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G.F. Scott-Elliot

The Late G. F. Scott Elliot
Obituary from Transactions, Series III, Vol. XIX, pp. 351-2

G.F. Scott-Elliot

The late George Francis Scott Elliot joined this Society as long ago as 1887, and from the very first was an active member, occupying the President's chair from 1902 to 1909. The period of his Presidency coincided with one of those ebb tides which such societies inevitably experience from time to time and are of great difficulty and anxiety to office-hearers. The second great wave of enthusiasm and active interest that had re-established the Society had spent itself, and for the moment there was no sign of a turn in the tide. It was characteristic of Professor Scott-Elliot's courage that he should undertake the task of revitalising the Society once more. New blood was badly needed and was not in sight. Hitherto the Society's interests and work had lain mainly in natural history. Interest in its antiquarian work needed arousing. His object was to keep the Society alive until the new and vitalising blood could be found, and when towards the close of his Presidency he saw the welcome and unmistakeable signs of the incoming tide, it was with equally characteristic abnegation that he handed over the direction of our destiny to new and younger hands. The later success of the Society, its highstanding and honoured position amongst its contemporaries, is mainly due to the devotion and enthusiastic efforts of Mr Shirley and Mr Gladstone, but those efforts might well have proved fruitless had it not been for the dogged persistence and single-minded endeavour of Professor Scott Elliot as President, in the dark hours that preceded the dawn. Of his work and achievements outside this Society I need not speak, but one of his volumes, the Flora of Dumfriesshire, was published by this Society and will probably always remain a standard work. Kindly by disposition he was approachable by all men, and no young student ever turned to him for help or guidance in vain. When the war came the same sense of duty that called him to this chair impelled him, though over the age, to be one of the first to volunteer for foreign service, and those who served with him will always remember the cheerful spirit and example he showed and the care with which he looked after the comforts of the troops under his command. Though illness and infirmity had overtaken him, yet to the very last he had the interests of this Society in mind, and was even contemplating the effort of a contribution to our Syllabus. Steadfast in mind and courageous in spirit, he showed an example of which we may well be proud, and at this, our first general annual meeting since his death, I think we should place on record our sense of the loss we have sustained, our appreciation of the services he rendered to this Society both during a long and active membership and during his Presidency in a time of difficulty, as well as our deepest sympathy with Mrs Scott Elliot in her bereavement.

FURTHER OBITUARIES

The Gallovidian Annual 1934 (Ed. Dorothy M Paulin)
'Personalities We Miss': Capt. G.F.Scott-Elliot, F.R.S.E, F.R,G.S.

We greatly regret to record the death of Mr George Francis Scott-Elliot, late of Drumwhill, New Galloway, and of Newton, Dumfries. Mr Scott-Elliot has, of recent years, lived in the south of England, but he died at Dumfries on 20th June last [1934] at the age of seventy-three. He was well-known as a soldier, as an author, and as an explorer. He travelled extensively, chiefly in furtherance of his science (he was a keen student of Natural History, and graduated B.A., B.Sc. at Cambridge and Edinburgh), and was able to write books which proved of great interest to his fellow students as well as to many laymen. Some of these are: "The Flora of Dumfriesshire," "Romance of Early British Life," "Romance of Plant Life," "Romance of Savage Life," "Botany of Today," "Naturalist in Mid-Africa," "Chile: its History, Development, and Natural Features," etc. He also filled, for a time and to their increase, the posts of Lecturer in Botany at the Royal Technical College, Glasgow, and Professor of Botany at the Glasgow Veterinary College. Mr Scott-Elliot was an eminent soldier, and his exploits with the K.O.S.B. are well known. He has written a "War History of the 5th Battalion King's Own Scottish Borderers." For conspicuous bravery in Egypt, during the late war, he was awarded the Order of the Nile. Mr Scott-Elliot was the eldest son of the late Mr James Scott-Elliot of Blackwood. He married Miss Annie Johnston-Stewart, a daughter of Mr Robert Hathorn Johnston of Physgill, and is survived by his wife.

Dumfries & Galloway Standard & Advertiser, Saturday, June 23, 1934

Funeral Intimation
The funeral of Captain George Francis Scott Elliot, sometime
of Drumwhill, New Galloway, will take place today (Saturday)
to Dumfries Cemetery, service in Greyfriars Church, Dumfries,
at 2 pm
Friends invited.

Dumfries & Galloway Standard & Advertiser, Saturday, June 23, 1934
Obituary Notice: Mr G.F.Scott Elliot
Author, Soldier, and Explorer

It is with sincere regret we have to record the death of Mr George Francis Scott Elliot, a member of a family long associated with the Dumfries district, who won distinction as a botanist, traveller and author. Mr Scott Elliot was seventy-three years of age, and his death took place in the Moat Brae Nursing Home on Wednesday morning. He had been a patient since last August in that institution, where he had been brought from his home at Wadhurst, Howpasley, Cousley Wood, Sussex. Mr Scott Elliot lived at Drumwhill, Mossdale, New Galloway, before moving to the south of England, and at an earlier period had his residence at Arkleton, near Langholm.

Mr Scott Elliot's name denotes the Border origin of his family. His father belonged to the Scotts of Thirlstane, which is now possessed by the Napiers. His great-grandfather made a small fortune in India and settled down at Forge, near Canonbie. Mr Scott Elliot's grandfather succeeded to the property of Lariston, Liddesdale, which was left to him by an uncle, General William Elliot, but he eventually sold Lariston and settled at Woodslea, near Canonbie. His son, James, the father of Mr Scott Elliot, went out to India, where he spent thirty years, and on returning settled at Blackwood, near Dumfries, wher he lived till his death in 1880. Mr Scott Elliot's mother, Francina May Durand, belonged to a Huguenot family, who were driven from France by the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, and lived in Guernsey, Channel Islands.

Mr Scott Elliot was born in Calcutta in 1862. He went to Cambridge in 1879, taking his B.A. degree, mathematical tripos in 1882, and just missed becoming a Wrangler. Shortly after leaving Cambridge he proceeded to Edinburgh University, and there took his Bachelor of Science degree. During the last years of his studies in Edinburgh he assisted the late Professor Dickson at the Botanical Gardens, and conducted a practical class - one of the first winter practical classes in botany at Edinburgh University.

An irresistible desire for travel manifested itself, and on completing his education Mr Scott Elliot went to South Africa, where he made important observations regarding the fertilisation of flowers and obtained a rich collection of plants. He proceeded northward, and drove from Kimberley to Johannesburg, then only about a year old, and next into Natal. From there he went to Madagascar and landed at the chief seaport, Tamate, thence travelling to the capital, Antananarivo. From this place he went to the extreme south-east point of the island, Fort Dauphin. He then travelled up the east coast, and leaving Madagascar, he crossed ina sailing schooner to Mauritius, and from there returned home. In the course of his six months' stay in Madagascar Mr Scott Elliot secured a large number of new specimens and many interesting plants.

His next expedition was to Tripoli, and he proceeded as far as the Second Cataract in Egypt. He accompanied as botanist the French and English Delimitation Commission of the Sierra Leone boundary, an expedition which also yielded a great number of new plants. After a short period at home, Mr Scott Elliot set out on an expedition to Uganda, in which the Royal Geographical Society assisted with the funds. He started for Mombassa and proceeded [towards] East Africa. This was before the railway was laid down, and in the course of a march extending over two and a half months Mr Scott Elliot hardly saw five white people. The risks of the journey at that period were very great, and he in fact lost 22 donkeys and many stores, which were stolen by the Masai. At Kampala he found that the country was a war, and Captain Gibb, who was in command at the Capital, would not allow him to proceed for some time, though he assisted him in many ways. Subsequently he went on to Ruenzori, where he spent four months and collected an enormous number of plants. I Mr Scott Elliot's opinion he ascended the mountain to a greater height than anyone had succeeded in doing at that time, and a pass is named after him. As his funds became exhausted he had to pass southwards, and eventually he succeeded in reaching Lake Tanganyika, and proceeded down the lake in a dhow. After many difficulties he got to the south end of the lake, and then pressed on to Blantyre and the mouth of the Zambesi, where he caught a steamer home. Owing to sunstroke and fever and many other difficulties which he encountered, Mr Scott Elliot was unable to accomplish as much in this expedition as he had hoped, but nevertheless a very large number of new plants were discovered, and many interesting animals and insects.

On returning home, the Royal Geographical Society awarded Mr Scott Elliot the Cuthbert peek grant, and he also received a very friendly welcome from the Dumfries and Galloway Natural History and Antiquarian Society at a meeting held in Greyfriars' Hall, Dumfries.

At this time Mr Scott Elliot married Miss Annie Johnston Stewart, daughter of the late Robert Hathorn Johnston Stewart of Physgill and Glasserton, Wigtownshire. In 1896 he received the appointment of lecturer in botany at the Royal Technical College, Glasgow. At first he had two evening classes of about thirty students and a summer class at a salary of £40 per annum, and he continued this work until 1904. Then he had six classes at the Technical College and was also Professor of Botany at the Glasgow Veterinary College, and on leaving Glasgow the number of students had increased to over four hundred a year. At this time he visited South America, spending four months in Chile and the Argentine.

On the death of his Mother, Mrs Scott Elliot — a lady greatly esteemed in Dumfries and district for her high character and many benevolent deeds - Mr Scott Elliot, who during his stay in Glasgow, had resided at Kilbarchan, went to live at Newton, Dumfries, and during his residence there he interested himself in several local public bodies and did much useful service. He was president for some time of the Dumfries and Galloway Natural History and Antiquarian Society, chairman of the directors of Dumfries and Galloway Royal Infirmary, and was a member of Terregles School Board. Mr Scott Elliot read papers to the members of the Royal Philosophical Society, Dumfries and Galloway Natural History and Antiquarian Society, and kindred bodies.

His vast range of knowledge on nature subjects led him to write several books dealing with plant life and wild life generally. Among his works are: "Naturalist in Mid-Africa," "Romance of Early British Life," "Romance of Plant Life," "Romance of savage Life," "Botany of Today" a popular treatise published in 1909; "Chile, its history, development and natural features," published in 1911; "The Flora of Dumfriesshire," "War History of the 5th Battalion King's Own Scottish Borderers" and "Nature Study (and Life)." He edited a number of other publications notably "Natural History of Glasgow," for the British Association; and "Nature Study," Researches by Lanarkshire Teachers. He also prepared a Colonial Report on Sierra Leone. His contributions to scientific magazines and to the transactions of geographical botanical and natural history societies were numerous, while articles from his pen frequently appeared in Hibbert's Journal, the National Review, and the Contemporary Review.

Mr Scott Elliot interested himself in afforestation and spent a short time in Edinburgh as secretary of the Land-owners' Co-operative Foresters Society. He was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, of the Royal Geographical Society, of the Linnean Society, and of a good many other scientific societies.

There is reason to believe that Mr Scott Elliot was instrumental in awakening the rubber boom which had its centre in Glasgow several years ago. Prior to the period of the boom he gave a series of lectures in that city in which he dealt with the economic possibilities in the plantation of rubber in different parts of the world.

On the return from one of his trips to Africa he prophesied that the Germans would carry the railway to Tanganyika, and after that to Victoria Nyanza, and by doing so they would prevent the British Empire from ever connecting up Uganda with British Central Africa, a prophecy which was fulfilled to the letter. He also strongly urged upon the Foreign Office the advisability of assisting European settlers to open up British East Africa, but his advice was not taken at that time, and it was not until after an unnecessary delay of ten years that settlements were proceeded with.

To the younger generation of Dumfriessians Captain Scott Elliot was perhaps best known as a soldier in the great War. His exploits with the K.O.S.B. are often recounted by those who were privileged to serve with him, and his bravery and devotion to duty are recalled with pride. In his relations with his subordinates he was consideration personified, and he was always the most gentlemanly of men. Although apparently never robust his stamina was amazing. The knowledge and experience gained exploring in the East in his younger days was of inestimable value both to himself and the battalion during the War, and he was particularly useful in the capacity of intelligence officer. His soldiering began in the old Galloway Rifles, in which he was a lieutenant. He had retired before the outbreak of War, but he re-enlisted in the early days, and was commissioned to the 2/5th Battalion K.O.S.B., and served with the battalion under Colonel Sir Claude Laurie. At the end of 1915 he left for Egypt in charge of a draft of the Battalion, the draft going to join the 1/5th Battalion K.O.S.B., which had just come off Gallipoli. He accompanied the Battalion through the Sinai desert, and did commendably fine work at the battle of Romani. At that battle he was posted on a prominent sand dune called Catibganit as brigade observation officer. The work was of the most important and hazardous nature, and though practically all the men with him were either killed or wounded, he had the good fortune to escape unscathed. For his conspicuous bravery on that occasion he was awarded the Order of the Nile. At a later stage in the fighting he was brigade intelligence officer, and was present at the second battle of Gaza. He remained with the battalion until he came home at the end of 1917. His home-going was an adventurous one. The ship on which he was travelling was torpedoed off the coast of Italy, and he ultimately arrived home at New Galloway in a motley collection of garments, including an Italian officer's uniform and a pair of white slippers. All his kit had been lost, and, most unfortunate of all his "Order of the Nile" which he had kept with him lest it should be lost in the post.

Mr Scott Elliot is survived by his wife and by his sister, Mrs Tayleur, Kirkconnel Lea, and Colonel W.Scott Elliot, Prelude, Colman's Hatch, Sussex.

The funeral will take place this afternoon at two o'clock from Greyfriars' Church to Dumfries Cemetery.


Family Papers

The military, archaeological and historical papers (c. 1920-90) of James Scott-Elliot, the nephew of GFSE and also a president of this Society, were presented to the National Library of Scotland under the Accession No. 11499.

Also presented by James Scott-Elliot to the National Library in 1993 (Accession No. 10831) were further family papers relating to his granfather James Scott-Elliot (d. 1880), Calcutta merchant, and of his sons Professor George Francis Scott-Elliot (1862-1934) and Lt-Col William Scott-Elliot, DSO (1873-1943).

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