Continued from September's post
Researching the Roberton family can be maddening at times due to the frequent misspelling of the name as Robertson, and their propensity to move around the world. I do believe I have traced various descendents of the daughters of William Roberton of Friars & his wife Mary Gordon, with one branch in particular still living in and around Australasia.
Another interesting fact that I omitted from my previous post is that despite extensive searching, the treasure hordes of Benevides at Mocha and Andrew Roberton's gold allegedly buried on Agrihan, have never been found. Allegedly Roberton even left a map but no-one can decipher it!. Other intrepid explorers are still to this day on the hunt for the "Treasure of Lima" as this article from the Telegraph in 2012 testifies:-
I wish them more success than the German adventurer Andrew Gissler who spent 19 yrs on the Island and returned with just 6 gold coins!
Another Roberton, Peter Dillon & the fate of Le Comte de Laperouse
Succeed he did - establishing the fate of Laperouse's two ships 'Boussole' & 'Astrolad' in a freak storm off the island of Vanikoro in 1788. One ship had broken up on rocks almost immediately, the other had come to rest on the reef and many had survived (but that is another story). Dillon bartered and brought back artefacts & relics from the wrecks to prove his discovery that included Laperouse's silver sword guard.
Having made haste to Calcutta and reporting his finds to Govenor General he was commissioned by the Honorable East India Company to continue his search. In 1827 John Roberton again set sail with Dillon. More evidence was found but the ship was forced to return the Bay of Islands and subsequently Sydney due to sickness amongst the crew. It is here that Dillon & Roberton parted company.
In 1829 Dillon went to France to collect his reward. He was presented to the King, given the title 'Chevalier of the Legion of Honour' and granted an annuity of 4000 francs for life. However, as with many of these tales it does not end well! After a further stint in the Pacific Peter Dillon died in Paris in 1847 "poor and prematurely aged". Any reward paid to John remains a mystery.
In 1836 John had exchanged 'The Bee' for 'The Caroline' and continued to trade with the native New Zealanders. In 1837 he purchased 40 acres at Waihihi near Kororareka (present day Russell) overlooking the Bay of Islands. He spent a further £150 building a house which he named Kelso after his birthplace. By the time of his death in 1841 his land holding in Waihihi & Maiki extended to approximately 150 acres. Kororareka at the time was a well known whaling port and was developing a bit of a reputation and I have found it described thus:-
"Traders established themselves here, and a rowdy population of runaway sailors, ex-convicts, bad characters, and debauched Maoris filled the place. Drunkenness and riot were the general order of things; and it was even said that Kororareka was developing into a nest of pirates. There was no sort of government to restrain the evil, and man's passions were transforming a natural Eden into a hell"
Dodgy Dealings with a bishop...
Not our Roberton - he apparently made a 'gift' to the Bishop of 4.5 acres of his land for which he received 1 shilling per acre. There was a catch however (well there would be in an area that at the time rivals the Borders when 'reiving' was at its height). John purchased the mission ship 'Reine de Paix' (Queen of Peace!) from the Bishop for a sum of £600. He paid half & mortgaged the balance against his property at Waihihi.
Motuarohia or Roberton Island
A large house was built at a cost of £650, a not inconsiderable sum and a far departure from the two roomed houses favoured by settlers in those days. To all accounts an idyllic location in which to raise a family. John moved his wife and son Gordon to the island and a daughter was born in 1840. A quotation from the papers of Maurice Lennard who had accidentally come into possession of papers relating to the Island & the Roberton family describes the house thus in 1959:-
"a wood frame structure roofed with split shingles, situated on a small flat between the beach and the hills to the westward of the two lagoons in the south-eastern bay. The foundations were boulders......these foundation stones were visible just a few years ago"
"He was unfortunately opposite our house and island. He was sailing merely for his own amusement in a new boat that had just come from the builder. It was very large, only one small boy with him in the boat, they were caught by a sudden gust of wind and in one moment they disappeared and drowned. I have had three boats employed for this last fortnight searching for their bodies but with little success. A few days ago a small part of my poor Roberton's breast with fishes teeth marks in it were found....."
According to Maori custom, in order to preserve his position in Maori society, Bulls insults and abuse demanded revenge. On the night of Saturday the 20th November 1841 Maketu waited until Thomas Bull was asleep and killed him with an axe. He went to report the incident to Mrs Roberton in the belief that she understood Maori customs and would accept it as such. This was not the case! Since the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, New Zealand, whilst respecting the land ownership of the Maori people, was firmly under British rule.
Rewa's need for revenge for the murder of his granddaughter was compounded by these events and whilst not the only cause for the subsequent attack on Kororareka known as the "Flagstaff Wars" three years later, it was considered a significant contributory factor.
The Battle for the Land
Notes on the Family
- Sophia Roberton m. 1835 Glasgow to Felix Horetzky a Polish born composer of music for the guitar. They had one son Charles b. Edinburgh 1838 emigrated to Canada and became an Engineer and photographer of some renown.
- Hermione Ballantyne Roberton m 1st in 1831 at Glasgow, William Duke a merchant in Alicante. She m 2nd in 1863 Victoria, Australia aged 51, Samuel Francis Seymour.
- It is unknown whether there was issue from her first marriage. It is also an interesting point to note her middle name of Ballantyne infers that there may be a further connection to the family. Her sister Violet married James Robert Ballantyne in 1844.
In researching these last two posts I have come across a couple of conflicting references.
- In the case of the author of "Murder in Paradise" J C M Cresswell he states Mary Gordon's death as being in 1862 and illustrates the very same notice that appeared in the Southern Cross newspaper on 22nd March 1850 that I have included above. In his defence however, he was a personal friend of Maurice Lennard and therefore the documentation of the series of events surrounding Roberton Island will be extremely well informed. Mr Cresswell also includes at the end of his book the official quoted responses provided by Ruth Munro, then archivist at the New Zealand National Archives, so these too can also be relied upon.
- A footnote in Creswells book citing John Mason in "Kelso Records" states "William farmed until his death in 1840..." which again we now know to be incorrect as he spent a period of time in Glasgow, two of his daughters were married in Glasgow, he wrote his will there & his burial record has him residing at Scotland Street, Edinburgh.
- The citation continues Mary Roberton "is a lady well known in literary circles as the author of 'Truth' and it's continuation 'Elizabeth Evanshaw'. Novels which evince very high merit." I can find no evidence of this and indeed the two books which empathise with the Catholic religion have been attributed to a William Pitt Scargill. Very strange..... however the matter is by no means clear and is debated by literary academics. If there is no truth to the statement it would seem a very odd thing to commit to the Records of the day. Did she I wonder move in the social circles of Mrs Anne Randall Scott Ballantyne nee Grant?, and that she named her daughter Hermione Ballantyne Roberton b 1812 as a mark of respect to this association?
- The Clan MacFarlane genealogy page has John Roberton featured above as married to an Elizabeth Blaikie and happily running around in the Borders in 1841. This is clearly not the case. Neither is it the case that Andrew Gordon Roberton married Margaret McNaughton.
A graphic first hand account of the Coroners inquest in Nov 1841.
Mrs Roberton as an author.
New Zealand Land records University of Wellington