William Robertson, SV/PROG (1805 - 1876)

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Nicknames: "Reverend"
Birthplace: Inverurie, Scotland
Death: Died in Cape Town, Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa
Occupation: Rev. Dr.
Managed by: Timothy Ferguson
Last Updated:

About William Robertson, SV/PROG

The first was the Robertson clan, established by the Rev Dr William Robertson, born on 13 July 1805 on his father’s farm Burn Riggs near Inverurie, near Aberdeen. He went to study at King’s College, Aberdeen at the age of 13. Three years later he had to abandon his studies as he became very ill with tuberculosis.

At about the same time, many nautical miles to the south, the new English governor of the Cape Colony, Lord Charles Somerset, was keen to do something to improve the educational facilities available to people living in the colony, and also to address the shortage of properly trained and qualified ministers in the Dutch Reformed Church. He looked to Scotland to find people to assist in both these areas of work.

Lord Charles Somerset Somerset commissioned an English minister, the Rev Dr. George Thom, who had joined the Dutch Reformed Church and was on furlough in the United Kingdom, to find suitable people in Scotland. Dr Thom visited Aberdeen and there engaged Church of Scotland minister the Rev Andrew Murray and, as a teacher, William Robertson.

And so in February 1822 William Robertson, then still Mr. Robertson, in the company of the Rev Andrew Murray, set sail from London for a four month journey to South Africa in the 180 ton brig Arethusa. They arrived in Table Bay on 2 July, some 17 weeks after leaving the United Kingdom.

Robertson’s first posting was to Graaff Reinet, where he was to open the Free English School. Andrew Murray was also sent to Graaff Reinet to become minister of the Dutch Reformed Church there. For the first two years Robertson stayed in the pastorie (parsonage) with Rev Murray.

Robertson, in spite of his being only 17 years old, was very energetic and soon had the school up and running. The town at the time had a population of about 1800. On the advice of the Landdrost, Mr Andries Stockenstrom (later Sir Andries) Robertson started an evening school called the Evening Academy for Secondary Education.

After five years, when his contract expired and his health had improved greatly, Robertson returned to Scotland to resume his studies at King’s College, Aberdeen, where he graduated with his M.A. in March 1828. He then continued studying divinity, first at Aberdeen and later at Edinburgh.

Robertson was ordained a minister in the Church of Scotland in January 1831 after which he went to Utrecht in Holland to improve his Dutch, which he had started to learn in the Cape Colony.

By October of the same year Robertson was back in the Cape Colony where he was ordained as a minister of the Dutch Reformed Church and appointed to first the church in Clanwilliam and two years later to the church in Swellendam.

He was conferred with the degree of Doctor of Divinity by King’s College, Aberdeen, in October 1840.

Eliza Truter Meanwhile Dr Robertson married Eliza Truter, daughter of a well-known Cape family whose founder had arrived there in 1722 and was for many years the master gardener of the Dutch East India Company.

Dr and Mrs Robertson had ten children, of whom nine survived. The one of relevance of this story is Elizabeth Augusta Robertson, born in Swellendam in 1839. -------------------- Dr. William Robertson (born 13 July 1805 in Scotland - 24 November 1876 in Cape Town) was a Scottish reverend of the NG Church in South Africa. He was one of the earliest church leaders.

The town Robertson in the Cape was named after him.

Robertson went to SA at the age of 17 in 1822 with Rev. Andrew Murray Sr. and was 1st a teacher on Graaff-Reinet, where Murray studied in theology. Robertson stayed on as teacher until 1866.

Only 5 years later he returned to Europe to study in Aberdeen and Utrecht in theology

In 1831 he returned to South-Africa and was Reverend at Clanwilliam, Swellendam and Cape Town.

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William Robertson, SV/PROG's Timeline

1805
July 13, 1805
Scotland
1839
1839
Age 33
1844
April 27, 1844
Age 38
Robertson, Breede River DC, Western Cape, South Africa
1876
November 24, 1876
Age 71
Cape Town, Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa
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