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Bauldy Baird

© Rutherglen Heritage Society

The story of the rise and fall of a Rutherglen publican who, in Victorian times, fell foul of the law by illegally selling alcohol to thirsty Glaswegians.

Bauldie Bairds Inn.jpg

Above, drawing of Bauldy Baird’s Inn, Canada Cottage. Reproduced from Rutherglen Lore by W. Ross Shearer

1860 OS map Canada Cottage framed.jpg

Most towns have their ‘local characters’ and Rutherglen had its fair share. One of those was Bauldy Baird. Living at Canada Cottage on Cathcart Road in the mid-nineteenth. century, he was a neighbour of the family of James Burn Russell who lived next door at Auburn Cottage. (Russell was later to become a pioneer of public health in Victorian Glasgow.)


Described by Hugh MacDonald in his Rambles Round Glasgow as ‘a plain blunt man’, Baird made a lucrative living by meeting the needs of hungry and thirsty visitors from Glasgow by selling them refreshments. Often arriving by boat, these travellers visited Canada Cottage on Sundays ‘more frequently than was actually necessary for health purposes’ according to W. Ross Shearer in Rutherglen Lore.


This was because, among the refreshments available at Bauldy’s, there was Glenlivet whisky. According to MacDonald, Bauldy dispensed this to his customers, who congregated in laughing groups in the garden’.

This did not go down well with the Russells next door at Auburn Cottage. These ‘virtuous neighbours’, themselves total abstainers, took Bauldy to court, claiming that his liquor licence had been wrongly granted.

Above, 1860 Ordnance Survey map showing Canada Cottage and Auburn Cottage.

Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

The court found that Bauldy had breached the law which prohibited the sale of alcohol on the Sabbath, and duly revoked his licence. ‘The result was’ as MacDonald wrote, ‘that in a short time he found his occupation in a great measure gone, his garden an unpeopled wilderness, and himself a standing jest for triumphant teetotallers.’

What became of Bauldy after the loss of his licence is not known. His breaches of the law took place before the Forbes MacKenzie Act of 1853 which made it illegal for public houses in Scotland to open on Sundays.

Canada Cottage

Drawing by John Quinn, 2018

Canada Cottage John Quinn framed red.jpg

'The hostelry was on the western border of Rutherglen (Cathcart Road area) and the difference in licensing laws between Lanarkshire and Glasgow meant that people in Lanarkshire could enjoy a refreshment on a Sunday but those in Glasgow couldn’t, so many people would walk through the Hundred Acre wood from areas like Mount Florida and Govanhill and when they crossed the wee clapper bridge they entered Lanarkshire and could enjoy a drink in Bauldy Baird’s. The drawing [based on the picture in Rutherglen Lore] shows couples going to and from the pub.'

John Quinn

Bauldy Baird Folk Ballad

There is a folk ballad called Bauldy Baird from which 'our' Bauldy's nickname is likely to have been derived. The chorus of the ballad is:

Bauldy Baird's come again,
⁠Bauldy Baird's come again,
⁠Tell the news through burgh and glen,
⁠Bauldy Baird's come back again!

It also contains the line, 'On Bauldy Baird the law was vile', a view presumably shared by Bauldy and his customers, if not the Russells.

The subject of the ballad is a notorious thief, a much darker character than his Rutherglen namesake. A similarly alliteravely named character called Bauldy Bain features in a poem by William Dixon Cocker, who, coincidently, was born in Rutherglen. The poem is Bauldy Bain’s Fiddle, and was set to music as a Scottish country dance.

Right, cover of The King's Muster, a collection of songs published in 1823 which includes Bauldy Baird.   Image courtesy of the National Library of Scotland

The Kings Muster cover.jpg
Canada Cottage location Cathcart Rd red.

Above, new housing development on Cathcart Road. Rutherglen. This was the location of Canada Cottage which has long since been demolished. Auburn Cottage survives, its white gable and chimney stack visible behind the new houses, to the left.

Researched by Carrick McDonald, with thanks to Cynthia Wardle and John Quinn



Rambles Round Glasgow by Hugh MacDonald, John Cameron, Glasgow, 1860

Glasgow’s Doctor: James Burn Russell 1837 - 1904, by Edna Robertson, Tuckwell Press, East Lothian, 1998

Rutherglen Lore by W. Ross Shearer, Ruglonians’ Society, Paisley, 1922

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