Kinnaird, George William Fox (DNB00)


KINNAIRD, GEORGE WILLIAM FOX, ninth Baron Kinnaird (1807–1878), eldest son of Charles, eighth baron Kinnaird [q. v.], was born at Drimmie House, Perthshire—the family mansion before the erection of Rossie Priory—on 14 April 1807. He was educated at Eton, and entered the army as an officer of the guards, afterwards exchanging into the Connaught Rangers. He succeeded to the Scottish peerage on the death of his father, 11 Dec. 1826, and resigned his commission. His father and grandfather had both rendered great service to the whig party, and in recognition of their adherence Kinnaird was, in 1831, on the recommendation of Earl Grey, raised to the rank of a peer of the United Kingdom, with the title of Baron Rossie of Rossie, the name of a portion of the family estates at Inchture, Perthshire. In 1860 this title was exchanged for that of Baron Kinnaird of Rossie. During his youth Kinnaird spent much time in Italy. He inherited the antiquarian tastes of his father, and conducted important excavations near Rome, bringing to this country many Roman antiquities, which are now preserved at Rossie Priory. On 15 Jan. 1840, while Melbourne was in office, Kinnaird was made a privy councillor, and was chosen a knight of the Thistle 6 July 1857. He was made lord-lieutenant of Perthshire 28 Feb. 1866, and retained that office till his death.

As a large landowner Kinnaird made himself practically acquainted with agriculture, and was one of the earliest reformers of the old style of husbandry prevailing in the Carse of Gowrie. Steam-ploughs and threshing-machines were first used in Scotland on his estate, and having an aptitude for mechanics, he himself devised various improvements in agricultural implements. He energetically sought to ameliorate the condition of the labouring classes, organising evening schools for the ploughmen, and establishing free reading-rooms and libraries about his estate. It was largely through his exertions that the railway system in the east of Scotland was developed, the line connecting Perth and Dundee, which ran through part of his property, being carried out principally under his supervision. He also helped to found and maintain industrial schools throughout the country, and his philanthropic aims extended to the reclamation of criminals, especially of juvenile delinquents. His principal legislative work was the drafting of the important measure for the closing of public-houses on Sunday, which is known as the ‘Forbes Mackenzie Act’ from the name of William Forbes Mackenzie [q. v.], M.P. for Peebleshire, who introduced it in the House of Commons. It received the royal assent in 1853. Kinnaird similarly interested himself in the abatement of the smoke nuisance, the reform of the mint (on which subject he wrote several pamphlets), and the regulation of mines. He was chairman of the Mining Commission. As a whig politician he took a prominent part in the free trade agitation, was on terms of close intimacy with Ricardo, Cobden, and Bright, and presided at a great meeting of the Anti-Cornlaw League at Covent Garden Theatre. He gave further proof of his liberal views by aiding the Polish refugees, and by befriending Mazzini and Garibaldi. Science also interested him, and he spent much time, in company with Mr. Talbot, in developing photography, and in forming an extensive geological collection with the aid of Sir Charles Lyell. Kinnaird died at Rossie Priory on 8 Jan. 1878, when in his seventy-first year. He married in 1837 Lady Frances Ponsonby, daughter of Lord de Mauley, and had two sons and one daughter, all of whom predeceased him. The title and estates fell at his death to his eldest surviving brother, Arthur Fitzgerald Kinnaird [q. v.]

[Millar's Historical Castles and Mansions of Scotland; Dundee Advertiser, 9 Jan. 1878; private information.]

A. H. M.