John Baird, 1st Viscount Stonehaven

John Baird, 1st Viscount Stonehaven

Infobox Governor-General | name=The Rt Hon The Viscount Stonehaven,

order=8th Governor-General of Australia
term_start=8 October 1925
term_end=21 January 1931
predecessor=The Lord Forster
successor=Sir Isaac Isaacs
birth_date=birth date|1874|4|27|df=y
birth_place=Chelsea, London, United Kingdom
death_date=death date and age|1941|8|20|1874|4|27|df=y
death_place=Stonehaven, Scotland

John Lawrence Baird, 1st Viscount Stonehaven, Bt, GCMG, DSO, PC, JP, DL (27 April 1874 – 20 August 1941), 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

Baird was born in Chelsea, London, the son of Sir Alexander Baird, Bt, a wealthy baronet. He was educated at Eton and 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. In 1905 he married Ethel Sydney Keith-Falconer, daughter of the 10th Earl of Kintore, who became 11th Countess of Kintore in 1966 and the oldest member of the House of Lords before her death in 1974.cite web
title = Baird, Sir John Lawrence, Viscount Stonehaven (1874 - 1941)
publisher =Project Gutenberg Australia
work=Dictionary of Australian Biography
url =
accessdate = 2008-03-13
] Australian Dictionary of Biography
last= Cunneen
first= Chris
title= Stonehaven, John Lawrence Baird (1874 - 1941)


Baird was elected to the House of Commons for Rugby in 1912, as a Conservative. He was Minister for Transport in the governments of Andrew Bonar Law and Stanley Baldwin from 1922 until January 1924, when Ramsay MacDonald's Labour government took office. In December, after the Conservatives returned to power, he accepted the position of Governor-General of Australia, and was created Baron Stonehaven (Stonehaven, The Mearns, Scotland) and appointed Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George (GCMG).


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 Earlwho, 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.

Baird (now 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.

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.

Bruce's party was defeated at the October election, and Bruce also lost his own seat. The Labor leader, James Scullin, took office. 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. On his return to Britain he was appointed Chairman of the Conservative Party, and elevated to the title Viscount Stonehaven. He died of hypertensive cardiac disease at Ury House, Stonehaven, Scotland, survived by his wife, two sons and three daughters.


External links

* [ Baird family tree]
###@@@KEY@@@###succession box
title = Member of Parliament for Rugby
years = 1910?? – 1922
before = Corrie Brighton Grant
after = Euan Wallace
succession box
title = Member of Parliament for Ayr Burghs
years = 1922–1925
before = George Younger
after = Thomas Moore
NAME = Stonehaven, John Lawrence Baird
ALTERNATIVE NAMES = Baird, John Lawrence
SHORT DESCRIPTION = Australian journalist, lawyer and politician
DATE OF BIRTH = 27 April 1874
PLACE OF BIRTH = Chelsea, London, England
DATE OF DEATH = 20 August 1941
PLACE OF DEATH = Stonehaven, Scotland

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