Evelyn Baxter


Evelyn Baxter photo from SOC

Image courtesy of the Scottish Ornithologists’ Club

  • BORN 29th March 1879 Largoward, Fife, Scotland
  • DIED 1st October 1959 Kirkton of Largo, Fife, Scotland
  • WORKED Throughout Scotland, but especially the Isle of May, Fife
  • HONOURS  Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 1951 (She and Leonora Rintoul were the only female Fellows of the time who were not graduates); Awarded MBE in 1945 for her war work; Honorary degree  Glasgow University 1955; Justice of the Peace in Fife; British Ornithological Union Medal Union Award 1959National-Library-of-Scotland-LogoResearched and Written by Catherine Booth

Artistic Connections

Together with Leonora Rintoul she collected woven baskets and encouraged traditional Scottish crafts.


Title: A Widow Bird Sate Mourning
Music by: MARIE DARE
Words by: Percy Bysshe Shelley
Written in: 1973
For: SATB Unaccompanied Choir
Performed by: Frances M Lynch, Francis St John and Herbie Clarke

Dare was born in Fife as were the two intrepid ornithologists. This beautiful setting of Shelley’s poem could be one of those birds they wrote about after a bombardment by Zepplin on the Forth from which they noted a good many effects to the bird populations quite far from the attack. We made this recording using only 3 singers, but hopefully a choir will sing it again one day – the “good ladies” would definitely approve!


No formal education after school


Hikers on the Isle of May!

Tramped around most parts of Scotland studying birds with her lifelong friend and fellow ornithologist, Leonora Rintoul.

During the 1920s, Evelyn Baxter made wireless broadcasts for schools on birds and their habitats.

Organised a section of the Women’s Land Army during both world wars.

Scientific Achievements

  • Following collaborative research and observations, she and Leonora Rintoul  produced the authoritative 2 volume work: Birds of Scotland: their History, Distribution and Migration (1953) 
  • Contributed to and published other ornithological books and journal articles
  • The two ladies made frequent visits between 1907-1933 to the Isle of May, and made meticulous records of the birdlife. These included rare migrants and wind and weather data, making their data a unique record of that region to this day.

    Approaching the Isle of May

    The Isle of May is still an important site for observing birds.  Its Bird Observatory, was established following Baxter and Rintoul’s observations there. It now hosts an annual Young Birders’ Training Course, to give enthusiastic young people the chance to learn and practise bird study skills.

  • Adviser to the Secretary of State for Scotland on the administration of the Wild Birds’ Protection Act
  • In March 1936, both Evelyn Baxter and Leonora Rintoul were at a meeting of keen birdwatchers who decided to set up a club which would promote “the systematic recording and study of birds”.  That club, the Scottish Ornithologists’ Club (SOC), now with a membership in the thousands, continues to flourish from modern premises in Aberlady, East Lothian.
Did you Know?

Together, Baxter and Rintoul wrote accounts of unusual bird behaviour in particular circumstances, such as during a partial eclipse of the sun in August 1914, and during the Zeppelin raid on Edinburgh in April 1916.

An Inspiring Woman

During her lifetime, Evelyn was an enthusiastic fundraiser for local causes, sometimes opening up her home and garden as a venue. She left a legacy for the Scottish Women’s Institutes, an Evelyn Baxter Scholarship, to encourage the preservation of traditional crafts.