In a recent publication – ‘From Scotland to the Antipodes: Building a Dynasty’ we learn about the extended Robertson family’s innovative contribution to Victoria’s economic and industrial development.
The Robertson lineage began with Scottish parents Hugh Robertson (1778) and wife Margaret McGarvie and their six children, two of whom John (b1811) and Robert (b1814) would have a significant influence on the genealogical directions of the family.
Their first-born son John, known as Captain John, settled in Cleveland Ohio around 1840s becoming a ship’s captain sailing the waters of Lake Eyrie, Cleveland Ohio. John married Mary Jane Pier and together they had eight children, five of whom died at an early age. Mystery and intrigue however surround this couple’s second marriages and Mary’s migration to Australia around 1879.
Captain John’s brother, Robert stayed in Scotland marrying Euphemia Galbraith and together had seven children. Sometime around 1812 Robert and Euphemia left Scotland for the United States and then travelled to Montreal, Canada where their second son, Robert Affleck Robertson (RAR I) was born in 1814. The family returned to Scotland where the children were educated before embarking on their respective careers. Son Robert Affleck would later return to Canada where he became a farmer before migrating to Australia in 1879. It was his familial ties to his Uncle Captain John Robertson that would lead to intriguing connections within the family.
Robert married twice – once to his Aunty Mary Robertson (nee Pier) ex-wife of his uncle Captain John Robertson in 1879. Mary would accompany Robert to Australia but died a few years later in 1882. Robert then met and married school-teacher Mary Rail of Bond Street East Ballarat. Together the couple had nine children with the eldest son following the family naming tradition of Robert Affleck Robertson. There would be four generations of RAR’s in the family.
The first-born son of Robert Affleck and Mary Rail (RAR II) was born in 1885 and began his education at the Wandong State School in 1891 before going on to graduate as a qualified medical doctor. He became a respected citizen of Albury being appointed Alderman of the City Council, President of the Golf Club and was made Fellow of the Royal Australian College of Surgeons. He in turn had three children with his son RAR III serving as a squadron leader in WWII. RAR III had a chequered career, later meeting an untimely death. His son (RAR IV) on the other hand was awarded an MBE for his services to the community in 1993 by Queen Elizabeth II. Working in New Guinea for an extended period of time he was a much-loved member of the Robertson family.
Of RAR1’s siblings, two became medical doctors, one an engineer while his one of his sisters married a doctor, another a bank manager and the last became a pharmacist.
Robert Affleck’s siblings John and William also led interesting lives. John as an owner and partner in several Ceylonese tea plantations, became an accountant and was manager of two Village settlements in Victoria. Robert’s brother William was partner in the Wandong Timber Company, a member of the Ballarat Sawmillers’ Association, established the Comet Mill Accident Fund, was a director in the Whittlesea Land Company with Robert; became manager of the Homeward Bound Mine in NSW and was manager of the Ferro-Concrete Company of Australasia building several bridges in New Zealand.
All of Robert Affleck’s siblings would make significant contributions to industry, education, medicine and engineering.
The familial ties link the Robertsons to many families such as Adams, Elford, Pier, Ahearn and Fairbairn. Having traced over 600 names connected to Hugh and Margaret Robertson there are many new and intriguing stories yet to be told. Come and hear some of these as we begin to document them through our displays and exhibitions.