Haldane was the son of Robert Haldane, and his grandfather was the Scottish evangelist James Alexander Haldane. His mother was Mary Elizabeth Burdon-Sanderson, the daughter of Richard Burdon-Sanderson and the granddaughter of Sir Thomas Burdon. His maternal uncle was the physiologist John Scott Burdon-Sanderson. He was the brother of Elizabeth Haldane, John Scott Haldane and Richard Burdon Haldane, 1st Viscount Haldane.
He married Edith Nelson. They had three children:
- Thomas Graeme Nelson Haldane (1897-1981)
- Archibald Richard Burdon Haldane (1900-1982)
- Mary Elizabeth Campbell Fraser (?-?)
Obituary in the Times (London) on 8 Nov 1951:
Sir William Haldane, formerly Crown Agent for Scotland and Commissioner under the Development Fund Act, died yesterday at Cloan, Perthshire, at the age of 87.
William Stowell Haldane was the sixth and youngest son of Robert Haldane of Cloan and was born on August 19, 1864. He was educated at Edinburgh Academy and Edinburgh University and received his professional training in the well known Edinburgh office of Messrs. Lindsay, Howe & Company. He was admitted a Writer to the Signet in 1880. In the early nineties he began business on his own account in the firm of W. & F. Haldane, steadily built up a wide and important family connexion, and soon began to be employed in important litigation.
In 1905 Mr Thomas Shaw (afterwards Lord Craigmyle), as Lord Advocate, appointed Haldane Crown Agent for Scotland. This office is one of great responsibility, being concerned in all judicial proceedings, civil and criminal, in which the Lord Advocate appears, and the holder is ex officio one of the Prison Commissioners for Scotland. It was generally agreed that Haldane discharged his multifarious duties with exceptional industry and efficiency during the 12 years in which he held office and that he had well earned the knighthood conferred on him in 1912. The Crown Agent holds office during the pleasure of the Lord Advocate and goes out of office with him. This happened to Haldane in 1917.
In 1910 Haldane was appointed Scottish Commissioner under the Development Fund Act. His practice had given him some knowledge of estate management, including forestry, and it was forestry that particularly interested him as a Development Commissioner. In collaboration with Sir Sainthill Eardley-Wilmot, who had been Inspector-General of Forests in India, he prepared a scheme for the development of forestry in Britain. It included the establishment of a Forestry Research Institute and a generous provision of funds for the afforestation of waste lands under departmental control, and it was supported by the Minister of Agriculture, Mr. Rowland Prothero, afterwards Lord Ernle. The scheme was, however, thought to be too rigid by the Scottish lairds, led by Lord Lovat, and their view prevailed when the plan was referred to a Cabinet committee; the result was the establishment of the present Forestry Commission.
In the war of 1914 Haldane was concerned in land reclamation schemes in Scotland, and he continued to take a practical interest in agriculture. In 1929 and 1930 he contributed several articles to these columns on the fall in beef imports and its effect on the home farmer. In 1933 also he showed how heavily low prices for grain must bear on meat prices, and in articles written in conjunction with Mr. R. J. Thompson he examined the wheat glut and considered the openings for a constructive policy. He retired from his post as Commissioner in 1939. Sir William Haldane married in 1892 Edith, daughter of Mr. Thomas Nelson, the well known publisher. She died in 1943. They had three sons and a daughter. His eldest son died in 1915 from wounds received in action near Festubert.
- "Times (London)" (52153). 8 Nov 1951. p. 8.
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