Baxter Family

The Baxter family and their unlucky association with water

By Morag T Fyfe

Based on an article which first appeared in Grave Matters 5, Autumn 2018.

Fresh water
There is a poignant entry in the Burial Registers of the Necropolis against 27th June 1844 which records the accidental drowning of Jane Arthur Craig, aged 18 years, wife of Walter Baxter, Esq. Jane’s death caught the attention of several newspapers both Scottish and English including The Scotsman, Caledonian Mercury, Greenock Advertiser, Glasgow Herald, Perthshire Courier, the Morning Post and Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper. The reports are virtually identical and presumably copy that in the Glasgow Herald which was the earliest to be published, on 24th June. A typical one is as follows:

On Saturday last, a most melancholy accident took place near the Falls of Clyde. On the morning of that day a small party of friends left Glasgow for the purpose of visiting the Falls and spending a holiday, amongst whom were Mr and Mrs Walter Baxter, of Buchanan Street. After having seen the two lower Falls, the party separated, one portion proceeding upwards to visit the Bonnington Fall, while Mr and Mrs Baxter and a friend remained behind. They seated themselves on the banks of the river waiting the return of their friends, when Mrs Baxter expressed a wish to see Wallace’s Cave, which was below, and in the immediate vicinity. She accordingly went to the spot, accompanied by the friend already alluded to, and having surveyed the locality, requested that he would call her husband to participate in the sight. Leaving Mrs Baxter seated by the river’s brink, the gentleman retired a few paces to call her husband, and, on his return, found that in the very brief interval that had elapsed, Mrs Baxter had disappeared. Whether the unfortunate lady had fainted and unconsciously fallen from the top of the rock, or whether she had risen and approached too near the brink and fallen into the flood, must forever remain a mystery – for the only trace left behind her was her handkerchief, lying upon the rocky seat which she had occupied when her friend proceeded to call her husband. A search was immediately made for the body, which was not, however, discovered till early the following (Sunday) morning, and within a few yards of the place where the accident happened. Mrs Baxter had been married only nine months before.

Jane Arthur Craig was born on 24th October 1825 to James Craig and Margaret Aitken Blackburn. She and Walter Baxter married on 13th September 1843, a month before her eighteenth birthday. Walter was a partner in Isaac Baxter & Son, Italian warehousemen, the firm later diversifying into confectioners, grocers, oilmen and wine merchants. The couple set up home in North Montrose Street, Glasgow and when Walter remarried in 1845, he and his second wife, Jessie Fulton Knight, continued to live there until they moved to Blythswood Square. At his death in 1869 aged 58 Walter was buried in the family lair in compartment Alpha which had been bought originally for Jane’s burial twenty five years previously.

Sea Water
The death of Jane Craig was not the Baxters’ only unhappy association with water and drowning. In 1878, nine years after Walter’s death, the family grave stone records that George Knight Baxter, aged 27, a son of Walter’s second marriage, drowned at sea. The loss of the sailing ship Loch Ard on which George served as second mate was widely reported in the British and Australian press at the time and features on a number of web sites today.

Sailing Ship Loch Ard

Sailing Ship Loch Ard

The Loch Ard was a three masted iron sailing ship built in 1873 by Charles Connell & Co. of Glasgow for the Glasgow Shipping Company (also known as the Loch Line) and their Australia trade. On her last voyage she sailed from the Thames for Melbourne on 2nd March with a crew of thirty seven and seventeen passengers. Approaching journey’s end she was wrecked on 1st June at what was described at the time as Curdie Inlet on the coast of Victoria, Australia. Current web sites describe the location as Mutton Bird Island about 15 miles to the east in an area of spectacular cliffs. Of the fifty four persons onboard only two survived and only four bodies were recovered for burial. George was not one of them.

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