Ethel Baxter

Ethel Baxter

Ethelreda Adam, born Cummingston, 1883; married William Baxter, November 1914; died Elgin, 1963.

Ethel was born in 1883 to Andrew Adam, grieve of Meadowhillock farm on the Roseisle estate, and his second wife, Elizabeth Farquhar Adam. She initially trained as a nurse at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, eventually becoming a private nurse in England and Scotland. She met her future husband, William Baxter, whilst nursing him for a septic throat.

In November 1914 Ethel Adam married William Baxter. He had not been accepted for war service having had a major operation for a duodenal ulcer. They lived first at Ford Cottage, Fochabers and before long Ethel Baxter was instrumental in founding the Moray family business which has become the internationally renowned Baxters of Speyside. Soon Ethel was involved in making large quantities of marmalade. For this she would use three coke furnaces with three copper pans each three feet deep. The pans were on an endless chain which had to be pulled up and down and Ethel had to mount three steps to stir each one. The marmalade was required for William's fishing boat orders, extending from Peterhead to Hopeman. When the boats returned home with their haul of fish, the Baxters had to be quick in claiming their money as it was soon spent by the fishermen themselves.

It became apparent that the three Baxter partners were not going to work well together and Ethel encouraged William to ask for 'a dissolution' and to withdraw his share so that they could start out on their own. When the old Duke of Richmond and Gordon heard the news he said: 'Baxter, meet me at three o’clock on the Spey Bridge to choose a site'. And so it was that the site on the banks of the Spey of the now famous factory was chosen and 'marked out with a piece of string'.  In 1916 Ethel and William borrowed enough money to set up a small jam factory - in spite of local doubts that the shortage of sugar would make this unviable. The factory was a success however, although the shortage of male workers during the First World War meant that Ethel herself was responsible for firing up the boilers and shovelling coal to keep them going. The business went from strength to strength and Ethel was always at the heart of it, turning her hand to anything and always full of new ideas. Ethel’s son Gordon referred to her as 'a frugal Dougal' and within two years of setting up the jam factory, she and William had paid back that money and were never in debt again.

With grateful thanks to the contributors to, and editors of, Women of Moray: a celebration of the women of Moray and their contribution to history (Luath Press: Edinburgh, 2012)

 

Ethel Baxter
Nurse Ethel Baxter nee Adam. (Image courtesy of Gordon Baxter)