Balfour, Isaac Bayley

Lieutenant / Royal Scots

1889 - 1915

Isaac Bayley Balfour was born 19 October 1889, the eldest son of Professor Isaac Bayley Balfour, MD, DSC, LLD, FRS, Professor of Botany in the University of Edinburgh, and Agnes Balfour, nee Balloch. Both his father and his grandfather served as Regis Keepers of the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh and both for 34 years. Isaac was brought up at Inverleith House which was the official residence of the Keeper of the Gardens at that time.

He came to Winchester College from Bilton Grange in September 1903 and was in F House, Hawkins'. He was three years in Sixth Book, for his last two years Head of House and from 1907 to 1908 Senior Commoner Prefect: he also played in Lords in 1908.

Isaac left Winchester in the summer of 1908 and went up to Magdalen College, Oxford, in October 1908. His father had previously been a Fellow at Magdalen, and Isaac graduated with a Second Class in the Final Classical School. He had taken up Art as his profession and had he lived would have specialised in portrait painting.

A contemporary in his house wrote: 'He was in my House, and up to the time of his death was one of my firmest friends. He played all games fairly well; he was also a good scholar, without being outstanding; he was by nature an artist, and was working to make this his profession when the War broke out. He was quite a charming person, unusually full of life, and I do not believe he ever had, or could have had, an enemy'. 

On the outbreak of war he was gazetted to the 14th Battalion Royal Scots, and afterwards attached to the 1st Battalion King's Own Scottish Borderers. He was killed in the Dardanelles on 28 June 1915, while leading his men to the attack. The news of his death came as a shock to his best friend in Chawker's, Archibald William Robertson Don (F 1904-1909) who was himself to die of malaria on active service in Salonika. He confided in his diary: 'July 8th 1915: Bay has been killed in action. These last few days I have been thinking of him constantly: first at Oxford, whence I wrote to him, for Oxford means Bay to me very largely. Then at Gray’s Inn I was looking at old letters, and re-read all his. it is hard to be losing one by one all these irreparable friends'. 

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