He was one of the early settlers of Terrell County in Texas, emigrating from Scotland in 1878. Once his family had settled in Fife, he continued to make frequent visits to the USA until the outbreak of the First World War. Robert was the fourth of eight children and was born in Kilmarnock in 1852 to George Paxton. His father was a brewer, and owner of Richardland Brewery on the River Irvine at Riccarton, Kilmarnock. He died when Robert was still a child and his elder brother took on the brewery business. Like many younger sons, Robert took the opportunity to seek his fortune elsewhere.
When Isabel was three years old, on 15 October 1907, her younger sister Emily Wallace Paxton was born at Elphinstone on Crescent Road. The arrival of their fourth daughter completed the Paxton family. The following year, they bought 'Homelands' as their permanent family home and this is where Isabel would live out the remainder of her life over ten decades. At the time of the 1911 census, Isabel was at Homelands with her mother and sisters Margaret and Emily. It seems likely that Robert and Jessie were on a visit to the USA at the time. Also recorded in the Homelands household were a governess, a cook and a housemaid.
Family life was disrupted when four-year-old Emily developed tubercular meningitis and died at Homelands on 3 April 1912. Isabel would have been 7 at the time and no doubt remembered this sad event for the rest of her life. Life changed again during the Great War years. The family swung into action to support the war effort. For four and a half years, the Lundin Links Red Cross work party was based at Homelands, with Mrs Paxton as convener. Among other things, the group made shirts, socks, pyjamas, etc. This undoubtedly had a huge influence upon young Isabel, who would go on to be heavily involved in the work of the Red Cross and other charities throughout her adult life. At the time of the 1921 census, Isabel, aged 17, was a residential pupil at St Leonard's School in St Andrews.
After his retirement from ranching, Robert joined the rest of the family at Homelands permanently and became very involved in village life. He had already been Captain of Lundin Golf Club 1908-09 and continued to be involved at the Club. Also he served on the Parish Council (chairing it for a time) and was an elder at Largo Parish Church. He gifted a well-equipped recreation hut to the village and laid out the pitch and putt facility at the Golf Club. Robert, pictured below, died on 8 Oct 1926 from tuberculous.
Only 22-years-old when her father died, Isabel and her two elder sisters stayed with their mother at Homelands. All continued to be active within community organisations, such as the church, the S.W.R.I. and the Lundin Amateur Dramatic Society. The photograph at the top of this piece is of Isabel aged 26, taken from the 9 February 1931 Dundee Courier when she performed in a production of 'Prelude to a Play'. The Fife Free Press review of the play praised Isabel's portrayal of Angela Hamilton as being "very good indeed" and that she "looked splendid in the part".
Isabel was also heavily involved in Girl Guiding. She was Brown Owl at 1st Largo Brownies from 1924 to 1939 but also had spells involved with Guides and Rangers. She even helped to set up new Brownie groups outside of Largo (using Largo as a model that could be replicated elsewhere). This activity was disrupted by the Second World War and Isabel joining the Women’s Auxiliary Territorial Services. As part of her role, she drove ambulances. During war time, Isabel's mother, Margaret, died on 7 October 1941 at Homelands.
"Unfortunately, he contracted TB, most likely in the evacuation from Dunkirk, which led to many years in Lomond Sanatorium, hospitals and in bed at home. He was visited at home by Miss Paxton who gave patients ideas to keep them occupied. I remember rugs being made both with rags and with wool. The most profitable undertaking was “Duchess” sets for the dressing table. These were usually a set of three mats, one large and two small. Dad started off with delicate. shades of satin. He must have had some kind of transfer as the mats were transformed into a lady in profile wearing a large crinoline skirt. This image was surrounded by pansy type flowers. Next job was to paint this. Dad spent many hours on each one. To finish off he had tubes of a glue-like substance, which he put around what was to be the outside edge. This was brushed with gold dust and, when dry, was cut out. The finished set was beautiful in its day. Another project, which I still have, is an embroidered tablecloth celebrating the Coronation in 1953. Miss Paxton was a regular and welcome visitor in our house. I can still picture her with her long plaits crossed at the nape of her neck and, I suppose, clipped in place. I also remember her beautiful smile."
Jack died in 1965 aged only 55. The 'duchess sets' referred to would have been similar to the one shown above. The template was printed onto linen and instructions attached suggesting which colour threads and stitch type should be used for the various elements of the design. Isabel helped many people in similar situations to Jack in her work as a 'diversional therapist'.
Isabel and her diversional therapy work are mentioned in the newspaper archives over many years. Above top is an advert from the Fife Herald of 14 November 1951 for a talk by Miss Paxton at the AGM of the Fife Branch of the Red Cross. Also above is a piece from the 20 May 1959 Leven Mail detailing another talk by Isabel. In the 5 November 1952 Leven Mail it was reported that during that year Isabel and her two colleagues at the Red Cross had "paid 896 visits to 139 patients confined to their homes and gave out 321 articles of work, as well as large quantities of wool for knitting and weaving." A piece in the 28 October 1959 Leven Mail noted that Isabel said "she loved her work".
During the 1960s, Isabel lost her two elder sisters. First Jessie passed away in 1962 and then Margaret in 1966. Isabel lived for another 27 years, remaining at Homelands - the last surviving member of a remarkable family. During this period Isabel became increasingly involved with the Fife branch of the MS Society and would drive all over the county supporting their work. Homelands had been converted into effectively two houses post-war and a succession of patients stayed in the 'back wing', particularly over the summer months. A mid-1970s view of Homelands with a car parked at the west-facing entrance is shown below.
Ian Marshall (whose mother was a cousin of Isabel's) recalls that:
"The house was always full of flowers, at all times of year. There was a gardener and his family who lived above the garages which had been stables, next to the public Bowling Green. There were two big greenhouses and a large and productive vegetable garden between the house and the wall along the Leven Road. There were well-stocked flowerbeds on the south side of the house, and on the east, and a great variety of trees and flowering shrubs. Potted plants were prepared in the greenhouses and brought into the living room, which was always scented."
Isabel certainly loved her garden and its flowers and produce. This gave her much pleasure in the years where her own mobility became restricted and so she developed the vision of Homelands being enjoyed into the future by those who live with disability. Isabel died on 16 January 1993 at the age of 88 and left her home to charity for the benefit of people affected by “MS and other disabling and incurable conditions”. As a result of this generous legacy, the Homelands Trust created four purpose-built, accessible, self-catering holiday lodges, which are designed and equipped to meet the needs of disabled people with a variety of conditions. The East Fife Mail newspaper clipping at the foot of this post shows Isabel centre front as the guest of honour at the 1st Largo Brownies Diamond Anniversary celebration in the mid-1980s. Many still fondly remember this remarkable lady whose legacy will live on for a long time to come.