We’d like to invite you on a trip through Paisley’s past, courtesy of Ancestry.co.uk where we have local family history right at our fingertips. To see how this works, let’s follow long passed buddie James Robertson back in time with the help of UK Census… which is still taken every ten years… from between 1841 and 1901, and some internet research…
Nine year old James, son of widowed Cotton Spinner Mary Robertson is at home in Seedhill with his mother and sister Margaret when the Census man comes round. James is the man of the house, soon he’ll have to earn his keep at the mill.
Fast forward to 1851 and Mary has married again, to mill weaver William Grice. By the age of 19 James is now working as an apprentice for a local grocer and the family has moved over the canal to George Street. Margaret also works at the mill with her mum and stepfather, they have a baby half-sister but James has ambitions in retail ….
By 1861 James, his new wife Marion and their children Marion Jr, John and James Jr, live in Orr Street. They have now opened their own thriving grocer shop at 86 Causeyside Street with a good turnover but are persuaded by a salesman to buy a barrel of bitter oranges. When sales of the oranges are slow, James’ wife Marion has the idea that they could be used to make a batch of marmalade ….
In 1864 Robertson’s is founded by James Robertson. Marmalade is originally produced at the back of the shop but, to cope with demand, he soon sets up a small factory at nearby Thrushcraigs
Its now 1871 and Robertson’s factory has outgrown Thrushcraigs and moved to Stevenson Street, mere walking distance from their original shop. Marion and James have had 5 more children and moved to a townhouse in Causeyside Street, large enough for Paisley’s newest entrepreneurs and their ever expanding family.
By 1881 the now affluent Robertsons have commissioned their own mansion house, Marionfield at Hunterhill for their family of 10 children and their nanny, 23 year old Mary Glen, from Ireland.
In 1886 their marmalade is registered as Golden Shred, sons John and James are employed by their father at the factory but by 1891, the year they travel to Droylesdon, Manchester to oversee the building of a larger factory, 20 year old David is training to be a doctor.
Sadly, at the age of 63 matriarch and true inventor of Robertson’s Marmalade, Marion passes away. At the last census in 1901 (at the moment, 1911 census due online by end 2012), widowed James is at home with his youngest children Alexander and Mary, but also granddaughter Minnie, whose mother Marion Robertson Campbell was disinherited after James didn’t approve of her husband.
At the grand old age of 83, in 1914, James’s journey ends peacefully at home in his beloved Marionfield, a legacy is carried on by his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren from Paisley, Manchester and beyond.
The Robertson’s story in 1930s takes another bittersweet twist when their MD at the time, Charles Robertson, James’ great grandson meets his future wife Barbara Fry on the train to Manchester for his work, and she tells him that her great, great grandfather founded a chocolate factory ……