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The Bairds of Old Monkland

with thanks to bairdnet.com

The area around the Old Monkland Church, and stretching back to the Luggie Burn, had, in the 1700/1800s, few if any houses, only the Farms of Kirkwood, Kirkshaws and Bankhead, and the smaller Farms of Highcross, Woodhead and Kirkstyle.

The farms in the area were owned either by the Buchanans of Drumpellier  - (who owned the land on west side of Woodside Street) or by the Hamiltons of Rosehall Estate (now named Douglas support) (who owned the land on the east side of Woodside Street).  The Baird family never owned the farms but were tenant farmers.

Woodhead Farm was a very small farm and was situated on Woodside Street, between what is now Viewfield Road to near the corner of what is now Manse Avenue. 

The vacant space on the corner was what was known as the REC or recreation area in the early part of the 20th century.  This was leased from the Drumpellier estate for a peppercorn rent. Here the local children played at maypoles, swing boats, swings, and sand pits. The  older men of the area had a large hut where they played dominoes and card games.  Apparently there was a dance in the hut every Friday night.

Kirkwood Farm, was accessed via a track which became what is now known as Dunbar Avenue.  It certainly took its name from its vicinity to the kirk, and from a large wood, which is known to have existed on the lands.   It was situated near where St Monica's hall is today.   At this time there were no fences either on Kirkwood or Woodhead.

Kirkwood Farm

How long the ancestors of the Baird family were in Kirkwood and High Cross does not appear, but it must have been for a very long period.

High Cross Farm was situated on the east of the parish road, leading from Langloan to Old Monkland Church.  The Bairds moved to here in 1808. The track to High Cross Farm is now the road named Highcross Avenue.

High Cross farm 

In a renewal of the lease granted by Sir James Hamilton of Rosehall (Douglas Support) on the 20th of July, 1745, Alexander Baird is then occupying "High Corsse"; and there is let to him, for another period of nineteen years the lands of High Cross, Millhouse, Woodhead, and Kirkwood, all in the Parish of Old Monkland.

(This Mr Hamilton was accustomed to ride through the country in a carriage with four horses, and three or four footmen running behind him. These runners could go very long distances, and in speed they were equal to most horses. It is related of Mr. Hamilton that one evening he gave to one of these footmen an important letter to carry to Edinburgh, and to bring back an answer.


Happening early in the morning to go into the place where the man slept, Mr. Hamilton found him in bed, and in a fury at his supposed neglect of duty (believing he had never been away) he was about to stab him, when the man turned quietly round and handed to his master the answer to the letter.)

First generation
The first member of the Old Monkland family, of whom there is any account, was Alexander Baird, born 1659 (approx) who was tenant in Kirkwood (from Drumpellier) and High Cross (from Douglas Support).  He was a very powerful man, and, in consequence of the enormous weight which he was able to carry, got the name of "Double-ribbed Sandy."  

Second generation
His son was also named Alexander Baird, the great-grandfather of the Old Monkland brothers. The exact date of his birth is not known, but is estimated 1689 -1766.  

On 1st April, 1764, Alexander Baird obtained a renewal of his lease from Archibald Hamilton of Rosehall. The lease was for the further term of nineteen years. It embraces the same lands, with the addition of what is described as "Luggie Bridgend or Waukmill house."

This time the rent was increased to 516 pounds 18 shillings Scots, with 7 bolls oatmeal, 8 bolls and 3 firlots "barley bear," 35 hens, and 12 capons. From a receipt among the papers by Mr. Hamilton to John Baird in 1767 (the year after his father's death), it appears that the Kaim fowl, stipulated as part of the rent, were paid for in money, at the rate of 8d. for each hen, and 12d. for each capon. From the terms of the receipt this must have been sterling money; and if so, it was a high price for fowls at that period.

3rd Generation
John Baird -Two years after the date of this lease namely, in 1766 Alexander Baird died at High Cross, and was succeeded in his farms by his eldest son, John Baird. At the time of his father's death, John Baird was in the occupation, under his father, of the lands of Kirkwood, and had been so for some years previously; and he continued in the same possession till the time of his own death in 1798.
After the death of Alexander Baird, John appears to have held, under his father's lease, all the lands which had been held by the latter, his brother Robert possessing High Cross, and William possessing Woodhead, as his sub-tenants. This continued till 1786.
On the 4th of February in that year, John Baird obtained from the then proprietor, Colonel John Hamilton of Rosehall, afterwards of Orbiston, a renewal of the lease for a further period of nineteen years. The lands are described as "Kirkwood, High Cross, Woodhead, Waukmill, and Luggie Bridge, as the same were then possessed by him and his sub-tenants." This tack does not include the lands of Millhouse. In this and subsequent deeds John Baird continues to be designated as "farmer in Kirkwood."
Note: Wauknmill - was a mill producing woollen cloth.

William Baird 3rd Generation  (C 1721-1780?) The second son of Alexander Baird was William Baird, the grandfather of the Old Monkland brothers. In 1772 he was tenant in Woodhead. This farm he must have possessed as sub-tenant of his brother John, as Robert in the same way occupied High Cross.  He married Jean Baillie, by whom he had four children, Alexander, Helen, John, and William.

Alexander Baird - 4th Generation - father of the Old Monkland Bairds who started Gartsherrie

Alexander Baird

Farmer and entrepreneur. Alexander Baird (1765 - 1833) was  born at the farm of Woodhead.  He became tenant of the nearby farms of High Cross and Kirkwood, which had been the home of the family for centuries.  He was a tenant on both Drumpeller and Rosehall estates of the farms of Kirkwood, Newmains, and High Cross. He married Jean Moffat and had eight sons and two daughters.  

He was an energetic and skilful farmer and improver. But farming in those bygone days is not what it is now. The plough and the harrow, and even some of the tines of the latter, were made of wood, and so simple was their construction that a wright in Old Monkland was able to make a plough in one day. There were no threshing-machines, and everything was done by hand.  Yet Mr. Baird was paying forty-five shillings an acre for his land.



Mrs. Baird (nee Jean Moffat) did the work of the dairy with her own hands taking the sole management of it as well as of the disposal of the produce. This she continued to do, assisted by her daughter Janet, as the latter grew up. Owing to the want of proper roads at that time, butter had to be carried, from Monkland to Glasgow for sale, on women's backs; and many a time did Mrs. Baird herself perform this duty, carrying the butter to Glasgow, and disposing of it in the market there, and walking home, a distance of not less than seven miles each way.

This system continued not only while the family was at Woodhead, but after they had removed to Kirkwood, and also after they had left the latter place for High Cross. By this time roads had been made, and butter and other produce were then sent to market in carts. Before 1817, ten children had been born and nursed, while Mrs. Baird was doing an amount of work that would have appalled any two dairy women of the present day.

James Baird used to say that the success which Jean Moffat's sons achieved was in a great measure, owing to her precepts and good example.

He thus wrote of her in 1874:- "She was married in comparative poverty while her husband was sub-tenant of the small, and not very productive, farm of Woodhead. By her sagacity and indomitable energy she contributed largely to her husband's prosperity, and to form in her children those habits of diligence and integrity by which they became distinguished".   In the early years of the young Bairds they had hard work at the farm of High Cross and Kirkwood. Their house accommodation was very inferior, but the habits of hardiness there acquired were never lost. 

Mrs. Baird lived nearly eighteen years after her husband's death, and died at Coats House on the 8th of July, 1851, at the advanced age of eighty-three, having been most sedulously attended by her daughters in her last illness. She was buried in the Churchyard of Old Monkland beside her husband, and within two hundred yards of the farm house of Woodhead, where she and her husband began their married life. The farm house of Kirkwood, their next residence, was within half a mile, and High Cross, where they resided till 1820, was within a quarter of a mile, of Woodhead. Many changes in the rise and fall of families did this old lady see in the course of her long life, but none more striking than in the rise of her own.

The family of Alexander and Jean Moffat consisted of two daughters and eight sons. The three eldest were born at Woodhead, the next five at Kirkwood, and the two youngest at High Cross.

The elder sons aided their father in the work on the farms, and he lived to aid by his counsel and pecuniary assistance to establish the Gartsherrie Works, with two blast furnaces. Seven of the brothers were ultimately partners in the works, John, the second son, being the only one that followed his sire's occupation of a farmer.

The respective members of the family - were
Janet, 1794; born at Woodhead.
William, 1796; born at Woodhead.
John, 1798; born at Woodhead.
Alexander, 1799 ;  born at Kirkwood.
James, 1802 ;  born at Kirkwood.
Jean, 1804;  born at Kirkwood.
Robert, 1806 ;  born at Kirkwood.
Douglas, 1808; born at Kirkwood.
George, 1810; born at High Cro
David, 1816 born at High Cross. 

The most, of them received their education at the parish school, under the late Mr Cowan, parochial teacher.

Several of the younger members attended the schools in Glasgow; and David, the youngest of the family, had the advantage of receiving a first-class education, which was finished under the best tutors that Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Paris could provide.

Fifth  Generation

WILLIAM and JAMES BAIRD were perhaps the most remarkable members of a remarkable family - who became known as the Bairds of Gartsherrie. They were not proprietors of the estate of that name, which belonged to Mr. Hamilton Colt. All the property which they possessed there is the ground on which their great ironworks are erected.

While John, the second son, continued to farm,  William (1796 - 1864) and James (1802-1876), made their fortune through smelting iron and several of the others were involved in this company.

Woodhead Farm

Alexander Baird engaged in small-scale coal-mining, but in 1816, took the lease on a coal-field at Rochsolloch (south of  Airdrie). The running of Riochsolloch fell to Baird's eldest son William (1796 - 1864). William was then living with his father at High Cross, and he went every day to the coal-work, with the exception of Wednesdays, on which days he went to Glasgow to look after the sale of the coal, his brother Alexander (the third son) having been, soon after the opening of the colliery , installed there as salesman. John, the second son, continued his occupation as a farmer.  William was able to make his fortune by greatly expanding his father's coal-mining operations and building an ironworks at Gartsherrie (1828).

William inherited these ventures on the death of his father in 1833.   He set up William Baird & Company in partnership with his younger brother and fourth eldest, James (1802-76). This company went on to become the largest producer of pig-iron in Britain. Baird continued to expand his coal interests in Lanarkshire and also in Ayrshire, leasing land from the Earl of Eglinton.

Foundryman and industrialist. With his elder brother, William,  he founded William Baird & Co which went on to become the largest producers of iron in Britain. He made use of the blast furnace developed by James Beaumont Neilson (1792 - 1865) and by his death the company ran more than thirty of these furnaces.
While James was strongly against any trade-union activity, he paid for the education of his workers and encouraged their moral and religious development. He also gave the enormous sum of 500,000 to the Church of Scotland during his lifetime. In addition, he contributed generously to the building of individual churches in Glasgow and Aberdeen.

In 1852, James acquired the Greenfield Estate, near Ayr, renaming it Cambusdoon. He bought the Knoydart Estate in 1857. Baird served as Deputy-Lieutenant of Ayrshire and Invernesshire.  He died at Cambusdoon.

When the Messrs Baird commenced to erect their first furnace at Gartsherrie they had difficulties in a financial way that would have proved a serious obstacle to men of less determination, but they manfully wrought away until success crowned their efforts. In 1830, the manufacture of iron in the district was but in its infancy; the Bairds, shrewd business men, prepared for the future by securing leases for extensive supplies of both ironstone and coal. At that time there was little or no opposition, and such leases could be and were secured on very reasonable terms, which may be considered the most important acquisition towards the future prosperity of an iron work.

But the great secret of their success could also be attributed to another source, and that was their indomitable energy, attention, and strict personal surveillance over all the various departments connected with their business. This appears to have been their mode of conducting whatever undertaking they engaged in, whether as farmers, coalmasters, or ironmasters, and is traceable from their first starting-point as coalmasters, when they became lessees of the small portion of the coal-field on the estate of Rochsolloch in 1816, and on from one point to another, up till the present time, their career has been one of patience, toil, and industry.
 In developing mineral resources, they have been equally successful in other districts, for, in addition to the works at Gartsherrie, they have four iron works in Ayrshire.

 In 1846 they started the Eglinton Iron Works, at which there are eight blast furnaces; in 1852, they acquired the Blair Iron Works, with five blast furnaces; and in 1856, both the Lugar and Muirkirk Iron Works, at which there are seven blast furnaces, and at the latter a malleable work - thus, taking in Gartsherrie along with these other works, they have a total of thirty-six blast furnaces, twenty-six of which are at present working. The produce of iron from these, taking an average, cannot be less than 650 tons daily.

Alexander Baird was a tenant farmer in Old Monkland who in the early 19th century expanded his interests into operating coal mines, aided by his sons. In 1828 they obtained some land at Gartsherrie, near Coatbridge, for the purpose of building a pig iron manufacturing works. In 1830 five of the sons, William, Alexander, James, Douglas and George, formally created the partnership William Baird & Company, under the nominal leadership of William Baird, the eldest son. Henceforth this partnership ran the Baird's industrial concerns. The same year Gartsherrie Ironworks' first blast furnace commenced production. Employing adept and occasionally ruthless business practices in addition to many of the most innovative iron smelting procedures, Gartsherrie soon became the biggest ironworks in Scotland and a world leader during the middle decades of the 19th century. The company operated blast furnaces at Gartsherrie, coke ovens at Kilsyth, Stirlingshire and Bedlay, Lanarkshire and collieries at Bothwell and Bedlay in Lanarkshire, Kilsyth, and Bathgate, West Lothian. They also owned cement works at Gartsherrie and brickworks at Gartshore, Dunbartonshire

In the late 1850s and early 1860s the original members of the partnership died or retired and a new partnership took over the running of the company, all close relatives of the Bairds (Alexander Whitelaw, William Weir and David Wallace). In 1878 a third generation took over the partnership (William Weir, James Baird Thorneycroft, William Laird, Robert Angus, John Alexander and Andrew Kirkwood McCosh). Immediately after the Companies Act 1907 (7 Edw. VII, c.50) the company was registered as a private limited company. In 1936 it finally became a public limited company.The declining state of the Scottish iron and steel industry during the first half of the 20th century necessitated many takeovers and amalgamations. In 1939 William Baird & Co. Ltd. amalgamated with it main customer (a steelmaking concern) the Scottish Iron & Steel Company, to form Bairds Scottish Steel Ltd. in order to be able to compete with Collvilles, the only other remaining Scottish iron and steel making concern. The William Baird & Co. Ltd. name was retained as a holding company. The company was nationalised with the rest of the Scottish coal (1947) and steel (1949) industries only to be denationalised as a steel making concern in 1953. A programme of modernisation of Gartsherrie Ironworks was commenced in the late 1950s but was scarcely completed when the company abandoned all iron and steel making activities in 1967. William Baird & Co. Ltd. continued to operate, diversifying into textile, industrial, investment and mining divisions with interests in over 60 companies in 11 countries.



 Read   William Baird & Co Ltd  -Coal and iron masters




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