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Bird family

Robert Bird (1839-1909), born at Soundwell, Bristol on 13 February 1839, the eldest son of Charles Bird, a Bristol grocer, was a chemist. He married Emma Butler of Conham, Bristol, daughter of William Butler (1819-1900), founder of an important coal-tar works at Kingswood, Bristol. Both the Birds and the Butlers were prominent in Kingswood Methodism. Robert and his father moved to Cardiff in 1872, to start business as oil distillers.

In 1874 he became a member of the Guilford Crescent United Methodist Free Church in Cardiff, becoming a trustee and Sunday School Superintendent. He played a leading part in the expansion of Free Methodism in the area., raising funds for the erection of chapels at Cogan, Cathays Terrace and Penarth Road. Following the Methodist Ecumenical Conference of 1901, he led the efforts that resulted in the union of the UMFC, the Methodist New Connexion and the Bible Christians in 1907.

In 1875 he was one of the first councillors elected for the newly formed Roath Ward and served as mayor of the town in 1883-84. He was a staunch Gladstonian Liberal and was summonsed for his refusal to pay the Education rate in 1902. A doughty opponent of Welsh nationalism, his rebuke to Lloyd George at the 1896 AGM of the South Wales Liberal Federation in Newport, asserting that the non-Welsh population ‘would not submit to the domination of Welsh ideas’ has gone down in history. He was selected as Liberal Parliamentary candidate for Cardiff in 1900, but withdrew in the face of protests at his attitude to the Boer War. He died on 3 January 1909.

Robert’s son was Charles Hayward Bird CBE (1862-1944), born at Sandhurst, Glos. on 17 October 1862. As a member of Cardiff City Council for 33 years, alderman for 24 years and Lord Mayor in 1910, he took a special interest in the problems of water supply and was created a Freeman in 1923. He sat on the National Food Council and on the Royal Commission on London Squares and was knighted in 1929. He was secretary of the last UM Conference, held at Kingswood in 1932, and died in Cardiff on 5 September 1944.

Sources

  • Times, 7 Sept 1944
  • Gerard Charmley 'Alderman Robert Bird: Unity and

Disunity', in Morgannwg, Vol. 54, 2010

Entry written by: AC, CJS, FLeB and JAV
Category: Person

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