"Erected by a few friends
in memory of
Robert Buchanan Esq. of Knoxland M.D.
died 10th September 1871.
Also of Mary Dixon his spouse died 1st January 1873."
The memorial is of grey granite. Aside from the sloping top, and the moulded base and two steps, it is six feet long, one foot six inches high, and the same in width.
Robert Buchanan was from Glasgow, and completed his classical and medical studies there, but he had a long medical career in Dumbarton. He married Mary Dixon, of the Dixons of Levengrove (these Dixons ran the glassworks in Dumbarton – see Link
/ NS3975 : The ruins of St Serf's Church
/ NS3975 : The Artizan Bridge
). The couple at first lived in Springbank, Dalreoch.
Knoxland House, mentioned in the inscription, was described in a newspaper advert (Dumbarton Herald, issue of 30th January 1873, shortly after the death of Dr Buchanan's widow) as having been "built about 48 years ago". This mansion house had extensive grounds of about 11 acres; even its walled garden enclosed almost an acre. The house had previously been occupied by Major John Alexander, who had been barrack-master at Dumbarton Castle from 1814-1833. After the death of the Major's widow, Dr Buchanan and his wife moved to Knoxland House.
[Buchanan Street, just east of Knoxland Square in Dumbarton East, was presumably named after the doctor, but I have no confirmation of this; see NS4074 : Gruggies Burn at Buchanan Street
In addition to his medical practice, Robert Buchanan served as a bank agent for the Western Bank of Scotland (he invested heavily in it, and its collapse would cause him considerable financial loss) and, after that, for the Union Bank of Scotland. He also served as a county magistrate for over forty years.
To celebrate the half-century of his medical career in 1868, Dr Buchanan was treated to a jubilee dinner in his honour, presided over by Dr Richard; on this occasion he was presented with an address in a silver casket. ["Dr Richard": probably Dr B M Richard, for whom see NS4076 : The Richard Memorial
It is perhaps of interest that the Knoxland area of Dumbarton, where Knoxland House stood, was (according to nineteenth-century local historian Donald MacLeod) named after a certain Ann Knox, a close relative of the Dixons, or at least after her family. If this is correct, the person is question is probably the Ann Knox who was a daughter of Robert Knox (a merchant in Glasgow), and who married John Dixon (II) of Levengrove in 1796; see NS3975 : Gravestone in ruins of St Serf's church
for her gravestone. This Ann Knox was, in fact, the mother of Mary Dixon, and hence was Dr Buchanan's mother-in-law.
Knoxland House is no longer in existence; the site is now occupied by NS4074 : Knoxland Square
, which was presented to the town in 1890.
Dr Buchanan's obituary states that he was survived by a wife and two daughters. A family tree of the Dixons (amongst the cuttings in Dumbarton Library) lists just one of the children of Dr Buchanan and his wife, namely, a daughter called Ann.
However, their other daughter was called Mary Jane Buchanan. Her name crops up in contemporary records in connection with the Madeleine Smith case (a murder case that attracted a great deal of attention at the time; the defendant, Madeleine Smith, was the daughter of James Smith, the architect who designed NS4276 : Overtoun House
). Mary Jane Buchanan was not in any way implicated in the crime, but she was the best friend of Madeleine Smith (whom she had known since they had both attended the same school in Clapton, near London), and she had been present when Miss Smith had purchased some arsenic in a chemist's shop in Sauchiehall Street; she was asked to give her recollections of this occasion in her testimony in court. According to her testimony, on hearing that the arsenic was to be used to poison rats, the chemist had suggested using phosphorus instead. Madeleine said that she had tried that, without success, and would prefer arsenic; the chemist had then had Madeleine sign her name in a register. A different witness, a young boy, recalled that Madeleine had sent him to an apothecary to get her a "small vial of prussic acid" (in modern language, hydrogen cyanide); the apothecary had refused to supply this.
My thanks to John I B Cannon for the following additional information:
In 1860, Mary Jane Buchanan married John Ireland Blackburne, the son of Thomas Blackburne, MA, Rector of Prestwich, and late Vicar of Eccles.
The couple had two children: a son, Ernest Robert Ireland Blackburne, a Newlyn School artist, one of whose pictures can be seen in Glasgow's Kelvingrove Museum; and a daughter, Gertrude Mary Ireland Blackburne, who was a tutor, editor and author.
▪ Donald MacLeod, "The God's Acres of Dumbarton" (1888), for a biography of Dr Buchanan, and a physical description of the memorial.
▪ "Dumbarton Herald", 14th September 1871, page 4, column 3, for Dr Buchanan's obituary.
▪ "The Lancet", December 5th 1868, page 740, for notice of the jubilee dinner.
▪ Dixon family tree, in Dumbarton Library's cuttings in the Local History and Reference section.
▪ A. Duncan Smith, "The Trial of Madeleine Smith" (1905).