MOST WORSHIPFUL GRAND MASTER, 1928-1929
M.W. Brother Robert Baird, who died shortly before the meeting of Grand Lodge in 1935, was born at Wick, Ontario, 7 February 1876. His father was William Baird, who came from County Antrim, Ireland, in 1840, and his mother was Maria (Thompson) Baird, a native of Wick. He received his early education in the common school of his native village, and the High School at Port Perry, Ontario He taught school for a time at Udora and Sunderland, Ont., and in 1900, entered Toronto University. He graduated with honours in Political Science in 1904. In 1905, he received the further degree of M.A. from his Alma Mater. For a time he was with the McLean Publishing Company in Toronto, but later entered the service of the Royal Bank of Canada, at Tillsonburg, Ontario, as accountant. In 1911, he became the manager of the branch of the Traders Bank of Canada at Zealandia, Saskatchewan, and there he remained until 1914.
About that time, municipal troubles were arising in British Columbia, and the then Attorney General, Hon. W. J. Bowser, was looking for a man with the necessary ability and training to handle the matter. With his education, bank training and experience, Bro. Baird appeared to be the most suitable man for the position. Accordingly, in June, 1914, the B.C. Government established its Municipal Department and appointed him as Inspector in charge.
For twenty-one years he had charge of Municipal Affairs for the Province. Governments came and went, but he remained at his post. In 1933, the government found that the work of the municipal branch had increased to such an extent that it was necessary to expand it into a Department of Municipal Affairs, with a Minister in the Cabinet. Bro. Baird was the choice as Deputy Minister, and remained as such from 1934 until his death.
Few persons in Canada were better posted in municipal affairs than he. Coupled with this, he was one of the most likeable and tactful officials in the employ of the government and in no department was that tact more needed than in dealing with municipal troubles. His reports were models of lucidity and thoroughness and are valuable documents for reference in those later days.
In 1908 he married Eva Tillson, daughter of Frederick Tillson and Josephine Tillson, of Tillsonburg. He left surviving him his wife and one daughter, Helen Patricia Baird. One brother, J. E. Baird, is practising law in Vancouver. Four sisters reside in Ontario.
For years he was a prominent figure in Union Club circles at Victoria, and also active in University of Toronto Alumni affairs and in those of the Queen Alexander Solarium for Crippled Children at Cobble Hill, Vancouver Island.
M.W. Brother Baird was initiated into Freemasonry in Fidelity Lodge No. 428, Port Perry, Ontario, on 9 November 1900. He was passed 4 January 1901, and raised 23 May 1901. He resigned from his mother lodge on 1 June 1906, and affiliated with King Hiram Lodge No. 78, on October 31, 1906. He served as Senior Warden in 1907, and Worshipful Master in 1908. He was made an honourary member of this lodge on 10 December 1924.
Shortly after he completed his term as Worshipful Master in King Hiram Lodge No. 78, he was moved to Zealandia, Saskatchewan, as manager of the local branch of the Traders Bank of Canada, There was no masonic lodge there at that time, and Bro. Baird led the way in forming one. A dispensation was issued on 26 October 1911, for Zealandia Lodge No. 85, with his name as the first Worshipful Master. In 1921, he was made an honourary member. The population of the town seems to have greatly changed since he lived there, for no member of the lodge at present can give any further particulars of his life there.
He first became a member in this jurisdiction when he affiliated with Britannia Lodge No. 73, in Victoria, on 15 February 1917. He attended Grand Lodge for the first time that year and was a regular attendant thereafter. He was appointed D.D.G.M. for District 1 in 1920 by M.W. Brother Grimmett, and his report in 1921 shows how faithfully he performed the duties of that office. In 1925, at the meeting held that year at Kamloops, Bro. Baird was elected J.G.W., an office he retained for two years, 1925 and 1926. In 1927, he was elected Deputy Grand Master and in 1928, he became Grand Master. Bro. Baird was one of the few Grand Masters who were able to visit our three most northern lodges, Yukon, No. 45, Whitehorse, No. 46, and Atlinto, No. 42. Sixteen years had passed since either of these lodges had seen a Grand Master, and his reception by these lodges was one that made a deep impression on his mind. He was never tired of telling about the hospitality he received in the north and the valuable souvenirs which he received on his trip. In his report to Grand Lodge he speaks of his trip as "one of the happiest periods of my masonic career."
Two lodges came into existence during his regime: Kerrisdale Lodge No. 117, and Adoniram Lodge No. 118 both flourishing lodges in the City of Vancouver. He also officiated at the laying of the cornerstone of the Masonic Temple at Saanichton, B.C.
He had not been in good health for some time, owing to nervous disorders, but he carried on his work up to a short time before his death. His last public appearance was at the King's Jubilee ceremonies, at Victoria. The extra strain was too much for his weakened condition, and from there he was taken to the Jubilee Hospital where he died on 3 June 1935, in the fifty-eighth year of his age.
A charming personality, a lover of the Craft, and a master of ritual. his absence from our ranks will be regretted by all who had the pleasure of his friendship.
Robie L. Reid, Grand Historian.
Robie L. Reid, Annual Proceedings 1937 Vancouver : Grand Lodge of British Columbia, "Grand Historian's Report", pp. 166-67.