John Barnes, Historian

Roy Bird (1883 – 1932)

Roy Bird began his career as a solicitor and became a successful businessman. In his late thirties he determined to enter the House of Commons and he fought North Lambeth twice, displaying great determination and campaigning energetically. With Labour contesting a Liberal held seat, he had had good hopes of winning through. He lost by 770 in 1922. His reward came with adoption for Skipton in 1924. He was dedicated to his constituency, held the seat comfortably in 1929 and greatly increased his majority in 1931. A big man physically, strong and active, his early death came as a great shock. He was not quite fifty when he was taken ill with pneumonia in Johannesburg and died in September 1933.

Ernest Roy Bird was born on 13 October 1883, the son of a solicitor, W.Ernest Bird (c1855-1918), and his wife, Mary Ann Roy. He was educated at St Paul’s School and passed the preliminary examination to become a solicitor himself in July 1899. He was admitted a solicitor in July 1905 and was a partner in the firm of Wedlake, Letts and Birds of Serjeant’s Inn and of Ernest Bird and Sons of Young St, Kensington.

He married Nettie Constantie, the daughter of George and Nettie Greenland on 18 May 1909. There were two daughters of the marriage, Ursula who married Charles Kimber, son of Sir Henry Kimber, the second Baronet, shortly after her father’s death., and Pamela who married Henry Nelson (later the 2nd Baron Nelson) in 1939.

He was a director of William Cole and Sons, engineers and motor coach builders of Hammersmith, just after the war; and held a number of other directorships including Wiggins & Co, Hammersmith, the Globe and Phoenix Gold Mining Company and Phoenix Finance and Mining Ltd. He chaired Kettners Ltd, and the Royal Exchange Assurance, West End Board. Just before his death he became Chairman of the newly formed Beaumont Property Trust.

After contesting Lambeth North unsuccessfully in 1922 and 1923, he was elected as MP for Skipton in 1924 and held the seat in 1929 and 1931. He was regarded as an energetic and popular Member, who took a keen interest in his constituency and increased his majority at each election. He made his maiden speech in support of the Macquisten Bill on 6 March 1925, but, showing characteristic loyalty, deferred to the Prime Minister’s view. He revealed his independence of spirit early in his Parliamentary career when he spoke and voted against silk duties in May 1925, although voting for the Finance Bill as a whole. He was a strong supporter of the Trade Disputes Bill in 1927. He was appointed to the Select Committee on the Estimates in 1928 and to the Public Accounts Committee in 1938.

Bird took a considerable interest in trade policy and also spoke on the Disarmament Conference. He moved the address in reply to the King’s Speech on 23 November 1932 in a lucid and interesting speech that was welcomed amongst others by the Labour deputy leader, Clement Attllee, no doubt because he looked for further progress in the field of disarmament. In December 1932, with the support of the Law Society, he introduced the Solicitors Bill, which provided for the keeping of accounts by solicitors for their clients’ money, and he piloted it with considerable finesse and tact on to the statute book in June 1933.

In November 1932, as President of the United Club, he presided over the dinner at which Baldwin was guest of honour.

He was for a time President of the North Ribblesdale Agricultural Society and farmed himself at New House farm, Robertsbridge in Sussex.

He had travelled to Beira in August 1933 and spent much of the next six weeks in Rhodesia. Taken ill with pneumonia, he died at Johannesburg on 27 September 1933. His body was immediately cremated.

An obituary appeared in The Times on 28 September 1933.