Laird, John (DNB00)


LAIRD, JOHN (1805–1874), shipbuilder, eldest son of William Laird, shipbuilder, of Birkenhead, and brother of Macgregor Laird [q. v.], was born at Greenock in 1805. At an early age he was associated with his father in the firm of William Laird & Son, of which he was for some years the managing partner. He was one of the earliest to turn his attention to the use of iron for the construction of ships, and in 1829 built a lighter of sixty tons for use on the Irish lakes and canals, the first, or one of the first, iron vessels ever constructed. In 1833 the style of the firm was changed to John Laird; he built the Lady Lansdowne, an iron paddle-wheel steamer, for the City of Dublin Steam Packet Co.; she was sent from Liverpool in pieces, and was put together on Loch Derg. In 1834 he built the John Randolph, paddle steamer, for Savannah, U.S.; this also was sent out in pieces, and was the first iron vessel ever seen in American waters. Among other vessels built by him were the steamers in which Francis Rawdon Chesney [q. v.] explored the Euphrates in 1836; a steamer built to the order of Mehemet Ali in 1837 for the navigation of the Nile; transports for use on the Indus and Sutlej; the Nemesis, for the East India Company, the first iron vessel carrying guns [see Hall, Sir William Hutcheon]; and the famous Birkenhead. In 1861 Laird retired from the business, which has since been carried on by his sons, under the style of Laird Brothers, and in the same year was elected the first M.P. for Birkenhead, then newly formed into a parliamentary borough, which he continued to represent, in the conservative interest, till his death, 29 Oct. 1874. He was a D.L. and J.P. for the county of Chester, a government nominee member of the Mersey docks and harbour board, and for many years chairman of the Birkenhead improvement commission. He married in 1829 Elizabeth, daughter of Nicholas Hurry of Liverpool, by whom he had issue.

[Times, 30 Oct. 1874; information from Mr. John Laird, of Laird Brothers.]

J. K. L.