John Humphreys continues  (Glenmuick: changing social conditions):

On 19th May 1828 a sale of livestock, the property of James Robertson, was held at

Spittal of Glenmuick

(a hospice for travellers on the drove road through Glen Muick, opened by monks in 14th century). This sale included some 600 sheep, along with cattle and other property. It is quite possible he was unrelated to the millers. I mention this only because another Robertson was selling up; it is impossible to say if he was a family member.
There are two significant “statistical accounts” of the parish dated




. In 1794 the population was 2117; the 1845 report lists census results - 1894 in 1811, 2228 in 1821, 2279 in 1831 and 2118 in 1841.  The 1794 report gives some detail: it says there were 8 millers in the parish (also 4 masons, 7 blacksmiths, 9 merchants, etc., not to mention 716 horses, 1563 black cattle and 13,163 sheep). The 1845 report is less informative.
Interestingly, a 1696 list of occupations includes 9 millers.
“Improving policies”  introduced in 1800 by one landowner in the area set out to limit tenancies to a period of 21 years, at the same time as increasing the size of a standard farm. Better farmhouse buildings are said to have accompanied this change, which was introduced suddenly though its actual implementation may have been much more gradual. The same landowner established the village of Ballater in 1808. A neighbouring landowner allowed displaced crofters to settle on his land, so in the parish the disruptions were minimised.
It is very likely that, in this new atmosphere, the tenant millers were subject to similar restrictions. Where their previous agreements had allowed them to pass on the family business from father to son, were the Robertson millers faced with a sudden end to the family’ tenancy?
In our time, we are accustomed to people pursuing a single line of work. In Glenmuick at these times, it seems to have been customary to farm (mainly sheep) on the side. Glenmuick ministers used to do this, and according to Di Halmarick    , James Robertson and his son Thomas also kept sheep, a useful preparation for the family’ future in Australia.
Thomas Robertson senior (1785-1872) was faced with a problem. Even if the family could retain tenancy of the mill, it could hardly provide employment for all three of his sons. With the death of his sister and her husband (Mary and James Gordon, 1837 and 1834 respectively) the family needed to support their six children as well as his own five.
The next generation needed to find employment.
Emigration was an increasingly popular option. The United States and Canada had been joined by Australia and New Zealand as potential destinations. Government policy was particularly keen to supplement the Australian convict population with free and independent citizens. Vast tracts of land were available, free of any landlords.
(The existence of an indigenous population with prior title to the land was scarcely mentioned, except as a minor potential source of difficulty. And the fact that the new landowners would perpetuate the system of landlord and tenant in their new country was not questioned at all; the current method was assumed to be the only possible way for land to be organised.)
Employment was on offer in the new colonies, at attractive wages. Assisted passages were available, supported either by the British or Australian governments from 1828; bounty immigrants were supported by colonists (1835-1841). And these advantages were not mere propaganda, as Thomas Robertson described in a letter home (1840) how all his young family members had accepted good employment before they even stepped on dry land.
In a letter dated 6th January, 1849 to his sons in Canada, a Logie-Coldstone resident wrote:
  "There is a great number of people from Glen Muick just off to Australia, and among the rest George Stewart and his family. He had not money, but Thomas Robertson and James Robertson had sent money to carry them out. And Government is taking the young folk passage free, but the old must pay their passage…."

Counsel for emigrants, and interesting information from numerous sources concerning British America, the United States, and New South Wales

" was published in Aberdeen in 1838, and the full text is available. This is the 3rd edition of a work mainly about North America, with some added comments on Australia, which first appeared in 1834. The preface refers to an unfortunate expedition to the Swan River, “and a few strange animals called Kangaroos”. The text is interesting for its advice on quite detailed necessities, and is very much of its time; it mentions the difficulty of hiring servants, since alternative employment is readily available.
When it comes to Australia, the text warns of a climate similar to Persia and South Africa – hot and dry, with scarce water. However there is also mention of wool, Australia’s “stable commodity” (by which I assume they intended “staple”).
Search in the British

Newspaper Archive

for references in Scottish papers to emigration –
Nothing before 1820, then a substantial number of articles and advertisements. A book is published about Australia (1827); a society is being formed to aid persons to travel there (1828); The Bank of Australia can transfer money there (1829); Swan River settlement is planned (1829). In Parliament, Lord Howick reported that labour was so scarce that, in Australia, an agricultural labourer could earn 5s a day, and an artificer (such as a wheelwright) as much as 15s.
A letter from Sydney (1831) reports that the town “extends fully two miles in length, and half that distance in breadth”. In 1833 an article reports numbers of emigrants to Australia, which increased from 485 in 1825 to 3,733 in 1832 (far less than Canada). The total number of emigrants from Britain (to USA, Canada, Australia etc.) in 1832 had risen to 103,040; a large and growing movement was under way.
In 1834 the sailing of “340 female emigrants” aged 16-35 for Sydney at £5 a head, under the auspices of the Emigration Committee, was reported. This was not the first such ship. Later the same year a further vessel was advertised for the same purpose. It is later reported (1835) that future female emigrants will be less crowded on ships, but that most of the arrivals had been employed (“found positions” within a week of landing. In 1836 it is reported that 2764 female emigrants were sent to Australia in 1835.



reports (13 Aug 1836) the establishment of another new colony, at Port Phillip. Settlers from Tasmania (Van Diemen’s Land) had arrived “whence Port Philip is distant about 30 hours’ sail”, and taken possession of “a great quantity of land”, against the orders of the governor of New South Wales. This great natural harbour immediately became a destination for ships from Europe, and the Robertson family arrived there in January 1841.
By December 1836 it was reported that sheep and cattle were fetching high prices in Australia. The

Perthshire Advertiser

(5 Jan 1837) lists prices for various foodstuffs, and rough prices of clearing an acre of land and raising a cottage. It is unfortunately not stated how these compared with prices in Scotland, though evidently the reader was being encouraged to make comparisons and draw conclusions. This article also claims that a typical Australian farm was 3,500 acres, which would surely have seemed prodigious to most readers.

The first Robertson to sail to Australia?

Possibly the deciding factor in the family's choice of Australia might have been John Robertson, but it is very hard to prove that he did (as Di Halmarick    suggests) become the first of the family to emigrate. However the pay available to migrants (and Australia's keenness to employ anyone) also seem to have been real factors. Thomas was responsible for his children and the Gordons'; his brother James arrived with 6 children of his own in July 1841, a year and a half after Thomas. It is hard to imagine what employment they might all have found for themselves in Glenmuick, and I think some sort of move was in store for several even if they stayed.
James and Christian Robertson had four children; the eldest was


, baptised 1780.


Di Halmarick       quotes Alexander Henderson      (“

Henderson’s Australian families

”, privately published 1941) – page 55 refers to John Robertson, who appears to have been the first family member to arrive in Australia. Di adds that “a family source” says he died in 1838, “after falling from a horse while droving cattle from the Sydney district with a convict assistant”.
Attempts to find John Robertson in passenger lists have so far failed, because his name is hardly uncommon. A search in


discovered about 40 people of this name arriving 1820-1838, but only a few could be analysed. Half were convicts, for whom the court that sentenced them was listed but not their original home.
“John Robertson aged 46” appears in a NSW muster for 1828, living in Paramatta and working for Richard Hunt. This is the right age, but no further details are obvious.
Death and gravestone indexes have not revealed any definite records, though this name is found many times.
If our John Robertson did indeed join the migrant throng as an early member, he would surely have written to tell his family about the newly opened country. His brother Thomas (1785-1872) described the land in glowing terms when he arrived in 1840.

After additional information received from John Humphreys which explains the background of this development a bit more:

The Robertson family probably were "

tenants of the mill at Sterin, which would have been owned by the local landowner"

(according to a Scottish genealogist consulted by John Humphreys), in this case


estate. In 1715 Birkhall was sold by the Farquharson family to their neighbours, the




(see also


; later, after the Robertsons had left, the Gordon family sold the estate to Prince Albert).
After the lost 1745 rebellion the situation for Scottish landlords had changed, with an impact on their tenants, as well. A number of Scottish aristocrats had their heirs removed to London as hostages for their good behaviour, and the noble Lords learned English ways so that they seem to have returned to their feudal lands with new ideas. In Glenmuick and adjacent areas the landlords decided to do away with their old subsistence- farming tenants. They wanted to install a middle-class level of yeoman farmers (still tenants, just on a larger scale), who would manage the land for profit rather than just subsisting from it. Income was hoped for. This was not entirely a destructive process, they established Ballater at the same time. They started around 1800.
Di Halmarick    says the Robertsons would have owned stock (at least sheep) as well as running the mill. Even ministers of the Kirk would own sheep, to earn them a slight extra income as we must assume. Also the Robertsons, at least as far as their dependence on farming is concerned, but probably also as millers, must have been impacted by the transition starting around 1800, i.e. from an informal permanent inherited tenancy to something much more limited. This was in keeping with English (and possibly Lowland Scottish) ideas, but must have been seen as a shocking change.

baptised on 19 December 1785 in Glenmuick, Scotland
died on 5 June 1872  in Lexton, Australia
©   Kurt Müller 2019
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baptised on 19th December 1785 in


, Scotland,
died on 5th June 1872 in Lexton, Australia
Thomas Robertson (I) was a son of

James Robertson and Christian Robertson

. He married
Anne Lachlan on 13th August 1815; they had 5 children, among them


Thomas Robertson

In 1839 he and his family

emigrated to Australia



Thomas Robertson

Thomas Robertson

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Family history Müller - Humphreys

From a report by John Humphreys:


In Glenmuick, parish registers began to record baptisms and marriages in 1744, but surviving records are patchy until 1788; there are no marriage records at all for the period 1768-88. Registration in Scotland was unpopular and cost money, which explains why subsequent records are sometimes incomplete.
The first time our family definitely appear is when James and Christian Robertson registered all their children's births at once, in about 1790. Thomas Robertson (I) was the third of four children born in Glenmuick to James Robertson and his wife Christian (née Robertson). Thomas became miller, or at least was living at Mill of Sterin, at the time of his children’s baptisms (1816-1824). (The baptisms say “at Mill of Steren” without stating his role there.) His sister Mary Gordon and her husband James were also living there in 1814 at the time of their son James’ baptism. Some of her other children’s baptisms give statements like “in Mill of Steren” while others give their home as “Altchillach” (variously spelt).

There is little more known of Thomas Robertson's life before 1839, but the deaths of his wife, his sister and his brother-in-law left him with the responsibility for 11 children which certainly was one of the important backgrounds of the decision for


to Australia. The reasons for emigration are pointed out by John Humphreys in detail (see below).

From a report by John Humphreys:

Glenmuick: changing social conditions

Newspaper advertisements from 1800 onwards offer large areas of farmland “to let” in Glenmuick and nearby locations. This suggests that the landlords were rationalising their property, presumably evicting former tenants (whose holdings were often deemed too small for efficient farming by commentators).  References to desirable arable land suggest that, locally at least, this is not seen as the infamous “Highland clearances” (clearance of subsistence farmers to be replaced by sheep); the adverts expect to replace the former lease-holders with arable farmers. They seem to be introducing a middle layer of tenants who are to manage relatively big farms, with the idea of improving the land’ productivity. Nevertheless it must have been experienced as a painful, shocking disruption of the old way of life, even among people not directly evicted.
It is unclear what the consequences of this reorganisation might have been for the millers.


see also:



see also:



(the Elder)