Charles Edmonston

Biography of Charles Edmonston

Charles Edmonston attended Glasgow University briefly as a medical student in the session 1830-31. His father, also Charles, was a businessman, slaveowner and slave-catcher in Demerara, where he spent the years between 1780 and 1817, having gone out there from Scotland to develop a business in timber cutting. It prospered with the availability of slave labour. There he married Helen Reid, daughter of his business partner and an indigenous Arawak princess. They had five children, two of whom, Charles and Robert, were students at Glasgow University.

The family returned to Scotland in 1817 and took up residence at Cardross Park, initially owned by the branch of the family headed by Sir Charles Edmonston of Dunreath, MP for Dumbarton. In addition to immediate family, Charles brought a former enslaved man, John Edmonston, back to Scotland. This man achieved fame when he taught Charles Darwin the skills of taxidermy at Edinburgh University. In Demerara the family had taken an interest in the natural world through a friendship with the naturalist Charles Waterton, who later married a daughter of the family, Anne.

The Edmonstons continued as absentees to own enslaved persons and property, and when Charles Sr. died in 1827 he left a considerable fortune of over £40,000.

Charles Jr. did not graduate in Medicine from Glasgow and there is no record of his having practised in Scotland. He married Alice Ainsworth with whom he had four children. In 1863 the Glasgow Herald announced his death (in September 1862) when he was lost at sea in the wreck of the ‘Silver Cloud’ off the Cape of Good Hope.

‘Charles Edmonstone’, Legacies of British Slave-ownership, http://wwwdepts-live.ucl.ac.uk/lbs/person/view/2146638175

D.Alston, ‘Slaves and Highlanders’, www.spanglefish.com

Summary

Charles Edmonston
Died September 1862.
University Link: Student
GU Degree:
Record last updated: 11th Aug 2022

University Connections

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  • Student

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