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(1847-1920) Robert Roland Stevenson
The story of Robert Roland Stevenson, adventurer, surveyor, explorer, railway-man and father, as told by his grand-daughter, Eunice Margaret Stevenson. Researched and written over several years. Completed in 1985.
Robert Stevenson, a weaver of Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland and his wife Christina (née Ferguson). Married October 27th. 1816, Paisley.
Captain Walter Stevenson, Master Mariner, lost at sea 1859, and his wife Margaret (née Robertson) - (1825-1888) of "Glen Darrick", Paisley. They married at the parish church of Paisley Low on November 17th 1843 when Margaret was aged 18. There were only two children of this marriage. Malcolm, the elder, born c.1844 became a seaman and was swept over board in the Bay of Biscay on December 15, 1870, aged about 26 years. He married early, and his wife apparently died young as two children were left with their maternal grandmother at Paisley. One died "the time Malcolm was in America" according to one of the American letters written last century, copies of which were sent to the writer by her distant cousin Franc Ryan (née Burns) of New York in 1967. The other, also Malcolm who used the surname Robertson as did his father, was living at Paisley in 1888 where he was employed at an engineering works. He was married with children. Nothing further is known of this nephew of RRS.
Younger son of Captain WALTER & MARGARET STEVENSON of Paisley, Renfrewshire, was born on July 3, 1847 in Perthshire. According to the marriage certificate of RRS the place was "Ardeevalloch". However no such town or village of this name exists. It is thought that the spelling is phonetic and should be Ardvorlich, near Killin, Perthshire. This is a village on Loch Earn and also the name of the hereditary house of the Stewarts. How the mother of RRS came to be at that remote place for the birth of her child must remain a mystery. He was named simply Robert Stevenson and assumed the second name of Rowland at a later time at the behest of his father, apparently to ensure identification if such was ever needed.
Marriage: On January 5, 1877 to MARIA NICHOLLS (born 28/1/1855 at Inverleigh, Victoria) the 2nd. surviving daughter of MARIAN (née DOWNES) and HENRY NICHOLLS of "Sutton Grange", Linton, Victoria, and formerly of Kidderminster, Worcestershire, England. The marriage took place at "Sutton Grange", the Rev. J.B. Smith, Methodist minister, officiating. Witnesses were Maria's sister Clara Isabella (Mrs. John Inglis) and her brother, Edmund Nicholls.
- ADA MARGARET STEVENSON born June 29, 1878 at "Belleview Cottage", Port Wakefield, S.A.
- FLORENCE MARIAN STEVENSON born April 16,1880 at Ewen Street, Kadina, S.A.
- CLARA HARRIETT (HETTIE) STEVENSON born February 14,1882 at Bowden, S.A.
- WALTER ROWLAND STEVENSON born September 3,1883 at Kingston, S.A.
- RONALD ROBERT STEVENSON born December 11,1885 at Bordertown, S.A.
- STUART HENRY STEVENSON born February 10,1888 at Bordertown, S.A.
- BLAINE REID STEVENSON born March 31, 1890 at Bordertown, S.A.
- KEITH MELVILLE STEVENSON born June 11,1893 at Bordertown, S.A.
- JEAN LILIAN STEVENSON born July 15, 1896 at 79 Unley Road, Unley, S.A.
Robert Rowland Stevenson died at his residence "Craigielea", 79 Unley Road, Unley, S.A. on October 24, 1920, aged 73 years. Interred West Terrace Cemetery, Adelaide.
His wife, Maria, died at her residence, Unley Road, Unley, on July 25, 1935, aged 80 years. Interred in the family plot at West Terrace, Adelaide. There is a headstone with dates.
RRS told his children that he was born with a caul over his head, which according to an old Scottish legend ensures good fortune and safety from drowning. If the first failed to eventuate at least the second proved correct for him. As a lad at Paisley when skating with a companion one winter they ventured onto thin ice. RRS narrowly escaped falling through but his companion was drowned.
The captain, his father, was absent for long periods at sea. According to RRS Walter Stevenson owned his ship and conveyed emigrants to America and as he was domiciled at Paisley it is presumed that he plied from the Clyde and the sea port of Glasgow. His young wife Margaret was a native of Paisley and had been married at 18. Perhaps being alone with two young children so much, although she had many relatives in the town, she was persuaded to elope by a plausible rogue named John Burns. RRS was 5 years of age and never saw his mother again and knew nothing of her at first hand until he was put in touch with her when he was 29.
There was no divorce at that time except by act of Parliament so that her American marriage to John Burns made during the lifetime of her first husband was bigamous and her three Burns sons were illegitimate. However, she was a woman of upright character and innocently believed that her marriage to Burns was legal. He proved to be a very weak reed indeed. Not only was he a poor provider but mostly a non-provider so that to take care of her children she was forced to set up as a boarding house keeper, in New York.
John Burns joined the Northern Army during the American Civil War but deserted from a Maryland hospital and returned to Paisley in 1864. His letters to Margaret have been preserved. This venture was also unsuccessful and he wrote demanding that she pay his fare back to New York which she did. He was deceased by 1868. According to his descendants, when the authorities approached his wife for the cost of burial she refused, as by then she had had more than enough of his careless behaviour. He was interred as a pauper in "Potter's Field" at a New York cemetery. Margaret died aged 63 years on September 29, 1888 at her New York residence. Copies of the letters which have survived will be included later in this account.
So, RRS and his brother Malcolm were virtually motherless from an early age. They were placed with a grandmother, but whether the Stevenson or the Robertson one is not stated. RRS was aged 12 years when his father failed to return from a voyage in 1859. Malcolm was already at sea following his father's profession. It was the termination of the young Robert's education, the lack of which was to haunt him for the remainder of his life. His writing, that was so poor when he was young, gradually improved, so that when he commenced an account of his life in old age, he did very well.
The next two years were difficult. He worked by day for local farmers and tried to improve himself by attending night school, but by then he was too weary to absorb much in the way of lessons. At 14 he left Paisley, as it proved, forever. Some of the Robertson relatives farewelled him at Glasgow Quay. These included his cousin James Clark junior who later corresponded. He travelled to London to be apprenticed to the Black Ball Line of ships, a well known one of the period that was owned by Scottish James Bayne. In his unfinished biography RRS gives no indication of any voyage taken prior to the one which took him to Australia, but as this took place a year later, in 1862, there was doubtless an earlier one.
Arrival in South Australia (1862)
RRS was 15 when the "Morning Star", a sailing ship of 1285 tons left Liverpool on November 20, 1862 with Captain Matthews and First Officer Grainger and 400 passengers, bound for South Australia. They reached Port Adelaide on February 15, 1863. RRS hated the sea life and the considerable hardships of an Able Seaman. Reports of the harsh treatment of the crew by Captain Matthews were hinted at in Adelaide newspapers. RRS had discovered that the sea was definitely not his vocation and with a fellow crew member of like mind, was given leave to travel by train to the city, eight miles inland. They took the precaution of conveying their sea chests too.
They hid at an Adelaide boarding house for three days then RRS made his way to a sheep and cattle station 100 miles north of the city. This was "Wandillah" at Kooringa, which is now part of the Burra District. At that time Richard Hallett was the proprietor. Meantime Captain Matthews was advertising for his missing seamen. A £10 reward was offered for any information as to their whereabouts. None was forthcoming and 3 weeks later the "Morning Star" sailed minus two lads. RRS remained at "Wandilla" for about three years and must have left in January 1866. His relative, Alexander Gray, made enquiry from Paisley and received this curt reply:-
17th June 1866
Mr. A. Gray,
R. Stevenson left my employment six months back, and at present I have not the slightest idea where he is. I have returned you the letter as requested.
Some later research at the Adelaide Archives brought forth the record of RRS entering the South Australian Survey Department on November 18, 1865 as a cadet Chainman on ordinary surveys at a weekly wage of 6 shillings which included Sundays. He received rations and was housed in a tent. He was now 17. A letter which he wrote his cousin Catherine Risk in April 1867 (given verbatim) describes his early years in South Australia.
I now embrace the opportunity of writting to you to let you know that i am well and hopping this will find you & Robert & family the same, i hope i have given no offence by the way in which i have headed my letter; for Caty you know you were always a sister to me and i have always had a Brother's love for you; never shall i forget the time when I was ill with the fever when no-one was there even to wet my lips; you who attended all my littel wants as if i had been a child. But indeed i was littel more than a child at the time but now Dear Sister i have grown up to the state of manhood and now it is that i feel the want of your council and advice. Dear sister, since i came out to this Conlia [colony] i was for nine months confined to a sick bed, a sick bed which i thought i should never rise from any more in this world but i prayed often to God that the cup of agony might pass away, but God was pleased to let the cup pass from me without me having to drink of its bitterness. Dear Sister, when the doctors pronounced their hopes of my recovery my heart overflowed with joy at thoughts of at some future day of seeing those that i Love and are dear to me. Dear Sister, no-one knows what the disentry is but those that has suffered with its pains and had to bear with its agoneys; when i was able to sit up in bed i happened one day to look in the Looking Glass; i almost got afraid of my own Shadow, my face was pail and my cheek bones were projecting through the scin; i looked a perfect fright, even the young lady that used to attend me when i was getting better used to say that she often heard of a ghost but had never seen one but me; many a time i laughed at her sayings since i got better. She was a Miss Obrine and is now a Mrs. Rayn [probably Ryan].
Dear Sister, i am at present in a government situation on the Survey Department; the wages is small they are ninety five pounds per annum [$195] and have to find myself; it costs me nothing for lodgings because we live in tents out in the bush; at present our camp is over two hundred miles from the city of Adelaide & i intend to get my likeness taken as soon as i can get to the city and i should like very much to get a card of visite of yours & Robert's & also Margaret & Anne; i have written to Craigielee twist and have got Know answer yet so i intend to write no more; and yet i should like to see that place where memry brings back to my recollection where i spent the happy days of boyhood but alas those days are gone and will never return, they are gone, gone like those that have gone to sleep until the world that is to come.
Dear Sister, i have to ask you to ask Robert if he will be kind enough to call upon a Mr. John Ward who is a Taillor & Clother and tell him that his Brother-in-law, Mr. Michael 0'Reilly, Surveyor, sends his compliments and best wishes to him and Famley; i believe his establishment is in the high street or about the Croos somewhere; by doing so he will oblige Mr. 0'Reilly and me. I hope dear sister you will write by the following [mail] after the receiving of this i must conclude with Kind Love to all Uncals and Anuts and cousions and hope to be allowed to remain your affect. Brother
P.S. Dear Sister perhaps you will wounder how that i sine my name Robert Rowland but if ever it pleased God to spare us to meet again you shall know what it is for and why it is that i have taken it; it was a request of my father before he died. Dear Sister, when you write be sure to let me know about Mr. Ward; be sure to write soon as i shall be expecting, yours R.R.S.
Direct to care of Mr. Henry Davies, Cooper, Walkerville via Adelaide, Australia.
The photograph which RRS desired to have taken was duly executed that same year (1867) when he was aged 20. It shows him in Highland costume. He was bearded and of strong build. However the kilt appears to have been made for a larger man so undoubtedly had belonged to his father. Some copies are still extant and one has been engraved on brass with his name and dates of birth and death beneath. This costume was subsequently lost in a house fire at Linton, Victoria. The tartan is the Royal Stuart. He was also entitled to use the Robertson. According to the father of RRS their family was given permission to use the Stuart tartan in perpetuity by Bonnie Prince Charlie as reward for saving his life during the 1745 troubles. Blind Willie Stevenson, a famous fiddler played "The Campbells are Coming" outside the inn where the Prince was staying enabling him to escape his enemies. Sir Walter Scott mentioned this in his book "Red Gauntlet".
According to the reminiscences written in pencil by RRS, in 1868 he was told to hold himself in readiness to be one of the party of the Surveyor General, George Woodroofe Goyder, for a journey of exploration to the Northern Territory which at that time was largely unknown. RRS must have informed the Paisley relatives of this proposed trip. His position was at the beginning "Axeman" but he was promoted in the field during the course of the exploration. One of his aunts had an exaggerated idea of the importance of the position RRS held. This letter was written from Scotland to his mother in America. He had still not been put in touch with her as this particular aunt refused to give their addresses to either of them. She apparently enjoyed her position of go between too much to oblige. The letter is also one of condolence at the death of John Burns.
64 Canal Street,
25th. Nov. 1868
My Dear Sister,
I again embrace this opportunity of writing you to let you know that we are all well, hoping this will find you all enjoying the same. I have now received 3 papers from you which I beg to thank you very heartily. And would still wish you to send me on more because I enjoy reading them very much.
We were very sorry to hear of your husband's death, also of brother William's which we are informed took place some time ago. But if it was God's Will, we cannot murmur and may they have both been able to say ere they closed their eyes to this world and took the long, long sleep of death -- may they have been able to say with Job of old, the Lord taketh away, blessed be the name of the Lord. Any information you can give us regarding WILLIAM'S death will be thankfully received.
We have had several letters from ROBERT since we wrote you last. I may state that he is in the highest stages of a government situation. In fact, he cannot get any further without the aid of some very influential gentleman of that country to speak in his favour. In his last note he takes leave of us for 3 years, perhaps forever, as he leaves the place he is at present in to explore the "Northern Territories" of "New Zealand". They have to carry firearms with them as the people are very savage, and don't know when they may be attacked.
The last note we had from MALCOLM he was cruising about the Spanish coast. When we wrote him we gave him your address in "New York" and likely he will have written you by this time.
Trade in general in Paisley is very slack at present.
Paisley is at present the scene of great confusion on account of the Election, but it is all over now. We have sent you by this post a newspaper containing all the news of the Election.
Allow me to conclude with all our best compliments and as this is likely the last letter before New Year's we wish you all a Happy New Year and many happy returns,
No more but remain your affectionate sister
Mrs. James Clark
Hilarious as the above appears in retrospect it would not have been exactly comforting to the mother who had not seen her son for 14 years. Also there is more than a little doubt over her New York address being sent to RRS at this time as it was another 8 or 9 years before mother and son commenced to correspond.
The Goyder Expedition (1868-1870)
RRS kept a diary of this period which in later years he lent to a friend. It was never returned. His other pages which included a hand drawn and coloured map of Darwin were given to the Adelaide Archives by his youngest son Keith in 1920. The original acknowledgment of this is held by the writer. The following account gives the kind of detail which would have been recorded in the missing diary. Since this was originally written in 1967 a book has been published by Goyder's grand-daughter, Margaret Goyder Kerr, called "The Survivors" - "The story of the Founding of Darwin" - Rigby 1971. It of course includes the material I found in the Adelaide "Advertiser" and "Express & Telegraph as well as much more.
That RRS "held himself in readiness" indicates that he was ordered to be of the party and was not one of the 1400 applicants from the eastern states as well as from South Australia. The final number selected was 140 men. George Woodroffe Goyder was to lead this expedition to the far north, 2000 miles from Adelaide, choose the site for a town and survey half a million acres of tropical territory, which was expected to take about 2 years. Previous expeditions had failed so that the general opinion was that this one would also prove disastrous.
Goyder, known as "Little Energy" for his size and his industry, and his party left Port Adelaide on December 23, 1868 in the "Moonta", (Capt. Thomas Barneson). It was an old but seaworthy vessel. It was packed so tightly with men, livestock, 100 water tanks of 400 gallons each which had to last the whole journey and tons of equipment that there was no room on deck for exercise. RRS had to provide himself with knife, fork, spoon, towel and bedding (a mattress was provided) and the only luggage permitted was a sailor's canvas bag for clothes etc.
There had been a great send-off with hundreds of persons on shore cheering and waving but bad weather held them up for 3 days in the north arm of the Port River with only an outlook of swamp and mangroves. Contrary to a newspaper report of a "fine Christmas dinner on board" the fare that day was the usual sea rations of salt pork and hard tack without so much as a taste of plum pudding. By January 10 (1869) they had rounded Cape Leeuwin and were heading north. They were becalmed in oppressive heat for 5 days and to lessen the tedium of tiny cabins without ventilation, poor food and overcrowding a newspaper was published with W. Fisher as editor. It was called "The Moonta and Northern Territory Gazette". Church services conducted by Dr. Peel (the surgeon with the expedition) a choir was formed (there was a harmonium on board) and concerts and amateur theatricals were performed. RRS does not appear to have had any musical ability so it is presumed he formed one of the appreciative audience.In spite of such poor conditions on the "Moonta" not one real disagreement occurred. Every Saturday Mr. Fisher held an auction on the forecastle and a great variety of goods changed hands at inflated prices.
They were becalmed again in sight of Timor, 90 miles distant, but Fort Darwin was reached in a record 40 days. Within half an hour Mr. Goyder was on shore looking for a suitable camp site which he chose on a high bluff known as Point Fort. A well was sunk in excessive heat, a thunderstorm arrived punctually every afternoon as it was the wet season and prickly heat commenced to plague everyone. Once the bluff was left sand flies and mosquitoes swarmed so nets were made "square rigged" of cheese cloth taken along for that purpose.
Although RRS is shown as "axeman" in the M.G. Kerr book, the official record of Mr. Goyder lists him as starting out as a "trencher", then "axeman", followed by "chainman" and finally as "Head man in the Field". He was one of the No. 6 party under the leadership of George MacLachlan and second class Officer Daniel Daly, a nephew of the recently deceased Governor Sir Dominic Daly of South Australia. Daniel had been sent out to be aide-de-camp to his uncle which position had ceased when the uncle died in office. He kept a diary and in lieu of RRS's own, some extracts are included. No 6 party was composed of the above leaders plus Cadets Thos. B, and C. Wells. Headsmen were E. Ryan - G.A. Armstong - J. Gerrald - and M.Ryan. The chainmen were W. Fisher (the former auctioneer) and J. London. Trenchers: RRS, P. Healy, D.Heir and H.H.Irwin with T.Stevens as their cook. I noted in another party two of the men who were to accompany RRS to the north in 1872, namely Will Collett and Richard Robinson. This group surveyed the East Arm although in view of his gradual move up the ladder he may have been attached to other groups as time progressed.
Within 3 weeks a road to the well had been constructed, the livestock landed (horses, cattle, goats and hens), a store built for perishable goods, a jetty erected, a substantial one, Point Fort cleared of dense scrub and a trig station set up there and several other roads made. Trees, flowers, animals and insect life were listed and the painting and photographing of these was begun enthusiastically by the officials of these arts. But the men worked immensely hard. The scrub barriers had to be hacked through for the surveys and the spear grass was so tall that small men moving through it were quite invisible. Then the natives began to filter around the camp sites and brought bark for roofing in return for food. Fresh food was a problem as game was not readily available and fish were scarce. Lime juice had been overlooked when provisions were ordered and gradually ailments showed up amongst the men. Boils, headaches, sore eyes, swollen legs, swollen gums, loose teeth and the ever present bites of insects.During this early part of the survey the party with RRS had been timber cutting at the East Arm and camping on the beach and so escaped mosquitoes and flies, those inland all suffered from the exhausting humidity and heat.
The "Moonta" left on March 4, and Daly took his party to survey a new township called Virginia still on the East Arm but 20 miles away. Mr. Goyder was tireless and drove the men hard and they would return to the camp at night too exhausted even to eat. The "Gulnare" from S.A. arrived on Easter Sunday with very welcome fresh supplies and clothing which included cabbage tree hats to replace the sweat blackened felts. RRS was still away at the Virginia camp as Daly reported their whereabouts at this time in a letter which survives at the Archives (Adelaide). There was a good deal of sickness amongst the men, the doctor was inefficient so Daly was dosing them himself from the medicine chest in his charge. The natives were peaceable but they all slept with loaded revolvers at their sides.
J.Bennett who had been learning the native language had been rather too friendly with the aborigines in the opinion of Mr. Goyder. He warned this man to be less trustful, in case of treachery, but he was speared by them and died on May 25.Daniel Daly wrote, "We have our perils here. The natives that appeared so quiet at first have turned most treacherous and savage. A great friend of mine, Mr. J.W.O. Bennett was murdered by the blacks about 5 miles from where I am camped with my party. Another man ran to his rescue and received a spear wound in his back which has crippled him for life. After that they came to my camp, but I turned out at the head of my men and gave chase to them, firing our revolvers so close that we frightened them away." As RRS told his children of this incident he was still with the Daly party. Daly continued "They followed us several times after that and used to hide in wait in the long grass and suddenly jump up with their long spears (14 feet long) poised in their hands, ready to kill us, but we were always too sharp for them and had our revolvers always ready, so that we used to blaze away at them before they could throw their spears."They had been camped for a month at a waterhole (in July) and had daily swum and bathed there until the day a large crocodile appeared and took Daly's dog as it drank. Daly jumped from his horse and ran into the water firing his revolver but was unable to save his dog.
On August 23 the "Gulnare" returned for the second time with supplies and brought monkeys for food but the men promptly made pets of them. The survey had been completed in six months instead of the expected two years. At the main camp a theatre had been built and when available the irrepressible Daly took to the boards. He wrote that they had been indulging in splendid ragouts of snakes, guanas, lizards and hawks, all very good eating for those who had been without fresh meat for so long. He didn't care for alligator - "too oily".
Mr. Goyder left for Adelaide by the "Gulnare" on September 28. Ten officers accompanied him in the Cabin (First Class) and 24 were in the main hold. They reached Port Adelaide on October 17. RRS was still at Darwin. Incidentally it was to have been called Palmerston, changed to Port Darwin, then Darwin. Daly wrote at this time ..." I have just returned to our main camp after a month's dreadful hard work, but for which we have been complimented by the Surveyor-General. He leaves in the schooner in a day or two with about forty of the party to return to Adelaide, but I, and a few more officers and about 100 men are left here till a steamer is sent round for us which we expect to take us away the first week in December ..... My only duties during the next two months are to keep watch over the camp. I am the officer of the guards to defend the camp against the natives....."
RRS stayed on for several more months. His superior George MacLachlan remained as senior surveyor and a number of men set up concerns and formed the nucleus of what was to eventually become the city of Darwin. Dr. Peel was to be in charge until the appointed Government Resident arrived, but he was so unpopular there was near mutiny. Fortunately Dr. J. Stokes Millner came to relieve him. With the work completed, the commencement of the overland telegraph between Darwin and Adelaide was soon in hand.
Under water cable was already at Java from Europe and was extended to Darwin. By August 1872 Australia was linked directly with England.What occupied RRS until he reached Adelaide late in May 1870 is not recorded. His pencilled notes tell of severe ague (malaria) and that Dr. Millner recommended his return south to recoup his health. On June 21 his cousin James Clark wrote from Paisley to New York that they could not expect to hear from Robert for at least another year. Robert had already despatched a letter to James Clark senior. It is not exactly chatty and gives not one of the many adventures he had in the North.
18th. June 1870.
I now embrace the opportunity of writing to you. Since my return to Adelaide again. You will remember that when I wrote to you last I said that I was about to leave Adelaide for two years. Well, I returned to Adelaide about three weeks ago and am well, hopping this will find you all enjoying the same Blissing. I will not say anything about the hardships that I had to go through since I wrote to you last. It is true that I was pretty well paid. I had 12 pounds per month.
Adelaide is in a very dull state at present. There is some hundreds of men out of employment and it has got no appearance of getting much better for some time to come.
The party that went on the survey that I was with surveyed 800,000 acers of land in the years that we were away. We had to go 1800 miles inland before we could begin our work. Give my love to sister Kate and the young Risks and likewise to all Uncals, Aunts and Cousions,
And allow me to remain your affec. nephew,
Address to R.R. Stevenson,
C/- H. Davis - Cooper,
Surveyor General Goyder gave RRS a letter of recommendation. I have the original.
Surveyor General's Office,
Adelaide 12th. October 1870.
This is to certify that Mr. R.R. Stevenson served as Headman in the Field in one of my parties in the Northern Territory, and remained there until the party was disbanded. He was also employed in ordinary survey work near Adelaide for two (2) years during the whole of which time he conducted himself with much propriety and to my entire satisfaction. I can recommend him with confidence to any person requiring his services.
RRS was with the Survey Department about three and a half years. He resigned on his return from Darwin as his health was by no means as robust as he made out to James Clark, senior. A letter of early 1872 from Paisley to New York referred to RRS having gone to Sydney "for his health", the news having been received from a Mrs. Morrison of Paisley. This then must have been when RRS first contacted his father's sister, Christina Morrison, in Victoria, and she in turn wrote home to her sister-in-law.A letter of November 1871 from James Clark, junior, to Margaret Burns, New York, was in his usual exaggerated style. The cottage occupied by RRS was a rented one. At no time did he build a house for himself. Like his mother Jane Clark, nee Robertson, James could not help dramatising nor were his letters guaranteed to comfort.
64 Canal Street,
26th. November 1871.
My Dear, Dear Aunt,
Your very welcome letter came duly to hand and with pleasure we see from it you are all well and we are enjoying the same Blessing. You express a wish that you would like to come home if you thought your boys could get work. There are two carpet factories in Paisley and I think there is some possibility of them obtaining work in some of them, and as you say, if they did not like Scotland you could easily go back to America. You have no idea of the great pleasure it would give all your dear friends to see you once again among us and I am sure it would also be a pleasure to you to once again see the land where you were born. It is not like the town it was when you left it. Now we have "Public Parks" and we have too a Public Library and Museum. All these things are added to the town of Paisley.
You ask if we have had any word from Robert. Yes, the last letter we had from him he was staying in a neat little cottage in "Australla" which he got built for himself but I am sorry to say he is still an old bachelor [Note: RRS was 24] and has the appearance of still remaining one. He was not quite so well when he wrote us last but we hope by the next letter we get from him he will be alright and able to resume his daily work.
As for Malcolm, while in the Bay of Biscay on the 15th. of December 1870 while in the noble discharge of his duties he was carried overboard by a wave there to sleep till the sea gives up its dead. No time to prepare had he. No kindly hand to soothe his last moments, but there amidst the roar of the waters and while buffeted with the waves he crossed that borne whence no traveller returns.
You also ask to know how your sister Janet [Gray] is. She also on the 22nd, of November 1870 died, but how different was it from Malcolm's. She had kindly hands about her, she had a loving son's ,earnest prayers. loving daughters' tenderest nursing and an affectionate sister's careful watching and all these seemed to comfort her as she went forth to meet her God, but why sorrow we as those who have no hope, let us trust that she rests from her labours and her works do follow her. Her son Alex wrote you and told you of the death at the time we are sorry if the letter did not reach you......"
The remainder of the letter will be given in the Robertson record as it deals with other members of that family.
In his unfinished memoir RRS wrote that while in the north on the survey he had seen deposits of gold, silver lead, copper, tin ore and other minerals and he was determined to go back. He consulted Mr. Goyder and received much good advice and practical aid concerning mining laws. This was 10 months after he had left the Government's employ.