Recently I found newspaper articles relating to the death of my husband’s second great grandfather John Baird, sadly the graphic detail more revealing than his death certificate and precognition.

The Northern Warder & Bi-Weekly Courier & Argus, 1st February 1876, page 6
The Northern Warder & Bi-Weekly Courier & Argus, 1st February 1876, page 6

Melancholy Case of Drowning at Montrose

On Saturday night, between six and seven o’clock, a most melancholy affair occurred, by which Mr John Baird, lighter master, was drowned.  The lighter had been moored alongside the schooner Vigilant and after that vessel had been ballasted, she was in the act of being towed down to the dockgates, Mr Baird alone remaining on board.

When nearing the gates it is supposed that she had given a lurch, and that the tiller had struck Mr Baird and thus swept him overboard into the seething ebb tide which was then approaching full force.  One agonising cry was heard from the unfortunate man, but no help was available and in a moment he disappeared and was lost.

The last paragraph reveals much about John’s person.

Mr Baird was well known throughout the town as an active, intelligent and obliging man and he has been cut off with appalling suddenness in the prime of his manhood, his age being only forty-two, leaving a widow and seven of a family to lament the loss of a good husband and a kind father”.

Brother Charles registered John’s death on the 1st February and twenty days later Procurator Fiscal Robert Whyte handed down his findings: “About 6 o’clock on the evening of Saturday 29th January 1876 in the River Southesk and at or – thereof near the Net Dock, Montrose – Drowning”.

Unfortunately John’s body was never recovered and this distressing article appeared in The Dundee Courier & Argues, Friday 10 March 1876:

The Dundee Courier and Argus, Friday 10 March, 1876
The Dundee Courier and Argus, Friday 10 March, 1876

A Body Found – On Thursday morning a woman belonging to Ferryden discovered a body at Marywells, about a quarter of a mile south of Montrose Ness.  It was in a sadly mutilated condition, and was at first supposed to be the remains of Mr John Baird who was drowned off the ballast lighter six weeks ago, but that unfortunate man’s relatives failed to identify the body as that of their friend.

John, baptised 2nd May 1830 son of Alexander Baird, Blacksmith, Mains of Murthill, Tannadice and Ann Clark married at Montrose, June 1851, sixteen year old Midlothian native Mary Marquis the youngest daughter of John Marquis and his wife Mary Knight.  Loving the very readable handwriting.


The 1860s was a particularly morbid time for the family; ten year old Alexander died from typhoid fever in July 1864 and on 30th December, Mary gave birth to a son, naming him Alexander.  In May1866, John registered the death and probably organised the funeral of Mary’s brother Alexander Marquis, the cause Bright’s disease of the kidneys.

At the end of the decade, scarlet fever shrouded the household.  A week after her sixth birthday, Elizabeth contracted the illness, languishing four days before succumbing in early February 1869.

Within a month, two year old Ann Clark named after her grandmother and twelve year old John fell to the clutches of the deadly childhood illness, John registering their deaths on the 13th March.

Unlike other widows who through economic necessity remarried, Mary stayed faithful to the memory of John, the couple just a few months short of celebrating their silver wedding anniversary before the tragedy.  The thought she may have received a small income from Hugh Baird’s Trust Disposition and Settlement has crossed my mind.

In later census years, 1891 was the only time Mary listed an occupation, that of housekeeper. Still residing at home were married daughter thirty-seven year old flax mill worker Euphemia minus her husband and son; youngest daughter also a flax mill worker, Mary age 27 and eighteen year old baker, Robert Johnston Baird.

Seventy-five year old Mary Campbell Baird residing 46 Murray Street, Montrose, widow of John Baird, Shore Labourer/Ballastman died at 4h 10m pm on the 7th March 1910 from the effects of bronchitis, son Alexander of Chapel St, Inverness at her bedside.

Mary born 10 August 1834 was the last of her generation (Marquis) to pass away.

Notes:  Wikipedia “A lighter is a type of flat-bottomed barge used to transfer goods and passengers to and from moored ships. Lighters were traditionally unpowered and were moved and steered using long oars called “sweeps” and the motive power of water currents. They were operated by highly skilled workers called lightermen”.

A search of between the years 1876 and 1880 returned a burial record at Montrose Old Cemeteries, Angus dated 14 February 1878 for John Baird – unviewed.

The Glasgow Herald also reported on the tragedy, the Montrose Coal & Lime Company owner of the Vigilant.

The Glasgow Herald, January 1876
The Glasgow Herald, January 1876