These diaries, which would evolve into meticulously kept field notebooks focussed on bird life, would be kept for decades. Several boxes of her neatly kept records are housed in the archives of the Scottish Ornithologists' Club (SOC) at Waterston House, Aberlady. The very early entries from her teenage years provide a glimpse of how her interest in nature developed within the boundaries of her own home. Here are two entries from June 1895:
"Found a ring Ouzel in the wire summer house, too tired to try to escape." and "Caught a small Elephant Hawk Moth at about 10pm on the Rhododendron flowers to the east of the house."
Around this time she formed her lifelong friendship with Leonora Rintoul, of nearby Lahill House. As described in the previous post, the pair of Baxter and Rintoul would become celebrated ornithologists, founding the SOC and acting jointly as the Club's first president. Although ornithology was Evelyn Baxter's key area of interest and achievement, she had many other talents.
Miss Baxter's interests and talents were many and varied and her name is very frequently mentioned in newspaper archives in the context of a range of different areas of local life. For example, she presided over the concert given in aid of Largo Pier at La Scala in 1926, she exhibited plants at the Largo Flower Show, was a Justice of the Peace for Fife, was active in the Fife County Nursing Association, gave a lecture on Largo in the 18th century, carried out the role of a Commissioner in the Girl Guides, was Sunday School teacher at Largo Parish Church...to name just a few of the areas where her name crops up. For most of her adult life Miss Baxter lived at 'The Grove' in Upper Largo - a house built for her on the site of an old bleaching green. She would often open the house and extensive grounds for use by local causes. For example, her kitchen would be made available for SWRI cookery demonstrations and her grounds sometimes became the venue for open air fund raisers.
Evelyn was awarded the M.B.E. in 1945 - not in relation to any of the areas mentioned above - but for her work in yet another sphere. Her interest in agriculture led her to become an organiser of the Women's Land Army during both the First and Second World Wars. She later received an honorary degree from Glasgow University in 1955. By the time of her death on 1 October 1959, Miss Baxter's official title would be Dr Evelyn V Baxter M.B.E. F.R.S.E. M.B.O.U. C.F.A.O.U. but to many who knew her she would always be "Miss Evie". As her obituary in the SOC's Journal of Spring 1960 read...
"It was not only as an ornithologist and naturalist that Miss Baxter was well known throughout Scotland. Her versatility and energy led her in many directions....Many distinctions and honours came to Miss Baxter, but they seemed only to increase her natural humility....The reward she valued most, however, and the one she had most fully earned, was the universal affection and respect in which she was held by all who knew her; her integrity would never allow her to condone inferior work, whether of hand or head, but her humour and understanding enabled her criticisms to be constructive, kind and welcomed. Miss Baxter's influence will extend far beyond the fourscore years of her own fine life, now sadly ended."
With thanks to the Scottish Ornithologists' Club for both information and images.