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The Scottish Nation

BAIRD, a surname of ancient standing in Scotland. According to Nisbet, (Heraldry, vol. i. p. 314,) the families of this surname have for arms, Gules, a Boar passant, Or: as relative to the name. Tradition states that while William the Lion was hunting in one of the south-west counties, he happened to straggle from his attendants, and was alarmed by the approach of a wild boar, which was slain by one of his retinue of the name of Baird, who had hastened to his assistance. For this signal service the king conferred upon him large grants of land, and assigned him the above coat of arms, with the motto "Dominus fecit."

      In the reign of Alexander the Third, Robert, son of Waldeve de Biggar, granted a charter to Richard Baird, of Meikle and Little Kyp in Lanarkshire. (Dalrymple’s Collections, p. 397.) Among the names in the Ragman Roll of those who swore submission and fealty to King Edward the First of England, in 1292, 1296, 1297, &c., are Fergus de Bard, John Bard, and Robert Bard; supposed to be of the Bairds of Kyp and Evandale, then a considerable family in Lanarkshire. There is a charter of King Robert the Bruce of the barony of Cambusnethan to Robert Baird. (Haddington’s Collections.)

      Baird of Carnwath, with three or four other barons of that name, being convicted of a conspiracy against King Robert the Bruce, in a parliament held at Perth, were forfeited and put to death in consequence.

      The estate of Cambusnethan went by marriage, in the reign of David the Second, to Sir Alexander Stewart, afterwards of Darnley and Crookston, who, in 1390, bestowed the lands of Cambusnethan on Janet his daughter and her husband, Sir Thomas Somerville of Carnwath, created in 1427 Lord Somerville.

      From the Bairds of Ordinhivas in Banffshire, descendants of the family of Cambusnethan, came the Bairds of Auchmedden in Aberdeenshire, who were long the principal family of the name, and for several generations sheriffs of that county.

      George Baird of Auchmedden, who was alive in 1568, married Elizabeth, daughter of Alexander Keith of Troop, brother of tile earl marischal. His son and successor, also named George, married in 1570, Lilias, daughter and heir of Walter Baird of Ordinhivas, and had a numerous progeny. The eldest son, George Baird of Auchmedden, was ancestor of the Bairds of that place, now represented by Fraser of Findrach. (Burke’s Landed Gentry.)

      The fourth son, James Baird, advocate, and one of the commissaries of Edinburgh in the time of Charles the First, was the founder of the houses of Newbyth and Saughtonhall. He married Bathia, a daughter of Dempster of Pitliver, by whom he had two sons, John and Robert. John the eldest was admitted advocate in June 1647. At the Restoration he was created a knight baronet, and made a lord of session, under the title of Lord Newbyth. He died at Edinburgh, 27th April 1698, in the 78th year of his age. He collected the decisions of the court from November 1664 to February 1667, and practiques from the former year to 1681, with an Appendix to 1690, the manuscripts of which are preserved in the Advocates’ Library. (Haig and Brunton’s Senators of the College of Justice.) He married Margaret, daughter of William Hay of Linplum, the second son of James lord Yester, and brother of John, first earl of Tweeddale. By her he had Sir William Baird of Newbyth, created a baronet of Nova Scotia in 1695. The latter was twice married, first to Helen, daughter of Sir John Gilmour of Craigmillar, president of the court of session, and secondly to Margaret, daughter of Lord Sinclair. His son, by his first wife, Sir John Baird the second baronet, married Janet, daughter of the Hon. Sir David Dalrymple, advocate, grandfather of the celebrated Lord Hailes. Sir John died in 1746, without issue, when the baronetcy became extinct, but the estate was entailed on his second cousin, William Baird, the father of the celebrated Sir David Baird.

      The younger son of James Baird, advocate, viz. Sir Robert Baird, Knight, of Sauchtonhall in Mid Lothian, had, with other issue, James, his successor, created in February 1696, a baronet of Nova Scotia, and William Baird, a merchant and a baillie in Edinburgh. The latter was the father of William Baird, who succeeded his second cousin Sir John Baird in the estate of Newbyth. He married Alicia, fourth daughter of Johnston of Hiltown, in Berwickshire, by whom he had six sons and eight daughters. The gallant Sir David Baird was the fifth son.

      The estate of Auchmedden was purchased by the third earl of Aberdeen from the Bairds, on which, according to a local tradition, a pair of eagles which had regularly nestled and brought forth their young in the neighbouring rocks of Pennan, disappeared, in fulfilment of an ancient prophecy by Thomas the Rhymer, that there should be an eagle in the crags while there was a Baird in Auchmedden. It is stated that when Lord Haddo, eldest son of the earl, married Christian, youngest daughter of William Baird, Esq. of Newbyth, and sister of General Sir David Baird, the eagles returned to the rocks, and remained until the estate passed into the hands of the Hon. William Gordon, when they again fled.

      The baronetcy conferred, in 1809, on General Sir David Baird (see p. 195) was inherited in 1829 by his nephew, Sir David, the remainder being, in default of issue of his own, to the issue male of his eldest brother, Robert. The second baronet died in 1852, when his son, Sir David, became third baronet.

BAIRD, SIR DAVID, Bart., K.C.B., a distinguished British commander, descended, as above explained, from a junior branch of the Bairds of Auchmedden, in Aberdeenshire, was the fifth but second surviving son of William Baird, Esq., heir by settlement of his second cousin, Sir John Baird of Newbyth, Bart., and was born at Edinburgh on 6th December, 1757. His biographer Hook says he was born at Newbyth, but this is a mistake. The house in which he first saw the light, and where he was brought up, is situated in a court at the foot of Blair’s close, Castlehill, Edinburgh, at one time possessed by the ducal family of Gordon, and latterly by the Newbyth family, by whom it was held for several generations. (Wilson's Memorials of Edinburgh, vol. i. p. 139.) His father died when he was only eight years old, and he early evinced an inclination for a military life. He entered the army December 16, 1772, as an ensign in the second foot. He was then placed at Locie’s academy at Chelsea, where he remained some months, actively improving himself in the knowledge of military tactics. At Mr. Locie’s academy, as now at the military college, Sandhurst, the pupils were subjected to all the routine of military service. One evening when young Baird was on duty as sentry, one of his companions, considerably his senior, wished to get out, in order to fulfil some engagement he had made in London, and tried to persuade Baird to permit him to pass. "No," said the gallant boy, "that I cannot do, but if you please you may knock me down, and walk out over my body." He joined his regiment at Gibraltar in April 1773. One evening when he was on guard, having dined with some of his brother officers, they resolved to detain him with them, and locked the door of the room to prevent his visiting his sentries at the usual time. Baird found remonstrances in vain, but determined to let nothing interfere with duty, he sprang to the window, which overhung the rampart, and with an agility and dexterity for which he was always remarkable, threw himself out, escaped unhurt, and was at his post at the very minute appointed. (Hook’s Life of General Sir David Baird, voL i. p. 2, Note.) He returned with his regiment to Britain in 1776.

      Lord Macleod, eldest son of the earl of Cromarty, having been, with his father, engaged in the rebellion of 1745, spent several years in exile on the continent; and obtained the rank of lieutenant-general in the Swedish army. Ultimately, on account of his youth at the time of joining the Pretender, he received an unconditional pardon for his share in the rebellion, and returning to England in the year 1777, he was presented to George the Third, who received him very graciously. At the suggestion of Colonel Duff of Muirtown, who had served in Keith’s Highlanders, and encouraged by the favourable reception he had met with in the north, he offered his services to raise a regiment. The offer was accepted, and although without property or political influence, so great was the magic of his name among his clansmen, that eight hundred and forty Highlanders were in a very short time raised and marched to Elgin. In addition to these, two hundred and thirty-six lowlanders were raised by the Hon. John Lindsay, son of the earl of Balcarres, David Baird, the subject of this memoir, James Fowlis, and other officers; besides thirty-four English and Irish, enlisted in Glasgow, making in all eleven hundred men. The corps was embodied at Elgin, and inspected there by General Skene in April seventeen hundred and seventy-eight, in which year Baird obtained a lieutenancy, and in September of the same year he became captain of the grenadiers in the 73d regiment, then raised by Lord Macleod. With this corps, which he joined at Elgin, he embarked for Madras, where he arrived in January 1780, and immediately entered upon active service. This young and untried regiment had scarcely arrived in India, when Hyder Ali, forcing his way through the Gauts, at the head of 100,000 men, burst like a mountain torrent into the Carnatic. He had interposed his vast army between that of the British, commanded by Sir Hector Monro, and a smaller force under the command of Colonel Baillie, which were endeavouring to form a junction. The latter having, though victorious, sustained a serious loss in an engagement with Hyder Ali’s troops, sent to the commander an account of his difficult position, stating that, from the loss he had sustained, and his total want of provisions, he was equally unable to advance or remain in his then situation. With the advice of a council of war, Sir Hector judged the only course was to endeavour to aid Colonel Baillie, with such a reinforcement as would enable him to push forward in defiance of the enemy. The detachment selected for this enterprise consisted of about 1,000 men under Colonel Fletcher; and its main force was composed of the grenadier and infantry companies of Lord Macleod’s regiment, commanded by Captain Baird. Hyder Ali having gained intelligence of this movement, sent a strong body to cut them off on their way, but, by adopting a long circuitous route, and marching by night, they at length safely effected a junction with Colonel Baillie. With the most consummate skill, however, Hyder, determining that they should never return, prepared an ambuscade; into which, early on the morning of the 10th of September, they unwarily advanced. The enemy, with admirable coolness and self-command, reserved their fire till the unhappy British were in the very midst of them. The army under the command of Colonels Baillie and Fletcher, and Captain Baird, marched in column. On a sudden, whilst in a narrow defile, a battery of twelve guns opened upon them, and, loaded with grape-shot, poured in upon their right flank. The British faced about; another battery opened immediately upon their rear. They had no choice therefore but to advance; other batteries met them here likewise, and in less than half an hour fifty-seven pieces of cannon, brought to bear on them at all points, penetrated into every part of the British line. By seven o’clock in the morning, the enemy poured down upon them in thousands: Captain Baird and his grenadiers fought with the greatest heroism. Surrounded and attacked on all sides, by 25,000 cavalry, by thirty regiments of Sepoy infantry, besides Hyder’s European corps, and a numerous artillery playing upon them from all quarters, within grape-shot distance, yet did this gallant column stand firm and undaunted, alternately facing their enemies on every side of attack. The French officers in Hyder’s camp beheld with astonishment the British grenadiers, under Captain Baird’s command, performing their evolutions in the midst of all the tumult and extreme peril, with as much precision, coolness, and steadiness, as if upon a parade ground. The little army, so unexpectedly assailed, had only ten pieces of cannon, but these made such havoc amongst the enemy, that after a doubtful contest of three hours, from six in the morning till nine, victory began to declare for the British. The flower of the Mysore cavalry, after many bloody repulses, were at length entirely defeated, with great slaughter, and the right wing, com posed of Hyder’s best forces, was thrown into disorder. Hyder himself was about to give orders for retreat, and the French officer who directed the artillery began to draw it off, when an unforeseen and unavoidable misfortune occurred, which totally changed the fortune of the day. By some unhappy accident the tumbrils which contained the ammunition suddenly blew up in the centre of the British lines. One whole face of their column was thus entirely laid open, and their artillery overturned and destroyed. The destruction of men was great, but the total loss of their ammunition was still more fatal to the survivors. Tippoo Saib, the son of Hyder, instantly seized the moment of advantage, and without waiting for orders, fell with the utmost rapidity, at the head of the Mogul and Carnatic horse, into the broken square, which had not had time to recover its form and order. This attack by the enemy’s cavalry being immediately seconded by the French corps, and by the first line of infantry, determined at once the fate of our unfortunate army. After successive prodigies of valour, the brave Sepoys were almost to a man cut to pieces. Colonels Baillie and Fletcher, assisted by Captain Baird, made one more desperate effort. They rallied the Europeans, and, under the fire of the whole immense artillery of the enemy, gained a little, eminence, and formed themselves into a new square. In this form did this intrepid band, though totally without ammunition, the officers fighting only with their swords and the soldiers with their bayonets, resist and repulse the myriads of the enemy in thirteen different attacks ; until at length, incapable of withstanding the successive torrents of fresh troops which were continually pouring upon them, they were fairly borne down and trampled upon, many of them still continuing to fight under the very legs of the horses and elephants. To save the lives of the few brave men who survived, Colonel Baillie had displayed his handkerchief on his sword, as a flag of truce; quarter was promised, but no sooner had the troops laid down their arms than they were attacked with savage fury by the enemy. By the humane interference, however, of the French officers in Hyder’s service, many lives were saved.

      The loss of the British in this engagement, called the battle of Perimbancum, amounted to about four thousand Sepoys, and about six hundred Europeans. Colonel Fletcher was slain on the field. Colonel Baillie, severely wounded, and several other officers, with two hundred Europeans, were made prisoners. When brought into the presence of Hyder, he, with true Asiatic barbarism, received them with the most insolent triumph. The British officers, with a spirit worthy of their country, retorted with an indignant coolness and contempt. "Your son will inform you," said Colonel Baillie, "that you owe the victory to our disaster, rather than to our defeat." Hyder angrily ordered them from his presence, and commanded them instantly to prison. Captain Baird had received two sabre-wounds on his head, a ball in his thigh, and a pike-wound in his arm. He lay a long time on the field of battle, narrowly escaping death from some of the more ferocious of the Mysore cavalry, who traversed the field spearing the wounded, and at last being unable to reach the force under Munro, he was obliged to surrender to the enemy.

      The result of this battle was the immediate retreat of the main army under Sir Hector Munro to Madras. Colonel Baillie, Captain Baird, and five other British officers, were marched to one of Hyder’s nearest forts, and afterwards removed to Seringapatam, where they were joined by others of their captive countrymen, and subjected to a most horrible and protracted imprisonment. It was commonly believed in Scotland that Captain Baird was chained by the leg to another man; and Sir Walter Scott, writing in May 1821 to his son, then a cornet of dragoons, with his regiment in Ireland, when Sir David was commander of the forces there, says, "I remember a story that when report came to Europe that Tippoo’s prisoners (of whom Baird was one) were chained together two and two, his mother said, ‘God pity the poor lad that’s chained to our Davie!’" She knew him to be active, spirited and daring, and probably thought that he would make some desperate effort to escape. But it was not the case that he was chained to another. On the 10th of May all the prisoners had been put in irons except Captain Baird; this indignity he was not subjected to till the 10th of November following. "When they were about," says his biographer, "to put the irons on Captain Baird, who was completely disabled in his right leg, in which the wound was still open, and whence the ball had just then been extracted, his friend Captain Lucas, who spoke the language perfectly, sprang forward, and represented in very strong terms to the Myar the barbarity of fettering him while in such a dreadful state, and assured him that death would be the inevitable termination of Captain Baird’s sufferings if the intention were persisted in. The Myar replied that the Circar had sent as many pairs of irons as there were prisoners, and they must be put on. Captain Lucas then offered to wear two sets himself, in order to save his friend. This noble act of generosity moved the compassion even of the Myar, who said he would send to the Kellidar, (commander of the fort,) to open the book of fate. He did so, and when the messenger returned, he said the book had been opened, and Captain Baird’s fate was good; and the irons were in consequence not put on at that time. Could they really have looked into the volume of futurity, Baird would undoubtedly have been the last man to be spared." (Life of Sir David Baird, vol. i. P. 44.) Each pair of irons was nine pounds weight. Captain Lucas died in prison. Captain Baird was preserved by Providence to revenge the sufferings which he and his fellow-prisoners endured by the glorious conquest of Scringapatam on the 4th of May, 1799.

      He remained a prisoner for three years and a half. He and his companions were only allowed a gold fanam, value about sixpence, a-day each, to support themselves in prison, a pittance which could only purchase them the poorest necessaries, and Captain Baird, on recovering from a severe attack of dysentery, suffered so much from hunger that he was often tempted to snatch his neighbour’s share, and ate with greediness whatever happened to be left. On the cessation of hostilities, in March 1184, he and the surviving prisoners were released, and in July he joined his regiment at Madras. In 1785 the number of the regiment was changed to the 71st. It was also called the Glasgow Highland light infantry, from the success with which the recruiting had been carried on in that city. So destructive had been the carnage in this regiment in the short time it had been in India, that it was said Captain Baird and one sergeant were the only two individuals belonging to the original 73d. In 1787 he removed with his regiment to Bombay. On the 5th of June of that year he became major of the 71st, and in October he returned home on leave of absence. In December 1790 he obtained the lieutenant-colonelcy of his regiment, the 71st; and in 1791, on his return to India, he joined the army under Marquis Cornwallis.

      As commander of a brigade of Sepoys, Colonel Baird was present at the attack of a number of Droogs, or hill forts, and at the siege of Seringapatam in February 1792; and likewise at the storming of Tippoo Sultaun’s lines and camps on the island of Seringapatam. In 1793 he commanded a brigade of Europeans, and was present at the reduction of Pondicherry. He was afterwards appointed to the command at Tanjore. On the drafting of the 71st into other regiments, in October 1797 he embarked at Madras for Europe. In December, when he arrived at the Cape of Good Hope, he was appointed brigadier-general, and placed on that staff, in command of a brigade. On June 18, 1798, he was appointed major-general, and returned to the staff in India. In January 1799 he arrived at Madras, in command of two regiments of foot, together with the drafts of the 28th dragoons, and on the 1st of February joined the army at Velore, where he was appointed to the command of the first European brigade.

      On the 4th of May of that memorable year General Baird commanded the storming party at the assault of Seringapatam. One o’clock was fixed upon for the assault, it being known that the natives usually sought shelter and repose from the heat of the sun at that hour. When the precise moment arrived, Baird ascended the parapet of the trenches in full view of both armies, "a military figure," observes Colonel Wilks, "suited to such an occasion ;" and, drawing his sword, and gallantly waving it, shouted out, "Now, my brave fellows, follow me, and prove yourselves worthy of the name of British soldiers !" His personal appearance added greatly to the chivalrous bearing of his manner. His figure was tall and symmetrical; his countenance cheerful and animated. On his open manly brow were legibly displayed the indications of that lofty courage, that firmness of purpose, and that vigour of intellect which so conspicuously marked his whole career. Within seven minutes the British flag floated from the outer bastion of the fortress; and before night Seringapatam was in possession of the besiegers. General Baird, who was undoubtedly entitled to the governorship of the town which he had thus taken, fixed his head-quarters at the palace of Tippoo, who was among the slain, He was next day abruptly commanded to deliver up the keys of the town to Colonel Wellesley, who, as it happened, had no active share in the capture, but who was appointed to the command by his brother, the governor-general. "And thus," said Baird, "before the sweat was dry on my brow, I was superseded by an inferior officer ;" that "inferior officer" being afterwards the duke of Wellington!

      In consequence of his signal success on this occasion, he was presented by the army, through  General Harris, the commander-in-chief, with the state sword of Tippoo Sultaun. The field officers under his immediate command at the assault presented him at the same time with a dress sword. In 1800 he was removed to the Bengal staff.

      In 1801 General Baird was appointed to the command of an expedition intended to act against Batavia, but which was afterwards sent to Egypt. In 1802 he returned in command of the Egyptian Indian army overland to India. In September of that year he was removed to the Madras staff, and commanded a large division of the army forming against the Mabrattas. He was afterwards employed in the Mysore country. In consequence of the great reduction of his division of the army, by the drafts made from it by General Sir Arthur Wellesley, who was employed in the same service, General Baird resigned his command and sailed for Britain with his staff, March 1803. In December he obtained the royal permission to wear the Turkish order of the crescent. In June 1804 he was knighted by patent, and, on the 18th of August following, became a military companion of the Bath.

      On 30th October 1805 he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant-general, and commanded an expedition against the Cape of Good Hope. Arriving there January 5, 1806, he attacked and beat the Dutch army on the 8th, and on the 18th received the surrender of the colony. He remained in the government of the Cape till January 1807, when he was recalled, and arrived in Britain in March of that year. On the 19th July he was transferred from the colonelcy of the 54th to that of the 24th, and placed on the foreign staff under General Lord Cathcart. At the siege of Copenhagen, where he commanded a division, he was slightly wounded. He was afterwards employed for a short time in Ireland, with the command of the "drill camp" there, and was sworn in a member of the Irish privy council.

      Having been ordered to the Peninsula, in the beginning of November 1808 he arrived at Corunna, in command of about 10,000 men, and formed a junction with the army under General Sir John Moore. In the battle of Corunna, January 16, 1809, he commanded the first division of the army, and lost his left arm. On the death of Sir John Moore, he succeeded to the chief command, and on communicating the intelligence of the victory to government, he received for the fourth time the thanks of parliament, the previous occasions being, for the operations of the army in India in 1799, for those of Egypt in 1801, and for the Danish expedition. On this occasion also he received the red riband, on being appointed a knight grand cross of the Bath. On the 18th of April he was created a baronet by patent, and received a grant of the most honourable armorial bearings, having relation to his military transactions. Attached is a portrait of Sir David from a painting by Sir Henry Raeburn.

      On Sir David’s return to Edinburgh after the Spanish campaign, he called upon the then possessor of the mansion on the Castlehill where he was born, and requested to be allowed to see the house in which he had passed his infancy, and the garden behind, where he said he had spent many happy days in boyish amusements. This was readily conceded, and after viewing the house, he was conducted to the garden, where he saw the children of the tenant of the house engaged in the very same species of mischievous sport which he declared had often been his own, namely, throwing stones and kail castocks down the chimneys of the houses in the Grassmarket below. (Chambers’ Traditions of Edinburgh, vol. i. p. 155.)

      Sir David married, 4th August 1810, Miss Campbell Preston of Ferntower and Lochlane, Perthshire, niece of Sir Robert Preston, of Valley-field, Baronet. In 1814 he was promoted to the rank of general. In 1820 he was appointed commander of the forces in Ireland, and sworn of his majesty’s privy council there, and in 1828 he became governor of Fort-George in Scotland. He died at an advanced age, August 18, 1829, at his seat of Ferntower in Perthshire, where he passed the latter years of his life, and leaving no issue, was succeeded in the baronetcy by his nephew, Captain Baird. His widow survived till 28th May 1847. A monument erected by her on Tom-a-Chastel, a most romantic hill on her estate, to the memory of her gallant husband, is in the form of an obelisk, of Aberdeen granite, eighty-two feet four inches in height, and an exact fac simile of Cleopatra’s needle; most fitting model for the monument of the gallant soldier who was the first with a European army to ascend the Red Sea, cross the desert, descend the Nile, and display the united standards of Britain and Brama on the shores of Alexandria. (New Stat. Acc. vol. x. p. 741.)

      Sir David Baird was deservedly popular with the army. Although a strict disciplinarian, he had the power to an extreme degree of winning the attachment and respect of the men under his command. "There was," says General Middlemore, who served with him in Egypt, "something about him which gave at once complete confidence in him: his countenance bespoke a mind spotless from guile or subterfuge. You felt that truth beamed in all his features—it was impossible to doubt him—you might implicitly place your life, and honour, and happiness, on his bare word. He could not deceive; and as he was firm and inflexible upon every point of discipline and duty, so was he incapable of injuring a human being. With the courage of a hero, his heart was as kind and gentle as a woman’s." His power over his soldiers, even under the most trying circumstances, was strikingly exemplified at Wallajahbad in 1797, when the order came for breaking up the 71st regiment, which he bad so long commanded, and drafting the men fit for service into other regiments. The order was read to the men by the adjutant, Sir David being too much affected to read it himself. "The effect produced by it," says his biographer, "was beyond description. It seems as if a sudden dismay had seized the whole regiment. It was a moment of trial in which there was something awful; but Baird, who knew his duty, and who always did it, addressed the men thus: ‘My poor fellows—not a word— the order must be obeyed.’ And then, to conceal emotions of which even he need not have been ashamed, he turned round, and ordered the band to strike up the popular Scottish air, the chorus of which is in these words—

"The king commands, and we’ll obey,
Over the hills and far away."

He is said himself to have been passionately fond of the native airs of his country. He frequently spoke, with the most affectionate delight, of the way in which his mother used to sing them, and he had them similarly arranged for the band of his regiment. The Life of Sir David Baird by Theodore Hook was published at London in 1832 in two volumes.

BAIRD, GEORGE HUSBAND, the very rev., D.D., principal of the university of Edinburgh, the author and unwearied promoter of the scheme for the education of the Highlanders, was born in 1761, in the parish of Borrowstounness, where his father, a considerable proprietor in the county of Stirling, rented a farm from the duke of Hamilton. He received the rudiments of his education, first at the parish school of Borrowstounness, and subsequently, upon his father acquiring and removing to the property of Manuel, in West-Lothian, at the grammar school of Linlithgow. In 1773 he entered as a student at the university of Edinburgh; and while there, acquired the special notice of Principal Robertson, Professor Dalzel, and others of the professors, for his diligence and proficiency. At college he and the late Professor Finlayson, and Josiah Walker, who were fellow-students with him, associated for the prosecution of studies beyond what was required by the college courses; by which he was enabled to make himself master of most of the European languages. These three young men, it is stated in the sketch of Baird’s life in Kay’s Edinburgh Portraits, are said to have entered into an agreement to promote the advancement of one another in life to the utmost of their power; and though, it is added, there was a degree of singularity in the compact, and perhaps no real increase from it in the disposition to serve each other, it is certain that individually all the three parties mentioned could ascribe important advantages to the good offices of one or other in that association, one much to be commended and imitated. The reverse of such conduct, from unworthy feelings of envy and jealousy, is too often exhibited in after-life by those who had once been schoolfellows and close companions in their youth. In 1784 he was recommended by Professor Dalzel as tutor to the family of Colonel Blair of Blair. In 1786 he was licensed by the presbytery of Linlithgow, and in the following year he was ordained to the parish of Dunkeld, to which charge he had been presented by the duke of Athol, through the influence of his friend, Mr. Finlayson. At Dunkeld he remained for several years, living as an inmate of the duke’s family, and superintending the education of his grace’s three sons, the last survivor of whom was the late Lord Glenlyon. In 1789 or 1790 he was presented to Lady Yester’s church, Edinburgh, but at the request of the duke and duchess of Athol, he declined it. In 1792 he was transferred to the New Greyfriars church, Edinburgh and at the same time was elected professor of oriental languages in the university there. In 1793, on the death of Dr. Robertson, he was, when not more than thirty-three years of age, appointed the principal of the university.

As principal he was once called upon to exercise college discipline in the case of three of the students who afterwards attained to great distinction, which has rendered this instance of the maintenance of academic authority memorable in the annals of the university. A challenge having been sent to one of the professors, the parties implicated in this misdemeanor, namely, Lord Henry Petty (after wards the marquis of Lansdowne), the late Francis Horner, Esq., M.P., and Mr. (now Lord) Brougham, were summoned before the Senatus Academicus. The only one who appeared was Brougham, and the rebuke of the principal was at once so administered and so received, that a friendship ensued between them, which was continued long after the former had entered upon public life. In 1799 Principal Baird was translated to the New North church; and in 1801, on the death of Dr. Blair, he was removed to the High church, where he continued to officiate till his death. He married the eldest daughter of Thomas Elder, Esq. of Forneth, Lord Provost of Edinburgh. His later years, until prevented by the infirmities of age, were principally occupied in promoting his truly benevolent and philanthropic plan, for extending a religious education among the poorer classes of his fellow countrymen in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. At the meeting of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland iu May 1824, he brought forward his motion for increasing the means of education throughout Scotland, but particularly in the Highlands and Islands, and in large towns. The Assembly of 1825 gave its sanction to the scheme proposed; which mainly owed its success to the talents, labour, industry, personal influence, and pious enthusiasm of the originator of the plan; who lived to see a provision secured, by his exertions, for the Christian education of many thousand children of the poor. Such was his zeal to forward the educational interests, and to improve the moral condition of his Gaelic countrymen, that, in the autumn of 1827, in the 67th year of his age, he visited the Highlands of Argyleshire, the western parts of Inverness and Ross, and the Western Islands, traversing the whole country from Lewis to Kintyre. The following year he visited for the same purposes, the North Highlands, and the Islands of Orkney and Shetland. Through his means also, the late Dr. Andrew Bell of Madras bequeathed £5,000 to the scheme for education in the Highlands. In 1832 the thanks of the General Assembly were conveyed to him by Dr. Chalmers, the moderator, in the following terms :— "The benefits you have conferred on the cause of education in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland will ever associate your name with the whole of that immense region, and hand down your memory to distant ages as the moral benefactor of many thousand families. I feel confident that I do not outrun the sympathy of a single individual in our church, when, in its name, I offer you, as the head of a noble and national enterprise, the meed of our united thanks, for the vigour, and activity, and the enthusiasm wherewith, at an advanced period of life, you have addressed yourself to this great undertaking, and may now be said to have fully and firmly established it." By his benevolent exertions the worthy principal is said to have contributed much to the freeing the minds of the Highlanders from the superstitions which they were so fond of cherishing, and particularly to the expulsion of the fairies from the Highland hills.

      Dr. Baird died on the 14th January 1840, at his residence of Manuel near Linlithgow, in the 79th year of his age. He was, when a young man, a correspondent of the poet Burns, and his name appears among the list of subscribers to the first or Kilmarnock edition of his poems.—Obituaries of the time.

Photograph of a youthful Richard Alexander Baird, 2nd great grandfather of Guy Lamoyne Black. He was married first to Emma Linda Hiskey (1840-1890) and then to Margaret Henrietta Camp (1848-1941). He was the son of Samuel Baird (1801-1859) and Matilda Rutledge (1813-1876).

The Life of The Rev. Robert Baird, D. D.
By his son, Henry M. Baird, Professor in the University of the City of New York (1866) (pdf)

Baird from the Dictionary of National Biography

The Baird Family Centennial

The Last Baird Laird of Auchmedden and Strichen
The Case of Mr. Abington by John Malcolm Bulloch (1934) (pdf)

The Bairds of Auchmedden and Stricken, Aberdeenshire
By John Malcolm Bulloch (1934) (pdf)

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