National Trust eyes Baird's birthplace

John Logie Baird
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baird-with-fatherAN interview in June 2011 about a radical overhaul of the National Trust for Scotland raised a few eyebrows in Helensburgh.

The Scotsman interviewed Trust chairman Sir Kenneth Calman, who said that the Trust must become more commercially minded, intervene to save threatened historic sites, and generate more cash from its existing assets.

He indicated that Scotland’s largest membership organisation — which owns the Charles Rennie Mackintosh mansion Hill House at the top of Upper Colquhoun Street — wanted to shed its traditional image as a charity by embarking on more money-making ventures.

Among a long list of proposals was that the Helensburgh birthplace of TV inventor John Logie Baird was the kind of building that the Trust might be interested in running in the future as it would fill a gap in the Trust portfolio.

This came as a surprise to the inventor’s son, Helensburgh Heritage Trust president Professor Malcolm Baird, who read it online, and to the current owners of the property, The Lodge, which is at the far end of West Argyle Street.

The house was bought by the inventor’s father, the Rev John Baird, minister of the West Parish Church, soon after his marriage in 1878, and it was there that his son John, the youngest of four children, was born on August 14 1888.

The Church of Scotland minister continued to live at The Lodge in his retirement, and died there on September 14 1932 at the age of 90.

His son conducted many of his early experiments there, including rigging a telephone line to the home of his school friend Jack Buchanan — later to become a famous entertainer and a financial backer of Baird — along the road at Garthland.

In 1947, the year after the inventor’s death, his widow and children Malcolm and Diana accepted the invitation of his sister Annie to move back into The Lodge, and after they all left about 1960 it stayed in the family as Annie’s home until her death in June 1971.

The Trust contacted the National Trust for Scotland and asked if they could expand on their ideas for the property.

Their communications manager, Sarah Cuthbert-Kerr replied that, following a strategic review conducted last year by former Scottish Parliament presiding officer George Reid, the NTS was currently in the process of developing a new five year strategy for 2012-17.

This was the reason for the interview with Sir Kenneth, prior to the finalising of the strategy in September.

Susan said: “As part of this discussion, it was indicated that as the Trust considered all it currently cared for, it also needed to consider whether there were other heritage sites which should be conserved for the future, and whether the Trust could have a role in doing so.

“John Logie Baird’s Birthplace was simply an example of a type of property that may be considered in future. There are certainly no plans, proposals or discussions in place.”