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British Industrial History

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Alexander Whitelaw

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Alexander Whitelaw (1823-1879) of Gartsherrie Iron Works

1823 Born the son of Alexander Whitelaw and Janet Baird (daughter of Alexander Baird).

1851 General Manager Gartsherrie Iron Works[1]

1859 Married Barbara Forbes Lockhart

1871 Alexander Whitelaw 47, iron master and landowner, lived at Gartsherrie House, with Barbara Forles Whitelaw 35, Charlotte Lockhard Whitelaw 11, Janet Baird Whitelaw 9, Alexander Whitelaw Jr. 8, James Alex Betta Whitelaw 7, Mary Barbara Whitelaw 5, Helen Douglae Whitelaw 4, William Whitelaw 3, Caroline Forbee Whitelaw 1, James Band Whitelaw 3 Mo[2]

1879 Obituary [3]

Mr. ALEXANDER WHITELAW, who died on Tuesday, July 1, at his residence, Gartsherrie House, was the son of Mr. Alexander Whitelaw, who married Janet Baird, the eldest child of Alexander Baird of Lochwood, and was born at Drumpark in 1823. He was educated principally at Grange School, Sunderland.

In 1841 he became connected with the works at Gartsherrie, and afterwards assumed the management of them. The history of this firm is very much that of the Scotch iron trade. The commercial founder of the Baird family was Mr. Alexander Baird of Lochwood, whose eldest daughter was Mr. Whitelaw's mother. At the beginning of the present century Alexander Baird was a hard-working farmer at Kirkwood. He was, however, enterprising beyond his class, for in 1809 he became lessee of the Woodside Coal Work, near Dalserf, which he managed in addition to his farms.

His next commercial venture was that of leasing a coalfield at Rochsolloch, near Airdrie, the success of this undertaking being such that in 1822 he acquired the coalfield of Merryton.

In the year 1828 the Bairds obtained a lease of the ironstone in the lands of Cairnhill, adjoining Gartsherrie, and in 1830 the first furnace was put into blast. Mr. Alexander Baird, the founder of the firm, died in 1833. He left a family of eight sons, all now dead.

Of the brothers who assisted in managing the colossal business of the firm, William Baird, the eldest, was for five years from 1841 the representative in Parliament of the Falkirk Burghs. He was then the only Scotch burgh representative of Conservatism in Parliament, and retained his seat against strong opposition.

His brother, Mr. James Baird of Cambusdoon, represented the Falkirk Burghs from 1851 to 1857. It will thus be seen that the Bairds were able to devote some portion of their time to the public service, and in this respect the late Mr. Whitelaw followed their example. At the Parliamentary election in 1874 he secured one of the seats in the Conservative interest, being the first Tory member elected for Glasgow since the passing of the first Reform Bill.

Mr. Whitelaw's thorough business habits, his practical sagacity and decision of character, and his almost marvellous skill in figures, were of the greatest value to the undertakings with which he became connected.

In 1852 he obtained a partnership in the Eglinton Iron Company, which belonged to the firm of William Baird & Co., and in 1860 he was also made a partner in the latter firm. The Whitelaw interest in both firms, we understand, will still continue.

Mr. Whitelaw was a member of the Iron and Steel Institute, and one of the Board of Management of the British Iron Trade Association.

1879 Obituary [4]

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