JAMES HERBERT ROBERTSON
This post was written by Victoria Doran
The sad tale of an Old Caldeian who resigned his commission without joining his Regiment and later died of tuberculosis.
Book of Remembrance entry
James Robertson was born in the summer of 1897 in West Kirby and baptised on 23 September at St Bridget. He was the 3rd of the 4 sons of Archibald MacIver Robertson (1857-1923) and Edith Mary Ferrier (1867-1950), and also had 2 older sisters. His eldest brother, William Archibald Robertson (1889-1910) died aged just 21 years old in 1910, possibly of tuberculosis.
As his name suggests Archibald Robertson was of Scottish origins, but he was actually born in Galway, Ireland. James’ great-grandfather, Archibald Robertson (1794-1859), was a ship’s carver and block and mast maker born in Edinburgh. He employed up to 12 men in Liverpool. James’ grandfather, William Wood Robertson (1821-1863) was born in Greenock, Renfrewshire but the family moved to Liverpool before he was 3 years old. William followed in his father’s trade in Liverpool, marrying Eleanor Crouchley Pendlebury (1828-1896) in 1848. For some reason the family spent a few years in Ireland in the middle 1850s and James’ father was born there. Eleanor’s father was agent and cashier at Liverpool docks for the Duke of Bridgwater, and she was brought up in some comfort.
James’ father worked in the cotton broking business. He married Edith Mary Ferrier (1867-1950) on 13 September 1887 in Huddersfield, Yorkshire. Edith was born in Buckley, Flintshire where her father, James Ferrier (1813-1886) was a farmer and innkeeper. He was originally from Kincardineshire in Scotland and moved south to work as a farm steward. By 1881 he had retired, and the family moved to Huddersfield, the original home of Edith’s mother, Ellen Woodhouse (1828-1900). It is a mystery how Edith and Archibald met.
Archibald and Edith seem to have started married life in Birkdale, Lancashire as their first 4 children were born there but they may also have had a house in Liverpool, as their eldest child, William, was baptised in Toxteth Park at the age of 6 months. They seem to have made a staged move to West Kirby in the 1890s. Both daughters were born in Birkdale, but baptised at a few months old in West Kirby. James’ brother Alan Ferrier Robertson (1891-1931) was also born in Birkdale but was only baptised aged 15 in 1906 at West Kirby. By the time James was born in 1897 the family was permanently resident in West Kirby.
James was educated at Calday Grange Grammar School. It is possible that he then went to Cambridge University as on 2 October 1915 he was gazetted as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Cambridgeshire Regiment.
Cambridgeshire Regiment cap badge
London Gazette 1 October 1915
It is a mystery as to how he passed the army medical as he had already been suffering from tuberculosis for a couple of months by then. He never joined his regiment, and resigned his commission just weeks later in November 1915 due to ill health. He was unusual in this as some others in similar circumstances never resigned and as a result were recognised by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission as war deaths.
He spent time in a sanatorium, but had apparently improved and was at home in West Kirby in June 1916. He had a relapse and died at Vale of Clwyd Sanatorium, Llanbedr Hall, Llanbedr, Denbighshire on 10 September 1916, aged just 19. Note that the Book of Remembrance entry above is incorrect in respect of both the date and place of death.
James Herbert Robertson death certificate
He is buried in St Bridget’s churchyard in West Kirby, but, sadly, the grave has been neglected. He lies with his maternal grandmother and his eldest brother.
He is commemorated on Grange Hill War Memorial and the Roll of Honour of Calday Grange Grammar School.
His brother Alan served as a Private and then a Lieutenant in the King’s Liverpool Regiment before being wounded in 1916. As he also died at Llanbedr Hall, at the age of 40, it seems likely that he also later suffered from tuberculosis.
James’ youngest brother, Neil Alexander Robertson (1905-1986), was too young to serve in the war. James’ younger sister, Margaret Boyd Robertson (1894-1928), also died young and is buried in St Bridget – possibly yet another case of tuberculosis. She is buried in the same grave as her parents and her brother Alan.
Birth: Q3 1897 at West Kirby
Death: 10 Dec 1916 at Vale of Clwyd Sanatorium, Denbighshire; tuberculosis
Addresses: 31 Church Road, West Kirby (01), 41 Brookfield Gardens, West Kirby (11)
Occupations: probably a student
Unit: 2/1st Battalion, Cambridgeshire Regiment
Rank: 2nd Lieutenant
Medals: none – never served overseas
Commemorated and Buried: St Bridget Churchyard, West Kirby (grave 914); Grange Hill War Memorial, Calday Grange Grammar School Roll of honour
Sources: BR, GH, Census: 01, 11; CG, CGB, Probate, PR, LG