From the Book of Eminent Burgesses of Dundee 1513 to 1885.

John Boyd Baxter, Writer - 25th October 1823



JOHN BOYD BAXTER was the Son of WILLIAM W. BAXTER, a cousin of WILLIAM BAXTER, the founder of the eminent firm of BAXTER BROTHERS. He was born in Dundee on 19th February, 1796, was educated at the Grammar School of the Burgh, and was apprenticed to a legal practitioner with the intention of becoming a solicitor. After his term was completed he removed in 1815 to Edinburgh, and prosecuted his studies both at the Law Classes in the University and in the office of a legal firm there. On his return to Dundee he passed as Procurator before the Sheriff Court of Forfarshire, and settled to the practice of law in his native town in 1821.

The civic affairs of the Burgh were then in a state of turmoil. The Guildry had been successful to some extent in breaking up the ring that for a long period had ruled by self election; but an attempt at reaction was made in October, 1823, by some of the members of the old party, who brought forward Mr J. BOYD BAXTER as a candidate for the office of Clerk to the Guildry in opposition to Mr JAMES SAUNDERS, who had held that post for several years in the interest of the party of progress. Strenuous efforts were made to procure the election of Mr BAXTER, but he was defeated by a majority of one, the votes for SAUNDERS being 54 and for BAXTER 53.

The latter was enrolled as a Burgess immediately after his defeat. In May, 1824, he was appointed one of the Procurators Fiscal for the Dundee district of Forfarshire. This important office he administered for the very long term of fifty seven years, his resignation of it taking effect in March, 1881. His official duties were so extensive arid absorbing that he had little time to devote to the political or civic questions agitated in the Burgh, and though his advice on these matters was frequently sought and freely given, his name did not appear prominently in public.

In 1874 the University of St Andrews conferred upon him the degree of LL.D., "in consideration of his high legal status and literary gifts," and he was appointed a member of the Royal Commission on the Law Courts of Scotland. As his fiftieth year of office as Procurator Fiscal was completed in May, 1874, he was presented on that occasion with an address signed by many leading citizens of Dundee, in which his long and faithful services to the public were duly acknowledged, and a marble bust of him, executed by WILMAM BRODIE, R.S.A., was unveiled and placed in the Library of the Faculty of Procurators. In Dr BAXTER'S speech in reply to this address, the desirability of establishing a College in Dundee was referred to; and afterwards, with the sanction of Miss BAXTER of Balgavies, he laid before the Town Council a scheme for the foundation of such an institution, and asked their co operation in realizing the idea. The sum of £150,000, which he considered necessary for this purpose, seemed to the Council too great for them to expect readily to obtain by public subscription, and the project was abandoned for a time.

Six years after the idea had been mooted, Dr BAXTER came forward with a most munificent proposal. Miss BAXTER, he announced, was willing to hand over £130,000 towards this object, in the hope that others would follow her example. Shortly afterwards Dr BAXTER added to it a further contribution of £10,000, making the whole sum amount to £140,000. No time was lost in applying this princely donation to the purpose intended, and the University College thus established will long form a striking memorial of the generous founders.

In acknowledgment of his services to the Burgh, a movement was originated by the Free Library Committee to have Dr BAXTER'S portrait painted by SIR DANIEL MACNEE, P.R.S.A., and presented to him. On 9th September, 1881, the presentation was made, and Dr BAXTER handed over the portrait to the PROVOST, that it might be placed in the permanent collection of pictures belonging to the town. Dr BAXTER died at his residence, Craigtay, Broughty Ferry Road, on 4th August, 1882.