James Baird was born in 1887 Clapham, London, the son of Alexander Purves Baird and Wilhelmina, née McLeod. Alexander Purves Baird, the son of James Baird, was born at Allanston, Berwickshire, Scotland, in 1859. He married Wilhelmina McLeod of Edinburgh. They moved to Clapham in the mid-1880s where James and a younger brother, William, were born. By 1891 the family had moved to 258 Seven Sisters Road, Finsbury Park, Middlesex, where Alexander had established a thriving bakers and confectioners business employing two shop girls. A second brother, Alexander McLeod Baird was born there. No record has been found of James’s early education. Life changed for James on 18 September 1900 when his father died, aged 42. He left a business and effects valued at £1,409. His widow continued with the business for a short time before returning to Scotland. In about 1913 she was appointed to take charge of Samuelston School in Haddington, Berwickshire, where she was to teach for the next 16 years.
Having become an Associate (2nd Class) of Kings College (1910), James enrolled at St John’s College, Durham University in 1909 to study Theology. He passed his first year Theology in Michaelmas 1910; gained his Licentiate in Theology in Easter 1911, and graduated in 1912. In April 1911, when the census was taken, James along with two other theology students was staying at 23 Belsize Square, Hampstead with Herbert Phillips Pope, warden and curate of St Peter’s church. He was awarded his M.A. at the convocation in June 1915. He was made a deacon in 1912; he was ordained priest by the Bishop of Birmingham in 1913. He served his Title at the church of St George, Birmingham, where he was senior curate. This was his last appointment before becoming a Temporary Chaplain to the Forces in 1915.
James Baird arrived in France at Boulogne on 16 November 1915. As Captain Reverend James Baird he was attached to “D” 157 Brigade of the Royal Field Artillery (R.F.A.), and also to the 6th Canadian Field (later Stationary) Hospital, part of XIX Corps H.Q.2. He was mentioned in Dispatches, though the circumstances are unknown. Having contracted pneumonia James Baird died, aged 33, on 13 February 1919, at the 3rd Canadian Stationary Hospital, St Omer France. He was buried in the Longuenesse (St Omer) Souvenir Cemetery in France. Newspapers record that he was the elder beloved son of Mrs Baird, then living at Schoolhouse, Samuelston, Haddington, and the grandson of James Baird of Viewbank, Ayton, Berwickshire. Wilhemina Baird died in August the same year to plaudits in the (Scottish) Sunday Post.
"Haddington lady’s death. A loss to education. Haddington, Saturday. The death of Mrs. Baird, in charge of Samuelston School, closes an educational career fraught with much success and usefulness extending over sixteen years. Quite recently her younger son, Captain Rev. James Baird, a Church of England clergyman at Birmingham, died while on active service as a chaplain to the Forces in France, and his demise did much to hasten her end. His estate was granted to his younger brother, Alexander McLeod Baird, described as a farmer, resident in Canada, in Saskatoon, c/o R.H. Milliken Esq., Solicitor. 608 Canada Buildings, Saskatoon, Sask. Canada."
Sunday Post (Scotland), 10 August 1919
His death is recorded in the Birmingham Memorial Register, held in Birmingham Hall of Memory, and in Durham University’s Roll of Service (1920). The church of St George was demolished in the 1960s to make way for road improvements, but James Baird’s last residence at 138 Hockley Hill, Birmingham still stands.