James Robertson Family - New Zealand

Isabella Ferns grandfather James Robertson and her Robertson uncles emigrated to New Zealand and lived in Southland. This page records their family history.


Mr James Robertson was born in Perthshire, Scotland circa 1807 and died about July 1880 in Invercargill, New Zealand. He was buried on July 9 1880 at the Invercargill Eastern Cemetery along with his daughter Catherine, her husband Donald McQuilkan and others. The 1851 Scotland Census records that he was married to Janet Robertson born circa 1811.

 James Robertson's sons were:

Malcolm Robertson, birthdate circa 1840 (1851 Scotland Census) and who had no family, had been a builder in Invercargill. A 'M Robertson' sailed for Bluff (with D Robertson and Alexander Robertson) aboard the New Great Britain. Shipping records show the New Great Britain departed Gravesend on 2 May 1863, arrived at Bluff on 10 August 1863 after a voyage of 92 days under the command of Captain G Trader, the vessel then proceeding to Port Chalmers.

John (Jack) Robertson, born in Scotland about 1823 (1835 - 1851 Scotland Census) John was possibly a millwright who had four sons and a daughter, possibly died in Invercargill.

Donald Robertson, born Kinardochy Perthsire, Scotland on 8 July 1833, arrived at Bluff in 1863, died at 'Struan' on 28 June 1918 within a few days of his 85th birthday. A 'D Robertson' arrived at Bluff (with M Robertson and Alexander Robertson) aboard the New Great Britain. Shipping records show the New Great Britain departed Gravesend on 2 May 1863, arrived at Bluff on 10 August 1863 after a voyage of 92 days under the command of Captain G Trader, then proceeded to Port Chalmers.

Herries Beattie - The Southern Runs, Southland Times 10 October 1936
Donald Robertson was a shepherd on the Croydon Run in 1866. He was later a substantial farmer at Otama.

Herries Beattie - The Southern Runs, Southland Times 24 October 1936
Mr Donald Robertson, a brother of Mr Colin Robertson so well and favourably known throughout his county councillorship of 36 years, was born at Kinardochy, Perthshire in 1833 and arrived at the Bluff in 1863. After experiencing some of the numerous vicissitudes which fell to the pioneers* lot, Mr Robertson came to work at Wantwood and here he remained twelve years. In an interview he gave the collector much information, some of which is here appended:—lt was in 1865 he . was offered the job of boundary-rider at Wantwood because the boundaries had been all burnt through a vast tussock fire which started at Wantwood and swept into the Lora, Reaby and Benmore runs. He soon became familiar with the situation of the various runs, but he found that except where watercourses were used to define runs, the boundaries were largely imaginary lines until fences were put up. Thus the boundary between the Otama and Knapdale runs was a straight line from Pyramid Hill to Waikaka. The Waimea stream was the boundary between Wantwood and Waimea runs, and the Otamete stream that between Wantwood and Reaby. Otapiri run joined Wantwood on the west while Caroline and Benmore were further afield. Mr Wentworth, a son of a former Premier of New South Wales, came over here and took a great fancy to settle here and to combine Wantwood, Croydon and Reaby in one big run. The situation appealed to him but Mr Gunn was not then ready to sell so Mr Wentworth assured him, “My time is coming yet,” and went on a trip to Europe. On his return in 1867 he found that the Southland Provincial Council in its financial embarrassment was allowing free selection outside the Hundreds, so he said to Gunn, “Now my time has come,” and offered him £14,600 cash down, which was accepted. Mr Wentworth was a cousin of the Hill Brothers and Mr Harry Hill managed Wantwood for him for some time. About seven years later Mr Robertson was despatched to Dunedin, droving 15 Shorthorn cattle which were a present from Mr Wentworth to Mr Driver, of the firm of Driver and McLean. He experienced the usual hardships of the times, sleeping out under the tussocks one night, but successfully executed his commission and returned to Wantwood to find that Wentworth had sold the run to Mr P. K. McCaughan and that the new owner was in possession. This was in 1874.

In October 1877, the month of the big land sale at Gore, (...) Mr Robertson secured his “Struan” property.

Donald married Catherine Margaret Robertson and they had three sons (Jim, Jack and Charlie) and two daughters (Catherine - Kate - who Tui Ferns said had a 'meat ashet') and Jessie (Mrs Miller, whose daughter Peg Miller survived the Wahine Storm crossing, but lost all her jewlery. When Tui was 'manpowered' to work in Gore during WWII, she and Peg found that they were second cousins).

Jim and Kate lived at the family home 'Struan' (name is pronounced like 'drawn').


Alexander (Alex) Robertson, born in Scotland about 1842, later referred to as the 'Mayor of Waikaia', died 3 September 1897 aged 55, buried at Waikaia Cemetery beside his brother Colin, 9 October 1934. He is in Grave 45 Section I Block B. An 'Alexander Robertson' arrived at Bluff (with D Robertson and M Robertson) aboard the New Great Britain. Shipping records show the New Great Britain departed Gravesend on 2 May 1863, arrived at Bluff on 10 August 1863 after a voyage of 92 days under the command of Captain G Trader, then proceeded to Port Chalmers.

The Southland Times - In Memorium - 9 October 1936
ROBERTSON.—In loving memory of Alexander Robertson, who died at Invercargill on October 9th, 1934.


 Rob 05 Colin Robertson Cyc04Cycl1047a

Colin Robertson, born Perthshire, Scotland about 1850, arrived at Port Chalmers in 1867 aboard the 'Vicksburgh', died 11 February 1933 at Waikaia, buried at Waikaia Cemetery in February 1933.

From 'The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Otago & Southland Provincial Districts]'
Councillor Colin Robertson , who has represented the Waikaia riding on the Southland County Council since 1896, was born in 1850, in Perthshire, Scotland, and attended school in the parish of Logierait, where he afterwards served for two years as a pupil-teacher. Mr Robertson arrived at Port Chalmers in 1867, by the ship “Vicksburgh,” and almost immediately went to the Waikaia district (then known as Switzers) to become a storeman for a local storekeeper. Ten years later he commenced farming, and still follows that calling, on 550 acres of land, nearly all freehold. Mr Robertson runs crossbred sheep on his farm. He was a member of the old Waikaia Road Board, and was a member, and also chairman of the Waikaia Licensing Committee during its existence. Mr Robertson has also been chairman of the local school committee since 1894, and he became a Justice of the Peace in 1891. He was married, in 1881, to a daughter of the late Mr James Welsh, of Cork, Ireland, and has five sons and three daughters.

 White Wings by Sir Henry Brett
New Zealand Migrant Shipping (1861-1875)

Date sailed: 14/06/1867
Port Arrived: Port Chalmers
Date Arrived: 30/09/1867
Captain: Strachan

The Vicksburg, a fine vessel of 1,100 tons, made two voyages only to Port Chalmers, and did not visit other New Zealand ports. She was ship rigged, built in 1863, owned in Leith by W. Thomson and Co., and chartered by Patrick Henderson and Co. In 1867 the Vicksburg arrived at Port Chalmers, under Captain Strachan, formerly chief officer, from Glasgow, with 210 passengers. She sailed on June 14th, and arrived in port on September 30th.

Colin Robertson maried Catherine Welsh on 7 July 1881. Their five sons were Colin, Bob (whose son Colin farmed Wendonside), James (a lawyer), Alec (whose son Peter married Moira O'Callaghan) and Malcolm (who was a doctor and who died in September 1990 aged 92). Their daughters were Jessie (Mrs Quirk of Invercargill), Catherine R (Kate - Mrs Hickey) and Elizabeth (Lizzy - Mrs Murchison). Malcolm had attempted to trace the family residences in Scotland, however the old houses had been pulled down as a part of a new housing development. Catherine died on 3 August 1943 aged 86 years and is buried with Colin at Waikaia.