1802: Heard from Gilbert of date 4 Dec that he had shipped this year’s crop before the colony was given up to the Dutch. [NLS MS 19331 f23 Rev Harry Robertson to James Watson, from Kiltearn, 26 Feb 1802]
Yesterday we had letters from Willm and Gilbert both perfectly well thanks to Heaven - the latter mentions a letter he had from Annie of the 10th November and expresses himself in the warmest terms abut his friends in Crantit dear creature his letters breath so much goodness, gentleness & propriety, that I am often astonished at it. I am much gratified that Wm means to settle in Demerary and I trust it will be for the material comfort of your brothers to be near one another besides the advantage which may be to both particularly Wm. Gilbert seems to approve of Wm’s conduct since he went to Surinam and says he was obliged to leave it with hundreds besides. He says Mr Gilbert Douglas was with him for a day or two . . . Robert Ross is Gilbert’s overseer & he seems highly pleased with him . . . Miss Betsy Douglas is to be married to Mr Labalmondiere, he was a near neighbour and friend of Gilbert. [NLS MS 19331 f67 Anne Robertson, Kiltearn, to her daughter Christian (Mrs Watson), Crantit, Orkney, 20 Apr 1802]
Mr Simon Fraser Belladrum & his Lady called here together with Mr & Mrs Mckenzie Mountgerald the former left Demerary in April last & saw out Gilbert just before they set off . . . Received draft of £100 from Gilbert. [NLS MS 19331 f69 Anne Robertson, Kiltearn, to her daughter Christian (Mrs Watson), Crantit, Orkney, 21 ? 1802]
I heard my son Gilbert has made a tour in the end of summer through several islands, such as Grenada, Barbadoes to brace him up & that he returned in the beginning of August to Demerary very well. [NLS MS 19331 f21 Rev Harry Robertson to James Watson, from Kiltearn, 2 Oct 1802]
1803: We have heard from Wm & Gilbert since our return, thank God, both were pretty well by Gilbert’s letter which chiefly treated about a donation left the poor of this parish by a native of it who was long in that country. [NLS MS 19331 f75 Anne Robertson, Kiltearn, to her daughter Christian (Mrs Watson), Crantit, Orkney, 9 Sep 1803]
Letter from Gilbert received, dated end of September: Wm McCulloch ‘a well doing clever young man’, Tom is well, also Robert Douglas & John Bethune. He supposes Harry Munro would like as well to be still a planter there as farming Limlair. [NLS MS 19331 f79 Anne Robertson, Kiltearn, to her daughter Christian (Mrs Watson), Crantit, Orkney, 31 Dec 1803]
Letter from Gilbert who is well & well advanced in a pretty fruitful crop. [NLS MS 19331 f33 Rev Harry Robertson to James Watson, from Kiltearn, 31 Jan 1804]
1805: John Bethune came home about three weeks ago and looks very well. He saw Gilbert the day before he left the Colony in July last in good health. [NLS MS 19331 f113 Anne Robertson, Kiltearn, to her daughter Christian (Mrs Watson), Crantit, Orkney, 9 Jan 1806]
1806: Letter from Mrs Parker to relieve our anxiety about Gilbert saying Mr Parker had heard from him by their ship Highlander lately landed at Greenock. She brought a good many bales of cotton that grew on Kiltearn Estate belonging to Gilbert Robertson & Gilbert Rainie. [NLS MS 19331 f115 Anne Robertson, Kiltearn, to her daughter Christian (Mrs Watson), Crantit, Orkney, 31 March 1806]
I hope in the course of time that Hugh will relieve his brother Gilbert who will retire and transfer his present commission in his favour — Gilbert must now be well on towards independence, altho’ the crops for two seasons back have been very short. [NLS MS 19332 f51Sam Sandbach to James Watson, Crantit, Orkney, Liverpool 1st July 1806]
I have met in Gilbert a most affectionate kind hearted brother who does everything to make me comfortable and happy. He is distressed at present by the loss of a sweet little girl of his called Ann; she was indeed one of the finest engaging children I ever saw. She was quite fair haired, & at first sight struck me as being very like little Ann Sandbach. She died after 14 days illness of a teething fever although [tear in paper] that this Country could afford was given . . . Gilbert and I are going up the Corantyne next month where there is fine shooting. I hope to get some Indian curiosities there. [NLS MS 19332 f67Hugh M Robertson to Thomas Traill, physician, 21 Islington, Liverpool from Demerary, pl Kensington, 17th Aug 1806]
I believe I mentioned to you before that before that Gilbert presented me with a boy — he was just bought when I arrived here . . . I am going along with Gilbert up to spend a few weeks on the Corantine Coast where his new property is situated. [NLS MS 19332 f69 Hugh Munro Robertson to Thomas Traill, Demerary, Kensington 9th Sept 1806]
1811: Gilbert went to Berbice but went with Geo Rainy. [NLS MS 19332 f92 Hugh Munro Robertson to Mrs Traill, Demerara Mahaica Oct 8th 1811]
1818: By a late letter from Gilbert . . . I hope he will be able to return home in Aug. [NLS MS 19332 f118 Hugh Munro Robertson to Dr Traill, George Towne, Demerary, Jan 31st 1818]
1820: Gilbert is quite well, he was in Town lately. [NLS MS 19334 f8 Harry Robertson Watson to his mother (Liverpool) from Demerary, 2 July 1820]
1823: Uncle Gilbert will no doubt be arrived in London by this time - if you see him, or write him, offer my best regards & say that as soon as I hear of his arrival I will write him. He went home by way of Barbadoes & St Thomas in the Lady Pelham Packet Ship. [NLS MS 19334 f65 Peter Watson to his mother (Mrs Traill), Demerara 24 Dec 1823]
1824: Enclosed you will receive a letter for Gilbert enclosing a bill for £50 which I send you in case of his having left England or any other cause which may prevent him getting it . . . I hope that it will get to you in time to assist his difficulties a little. [MS 19334 f18 Harry Robertson Watson to his mother(Mrs Traill, Liverpool) from Berbice 7 July 1824]
1828: I took a trip to Berbice not long ago and had the pleasure of meeting Gilbert, he was then recovering from a rheumatic attack, he is now quite well. I often hear from him. [MS 19334 f57 Andrew Watson to his mother (Mrs Traill), from George Town, 15 Oct 1828]
1832: NLS MS 19332 f21 Gilbert Robertson to Doctor Traill, St Ann Street, Liverpool, Plant Brothers, Demerary 23 Oct 1832
My Dear Sir,
I am much gratified by the receipt of you esteemed favour of the 15th Augt last per ship Johnstone and I am rejoiced to think that you still hold me in remembrance considering your many important avocations . . . you will perceive from the manner in which I write that I have but poor use of my right hand, in fact I lost the entire use of both hands for sometime after the severe calamity that befell me on the 8th of January. I trust my escape on that occasion was truly miraculous having been battered under the ruins of the old wooden dwelling house on this place. I happened at the time to be reclining on the sopha at the side of the house when it was thrown down n an instant by a violent whirlwind which blew from the opposite direction; fortunately the sopha was turned upside down which saved my life otherwise I would have been killed by the beams & wreck that covered me. I remained in this state for about fifteen minutes before I could be released jammed by the timber in such a way that my neck, shoulders and hands were dreadfully squeezed and I suffered the most excruciating pain for a week, being obliged to remain in one position. It is strange that I escaped without any bones being broken and with only a slight scratch on my face but nevertheless my whole frame received a most severe shock for instantly after the accident my arms hung powerless by my sides and remained so for several weeks which my medical attendants think was caused by a degree of concussion of the spine next to the root of the neck. I still feel my neck very stiff & a dead kind of pain (not severe) in it as well as in my shoulders, arms and hands particularly as changes of weather occur, there is always a considerable heat & redness in the palms of my hands, together with a pricking sensation in them, & in the tips of my fingers. It is a sad misfortune to have so little power in my hands circumstanced as I am having the duties of a manager to perform. I have tried friction, sundry applications & the cold baths but I am not yet sensible of much change for the better . . . I ought to be truly thankful to the Almighty for blessing me with such a strong constitution which has withstood so many ailments for the last thirty years.
. . . perhaps you may think of something that may be of use to me. What do you think of electricity?
. . . I certainly approve of your accepting of the Chair of Medical Jurisprudence in Edinburgh College. It is a desirable city to live in for a man of your pursuits but the parting with so many dear friends in Liverpool will be a painful one particularly to your dear wife & young folks . . . .
My son Henry has been with me for the past eight months, he is an amicable youth & I am glad to see he is a favourite with all who know him here — as regards myself personally his affectionate solicitude while I have been confined to a sick bed for so many months provided the greatest comfort that I could possibly enjoy but I lament to say that the bent of his mind is decidedly against following the profession for which he very nearly qualified himself. If he would only agree to follow the medical profession he might ere now live respectably settled in this colony but all the arguments of his friends here have been unavailing which makes me very unhappy on his account as no situation has yet offered here to suit him and I suspect he must return to Britain soon & try to get some employment that will afford him a subsistence. He is expert at his pen and is at present doing some work for Mr Rainy who is much disposed to forward his views as far as lies in his power.
The slaves are at present quiet & orderly in this Colony but I much fear a rigid adherence to all the exactments contained in the last orders in Council would create much mischief. I am making a good coffee crop on the place (the Brothers) for Mr McInroy . . .
The father of the present proprietor purchased it in 1817 with 130 people & added 27 more making in all 157 & there is now 221 making a clean increase of 64 in fifteen years after deducting the deaths. I mention the circumstance to you as one that I reflect upon with pleasure and I have reason to think the increase is equal to that in Great Britain during the same period. I may also note that in four years out of the fifteen there were no deaths at all.
If Andrew Watson made up his mind to visit Britain I suppose he will be with you by this time. His brothers are in excellent health and all very industrious but t will be a good many years before they can arrive at independence if times don’t mend here.
. . . Henry begs to be affectionately remembered to you & yours . . .
1837: Health of his uncle Gilbert completely reestablished - Gilbert still with William - Gilbert was able to come up with William and dine with Andrew the day before yesterday - ‘as merry as I ever saw him’ [NLS MS 19334 f59 Andrew Watson to his mother (Mrs Traill), 16 May 1837]
1838: I am happy to be able to tell you of my beloved brother’s arrival on Thursday last after a good voyage. He was so feeble when he left Demy that great fears were entertained about the chance of his surviving the voyage - but it has pleased our Heavenly Father to restore him to his friends in a much better state of health than we had any reason to expect. I need hardly say that our meeting is a very happy one tho’ as you kindly observe is a mingled joy to me - but God’s will be done. Dear Gilbert has not yet mixed with the Family but receives them in his room at Woodlands. He occupies the large [?] bedroom - Robert sleeps in the dressing room . . . Gilbert left Peter & William in excellent health . . . I make a point of seeing Gilbert every day. [NLS Ms 19330 f78 Christy Traill to her daughter Mary Eliza Omond, Edinburgh, from Dingle Lane, Liverpool, 22 September 1838 (Saturday night)]
Gilbert Robertson, who had returned in very bad health from Demerary, when Mrs Traill was just leaving Liverpool for London, came at my express entreaty to spend the winter with his sister in Edinburgh and to have the benefit of the surgical assistance of his old friend Sir Charles Bell. Though much an invalid, his presence was an acquisition; and he remained with us during the winter and spring of the following year. [Thomas S Traill, NLS MS19391 "Memoir of Mrs Traill"]
1839: In the following month [September] however she was again destined to mourn. Her brother Gilbert had insisted on going into lodgings, preparatory to an operation, which Surg Bell had once before performed for his relief, with complete success. This eminent man, however, explained to Mr Robertson, that it was now more doubtful; but the patient was determined and the operation was performed. It failed however, from extensive morbid changes in the structures affected and after lingering for some weeks this kind hearted, much endearing man, sank under his exhausting maladies.
Mrs Traill was much attached to this the last son of her father. The examination of the body showed, that even if the operation had not been attempted, he could not have long survived; and probably his sufferings would have been much more severe. [Thomas S Traill, NLS MS 19331].
Gravestone in St Cuthbert's, Edinburgh: Gilbert Robertson, second son of H. Robertson, D.D., Kiltearn, died 10th September 1839, aged 64.