Sir Alexander Ogston: Family Papers

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Sir Alexander Ogston, October 1916, First British Ambulance Unit, Italy

The papers of Sir Alexander Ogston, Professor of Surgery at the University from 1882-1909, were gifted to Museums and Special Collections over the course of three visits by his great-grandson Andrew Philpot between 2011 and 2015. This included Ogston’s detailed Boer War and First World War journals as well as his lively accounts of travels in Greece, Norway and Russia towards the end of the 19th century.

The final section, comprising the papers of the extended family of Ogston, has now been added to the catalogue by our long-standing honorary volunteer Jim Mellis. It includes papers relating to his father Francis Ogston (d.1887), physician and Professor of Medical Jurisprudence at Aberdeen University from 1857-1883 and also Aberdeen’s first medical officer of health from 1862-1881. His papers contain a diary kept at the time he was studying for his medical degree in Edinburgh (MS 3850/4/6/4/1) and also a notebook recording his travels through Holland in 1824 (MS 3850/4/6/4/3).

Dr Francis Ogston (bap. 1803, d. 1887)

His marriage in 1841 to Amelia Cadenhead (d.1852), the daughter of Alexander Cadenhead, procurator fiscal for Aberdeen, leads to the interesting collection of papers relating to the Cadenhead branch of the family. In particular, her nephew, the artist James Cadenhead (1858-1927), who was responsible for the cover design for Alma Mater (see Aberdeen University Review Vol VII, p.27 and Vol XIV, p.141). He was also one of the founders of the second incarnation of the Aberdeen Artists’ Society in 1885. His papers include a number of family photographs and a delightful sketchbook of pen and ink drawings.

James Cadenhead sketchbook, late 19th century (MS 3850/4/1/3)
James Cadenhead in studio
James Cadenhead, at work in his studio, early 20th century (MS 3850/4/1/2/1)

Sir Alexander Ogston’s second marriage to Isabella Margaret Matthews (b.1847/8) in August 1877, reveals another interesting local connection. Isabella was the daughter of the architect and Lord Provost James Matthews (1820-1898), who designed, among other buildings in Aberdeen, the Grammar School, the Art Gallery, the Palace Hotel and Ardoe House. His Honorary Law Degree, awarded by the University in 1895, is part of the collection.

Alexander Ogston’s first marriage was to Mary Jane Hargrave (1848-1873), daughter of James Hargrave of Stoke Newington, chief factor of the Hudson Bay Company. Their children included Mary Letitia Ogston (1868-1937), who married Sir Herbert Grierson (1866-1960), first Professor of English at the University of Aberdeen (1894-1915) (see MS 2478) and Walter Henry Ogston (b.1873), who later produced an entertaining biography of his father in 1943 entitled ‘K.C.V.O.: memories and tributes of relatives, colleagues and students; with some autobiographical writings’ (L Aa P18.4 Ogs O). This included numerous reminiscences by friends and family about Alexander Ogston and a tantalising reference to a lost collection of notes ‘Scattered Recollections’, written by Ogston and referred to by Walter when compiling his father’s biography.

Walter Henry Ogston (1873-1957)

A substantial number of Walter’s papers are contained within the collection, including a series of correspondence between Walter and his wife Josephine (1886-1962), and her mother, Alice Jane Carter (née Cadenhead) while living in India following their marriage in 1909. The letters offer a fascinating insight into life in India in the early 20th century and are complemented by some wonderful photographs of their family home as well as excursions they made to visit temples and other historic sites in India.

The Elephanta Caves, western India, 1912

Walter was awarded an OBE in 1920 following his work as a Railway Transportation Officer in Liverpool during the war and worked for the firm of Killick Nixon while in India. A privately produced history of the family, ‘The India Letters’ (MS 3850/4/1/5), includes further information about their stay in India and transcripts of some of their correspondence.

The Ogston family at Glendavan, their holiday home in Deeside, c.1900. In Aberdeen, the Ogston residence was at 252 Union Street.

More information about the collection can be found here.


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