Baird, William Savage (1824–86) and George Courtenay Baird (1833–75), printers and newspaper proprietors, were brothers, natives of Randalstown, Co. Antrim; they had at least one other brother, Thomas Drew Baird (d. 1890), who joined the business after George Baird died. Both William and George Baird learned the printing trade in Belfast, and on 1 November 1861 bought out a printing company in Arthur St., Belfast, in which William had been an overseer. Their new company, W. & G. Baird, flourished as jobbing printers, and on 1 September 1870, in a race with a rival publication and after only four days of preparation, the firm produced the first issue of the Belfast Evening Telegraph, sold at a halfpenny. The new paper was immediately successful, and since the printing business was also flourishing, William planned a move to larger premises. Impressive new buildings on Royal Ave. to house both companies were opened on 28 June 1886; three weeks later, William S. Baird, on duty for long hours as a JP during rioting in Belfast, contracted typhoid fever and died (21 July). George Baird, who had long been in poor health, died 14 April 1875. William S. Baird was a member of the Church of Ireland and of the Orange order. His first wife was Margaret Jane Canning, who was aged 18 when they were married (10 November 1845); they had five children and she died in 1862. He then married (2 August 1864) her cousin Rachel Canning from Cookstown, Co. Tyrone, and had five more children. A son by the first marriage was (Sir) Robert Hugh Hanley Baird (1855–1934), born 9 February 1855, who was educated at the Model School, Belfast, and the Royal Academical Institution (of which he was later a governor). Robert entered the family firm as a compositor in 1869 and became joint manager on his father's death, and sole managing director in 1890. The Belfast Evening Telegraph was renamed the Belfast Telegraph in 1918; the firm also published the Weekly Belfast Telegraph from 1883. Robert Baird vigorously developed the Telegraph and also founded the Ballymena Weekly Telegraph (1887) and Larne Times (1891), the Ulster Saturday Night for sports results (1894; expanded as Ireland's Saturday Night, 1896), the Irish Daily Telegraph (1904), and the Irish Post (1910). Baird, whose energy and range of interests were exceptional, invested heavily in modern methods, equipment, and premises, the quality of his writers, and the wellbeing of his employees. He held office in many professional associations and other bodies (notably the Belfast harbour board), served as Irish representative on the Admiralty, War Office, and Press Committee, and in 1921 was made KBE. He was also a prominent mason and Orangeman. He married (1892) Clara Eliza (d. 1918), daughter of R. J. Browne; in 1920 he married her younger sister, Louisa Selena. There were no children. He died 8 October 1934; his funeral two days later was attended by the NI cabinet and representatives of many institutions, associations, and public bodies.
Sir William Baird (1874–1956), a son of William S. Baird's second marriage, succeeded Sir Robert H. H. Baird as managing director of the company. He rose to the rank of major in the Royal Artillery during the first world war; in the second world war the Belfast Telegraph was produced all through the bombing of the city, and William Baird was knighted (1947) in recognition of his public and charitable services. He retired in 1951 and died 10 January 1956, survived by his two daughters. His son Robert William Baird was educated at Dover College and became a well known racing driver and an ambitious businessman. After a two-day courtship in Jersey (1948), he married Isabel Healey; one son died young and another was drowned in a sailing accident in Montego Bay, Jamaica, on 28 June 1978. Robert William Baird was killed at a racetrack in England on 21 July 1953 while driving a Ferrari. Financial and legal complications ensued, and eventually, after almost exactly a hundred years, the family's major contributions to newspapers, business, and public life in Northern Ireland ended when in 1961 Lord Thomson of Fleet bought the Belfast Telegraph and the printing business.