On the 1881 Census his wife was in the workhouse.
I would suspect that Alexander at the end of 1880 or early 1881 had no money to support his family. He could have been getting enough to feed just himself or was away at sea.
I have come across similar where a soldier has been posted away and not been able to take his family with him.
I bet Dennis has been looking for Alexander’s death after about 1872 as I would have.
At the time of the 1881 Census Alexander must have been “in foreign parts” or at least not in a UK port of on a U.K. vessel.
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