A personal tribute to Anna Baxter Hart – 16/8/1943 to 28/8/1983
Anna Baxter Hart was born in Aberdeen Scotland on the 16th of August 1943. Her biological mother, Elizabeth Helen Isabella Hart had Anna when she was only 19 and gave her up for adoption. In 1943, having a child out of wedlock was considered immoral by society and highly embarrassing for any family. Elizabeth was also working at the time as a house servant, so her income would not have been enough to support a child on her own.
Anna lived her early years in an orphanage, she was eventually adopted as a young child by James Finlayson. His wife at the time resented Anna and did not treat her as a step-child, she was alienated by her step-mother who suffered from alcoholism. Anna grew up in a difficult childhood environment with a step-mother who drank heavily and was exceptionally cruel to Anna.
Research has shown that Anna’s mother Elizabeth died at age 31 of a blood clot. Anna was twelve when Elizabeth died and never knew her biological mother. James Finlayson eventually divorced his wife and took Anna into another relationship where Catherine his new wife also found it difficult to accept Anna.
When Anna was old enough she left home to join the Army in England, this is where she met Edwin Hart. Strangely coincidental, a man with her own surname. Edwin was from a wealthy family in Hazelmere England. He dated Anna for approximately two years until Anna conceived a child Jacquelyn. Anna and Edwin were not married. Edwin was unable to accept this new responsibility, however, he married Anna in a registry office in Scotland, but this was only to give the child a name.
This was a swift registry office affair with no attachment to the concept of marriage at all, it was a mere formality. Anna’s second husband David tells the story that on the day Anna and Edwin were married, she was heavily pregnant and Edwin travelled back home to England by train after the wedding. Definitely no sign of romance there.
Anna and Edwin did not continue their relationship, however, Anna had Jacquelyn and lived with James and Catherine who assisted her to care for Jacquelyn. They lived in a modest council house in Dundee Scotland. James worked for the boatyard and Catherine worked in the kitchens of a local factory.
Anna had done a hairdressing apprenticeship when she left the Army, although there is little information about whether she continued to do hairdressing. She later worked for Timex, in their factory in Dundee.
When Jacquelyn was five, Anna met David Kerr. They married in 1968. They went on to have two boys David and John. Anna’s family was complete. For the first time in her life, she felt she had a purpose. She had her own family and adored them.
As Jacquelyn grew into a young woman, Edwin’s mother contacted Anna, they exchanged a few letters since Jacquelyn was born and kept in touch. Edwin’s mother always felt that what Edwin had done by abandoning Anna with a child was wrong.
When Jacquelyn was 16, she travelled to England to visit Edwin, who was married with his own son. Edwin was besotted with Jacquelyn, he was also riddled with guilt and realising what he had done to Anna, he felt a sense of responsibility to do something good for Jacquelyn.
Jacquelyn went to England to live for a short time with Edwin and his family, they were to emigrate to Australia and asked Anna if they could take Jacquelyn for a holiday and to see whether Jacquelyn could find a job. At the time, returning to Dundee had no employment prospects.
Anna agreed, she spoke at length to Jacquelyn about the opportunity that awaited in Australia and possible new opportunities. Eventually Jacquelyn felt she should take her mother’s advice and visit Australia.
Jacquelyn and Anna kept in touch regularly by telephone however after about 18 months, Jacquelyn started to become very anxious and was missing Anna terribly. They talked often by telephone and eventually, Jacquelyn had decided she would make plans to return to Scotland as the distance was too great, despite the fact Jacquelyn had been able to support herself. But unfortunately, she didn’t make it back before her mother suddenly died.
On 28 August 1983, Anna collapsed in the bathroom of her home in Dundee Scotland, she was only 40. She was with her family, her youngest boy John, the first to render assistance to her, he was only 13. Her oldest boy Dave (Jnr) was also a witness to her dreadful fate. Two young boys watched their mother slip into an unconscious state and never recover.
Her husband David was completely devastated. Left with two teenage boys and having to give the news to Jacquelyn, who was in Australia, was the hardest telephone call to make.
After Anna’s funeral, Jacquelyn returned to Australia, as she could not imagine living her life in Scotland without her Mother’s presence. Jacquelyn was determined to make her mother proud, despite the adversity she faced. Jacquelyn knew that employment prospects in Dundee had not changed and going back there would definitely not be an option.
Jacquelyn contacted David through a social media website after he posted one of his paintings that he’d just completed. Jacquelyn said she had been drawn to the painting due to its incredible beauty. Jacquelyn resonated with the innocence of the painting and how beautiful it was, just like her own mother, Anna.
The bottom of the painting, if you look very closely is dark, but then as you run your eyes towards the middle you will see it change and come alive, just like Anna’s life, through being abandoned, her life was dark, no-one wanted this child, yet through her adopted parents, she was given a chance to become something.
Anna’s Flowers is not just a painting, it represents a beautiful life, the innocence of a child captured by these beautiful flowers, the vibrancy of Anna’s spirit emulated by the amazing colours. David hadn’t yet named the painting and after hearing Anna’s story he decided to name his beautiful piece ‘Anna’s Flowers’.
This is a tribute to all children who face adversity, Anna’s story is testament to this fact. She was an abandoned child, yet her spirit was so strong, she faced this and embraced the hard times and turned her life into something, with meaning and purpose.
Family was Anna’s greatest achievement. For the first time in her life she felt she belonged to a family, the family she had created with her husband. Her family had given her purpose. Tragically she did not live beyond 40 years on this earth, but she will remain alive in the hearts and minds of those who loved and knew her.
‘Anna’s Flowers’ is a testament to the power of the human spirit, no matter how hard life becomes, never give up. There is always hope, no matter how tough life gets. ‘Anna Baxter Hart’ was a living testament to this fact.