuel, and is buried in Muiravonside Churchyard.

Baird, Sir John Lawrence 1874-1941 [Viscount- governor general of Australia ]

Son of Sir Alexander Baird, was born on 27 April 1874. He was educated at Eton and Christ Church, Oxford, and spent a year in Australia in 1894 as aide-de-camp to Sir Robert Duff, governor of New South Wales. He joined the diplomatic service in 1896 and during the next 12 years was stationed at Vienna, Cairo, in Abysinia, and at Paris and Buenos Aires. He was elected to the house of commons as Unionist candidate for Rugby in 1910, and held this seat for 12 years. After the outbreak of the 1914-18 war he joined the Intelligence Corps in France and was awarded the D.S.O. in 1915. He was recalled to London in 1916 to become a parliamentary member of the air board until the close of the war. He then became parliamentary secretary to the home office and, having been elected for Ayr Burghs in 1922, became minister of transport and commissioner of works until 1924. He showed himself to be an excellent minister. In 1925 he was appointed governor-general of Australia and was thoroughly efficient and conscientious in his office, his travels extending to the mandated territory in New Guinea. In the closing years of his term, Australia was involved in a serious depression, and after his departure in September 1930, Lord Stonehaven took every opportunity to express confidence in the financial credit of Australia. The Conservative party had been defeated in 1929 and he became its chairman after his return. When the Nazi party arose in Germany he strongly opposed the policy of appeasement. "You will never buy Hitler off," he said in one of his speeches. When war broke out he supervised the arrangements for tracing missing men and the wounded in base hospitals in France. He died in Scotland after a short illness on 20 August 1941. He married in 1905, Lady Ethel Keith-Falconer, daughter of the Earl of Kintore, who survived him with two sons and three daughters. He had succeeded his father as second baronet in 1920, was created Baron Stonehaven in 1925, and Viscount Stonehaven in 1938. Times, 21 August 1941; Sydney Morning Herald, 21 August 1941; Debrett's Peerage, 1942.

Baird, John Logie 1888-1946 [ Engineer - Inventor ]

John Logie Baird

Born in Helenburgs Dumbarton on the 13th August 1888, the fourth son of Jessie and his father, John Baird a Presbyterian minister of West Parish church. John Logie studied electrical engineering at Glasgow Royal College of Technology (now Strathclyde University, where his son Professor Malcolm Baird opened a new centre in his father's honour on November 10th 1999 ).
After graduating he worked in the US for a time, then left and returned to London after an unsuccessful venture in jam making in the Carribean. In London he set up a soap making business then fell ill and returned to live in Hastings East Sussex with his long time friend and old school acquaintance Guy Robertson, they lived at 21 Linton Crescent. In the spring of 1923, Baird & Robertson (also known as Mephy) put an advert in the Times "Seeing by wireless. Inventor of apparatus wishes to hear from someone who will assist, not financially, in making working model." He received reply's from the BBC and London cinema owner Will Day- They entered a partnership and applied for John Logie Baird's first patent.
He made several transmission demo's but the official first television broadcast was in August 1926, when he obtained the first television license from the Post Office. Transmission was from his workshop at No 8 Queens Avenue Hastings, after an accident as a result of a short circuit which injured him, his landlord Mr Tree asked him to vacate the premises. John Logie left sadly and returned to London. He was married to South African pianist Margaret Albu. Finally early 1945 he returned to Sussex and lived at Bexhill-On-Sea No 1 Station Road until he died June the 14th 1946.


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