Richard Drummond Maxwell

Front. Here in his native city after many wanderings on the face of the earth rest the ashes of Richard Maxwell who died 5th August 1909 in his 76th year. In sure and certain hope of a glorious resurrection. A loving son – a devoted husband – a tender father.
Left. Margaret Burns, wife of Richard Maxwell, died 7th Jan. 1915 aged 75; their children, Richard Drummond died 6th March 1916 aged 43; James Burns died 23rd Aug 1918 aged 50.
Right. Robin died August 1874 aged 3 weeks; Greta died April 1876 aged 4 years; Mary Welsh, daughter of Richard & Margaret Maxwell.

CWGC: Capt. R. D. Maxwell, Royal Army Medical Corps, d. 6 March 1916; son of Richard & Margaret Maxwell (nee Burns); M 413   Brother W. A. Maxwell, 6 Brondesbury Road, N.W.6.

Richard Drummond Maxwell was born at 24 Windsor Street, Edinburgh, on 16 March 1873, the son of Richard Maxwell (1834-1909) and his wife Margaret Burns (c.1840-1915).  Richard Maxwell was a banker who worked in China for a number of years both before and after his marriage in 1867. 

His and Margaret’s two eldest children, James Burns Maxwell (1868-1909) and Mary Welsh Maxwell (1870-1955) were both born in Hankow but by August 1871 Margaret had returned to Edinburgh as her third child, Margaret Ritchie or Greta, was born at her parents-in-law house in Lauriston Place in August 1871.  Her father-in-law, James Laidlaw Maxwell (1800-1876), registered the birth giving his son’s occupation as Banker in China.  Richard then apparently retired and he and Margaret were living in Windsor Street, Edinburgh, when their next two children, Richard Drummond and Robert Gray (Robin, b. & d. 1874), were born and Greta died of suspected hydrocephalus in 1876 – Richard’s occupation on the registrations of these events was given as “Banker (retired)”.  Richard then apparently returned to work in banking in the late 1870s, almost certainly for the National Bank of New Zealand, which had been incorporated in London in 1872 and was formally domiciled there while actually being managed from New Zealand, first from Dunedin and then from 1892 from Wellington.  In April 1885 the Bank announced various changes including the resignation of its London manager, Mr W J Steele, after twelve years in the post.  Steele was elected a director and “The business in London will in future be conducted by the secretary, Mr Richard Maxwell”.  In 1892 Maxwell and John M Stobart, one of the bank’s directors, spent much of the year in New Zealand undertaking an inspection of all the bank’s branches and preparing a report on the business.  Richard Maxwell remained secretary until he retired at the end of March 1906.  He has not been found in censuses in the U.K. in 1861-81 but he was living in London and was described as a Bank secretary in both the 1891 and 1901 censuses.  He died in Kensington in August 1909.

Richard and Margaret’s two youngest children, Catherine Mowbray (1879-1957) and William Laidlaw (1884-1953), were both born in Islington, London, and Margaret and her children were in London in the 1881 census although Richard, unfortunately, has not been found. Their daughters Mary and Catherine were both educated at the North London Collegiate School for Girls, founded in 1850 by the pioneering Miss Buss.  Catherine’s application form for admission to the school, dated July 1891, intriguingly states that she had previously been at school in Heidelburg for two and a half years which probably explains her absence in the 1891 census when the rest of the family were all in London.  An obituary of Richard Drummond Maxwell commented that he was educated in Jersey, “(to which he owed his wonderful knowledge of French)”, before going to the City of London School “where he was very prominent in all out of doors sports, and notably as a quarter-mile runner”.  The family does not seem to have been as static as the birth and census records imply!

Richard Drummond Maxwell studied medicine in London, qualifying as a doctor in 1897, adding the degree of M.D. in Gynaecology and Obstetrics in 1904, and being admitted as a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1907.  He worked at the London Hospital and at Queen Charlotte’s Lying-In Hospital.  He also went to South Africa as a civil surgeon with the South African Field Force in the Boer War.  In December 1914 he was appointed a Lieutenant in the University of London Officer Training Corps, and was later promoted to the rank of Captain in the R.A.M.C.  He was described as a “Recognised Teacher (Lond. Hosp.)” in the University of London’s War List of members “who have served or are serving in His Majesty’s Forces during the present war”.

Sadly Richard died in London of Acute Intestinal Obstruction and Syncope on 6 March 1916, ten days before his forty-third birthday.  

Richard’s eldest brother, James Burns Maxwell, also became a doctor and worked in general practice in Essex.  Their uncle, James Laidlaw Maxwell (1836-1921) worked as a medical missionary in China and both his sons, John Preston Maxwell (1871-1961) and yet another James Laidlaw Maxwell (1873-1951), became doctors and followed in their father’s footsteps working as medical missionaries in China.  Richard’s sister, Catherine, married an army doctor, Harold Edgar Priestley (1879-1941), whose service in the R.A.M.C. saw him spend some eighteen months in German P.O.W. camps between 26 August 1914 and 20 February 1916.  He returned home just in time for Richard’s funeral, which was attended by no fewer than four close family members who were doctors, namely Richard’s brother, brother-in-law, uncle and cousin, James Laidlaw Maxwell, who was a temporary Major in the R.A.M.C.  

Mary Welsh Maxwell, who is included in the Grange Cemetery inscription, did not marry and was living in London with her widowed mother in the 1911 census and when she registered Richard’s death in 1916, but by 1939 she was living with her sister and brother-in-law, Katherine and Harold Priestley in Hartley Wintney in Hampshire.  She died in Hampshire in February 1955 aged 85.

The youngest member of the family, William Laidlaw Maxwell, is not on the Grange Cemetery memorial – he emigrated to Nyasaland, married Alice Hilda Benge, who came from New Zealand, in Cape Town in August 1916, giving his occupation as Planter.  He served with the Nyasaland Field Force during the war and died in Nyasaland in 1953.

East London Observer, Saturday, 18 March 1916, obituary

Harold Edgar Priestley wrote a report on his experiences in P.O.W. camps in 1914-16 which is included in Medical Officers reports in The National Archives, WO 161/97 and is available as part of Findmypast’s Prisoners of War records set.

Ancestry: University of London Student Records