John Baird, 1st Viscount Stonehaven

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The Right Honourable
The Viscount Stonehaven
GCMG DSO PC JP DL
Ac.stonehaven.jpg
8th Governor-General of Australia
In office
8 October 1925 – 21 January 1931
Monarch George V
Prime Minister Stanley Bruce
James Scullin
Preceded by The Lord Forster
Succeeded by Sir Isaac Isaacs
Minister of Transport
In office
31 October 1922 – 22 January 1924
Monarch George V
Prime Minister Andrew Bonar Law
Stanley Baldwin
Preceded by The Earl of Crawford
Succeeded by Harry Gosling
First Commissioner of Works
In office
31 October 1922 – 22 January 1924
Monarch George V
Prime Minister Andrew Bonar Law
Stanley Baldwin
Preceded by The Earl of Crawford
Succeeded by Fred Jowett
Personal details
Born 27 April 1874 (1874-04-27)
Chelsea, London
United Kingdom
Died 20 August 1941(1941-08-20) (aged 67)
Ury House
Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire
United Kingdom
Nationality British
Political party Conservative
Spouse(s) Sydney Keith-Falconer,
11th Countess of Kintore
(1874–1974)
Alma mater Christ Church, Oxford

John Lawrence Baird, 1st Viscount Stonehaven, GCMG, DSO, PC, JP, DL (27 April 1874 – 20 August 1941), known as Sir John Baird, Bt, between 1920 and 1925 and as The Lord Stonehaven between 1925 and 1928, was a British Conservative politician, who served as a Member of Parliament, government minister, and was later the eighth Governor-General of Australia.

Early life[edit]

Baird was born in Chelsea, London,[1][2] the son of Sir Alexander Baird, 1st Baronet, and the Hon. Annette Maria, daughter of Lawrence Palk, 1st Baron Haldon.[3] He was educated at Eton and Christ Church, Oxford, but left university without graduating. He was commissioned in the Lanarkshire Yeomanry (later the Scottish Horse). In 1894 he served as an aide-de-camp to the Governor of New South Wales, then entered the diplomatic service.[1] He was appointed a CMG in 1904 and retired from the Diplomatic Service in 1908.[3]

He was a Deputy Lieutenant for Kincardineshire from 5 January 1900.[4]

Political career 1910–1924[edit]

Baird was elected to the House of Commons for Rugby in the January 1910 general election[3][5][6] as a Conservative, and was private secretary to the Leader of the Conservative Party, Andrew Bonar Law, between 1911 and 1916. He also fought in the First World War where he was mentioned in despatches and awarded the Distinguished Service Order. He entered David Lloyd George's coalition government as Parliamentary Secretary to the Air Board in December 1916, an office that was renamed Parliamentary Secretary to the Air Council in November 1917. In January 1919 he became Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Munitions. Already in April 1919 he was made Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, which he remained until the coalition government fell in October 1922.[3]

Bonar Law became Prime Minister the same month, and appointed Baird Minister of Transport[7] and First Commissioner of Works.[8] He was sworn of the Privy Council a few days later.[7] In the November 1922 general election, he was returned for Ayr Burghs.[3][9][10] He continued as First Commissioner of Works and Minister of Transport also when Stanley Baldwin became Prime Minister in May 1923 and held them until January 1924, when Ramsay MacDonald's Labour government took office.[3]

Governor-General of Australia[edit]

In December, after the Conservatives returned to power, he accepted the position of Governor-General of Australia. In accordance with the then practice, the Australian Prime Minister, Stanley Bruce, had been offered a number of choices, including a Duke, a Marquess and an Earl[who?], but he chose John Baird. Bruce opted for Baird partly because of his political experience and partly because he was a more modest figure than the aristocratic alternatives. In June 1925 he was raised to the peerage as Baron Stonehaven, of Ury in the County of Kincardine,[11] and appointed Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George (GCMG).[1][2]

Lord Stonehaven arrived in Australia in October 1925. He quickly established good relations with Bruce, with whom he had much in common. But, like his predecessor, he found that Australian Prime Ministers no longer wanted a Governor-General acting as an Imperial overseer, or as a representative of the British government, but merely as discreet figureheads. The 1926 Imperial Conference in London recognised the de facto independence of the Dominions, and ended the role of the Governors-General as diplomats and as channels of communication between governments. From now on the Governor-General's sole role was to be a personal representative of the Crown.

There were other changes during Stonehaven's term. In May 1927 he formally opened the first meeting of the Australian Parliament in the newly built Parliament House in Canberra, and the Governor-General was at last given a permanent residence, Government House, Canberra, commonly known by the previous name of the house, Yarralumla. This meant an end to travelling between government houses in Sydney and Melbourne and made the post of Governor-General less expensive. At the same time, the advent of aviation, of which Stonehaven was a keen exponent, made travelling around Australia much easier.[2]

For most of Stonehaven's term Bruce seemed firmly entrenched in office, but in September 1929 he was unexpectedly defeated on the floor of the House of Representatives, and asked Stonehaven for a dissolution. Although the Parliament was only a year old, Stonehaven agreed at once: the days when Governors-General exercised a discretion in this area had passed.[2]

Bruce's party was defeated at the October election, and Bruce also lost his own seat. The Labor leader, James Scullin, took office in January 1930. Stonehaven's relations with Scullin were correct but not friendly, since his political sympathies lay elsewhere. It was probably fortunate for him that his term expired in 1930, before the crises of the Scullin government began. Stonehaven was not consulted by Scullin about the choice of his successor, and he left Australia in October 1930.[1][2]

Freemasonry[edit]

He was a freemason. During his term as Governor-General (1925-1930), he was also Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of New South Wales.[12]

Later life[edit]

On his return to Britain he was appointed Chairman of the Conservative Party in 1931, a post he held until 1936.[3] In 1938 he was further honoured when he was made Viscount Stonehaven, of Ury in the County of Kincardine.[13]

Family[edit]

Lord Stonehaven married Lady (Ethel) Sydney Keith-Falconer, daughter of the 9th Earl of Kintore, in 1905. They had two sons and three daughters. Lord Stonehaven died of hypertensive cardiac disease at Ury House, Stonehaven, Scotland, in August 1941, aged 67, and was succeeded by his eldest son, Ian. The Viscountess Stonehaven succeeded her elder brother as eleventh Countess of Kintore in 1966. She died in September 1974, one day after her 100th birthday.[3]

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Corrie Grant
Member of Parliament for Rugby
19101922
Succeeded by
Euan Wallace
Preceded by
Sir George Younger, Bt
Member of Parliament for Ayr Burghs
19221925
Succeeded by
Thomas Moore
Political offices
New office Parliamentary Secretary to the Air Board
(renamed Parliamentary Secretary to the Air Council 1917)

1916–1919
Office abolished
Preceded by
F. G. Kellaway
J. E. B. Seely
Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Munitions
1919
With: F. G. Kellaway
Succeeded by
F. G. Kellaway
Preceded by
Sir Hamar Greenwood, Bt
Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department
1919–1922
Succeeded by
Hon. George Frederick Stanley
Preceded by
The Earl of Crawford
First Commissioner of Works
1922–1924
Succeeded by
Fred Jowett
Minister of Transport
1922–1924
Succeeded by
Harry Gosling
Government offices
Preceded by
The Lord Forster
Governor-General of Australia
1925–1931
Succeeded by
Sir Isaac Isaacs
Party political offices
Preceded by
Neville Chamberlain
Chairman of the Conservative Party
1931–1936
Succeeded by
Sir Douglas Hacking
Peerage of the United Kingdom
New creation Viscount Stonehaven
1938–1941
Succeeded by
James Keith
Baron Stonehaven
1925–1941
Baronetage of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Alexander Baird
Baronet
(of Stonehaven)
1920–1941
Succeeded by
James Keith