If there were ever a prime example needed of a quintessential Wishart career soldier, George Baillie Wishart would be it. The son of a street porter and grandson of an army pensioner, young George joined the military at a young age and by 1861, when he was 17, was serving as a drummer with the 78th (Highland) Regiment of Foot and garrisoned at Edinburgh Castle. Postings to Gibraltar and then Nova Scotia followed before taking part in the Zulu War of 1879 where George was present in the engagements at Zungin Nek and Kumbula and then the battle of Ulundi. By then he had joined the 90th Regiment of Foot – a regiment he was associated with for the remainder of his military career.
George was born in Rhynie, Aberdeenshire on 29 June 1843, the second of four children of William Wishart, a native of Montrose, and his wife, Janet Riddell. In 1851 the family lived on Shiprow, near the harbour in Aberdeen and it seems likely young George joined the military around 1859/1860. After fighting the Zulus, George’s regiment made their way to India where, in 1881, they were merged with the 26th Regiment of Foot to become the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles.)
During his time in India, George was stationed in Calcutta, and as a freemason, joined the St John’s Lodge, however, in 1882 he returned to Scotland and by 1886 had taken up the position of regimental sergeant major at the Cameronians depot in Hamilton. On 15 September the same year, he married the daughter of a barrack sergeant from Falkirk named Jessie Isabella Ferguson with six children subsequently born of the marriage between 1887 and 1894. In spring 1887, George became quartermaster of his regiment, with the honorary rank of lieutenant, and ten years later granted the honorary rank of captain. A year later in July 1898, he was put on retired pay and sent into the Army Reserve but called up for further overseas duty during the 2nd Boer War where he was awarded the Queen’s South Africa Medal with clasps for service in the Orange Free State and Transvaal.
In September 1902 George was given the rank of major (on retired pay) and lived with his family at Muirbrow House in Hamilton. After the outbreak of the Great War, he acted as the recruiting officer for his district and within a year is notable for personally passing over 10,000 local men into the British Army. Three of George’s sons served in uniform during the war with the youngest, William, dying of wounds at the Battle of Festubert in June 1915. William’s older brother Robert was captured during the Kaiserschlacht in 1918 and incarcerated in Germany until the Armistice. Tragically, the war years dealt one further blow to George when his wife died suddenly on 29 March 1916 from acute pneumonia.
George finally left military service in 1919 and after the war lived at Ivy Grove in Hamilton until his death on 10 January 1940. He was 96 years old and like Jessie, had been suffering from pneumonia.