Monday, 15 January 2018

(317) Baikie of Tankerness

Baikie of Tankerness
According to tradition, the founder of this family was Paul Baikie, who went as pilot or navigator with King Haakon V of Norway to Orkney after the Battle of Largs in 1263, and settled there. The genealogy of the family cannot be carried back any further, however, than the time of Magnus Baikie of Isbister in the 16th century, and is very incomplete and uncertain down to the time of James Baikie (c.1710-64). What does seem to be undisputed, however, is that James Baikie (d. 1675) acquired both the Hall of Tankerness (in about 1630) and Tankerness House, Kirkwall (in 1641), which became the main residences of the family. Tankerness House in Broad St., Kirkwall, is thought to have been first begun for the Rev. Gilbert Fulzie, minister of Kirkwall and Archdeacon of Orkney, in 1574, and the north range and gateway to the street date from this time. The house was, however, much altered and extended for the Baikies in the 18th century and again c.1820. 
Tankerness House, Kirkwall: a 16th and 18th century, remodelled in c.1820, which was the town house of the Baikies from 1641. Image: UltimaThule

The two-storey west range has a date-stone for 1722, and the south range may be fundamentally of the same time, but most of the details were altered about a hundred years later.

James Baikie (d. 1675) lived to a ripe old age and his son and heir, Arthur Baikie (d. 1679) survived him by a mere four years. His only son, James Baikie (1665-1700) died without issue, and the family estates then reverted to Arthur's younger brother, George Baikie (d. 1730). His son, Robert Baikie (d. 1734) again only survived his father by four years, and it is only with his son, another James Baikie (c.1710-64) that the genealogical and historical record becomes a little fuller. James was Provost of Kirkwall during the Jacobite rebellion of the 1740s, and since he was a support of the Earl of Morton's interest in Parliament, it may be supposed that he was not unsympathetic to the Jacobite cause. He evidently made himself useful politically, as he was granted a pension by Lord Morton, which was continued for his widow, who may not have died until 1805.

James was succeeded by his son, William Baikie (d. 1817), who was also politically active and was, indeed, briefly MP for the Orkney islands, being elected in 1780 but unseated the following year after his opponents argued that the poll had been rigged. His son, James Baikie (1786-1869) was responsible both for remodelling Tankerness House in Kirkwall and for adding the north-east wing to the Hall of Tankerness. He trained and qualified as an advocate in Edinburgh, but never practised as such, and he sold a good deal of the Tankerness estate. Although married, he produced no children, and on his death his estate passed to his younger brother, a retired army surgeon turned homeopathic doctor, with whom he had not been on the best of terms for many years. Dr. Robert Baikie (1799-1889) preferred Edinburgh to the Orkney Islands, and by 1877 Tankerness House was occupied by his niece, Deborah Hodgson Cowan (1825-1907), the mother of Dr. Baikie's eventual heir, William Dover Cowan (1850-98). W.D. Cowan, who took the name Baikie in lieu of Cowan, had been brought up in London, and before his inheritance was the secretary of a fashionable London club for artists and literary people, the Crichton Club. He gave up this career and moved north to throw himself into the management of his estate and his role in the community. He too had no children, and when he died young in 1898, the estate passed to his younger brother, Alfred Cowan (1861-1947), who also took the name Baikie. He became even more involved in local affairs than his brother had done, and in 1930 was appointed as Lord Lieutenant of the Orkney and Shetland islands: the highest office ever attained by any member of the family. His son, Robert Baikie (1892-1969) made a new life for himself in Africa in the 1920s, and when he inherited his father's estate had no fancy to return to post-war Scotland to manage it. Tankerness House was sold in 1951 and eventually became Orkney Museum; and Hall of Tankerness was probably sold at much the same time.

Hall of Tankerness, Mainland, Orkney

There is said to have been a house on this site since the 12th century, when Erling of Tankerness had a drinking hall here, but the earliest part of the present building (in the south-west wing) was probably built for William Groat, who acquired the Tankerness estate in 1550. It was sold c.1630 to James Baikie, who in 1641 also acquired a town house in Kirkwall (now the Orkney Museum) where they probably lived most of the time. 

Hall of Tankerness: the house before the addition of an upper floor to the north-east wing, c.1910. Image: Orkney Archives, Tom Kent collection.

In the 1730s, Hall of Tankerness was let to a tenant but the James Baikie of the day reserved part of the house for his own use, and that may have been the usual arrangement over a long period. The original building was perhaps extended to the north in the 1730s, and a hundred years later a new single-storey north-east wing was built for James Baikie (1786-1869), containing new public rooms, and joined to the existing house by a short battlemented link. 

Hall of Tankerness: the house today. Image: AirBNB.

Finally, in about 1910, the north-east wing was given an upper floor and a canted bay window for Alfred Baikie (1861-1947). The house was sold by the Baikie family in the mid 20th century, and is now a guesthouse.

Descent: sold 1550 to William Groat... sold c.1630 to James Baikie (d. 1675); to son, Arthur Baikie (d. 1679); to son, James Baikie (1665-1700); to uncle, George Baikie (d. 1730); to son, Robert Baikie (d. 1734); to son, James Baikie (c.1710-64); to son, Robert Baikie (d. 1817); to son, James Baikie (1786-1869); to brother, Robert Baikie MD (1799-1889); to great-nephew, William Dover Cowan (later Baikie) (1850-98); to brother, Alfred Baikie (1861-1947); to son, Robert Baikie (1892-1969)... Magnus Robertson Bain (b. 1968).

Baikie family of Tankerness

Baikie, James (d. 1675). Son of Thomas Baikie (d. 1613) and his wife Marjorie Poplay of Kirkwall (Orkney), probably born about 1600. Merchant in Kirkwall; Provost of Kirkwall. He married Barbara Smith of Ackergill Tower (Caithness) and had issue including:
(1) Arthur Baikie (d. 1679) (q.v.);
(2) Margery Baikie (d. by 1678); married, 1654 or 1657, George Balfour of Pharey, and had issue; died before 1678;
(3) George Baikie (d. 1730) (q.v.);
(4) Katherine Baikie (d. 1688); married, 5 June 1666, as his first wife, George Traill (d. 1706) of Holland, and had issue one son; died 1688;
(5) Elspeth Baikie; married Patrick Traill and had issue;
(6) William Baikie (fl. 1683) of Holland; educated at St. Andrews University (MA); biblophile.
He bought the Tankerness estate in c.1630, and Tankerness House in Kirkwall in 1641.
He died 16 January 1675. His wife's date of death is unknown.

Baikie, Arthur (d. 1679). Son of James Baikie (d. 1675) and his wife Barbara Smith of Ackergill Tower (Caithness). A Commissioner of Supply, 1678. Provost of Kirkwall. He married, 5 July 1665 at Kirkwall, Elizabeth Moncrieff, and had issue (possibly among others):
(1) James Baikie (1665-1700) (q.v.).
He inherited Tankerness from his father in 1675.
He died in 1679. His wife's date of death is unknown.

Baikie, James (1665-1700). Only son of Arthur Baikie (d. 1679) and his wife Elizabeth Moncrieff, baptised at Kirkwall, 28 December 1665. He married his cousin, Barbara, daughter of George Baikie (d. 1730) (q.v.), but had no issue.
He inherited Tankerness from his father in 1679. At his death his estates passed to his uncle George.
He died in 1700. His wife's date of death is unknown.

Baikie, George (d. 1730). Younger son of James Baikie (d. 1675) and his wife Barbara Smith of Ackergill Tower (Caithness). He married Joan, daughter of Col. Robert Stewart of Eday, and had issue including:
(1) Robert Baikie (d. 1734) (q.v.);
(2) Barbara Baikie; married her cousin, James Baikie (d. 1700) (q.v.);
(3) George Baikie (fl. 1722).
He inherited Tankerness from his nephew in 1700.
He died in 1730. His wife's date of death is unknown.

Baikie, Robert (d. 1734). Son of George Baikie (d. 1730) and his wife Joan, daughter of Col. Robert Stewart of Eday. He married, 1701 (contract 15 February), Margaret, younger daughter of Lawrence Sinclair of Quendale (Shetland) and widow of Andrew Bruce (d. 1699) of Muness (Shetland), and had issue including:
(1) Janet Baikie (d. 1733); married, 1729, Sir Robert Baird (c.1690-1742) of Saughtonhall, 3rd bt., and had issue three sons and one daughter; died 11 June 1733;
(2) Robert Baikie (b. 1705), baptised at Kirkwall, 3 March 1705; presumably died young;
(3) James Baikie (c.1710-64) (q.v.);

(4) William Baikie (b. 1719), baptised at Kirkwall, 4 June 1719.
He inherited Tankerness from his father in 1730.
He died in 1734. His wife's date of death is unknown.

Baikie, James (c.1710-64). Son of Robert Baikie (d. 1734) and his wife Margaret, daughter of Lawrence Sinclair of Quendale (Shetland) and widow of Andrew Bruce of Muness, born about 1710. Provost of Kirkwall during the Jacobite rebellion of 1745. He was a supporter of the Earl of Morton's interest in Parliament, and received a pension of £200 a year in respect of his electoral services which was continued to his widow. He married, 8 June 1736 at Kirkwall, Janet, daughter of William Douglas of Egilshay and Spynie, and had issue including:
(1) James Baikie (b. 1737), baptised 25 May 1737; died young;
(2) Robert Baikie (d. 1817) (q.v.);
(3) Margaret Baikie (1739-92/95), baptised 26 January 1739; probably died unmarried and was buried at Kirkwall, 29 January 1792 or 1 February 1795;
(4) Barbara Baikie (1741-84), baptised 20 May 1741; married, 19 November 1766 at Kirkwall, William Smith (c.1707-78); died 13 May 1784 and was buried at Firth and Stenness;
(5) Janet Baikie (1743-1816), born and baptised 7 January 1743; died unmarried and was buried at Kirkwall, 3 February 1816;
(6) Jacoba Baikie (b. 1744), baptised 6 August 1744;
(7) James Baikie (b. 1745), baptised 3 October 1745;
(8) Grissel Baikie (b. 1747), baptised 9 October 1747; married, 10 September 1772 at Kirkwall, Capt. Walter Stewart; 
(9) Christian Baikie (1751-95), baptised 31 May 1751; died unmarried and was buried at Kirkwall, 16 December 1795;
(10) Elizabeth Baikie (d. 1788?); married (probably bigamously, as his first wife did not die until 1821), 29 March 1787 at Edinburgh RC Cathedral, Dr Peter Degravers, a quack surgeon and author of a treatise on the treatment of diseases of the eye, and had issue one daughter; died, probably in childbirth in 1788 and certainly before 17 April 1789.
He inherited Tankerness from his father in 1734.
He died in 1764. His widow was perhaps the Mrs. Baikie who died at Kirkwall, 28 August 1805.

Robert Baikie (d. 1817)
Baikie, Robert (d. 1817). Son of James Baikie (d. 1764) and his wife Jane, daughter of William Douglas of Spynie. MP for Orkney & Shetland, 1780-81, but was unseated on petition; he stood again, against the Dundas interest in the burgh, in 1784, but was defeated by Col. Thomas Dundas. An officer in Orkney & Shetland Battalion of Fencible Men (Capt., 1793). He married, 13 February 1785 at Kirkwall, Mary (1760-1831), daughter of Thomas Balfour of Huip, and had issue:
(1) James Baikie (1786-1869) (q.v.);
(2) Mary Baikie (1787-1860) (q.v.); 
(3) Janet Douglas Baikie (b. 1789), baptised at Kirkwall, 5 May 1789; died young;
(4) Thomas Baikie (1791-1811), born 2 April 1791; a midshipman in the Royal Navy; died unmarried when he drowned in the Baltic Sea, 11 August 1811;
(5) Frances Baikie (1795-1877), born 18 February 1795; married, 9 July 1818, Lt. Gilbert Traill RN (1788-1849) and had issue two sons and two daughters; died 4 April 1877;
(6) William Baikie (1797-1823), born 29 April and baptised at Kirkwall, 31 May 1797; medical student at St George's Hospital, London; died unmarried and was buried at St George, Hanover Square, London, 12 October 1823;
(7) Dr. Robert Baikie MD (1799-1889) (q.v.).
He inherited Tankerness from his father in 1764.
He died 4 April 1817. His widow died 24 March and was buried at Evie & Rendall (Orkney), 27 March 1831.

James Baikie (1786-1869)
Baikie, James (1786-1869). Eldest son of Robert Baikie (d. 1817) and his wife Mary, daughter of Thomas Balfour of Huip, born 4 April 1786. Educated at Kirkwall Grammar School, Aberdeen and Faculty of Advocates, Edinburgh (called to bar, 1811), but did not practice as an advocate. A Liberal in politics; Vice-Lieutenant of Orkney; Provost of Kirkwall, 1836-50. He was at first a member of the established Church of Scotland and was representative elder of the Kirkwall Presbytery at the General Assembly, but in 1822 he transferred to the United Presbyterian congregation in Kirkwall, having admired the preaching of Dr. Paterson, the minister there, who became a close friend. He married, 12 December 1814 at Aberdour (Fife), Eleanora Anderson (1796-1862), second daughter of William Wemyss of Cuttlehill (Fife), but had no issue.
He inherited Tankerness from his father in 1817, and was one of the leading landed proprietors in the Orkneys until he sold off a good deal of the estate after the failure of the kelp trade in the 1820s. He lived at Tankerness House in Kirkwall until c.1830, when having enlarged the Hall of Tankerness he moved there.
He died following a fall from his horse, 24 February 1869. His wife died 26 July 1862.

Baikie, Dr. Robert MD (1799-1889). Fourth and youngest son of Robert Baikie (d. 1817) and his wife Mary, daughter of Thomas Balfour of Huip, born 30 October and baptised at Kirkwall, 16 November 1799. He was educated at Edinburgh Univ (MD, 1820) and was a surgeon in the East India Co.'s Madras Army (Asst Surgeon, 1820; Surgeon, 1834; retired 1844), and thus presumably the man who published two beautifully-illustrated volumes on the Nilgiri Hills, Observations on the Neilgherries (Calcutta, 1834) and The Neilgherries (1857). He returned from India in indifferent health and made a practice of walking many miles every day. He practised in Edinburgh and treated his patients increasingly with homeopathic remedies. DL and JP for Orkney. He married, 18 March 1852 at Holy Trinity, Paddington (Middx), Helen Elizabeth (c.1816-86), daughter of John Maxwell Davidson of Bengal Medical Service, but had no issue.
He inherited Tankerness from his eldest brother in 1869, but lived chiefly in Edinburgh as the climate of Orkney did not suit his wife. 
He died in Edinburgh, 5 August 1889, but was buried on Orkney; his will was confirmed in Edinburgh (estate £3,308) and sealed in London, 31 October 1889. His wife died in Edinburgh, 6 February 1886.

Baikie, Mary (1787-1860). Eldest daughter of Robert Baikie (d. 1817) and his wife Mary, daughter of Thomas Balfour of Huip, born 2 November 1787. She married 1st, 10 June 1807 at Kirkwall, Lt. William Sinclair Robertson of 95th Rifles; 2nd, 2 November 1816 at Kirkwall, Lt. Jeremiah Skelton RN (d. 1823); and 3rd, October 1823 at Flimby (Cumbld), Capt. Joseph Dover (1780-1854) of Ormathwaite House, Crosthwaite (Cumbld), son of William Dover, and had issue:
(1.1) William Sinclair Robertson (1808-29), born 28 July 1808; an officer in the East India Company's Madras service (Lt.); died at Bangalon (India), 18 May 1829;
(1.2) Mary Balfour Robertson (b. 1811), born 23 January 1811; married, May 1833 at Crosthwaite (Cumbld), Edwin Simpson (d. by 1851), of Roundhay Lodge near Leeds, and had issue two sons and one daughter; living in 1851;
(3.1) Deborah Hodgson Dover (1825-1907) (q.v.).
She died 5 January 1860. Her first husband died before 1816. Her second husband died in 1823. Her third husband died in 1854; his will was proved in the PCC, 5 May 1854.

Dover, Deborah Hodgson (1825-1907). Only daughter of Capt. Joseph Dover of Keswick (Cumbld.) and his wife Mary, daughter of Robert Baikie (d. 1817) of Tankerness and widow of Lt. W. Robertson and Lt. Skelton RN, born 28 November 1825 and baptised at Bowness-on-Solway (Cumbld), 27 July 1826. She married, 18 January 1846 at Crosthwaite (Cumbld), William Layman Cowan (1822-1916), stockbroker, son of Capt. Michael Cowan RN, and had issue:
(1) Eliza Mary Cowan (1848-77), born 18 January 1848; married, 19 September 1872 at Kirkwall Cathedral, George Thomas Courtenay MD (1842-89) and had issue two sons and two daughters; died 7 September 1877;
(2) William Dover Cowan (later Baikie) (1850-98) (q.v.);
(3) Mary Cowan (1851-1915), born 3 November 1851; died unmarried, 18 October 1915 and was buried in the churchyard of Kirkwall Cathedral;
(4) Clara Cowan (1853-1945), born 20 June and baptised at St John, Hampstead (Middx), 24 July 1853; married, 7 August 1878 at St Olaf's Episcopal Church, Kirkwall, George Scott Elgin (b. 1851), wholesale stationer, son of William Elgin of Edinburgh, wholesale stationer, and had issue one son and five daughters; died in Edmonton (Middx), 18 March 1945; will proved 22 August 1946 (estate £146);
(5) Malcolm Cowan (1857-89), born 24 May and baptised at St John, Hampstead, 4 December 1857; medical student at King's College Hospital; was censured by the Coroner in 1888 after a man died from taking an overdose of strychnine in a medicine of his prescribing that had been incorrectly made up; died unmarried and without issue, Oct-Dec 1889;
(6) Alfred Cowan (later Baikie) (1861-1947) (q.v.).
She lived at Chalk Farm (Middx) in 1861 and at Tankerness House, Kirkwall by 1877.
She died 16 March 1907; her will was confirmed in Kirkwall and sealed in London, 10 July 1907. Her husband died 19 January 1916 and was buried in the churchyard of St Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall; his will was confirmed at Kirkwall and sealed in London, 28 April 1916.

William Dover Cowan (later Baikie)
Cowan (later Baikie), William Dover (1850-98). Eldest son of William Layman Cowan and his wife Deborah Hodgson, daughter of Capt. Joseph Dover of Keswick (Cumbld), born 28 June 1850. Secretary of the Crichton Club, a literary and dramatic club at 3, Adelphi Terrace, London. In 1879 he took the name of Baikie in lieu of Cowan. Commissioner of Supply for Orkney; JP for Orkney and Shetland from 1878. He married, 6 August 1879, Johanna Dempster (1851-95), daughter of Ralph Fotheringham of Lynnfield, Kirkwall, but had no issue.
He inherited Tankerness from his great-uncle in 1889.
He died 29 November 1898; his will was confirmed in Kirkwall, 25 April 1899 and sealed in London, 3 May 1899. His wife died in Hampstead (Middx), 7 July 1895.

Cowan (later Baikie), Alfred (1861-1947). Third and youngest son of William Layman Cowan and his wife Deborah Hodson, daughter of Capt. Joseph Dover of Keswick (Cumbld), born 9 March 1861. He took the name of Baikie in lieu of Cowan, 1898. Consulting engineer. President of the  Orkney Territorial Forces Association, 1908. Commissioner of Supply; JP for Orkney and Shetland; Lord Lieutenant of Orkney & Shetland, 1930-47 (Vice-Lieutenant, 1907-30). He was appointed CB, 1941. He married 1st, 25 August 1888, Annie Traill (d. 1896), daughter of Ralph Fotheringham of Lynnfield, Kirkwall, and 2nd, 24 July 1902, Mary Anne Stewart (1855-1950), youngest daughter of Thomas Traill of Holland (Orkney), and had issue:
(1.1) Robert Baikie (1892-1969) (q.v.);
(2.1) Margaret Traill Baikie (b. 1906), born 29 June 1906; served in Second World War as an officer in WRNS (3rd officer, 1939; 2nd officer, 1943); living in 1950.
He lived at South Croydon (Surrey) until he inherited Tankerness from his brother in 1898; he let Hall of Tankerness before 1925 to William Sinclair.
He died 21 October 1947. His first wife died 10 July 1896. His widow died 16 October 1950.

Baikie, Robert (1892-1968). Only son of Alfred Cowan (later Baikie) (1861-1947) and his first wife, Annie Traill, daughter of Ralph Fotheringham of Lynnfield, Kirkwall (Orkney), born in South Croydon, 9 June 1892. Educated at Loretto Sch., Edinburgh and Clare College, Cambridge (MA). He served in First World War as an officer in the Royal Field Artillery (Lt.). Commissioner of Supply for Orkney, 1916. In the 1920s he was living in London, but by 1939 he had emigrated to Southern Rhodesia, where he worked as a storekeeper. He made two return visits to the UK in 1947 and 1950 which are assumed to be connected with settling up his parents' estates and disposing of the Tankerness property. He married, 7 April 1925 in Willesden (Middx), Ethel Norah (d. 1975), only daughter of Henry Lionel Smith of Bulawayo and Co. Leix, and had issue:
(1) Jean Traill Baikie (b. 1926), born in London, 8 March 1926; returned to England 1946 and qualified as a physiotherapist, 1949; moved to New Zealand, 1996, following her children who emigrated there in 1993; married, 16 August 1952, Roger Thomas William Clarke (1926-2010) and had issue one son and one daughter; now living.
He inherited Tankerness from his father in 1947, but sold it probably in 1950. He later owned property in Rhodesia and possibly also in Zululand (South Africa).
He died in Rhodesia, 29 December 1968. His widow died in Rhodesia, 25 May 1975.


Burke's Landed Gentry, 1952, p. 88; T.W. Traill, The Frotoft branch of the Orkney Traills, 1902; J. Gifford, The buildings of Scotland: Highland and Islands, 1992, pp. 338-39, 374-75.

Location of archives

Baikie family of Tankerness: deeds, estate, legal, household and family papers, 15th century-1970 [Orkney Archives, D24, D28]

Coat of arms

Argent, on a chevron gules between three flames of fire proper, a lion rampant between two estoiles of six points of the field.

Can you help?

Here are a few notes about information and images which would help to improve the account above. If you can help with any of these or with other additions or corrections, please use the contact form in the sidebar to get in touch. Can anyone:

  • Provide further information about the genealogy of the earlier generations of this family?
  • Give an exact date for the sale of Hall of Tankerness.

Revision and acknowledgements

This post was first published 15 January 2018 and updated 3 & 13 March and 25 April 2018, and 22 January 2019. I am grateful to Gillian Molony for corrections to this account, and to John Salem for additional information.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    1. The coat of arms shown is that recorded for the family in the 19th century.

  2. Thank you for your research. Can you tell me if Baikie is a common name in Orkney? My ancestors James Baikie and his wife Jean (nee Clouston) emigrated to Australia on the 'Eliza Jane' from Orkney about 1860. He was a shipwright.

    1. It does seem to be a name that is most commonly found in Orkney, but I have not found any stats on what % of the population have the name.

  3. Does anyone know of any connection of the name BAIKIE to the CAMPBELL family of Wick - Watten area in Caithness?


Please leave a comment if you have any additional information or corrections to offer, or if you are able to help with additional images of the people or buildings in this post.