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The Anecdotage of Glasgow
James Baird of Cambusdoon and his brothers


IN a review of "Memoirs and Portraits of One Hundred Glasgow Men," which appeared in the Scottish News, some of the following interesting particulars regarding this remarkable and wonderfully successful family are given.

"Iron has been, if not our chief trade, at least one of our leading industries, and there is a remarkably good paper on the great house of William Baird & Co. It reads like a romance how these seven sons of the sturdy Lanarkshire farmer, with no aid but their own brains and pluck, built up, in one life-time, the greatest business in the West of Scotland, and many colossal fortunes. They came of a sturdy stock, that, for more than two hundred years, had been tenants of the same lands in the cold, upland parish of Old Monkland.

"In the class to which their ancestors belonged are found, in the fullest perfection, all the special virtues of the Scotch character—perseverance, self-respect, integrity, foresight, prudence, resolution, thrift, with a dour determination to have their rights, that makes any attempt to wrong or browbeat them a perilous business. Like many others, they owed much to their mother’s training.

"By all accounts she was a typical Scotch housewife, high principled, shrewd, humorous, thrifty, of untiring spirit, industry, and resource, a strict but devoted mother. She might have sat to Solomon for his portrayal of the excellent woman. She looked well to the ways of her household, and neither ate the bread of idleness nor would let others eat it, and her children rose up to call her blessed. She lived to see them rich and powerful, but she had her reward not so much in this as in the tender and loyal love and duty they yielded her to the last."

The respective members of the family were :—Alexander Baird of Ury, born in 1799, and dying in 1862, who had been a member of the town council of Glasgow, and river bailie; Robert Baird of Auchmedden, born in 1806, and dying in 1856, who had been lord dean of guild in Glasgow in 1855-6; Douglas Baird of Closeburn, born 1808, and died 1854; William Baird of Elie, born 1796, and died 1864; James Baird of Cambusdoon, born in 1803, who was member of Parliament for the Falkirk district of burghs from 1851 to 1857. His great interest in the Church of Scotland was shown by his having, in July, 1873, instituted the Baird Trust, and devoted the sum of 500,000 for the promotion of the spread of the Gospel in connection with that Church. His death took place at Cambusdoon, near Ayr, on the 20th June, 1876.

An amusing anecdote, relating to this munificent gift, was current at the time, and even recently found its way into the columns of a London evening paper, but for its accuracy we are not prepared to vouch. The story is that the worthy donor and ex-M.P. was met soon after by another eminent ironmaster, who also sat in Parliament for the same district of burghs, and was specially noted for his sporting proclivities. Addressing Mr. Baird, he said:

Man, for all the money you have given to the Kirk, I take ye a bet of five pounds that you cannot repeat the Lord’s Prayer."

The bet was at once accepted, and Mr. Baird, after some little consideration and scratching of his head, began to repeat:

"The Lord’s my shepherd, I’ll not want,
He makes me down to lie
In pastures green: He leadeth me
The quiet waters by."

Upon which the challenger, utterly ignorant of the fact that this is the first verse of the Scottish version of the twenty-third psalm, pulled a five pound note out of his pocket-book, and handed it over to Mr. Baird, with the remark:

"Man, I did not think you could have said it. Well, you certainly have paid by far the largest premium as a policy of insurance against fire that I have ever either known or heard of."


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