Robertson connection

The Robertson connection (as at November 2016)

William Robertson (born circa 1680) of Kindeace and Catherine Ross had six children, one of whom was John Robertson, known as “John of the Bank”. John (I guess was born around 1700-1710) married Katherine Hutchison (born about 1720 to 1808), sister to Hugh Hutchison of Southfield, Maybole, Ayrshire who bequeathed a sum of money to John’s grandchildren from the marriage of his daughter, Katherine Robertson, to Thomas Sweet. This John Robertson had four sons and three daughters by Katherine. Three of the sons are mentioned in “Curiosities of Glasgow Citizenship” as being successful merchants in Glasgow: John (born 1750), William (born 1753) and James (born 1761). Their names are so common at that time that it is dangerous to be too emphatic about their precise business interests but there are several indications that they were well regarded and successful. Their names appear to be linked with various enterprises, but I have not yet found a will that I can categorically tie to any of them. As mentioned above, John’s daughter, Katherine married Thomas Sweet. Another daughter, Jean, married William Copland who was in business with Thomas Sweet (Hogg, Copland and Sweet). John’s brother, James, had three sons and four daughters one of whom, Catherine, married George Sweet, a son of Thomas and Katherine.

This Robertson tree, represented on the Family Members page, goes back to the 13th century and for the period prior to 1700 it is drawn largely from a work published in 1895, “The Robertsons of Kindeace”. It is from this branch of Robertsons that one Anne McKenzie Robertson married John Gladstone in 1800 and among their six children was the person who would become the Right Honourable William Ewart Gladstone, Prime minister of Great Britain.

 John Robertson (born about 1700-10) (senior)

The Robertson family, in the year 1734, started a work at the Kelvin, near the Pointhouse, for the manufacture of articles of iron, such as nails, shovels etc. and which was named the Smithfield Iron Company…. The business produced a good return for the money invested, and was continued by the descendants of the Robertsons for more than a hundred years after it was first started: Paisley Herald Dec 3 1870.

I believe that this may have been where John Robertson first appears on the commercial horizon in Glasgow. Although contemporary articles suggest this John bought The Plantation, I think it would be his son, John Robertson who purchased Craigiehall in 1783 to build The Plantation named for the West Indies connection. It was probably through the success of the Smithfield Ironworks that John (senior) generated the cash to go into partnership with John Murdoch in the Glasgow Arms Bank.

The Glasgow Arms Bank was established in 1750 as Cochran Murdoch & Co and had thirty-one partners, and did not include John Robertson: Paisley Herald 15 September, 1855. In 1763 the partnership changed to Spiers, Murdoch & Co which this time included John Robertson, Merchant. (Source: Scottish Banking a History 1695-1973 SG Checkland)

John Robertson (junior)

John Robertson’s son, John Robertson in 1766 married Elizabeth Murdoch, the daughter of his partner in the bank. They had eight children (two sons and six daughters), one son appears to have died young, the other, John Murdoch Robertson, died in 1848; he lived in Northfield, Largs with four of his sisters, all five died unmarried. One daughter, Margaret, married John Spens Munro and the other, Catherine, married Alexander Campbell of Haylodge, Peebles, both West Indies merchants.

A John Robertson purchased a Burgess-ship in 1775 and I would presume this to be the younger John.

The “History of Govan”[1] tells us that in the year 1783 Mr John Robertson [I believe this to be John Robertson, brother to William and James], merchant in the city, purchased the estate upon which there was a small dwelling house probably erected in 1701. This was Craigiehall a fifty two acre estate, which he renamed Plantation to reflect his west Indian investments. He was cashier of the Glasgow Arms Bank for some years. Plantation was sold in 1793 to John Mair, a mason from Paisley. John Robertson , for examplewas also a partner, with his brother William, in the Smithfield Iron Company (The Smithfield Nailree), which, established in 1734, was conducted by his descendants until about 1850. In addition to the Smithfield Iron Co, John and William also had interests in Muirkirk Iron Co, Spinningdale Cotton Co, and Glasgow Cudbear Co. The Robertsons appear to me to be investors in a variety of enterprises, not necessarily managers of them. They will however have “rubbed shoulders” with people that we associate with the Industrial Revolution taking place at that time, for example, Richard Arkwright and David Dale were involved with the Spinningdale Cotton Co. John appears as a Director of the first Board of the Chamber of Commerce, and Preceptor of Hutchesons’ Hospital.[2]

William Robertson (1753-1831)

William was in partnership with his brother, John, at the Smithfield Iron Company or the Smithfield Nailree . The Jones Directory of 1787 has the following entry:

Robertson William, merchant, at the nail-work, Broomielaw.

William, together with John, became involved in the Muirkirk Ironworks.

I have not fully researched William’s family but he appears to have married Margaret Baillie in 1774 and they had three sons and one daughter.

James Robertson (1761 –bef1816)

James Robertson was cashier for the Merchants’ Bank in Glasgow in 1792. On the death certificate of his daughter, Catherine Robertson (1795-1880) who married George Sweet, he is referred to as “West India Merchant”.

The John Tait Directory 1783-84 refers to a James Robertson, accountant. Merchant Bank.

The entry in the Jones Directory of 1787 is:

Robertson James, treasurer to the Merchant Bank, 3d flat Paterson’s land, south side Argyle Street.

 James Robertson and his wife, Janet Fleming, had seven children. They were left £200 by Hugh Hutchison of Southfield, to share amongst their seven children. There were three boys and four girls. According to Alexander Sweet’s notes, one son, Alexander had a son George Robertson who set up a firm of insurance brokers bearing his name in Montreal. This is not the Alexander mentioned below but I have not yet traced him fully. Of the sisters, Jean Robertson married George Smith, a surgeon in Hutcheson’s Hospital and Catherine Robertson married George Sweet (1790 to 1847) Wine Merchant and son of Thomas Sweet.

Alexander Robertson

Alexander is a cousin to John Robertson and is mentioned in the will of Hugh Hutchison of Southfield, Maybole, Ayrshire.

The Jones Directory of 1787:

Robertson Alexander, writer, 3d storey Paterson’s land, south side Argyle Street.

It is interesting to note that Alexander and James were at the same address.

[1] History of Govan by T C F Brotchie 1905 Chapter XI

[2] Curiosities of Glasgow Citizenship by George Stewart 1881