John Bannerman, Baron Bannerman of Kildonan

John MacDonald Bannerman, Baron Bannerman of Kildonan OBE (1 September 1901 – 10 May 1969; Scottish Gaelic: Iain mac Iain Mac-a'-Bhrataich) was a Scottish farmer, rugby union internationalist and Liberal politician.[2]

The Lord Bannerman of Kildonan
Personal details
John MacDonald Bannerman,

(1901-09-01)1 September 1901
Glasgow, Scotland[1]
Died10 May 1969(1969-05-10) (aged 67)
Tidworth, Hampshire, England
Spouse(s)Ray Mundell
RelativesShade Munro, John Bannerman, Ray Michie
OccupationFarmer, politician/life peer
Nickname(s)J.M., Iain mac Iain

The Lord Bannerman of Kildonan

Personal details
John MacDonald Bannerman

(1901-09-01)1 September 1901
Glasgow, Scotland
Died10 May 1969(1969-05-10) (aged 67)
Tidworth, Hampshire, England
Political partyLiberal

Family and education

Born in Glasgow in 1901,[3] Bannerman was the son of John Roderick Bannerman, a Post Office employee originally from the Hebridean island of South Uist but living in Glasgow at the time of his son's birth; he is remembered for writing the popular Scottish folk song "Mairi's Wedding". John Bannerman always treasured his Highland heritage and was a native Gaelic speaker.[4] Bannerman was educated at Shawlands Academy and Glasgow High School.[3] He graduated from the University of Glasgow with a Bachelor of Science and then went on to Balliol College, Oxford and later to Cornell University in the United States. In 1931 he married Ray Mundell and they had two sons and two daughters. One of their daughters was the Liberal Democrat MP, Ray Michie (later Baroness Michie of Gallanach).[5] The historian John Bannerman was his son, and Donald Shade Munro, the rugby player and coach was his grandson.[6][7][8]

Rugby union

Bannerman started playing rugby union while at school, and between 1919–20, he was captain of Glasgow High School's 1st XV.[3]

Bannerman was an accomplished sportsman winning a "rugby blue" at Oxford[3] and 37 caps for Scotland between 1921 and 1929.

He went on to become Glasgow HSFP's most capped player.[9]

In 1954-55, Bannerman served as President of the Scottish Rugby Union.


In 1930, Bannerman was appointed as a farm manager on land owned by the Duke of Montrose. In 1952 Bannerman left the Montrose estate to become a farmer in his own interests and also that year became an Officer of the Order of the British Empire for services to the Festival of Britain.[3][10]


Bannerman became active in Liberal politics from the 1930s. He was particularly interested in the problems of depopulation and unemployment for ordinary people in the Scottish Highlands and islands. From 1942 to 1957 he was a Forestry Commissioner.[11] In 1938 he was adopted as prospective Liberal parliamentary candidate for Argyll. When the seat fell vacant in 1940 it was mooted that Bannerman might run as a Liberal National but the negotiations with the Conservatives broke down robbing him of his best chance of entering the House of Commons.[3] He contested Argyll unsuccessfully in the 1945 general election and Inverness in 1950. But in 1954 he was the candidate in an extraordinary by-election at Inverness which some historians have seen as a true turning point in Liberal fortunes in Scotland and perhaps the United Kingdom.[12] From a position where there had been no Liberal candidate in the 1951 election, Bannerman jumped into second place over Labour, coming just 1331 votes behind the Tory winner. This was the best Liberal by-election performance since the war. At the general election of 1955, Bannerman came even closer, losing by just 966 votes. Although his vote share declined in the 1959 general election, the ground had been laid for a successful attack on the seat in the 1964 general election by Russell Johnston, who held the seat until he retired from the Commons in 1997.

Bannerman was chairman of the Scottish Liberal Party from 1954 to 1964 and Rector of Aberdeen University in 1957. He made other attempts to enter the Commons, including giving Labour a close run at the Paisley by-election of 1961, registering 41.3% of the vote in a seat where there had been no Liberal candidate at the 1959 general election. He tried again without success at Paisley at the 1964 general election but in December 1967 he was made Baron Bannerman of Kildonan, of Kildonan in the County of Sutherland,[13] and so finally entered Parliament.

Life peerage

Bannerman was one of three Liberals to be made life peers at this time. The others were Tim Beaumont and John Foot. Their appointments were attacked by the Young Liberals as undemocratic. One particular critic was Tony Greaves, then editor of the Young Liberal publication Gunfire who argued that as the Liberal Party was in favour of a new social and political order, it was quite wrong to participate in the most pathetic feature of the existing order, the House of Lords.[14] Greaves became Baron Greaves of Pendle in 2000.

In his maiden speech in the Lords, Bannerman took up the Scottish cause referring to the anger of Hamilton where the Scottish National Party had just won a parliamentary by-election and warning it was the anger of two centuries in which the Scots had been what he described as a sleeping partner in the United Kingdom political scene.[15]

He died in Tidworth, Hampshire, on 10 May 1969 aged 67.[3]


  1. player profiles
  2. 'John Bannerman' by Ray Michie in Dictionary of Liberal Biography, Brack et al. (eds.), Politico's, 1998
  3. Finlay, Richard J. (2004). "Bannerman, John Macdonald, Baron Bannerman of Kildonan (1901–1969)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/40285. Retrieved 30 May 2009. (subscription or UK public library membership required)
  4. The Times, 12 May 1969
  5. - Person Page 10256
  7. Bath, p140
  9. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 19 July 2011. Retrieved 26 February 2010.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  10. "No. 39421". The London Gazette (Supplement). 28 December 1951. p. 12.
  11. Who was Who, OUP, 2007
  12. The Inverness Turning Point, by Alun Wyburn-Powell: Journal of Liberal History, Issue 53, Winter 2006-07
  13. "No. 44469". The London Gazette. 5 December 1967. p. 13287.
  14. The Times, 17 November 1967
  15. The Times, 6 December 1967
  • Bath, Richard (ed.) The Scotland Rugby Miscellany (Vision Sports Publishing Ltd, 2007 ISBN 1-905326-24-6)
  • Fowler, John (ed.) Bannerman: the Memoirs of Lord Bannerman of Kildonan, (Impulse Books, Aberdeen, 1972 ISBN 0-901311-19-7)
  • McLaren, Bill Talking of Rugby (1991, Stanley Paul, London ISBN 0-09-173875-X)
  • Massie, Allan A Portrait of Scottish Rugby (Polygon, Edinburgh; ISBN 0-904919-84-6)
  • player profiles
Party political offices
Preceded by
C. H. Johnston
Chairman of the Scottish Liberal Party
Succeeded by
George Mackie
Preceded by
Archibald Sinclair
President of the Scottish Liberal Party
with Archibald Sinclair 1963–1965
Andrew Murray 1965–1967

Succeeded by
Academic offices
Preceded by
Sir Rhoderick McGrigor
Rector of the University of Aberdeen
Succeeded by
Peter Scott
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