Peter Aikman and family

By Morag T Fyfe

Visitors to compartment Omega in the Necropolis may notice a standard gravestone that records the loss of six children in 1857.


Peter Aikman and Family

Peter Aikman and Family

In memory of /JESSIE aged 8 years/ANNIE aged 6 years/ARTHUR aged 4 ½ years /CHARLES aged 3 years /FREDERICK aged 1 ½ years /ALEXANDER aged 4 weeks /The beloved children of /PETER AIKMAN, /Grosvenor Terrace Glasgow.

“Lovely and pleasant in their lives /and in their death they were not divided. /They all died in one fortnight and /are interred here in the same grave. /Even so Father as it seemed /good in Thy sight


The burial registers and other sources have allowed us to flesh out their story. Baby Alexander was the first to be buried, by his father, on the 10th March 1857. He was followed six days later by Jessie, Annie and Frederick. The last two surviving children, Arthur and Charles, were buried together on the 24th March. Peter Aikman organized the first two funerals but when it came to the third the boys were buried by their grandfather.

The deaths of so many children in such a short space of time warranted sympathetic comment in some of the local newspapers and it is from these notices that we learn that all the children died from whooping cough. On obtaining the death certificates of Annie and Jessie it turned out that their cause of death was more complicated than that reported in the newspapers. The official cause of death was ‘Rubeola followed by Pertussis and consequences from 29th January 1857’. Rubeola is measles as opposed to Rubella which is the less serious German measles. It seems that one of the side effects of Rubeola is to suppress the immune system and lay the patient open to other infections of which whooping cough is the most likely in the nineteenth century.

In addition to coping with the deaths of six children in 1857 Peter Aikman also had business worries. He and his uncle Thomson Aikman were partners in the firm P & T Aikman formed in 1841. The firm were ship owners and shipping agents, owning outright or with shares in three ships built by Walter Hood & Co., Shipbuilders, Footdee, Aberdeen. In 1858 the partners became involved in two bankruptcies as creditors and in 1859 P & T Aikman themselves became bankrupt. By October 1859 the house in Grosvenor Terrace had been sold.

A second panel on the monument records the death of Peter Aikman in London in 1862 and of his wife Janet A Cochran also in London in 1911.

By 1861 Peter and Janet Aikman were living in Islington, London with three young daughters (Caroline, Elizabeth and Evelyn). Peter was still a ship broker. He died the following year aged only 41 and was buried at Christ Church, Forest Hill, Kent. By 1871 Janet had returned home to her mother and she and her daughters can be found at Kirktonfield House, Neilston. The family had moved to Partick by 1881 but by 1891 it has split with Elizabeth being married and living in Acton, Middlesex and the two remaining sisters living in Cathcart. Mother Janet is found in the census with Elizabeth in Acton that year but it is not clear whether she is visiting or living there permanently. By 1901 Janet and Evelyn are back in Ealing, Caroline having married in the meantime and it was there that Janet died in 1911. Evelyn had predeceased her dying in Edinburgh in 1907 and it may be because she died in Scotland that Evelyn was buried alongside her six older brothers and sisters in the grave in Compartment Omega in the Necropolis.


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