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Robertsons of Kiltearn

For family tree see Robertsons on Ancestry (subscription required)

George Robertson, farmer at Balcony in the parish of Kiltearn, was the father of Gilbert Robertson (d1774), minister of Kincardine. Gilbert's son John [b1751] became a merchant in Tobago; his son George (1756-99) became a merchant in Grenada and Demerara; his oldest son, Dr Harry Robertson [1748-1815], became the minister of Kiltearn in Ross-shire; and his daughter Ann married Rev George Rainy (c1733-1810), with a number of their children becoming merchants and slave owners in Demerara.

Dr Harry Robertson had four sons and three daughters who survived into adulthood. All his sons went to Demerara or Berbice (see below); a daughter, Elizabeth, married a Liverpool merchant, Samuuel Sandbach, whose fortune had been made in the colony; and four of the five sons of his daughter Christian, who married James Watson of Crantit, Orkney, also went out to Demerara.

Sons of Harry Roberton & Anne Forbes: link to Ancestry (subscription required)

William Robertson [1773-1837] was in Demerara by 1802 but returned in 1806 'with his constitution impaired'. As the eldest son he had inherited the estate of his maternal uncle in Antigua, but this had become of little value. [NLS MS 19331 fo.17-18]

Gilbert Robertson [1774-1839] formed a relationship in Demerara with Eliza, daughter of the enterprising 'mulatto' woman Dorothy 'Doll' Thomas. She had been born a slave in Montserrat but subsequently lived in Demerara where, sometime before 1785, she was freed and came to be known as the 'Queen of Demerara'. Gilbert and Eliza had a number of children. These included a son Henry, who was educated at Edinburgh University and was a beneficiary of Doll Thomas's will [PROB 11/2007], and a daughter Ann who died young in 1806.

In 1800 Gilbert bought the 500-acre cotton estate L’Amitie, along with his cousin Margaret’s husband, Charles Parker.

In 1817 [Slave Registers], he owned plantation Kiltearn, with 83 slaves, on the west Corentyne coast of Berbice. The planation was managed by his brother Hugh (see below).

In 1823 he made a reurn for eight enslaved people: two adult males and two adult females, along with four children, two of them 'mulattos' born in Berbice. They were Eliza, aged eleven, and Hugh, aged nine. The return was made on his behalf by Peter Miller Watson. [TNA T71/   f2194.]


Other than a short time in 1824, he remained in Guyana until 1839, when he returned to Britain and died in Edinburgh.

Gilbert is referred to on many letters of the Robertson family written to and from Kiltearn and one letter survives from him to his brother-in-law, Dr Traill, in Liverpool, written in 1832. For a summary of these references see this page.

Harry Robertson [1779-95] died in Demerara in December 1795, having recovered twice from yellow fever [Scots Magazine, 1796].

Hugh Munro Robertson [1787-1819] died returning from the colony in the wreck of the ship Demerary off the coast of Ireland.

The Demerary



The  grave  of Hugh Munro Robertson at Cill Park, Cullenstown, Ireland


Daughters of Harry Robertson & Ann Forbes: link to Ancestry (subscription required)

Christian Robertson [1780-1842] married, first, James Watson of Crantit, Orkney, with whom she had five sons. The youngest, James, was born after her husband's death. She later married a family friend, Dr Thomas Stewart Trail, who established himself in Liverpool and, in 1833, became professor of medical jurisprudence at Edinburgh. Traill was also a physician, chemist, mineralogist, meteorologist, and zoologist. The extensive archive of his papers held in the National Library of Scotland includes much information on Guyana. [My notes are available on the website Library.]

The four oldest of the Watson sons were largely brought up by their grandparents at Kiltearn and all went out to Demerara. The youngest, James, was brought up in the Traill family and became a barrister in London. For information on the Watson boys in Guayana see the Watson page on this website.

Elizabeth Robertson [1782-1859] married Samuel Sandbach, a partner in the firm of Sandbach, Tinne & Co, one of the largest West India merchant houses in Britain.

Ann Robertson [1778-1854] did not marry and lived with the Sandbach family in Liverpool.


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