William Baird & Co Ltd coal and iron masters


In around 1816, Alexander Baird began working coal leases in Lanarkshire, Scotland, and, by 1826, he and his sons owned numerous coal and mineral leases there. In 1828, two of these sons, William and James, began to erect the Ironworks at Gartsherrie, and within 15 years the works had grown to be the largest in the country with 16 furnaces.

In 1830, William and James took over all the coal leases and formed the partnership William Baird & Co. In around 1843, William and James Baird were involved in the establishment of the Eglinton Iron Company that managed the Gartsherrie Ironworks, building furnaces at Kilwinning, North Ayrshire, Scotland, and purchasing those at Blair and Dalry, North Ayrshire, in 1852; Lugar, East Ayrshire, in 1856; and Portland in 1864. Bairds became responsible for 25 per cent of Scotland�s output - making them the largest producers of pig iron in the world.

In 1852, the company was the first to introduce the cylindrical furnace in Scotland and experimented with blast heaters, raising the heat to 800 degrees Fahrenheit. Gartsherrie Ironworks gained a reputation for technical sophistication and attracted visitors from England, Europe and America. The Bairds provided schools, churches and recreational institutes for their work force but opposed trade unionism. The Baird brothers also had considerable interests in banking and held 29 railway company directorships and 5 chairmanships.

By the 1870s William Baird & Co were working mines in the North East of England, in what was the county of Cumberland, and also in Spain. In 1893, the firm was incorporated as William Baird & Co Ltd.
In 1931, the company�s Ayrshire coal interests were combined with those of the Dalmellington Iron Co in Ayrshire, to form Bairds & Dalmellington Ltd. The new company, 75 percent owned by William Baird & Co Ltd, controlled 70 percent of the Ayrshire coalfields.
In around 1938, the company underwent reorganisation and entered voluntary liquidation. William Baird & Co Ltd was reconstituted, and the company�s Lanarkshire interests merged with the Scottish Iron & Steel Co Ltd, Glasgow, founded in 1912, to form Bairds & Scottish Steel Ltd, pig iron and steel manufacturers. This merger was the idea of Andrew K McCosh, chairman of William Baird & Co Ltd, who saw the mutual benefit in linking up the Northern Steelworks of Scottish Iron & Steel Co Ltd with the Gartsherrie Ironworks of William Baird & Co Ltd.
Between 1946 and 1951, the whole of William Baird�s coal, iron and steel interests were nationalised and the company began to diversify into other areas of business, including the textile industry. In 1961, the company merged with Northern Mercantile out of which the groups engineering division was formed.

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