The Baird family, who originated in Lanarkshire, first came to notice as a result of the Industrial Revolution. The founder of the family empire was Alexander Baird who was born in 1765. Having started life as a small farmer, he found that the income from his smallholding could not keep his wife and seven sons in any sort of comfort; they were in fact poverty-stricken. He gave up trying to make ends meet, and with his seven sons, William, John, James, Robert, Douglas, George and David became miners, initially of coal but later for iron. As the Industrial Revolution progressed they became ironmasters, providing iron for the rapidly expanding railway system. Later, they undertook contracts for the provision of the lines on the new routes, taking a share in the railway company instead of money. As the value of the companies increased, so did the Bairds' wealth.
In 1826, the Bairds took leases out on three coalfields, at Sunnyside, Hollandhirst and New Gartsherrie, following this with interests in the ironstone at Cairnhill.
In 1830, James, aged only 28, took over the running of the business. Three years later Alexander died, leaving the business in the hands of the seven brothers. The business continued to expand, with their interests extending into Ayrshire, Stirling and Dumbarton in Scotland and over the border into Cumberland. They were by now William Baird & Co, and were leading lights in the industrialisation of the West of Scotland.
The brothers were by now very rich men, who decided to join the landed gentry and enter public life.
James bought Auchmelden in Aberdeenshire, was MP for Falkirk Burghs from 1851 until 1857 and was appointed Deputy Lieutenant for both Ayr and Inverness. James, a deeply religious man, gave £200,000 to the Church of Scotland. The rest of his fortune, he bequeathed to his nephew, George Alexander. When he died in 1876, George Alexander, at the age of only 15, became, potentially, a very rich boy.
William went to stay at Elie in Fife and also became a Member of Parliament.
David purchased the Stichill property for £150,000. When he died at the young age of 44 years in 1860, his estate went to his brother George.
George, who married Cecilia, daughter of Admiral Hatton, in 1858, had already bought the Strichen estate in Aberdeenshire from Lord Lovat three years earlier. Like James, George was a deeply religious man, who gave freely to the church, being responsible for the building of many fine churches.
George and Cecilia were married on 15th November 1858, and on 30th September 1861, their only son, George Alexander was born in Edinburgh.
George demolished the old house at Stichill and built a new, grand one on the same site.
George died in 1870, when George Alexander was only nine years old. Cecilia continued to live at Stichill, while George Alexander grew up and went off into the world of horse racing and prize-fighting.
When he died in 1893, she continued to live in the Mansion House until her death on March 5th 1895.
George, Cecilia and George Alexander are all buried in Stichill Churchyard.