a family story

John Roxborogh

Kate Robertson

Kate was born on 26 June 1873 just before her parents left Ullapool for New Zealand.  The exact date is uncertain as there must have been some tardiness, not an unusual state of affairs, in writing up the records in the Parish register, the date entered been a couple of weeks after the ship had actually sailed from Graves end. 

It was mid summer when Kate was born.  The Inverness Courier for that day reported that the boys from the Ragged School had enjoyed their annual excursion into the country and that in Gairloch the crops were advancing well due to the heavy rain of the previous week, but no boats were put out to the fishing.  On Barra tenants were busy casting and drying their peats - of excellent quality, in many places equal to coal – making the best of their time securing a good supply for winter.  In England there was a visit from the Shah of Persia to be noted.

Even if 1873 was to have had a better harvest the die was cast.  Kate’s parents were leaving Scotland.  She was almost seven months old when they arrived in Wellington.

Kate was a bright pupil at school and stayed on to complete a standard V11 year.  However, she was unable to attend a secondary school and had no opportunity to study at University.  She certainly had an appreciation of education.

At Ngarua she farmed in partnership with her brothers John and Murdoch and later on Donald.  She is remembered as a wonderful cook who provided so well for all the family gatherings.  In the summer she would begin baking apple pies at dawn and before breakfast the pantry shelves would be filled.  The school holidays were always special occasions with all the Robertsons cousins either staying or visiting.  Kate welcomed each one, produced the favourite goodies and handed out lavish amounts or pocket money.  Hot afternoons were spent in the orchard or the bush or catching eels in the river.  Kate was always prepared to cook these for breakfast the next day.  She was an averred reader who knew the works of all New Zealand writers she was very interested in politics, always ready to debate but not to be swayed from her opinion.  She enjoyed gardening and was active in community affairs.

Kate often spoke of Scotland and of Little Loch Broom in particular, as if she had known the places personally all her life.  She loved reciting old tales and showed a great sense of humour in their telling.  Unfortunately her dream of returning to Scotland was unfulfilled.

Kate had one son, Gordon Terence Robertson (Robbie) who was brought up as her younger brother.  Sadly her real relationship with Robbie was not revealed until after she died, though it helped make sense of some things she had said which had puzzled his cousins. We now know that Robbie's father was Charles Dermer of Fielding whose photo is available in the Fielding Public Library. Kate was buried at the old cemetery at Te Aroha along side her brothers Donald and Murdoch.