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Biography of Hugh Robertson

by Douglas Burbury (E-mail: Douglas Burbury)

Hugh Robertson his wife Elizabeth and their six children arrived in Hobart Town on the 7th of May 1823 as cabin passengers on the ship Andromeda from Scotland.

Soon after his arrival, Hugh was granted 800 acres of land along the Macquarie River, about 5 miles north of the township of Ross. This region was starting to be opened up for settlement and development, and several other passengers on the Andromeda were also granted land in the area at the same time, including George Eagle, John Gardiner, Benjamin Horne, Louis Gilles and John Leake.

Hugh called his land Bloomfield. By 1831 he had made various improvements to his holding, and possessed fifty head of cattle, sixteen hundred sheep and two horses. He also employed and maintained four convict servants. Over the course of about twenty years, Hugh and his two sons Adam and Thomas gradually extended their holdings, both by additional grants and also by purchasing the grants of some of their neighbours, including the original grants of George Eagle and John Gardiner. By 1845, the property of Bloomfield totalled 5705 acres, its largest-ever extent.

After Hugh's death in 1848, his sons Adam and Thomas continue in their task of managing of the property. The direct male line of Hugh Robertson ended in 1877 with the death of Thomas Dean Robertson, Hugh's grandson, and Bloomfield was then sold by the trustees of Thomas Dean's estate to William Henry Bennett, who later sold it to Henry William Lyne von Stieglitz. The present-day boundaries of Bloomfield are almost identical to what they were in 1845, with the sole exception of the portion forming the original grant to John Gardiner, which was sold by von Stieglitz to Ethel Elsie Bennett in 1923 and which now forms part of the neighbouring property of Ashby.

A letter which Hugh wrote to the Surveyor-General of Van Diemen's Land on 7 January 1831 in support of a further land grant application mentions that he had six children. Of these children, the two sons Adam and Thomas remained in the Macquarie River district. Their sister Charlotte married Charles Jenkins Bayley of Rendlesham, another property in the district, and their descendants later moved to Warnambool in Victoria.

It is not known what happened to Hugh and Elizabeth's two younger sons, William and Hugh Junior. Possibly they left Van Diemen's Land and crossed over to Victoria. There is a reference in Campbell Town Tasmania - History and Centenary of Municipal Government which states that "Also late in the 'sixties Robertson's son from Bloomfield ... took up land in the western district, where freehold land was at last available." It is unclear which son is being referred to, but I assume that neither Adam or Thomas were involved, as Adam's will does not mention the disposal of any land in Victoria.

Three Robertson brothers (William, John and James) also had extensive grants in the Campbell Town district in the early years, and they were among the original members of the Port Phillip Association which assisted John Batman in his first journey of exploration to what was later to become Victoria. However, these Robertsons are not known to be related in any way to Hugh and his family.

Nowadays the only known descendants of the Robertson family to still live in the district are the Clarkes of Quorn Hall, who are descended from Hugh's grand-daughter Elizabeth (daughter of his son Thomas) who married Dr Twiss Riordan M.D., a well-known personality in the early history of Ross and Campbell Town.

(Sources: Hobart Town Courier, 10 May 1823; Will of Hugh Robertson, proved 11 December 1848; Will of Adam Turnbull Robertson, proved 26 September 1873; proved 18 September 1877; LSD 1/73/20; LSD 1/5/515; RD 1/3373; RD 1/5627; RD 3/767; "The Manse Folk of Kirklands", Morey, Margaret [???]; Campbell Town Tasmania - History and Centenary of Municipal Government [Campbell Town Municipal Council, 1966]; Application dated 7 Jan 1831 from Hugh Robertson for additional grant of land [LSD 1/110/270--3]; Australian Dictionary of Biography, article on William Robertson [Volume 6: 1851--90, pp. 46--7]; Various entries from Tasmanian and Victorian Pioneer Indexes)

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Updated 04-Feb-2002