Wee John McRobbie - Timaru's centenarian

Timaru Cemetery - no headstone
John McRobbie,
Age at Death 108 Years
Date of Interment Thursday, 17 June 1926
Section Free Ground Block C Plot 69

Looking down Richmond St, which runs parallel to Norwood St. Ashbury Park in the background.
Creek Street is now Norwood Street. John McRobbie would have had an outlook overlooking Ashbury Park.

Northern Advocate, 14 September 1923, Page 3

A Timaru "Herald" reporter had a long conversation recently with a resident of Timaru, Mr John McRobbie, of 2, Creek Street, Waimataitai, a hale and hearty son of Scotia, who claims the Granite City, Aberdeen, as the place of his nativity. Mr McRobbie remembers Timaru when it was very small fry in the geograph of New Zealand, somewhere about 1845 [sic], and since then there are few affairs of public interest he does not know about, up till a quarter of a century ago. He then took a "short jaunt" to Christchurch, and only returned about two or three years ago to the place of his former abode. In the days of his youth, Mr McRobbie explained, there was no such thing as baptism, and so forth, and there was no official record as to when he took up his residence on this planet. The first cate he could be sure of was 1840, where he left his "hame toon" of Aberdeen and migrated with his wife and family of three children to a place near Edinburgh where he went into employment in a paper mill. Afterwards he was working in the North British railway sheds, and he still vividly remembers a fearful train smash just beyond Portobello when carriages took fire. There was no water to extinguish the flames, and young McRobbie was one of a rescue party which had the painful experience of dragging bodies from a terrible inferno. Mr McRobbie some time afterwards migrated to New Zealand and landed at Dunedin, but he does not remember the name of the ship he came in. Subsequently he moved north, and worked at pretty well everything. In Timaru he worked on the landing service; he carried wheat for Mr Evans; he helped to make bricks for Mr Shiers [sic: Shears]: and he travelled the whole district with a pony and trap as far north as Rangitata Island, visiting farms and buying eggs, butter, iron and bottles for many a day, and retailing them in town to a wide circle of customers. The iron he sent, to Dunedin. He remembers the arrival in the district of the Luxmoores [1864]. He also, in his varied career, carried on business at Woodbury as a baker.

Mr McRobbie left Home without his wife and family, and has never seen them since. His wife evidently feared the long and trying journey to New Zealand of the old days, and she died about thirty years ago. But Mr McRobbie still hears from his "boy." A letter he received from this "lad" quite recently stated: "I hope you are keeping well. You know you can not expect too much now, father, as you are over 100 years old. I hope you will make the best of your years as you can't live much longer." Mr McRobbie's "boy" is now just four score years of age. As far back as 1898 Mr McRobbie was granted the old-age pension. It was then that very far-reaching inquiries were made as to his age. Communications were sent to his native Aberdeen, but few people remained who remembered the young McRobbie who left the Granite City in far-off 1840. Local inquiries were made from a Mr Somerville; who for many years had a wood business in this district and carted timber from Woodbury to sell in Timaru. He and several others could fix dates in the long limbo of the past when McRobbie was "just as he seemed now." "And my pension was renewed yesterday,'' said the centenarian with a pleased smile, "by Mr Mosley. He asked me if I didn't think I'd had the pension long enough now, but I said I thought I should get double," was the ready reply of the canny Aberdonian.

Mr McRobbie has a most remarkable control of his faculties. He lives alone, cooks his meals, has a house of three rooms and a quarter acre section, all of which he keeps wonderfully well. When his interviewer arrived Mr McRobbie had just completed making apple jelly. The apples were his own growing, and he gave his visitor a, taste of his jelly, which can be vouched for as exceedingly appetising, and would have done credit to any housewife. His garden is sown down with peas and vegetables, the fruit trees are pruned and sprayed for the year, the fowlhouse has nine White Leghorns in residence, and is cleaned out every morning, which only requires a look inside for verification. And Mr McRobbie still take's a day's work when he has his own place in order. His mental capacity, for a man of over 100 years, is phenomenal. He was never in a school. He has very pronounced views on harbour affairs. Mr McRobbie, amongst his many other jobs, helped to lay the first stones of the breakwater, and he can propound arguments against certain advocated improvements. He still does his own business, and the letter he recently received from his boy, gave him a power of attorney in a local business deal. He can talk mortgages, rates of interest, investments and so on with a surprising grasp of the subject. He, too, keeps abreast of the times and on seeing a copy of the "Herald" on Mr McRobbie's table the reporter asked if he got the paper every morning. "Oh, yes," was the reply, "I aye get the paper." He said he read the cable news, but followed the local events more closely. With all his years, Mr McRobbie still works for a living. He has a very high conception of integrity and in his lifetime has enacted to the letter the old adage of never letting his right hand know what his left was doing. He has bought property in New Zealand, and some of it in the name of members of his family, in some of which, deals he has been heavily hit. Recently a house he bought in the name of his son was burnt down, and Mr McRobbie acts as attorney for his son, in the matter. And in the eventide of his long, long day Mr McRobbie, though without the ties of friendship or the care and attention of kith and kin, plods along the road of life with a dauntless heart and the dour determination of his race. Small of stature, yet even now nuggety and tough-looking, his ruddy countenance has the glow of about three score summers, belying the hurrying flight of Time.

God bless ye a' at hame

Timaru Herald, 25 July 1877, Page 4
In the matter of the Debtors and Creditors Act, 1876, and of the Bankruptcy of John McRobbie, of Waihi Bush, in the County of Geraldine, Baker, a Debtor. PURSUANT to a request of the above named Debtor, I hereby summon a GENERAL MEETING of his Creditors, to be held at the Resident Magistrate's Court-house, Geraldine, on SATURDAY, the 28th day of JULY instant, at 3.30 p.m., for the purpose of granting an Order of Discharge to the Debtor. Dated this 24th day of July, 1877. FREDERICK FLATMAN, Trustee.

Timaru Herald 20 May 1889.Timaru Herald 20 May 1889 NZ Truth , Issue 1063, 8 April 1926, Page 17 NZ Truth, 8 April 1926, Page 17
J. McRobbie of Luxmoore Road, off Evan Street, Waimataitai, Timaru. I was twice married and am a father of three children. My wives are deceased. I came from Glasgow, Scotland 55 years ago and settled in the Canterbury province.

Otago Witness 20 August 1896, Page 41 STATION BALLADS.
(Affectionately dedicated to Crockery Bob.)

There is an institution that is called a hawker's van,
That might have been a fairish cart the time when carts begin,
But although its ancient body wears a coat or shiny white,
It has got a list to starboard that would give a cove a fright:
And its understanding's shaky, and its wheels are all askew,
And its face is like its owner's, which is bashed and battered too ;
But, my blooming straight colonial! there are two things in that cart
That its owner carries also, and them things- Is grit and heart.
If been moving round the country for a pretty fairish time
Since it carried plates and dishes in its flush of youthful prime ;
It's had lots of neat capsizes and a heap of nasty jars.
Like its' owner it can battle, and it's often in the wars.
It's been sailing on the river, it's been rolling down the hills,
It has twice the lives of pussy, and can laugh at minor ills:
But beneath its shiny cover there is hidden in that cart
What its owner always carries— a good stout, colonial heart.
There is coves about the country that can second what I say,—
It's been known to help a swagger on his pretty hungry way ;
It's been known to clothe the carcase of a joker stony-broke,
It has even saved the weary sole of some bare footed bloke.
A good Samaritan upon the roads that smashed and battered van,
I don't care where the second is, its driver is a man ;
And though its old and shabby, and a played-out hawker's cart,
To its honour it's recorded that the fakement has a heart.
There'll be, jokers heavy-hearted when it takes its well-earned rest
(Though its owner won't be sorry I should say to give it best),
But around about the stations blokes will miss its cheery roll
As it lurches round the corner with its spliced and twisted pole.
Still this ain't the time for crying, for it's- not laid up as yet,
If it will be twenty years from now I wouldn't like to bet ;
But hero's its monument in ink, and till it does depart.
Good luck be with the owner of that ancient hawker's cart!
Puketoi, August 3. —David M'Kee Wright.

Colonist, 25 September 1897, Page 4
The Timaru Herald states A hawker of fish called at a house on his usual round, with a basket of smoked cod (a rather large fish), when the housewife in reply to the usual query said that she was tired of that sort of fish when would he have anything new in.
"Oh," said the hawker, "we expect whitebait in to-morrow what quantity will you take?"
"I think two will be enough," replied the intending customer.
The hawker, true to his business, said nothing but next day took along the two whitebait, and the housewife was astonished at their "size."

Michael Mulhern, a labourer from Glasgow, Scotland. Arrived in Lyttelton with his family on the "Wapia" in 1883 at age 35. 

Auckland Star, 24 May 1894, Page 8 ACTION FOR FALSE ARREST. £100 DAMAGES
Timaru, Wednesday. The District Court was occupied most of the day over a curious case. Two men driving along a country road left the vehicle on the roadside for a few minutes. On starting again they missed the whip, which they left on the scab. A hawker's van had passed in the meantime, and they suspected that the hawker took the whip. The evidence went to show that they overtook him and demanded it, when he said he knew nothing of it. One of the men, Mulhern, a publican at Temuka, and an ex-policeman, pretended to be a police officer. He took the hawker into custody on a charge of stealing the whip and took him to the police station four miles off to give him in charge. The constable on the station searched the van, and finding no whip let the hawker go. The whip was found on the road the men had traversed. Both men denied the plaintiff's story, but this was corroborated at several points, and the jury gave him £100 damages for false arrest.

 Timaru Herald, 24 May 1894, Page 3 DISTRICT COURT.
Timaru — Wednesday, May 23rd. (Before His Honour Judge Ward)
CIVIL CASE. Mark Williams v. Michael Mulhern, claim £200 damages for false arrest. Mr Raymond for plaintiff, Mr White for defendant. The following jury was called — Messrs T Jowsey (foreman), J Quirk, H Geaney, C J Butt. (Remaining jurors were dismissed till 10 o'clock on Friday morning,) Mr Raymond stated the plaintiff's case. Plaintiff, a hawker carrying on business in Timaru and surrounding districts for seven years past, on the 14 April last was travelling with his van on the road between Cave and Pleasant Point towards Timaru. Soon after leaving the Cave be passed an express containing soda water bottles. Defendant was in the vehicle and a man named Binley was in a paddock shooting. The two men with the express overtook and passed him further on. Presently they stopped, and as he passed them defendant asked if had seen a whip on the road. Plaintiff said he had not, and went on as far as Mrs Vickers' gate. He pulled up there to go in, and defendant overtook him again, and accused plaintiff of stealing the whip. Plaintiff denied having the whip, and defendant ordered him to turn the van out. Plaintiff said be would do nothing of the sort, but defendant might do so if be liked, if he put everything back as he found it. Plaintiff asked defendant for his authority for going on as he was doing, and defendant said he would soon do that, and be pulled out some papers, looked among them, and said "I have not my badge with me "—pretending to be a police officer. During the altercation plaintiff was assaulted, being struck several times. Plaintiff asked defendant his name and he gave a false one. Believing that he was a police officer, plaintiff consented to go with him. Mrs Vickers heard defendant make pretence that he was a police man, and heard him say "I am very sorry, but I will have to my duty. I will have to do take you in charge,-" or something to that effect. Plaintiff was driven to Pleasant Point in defendant's express and taken to Constable Stanley, to whom defendant repeated the charge that plaintiff stole the whip. Stanley asked what the evidence was and the only thing he could say was that plaintiff had driven along the same road. The constable said he could not arrest the man on that. Some very violent language was indulged in then by defendant, who instated that plaintiff did steal the whip. Plaintiff consented to go with Stanley to have the van searched they went, and no whip was found. Stanley said he would have nothing further to do with the man and let him go. If the matter ended there the plaintiff would be entitled to substantial compensation, because character is of great importance to a man in plaintiff's line of business, as a man riving continually through the country has many opportunities of picking up things on the road, and a dealer's customer's must be able to trust him. A demand was immediately made on defendant for compensation and a public apology, and the only answer received was a refusal of either one or the other. Plaintiff gave evidence in support of the counsel's statement, adding many details. He was turning into Mrs Vickers' gate when defendant came to him and seized the rein on one side witness seized the other rein, and then defendant, came round and struck him three or four times... Grace pickup the whip afterwards, where it was impossible for plaintiff to have put it. On the other side the defendant stated the plaintiff went with them perfectly voluntarily. His Honour He would say it was not a case for slight damages. If a man represents himself as a police constable, takes another man four miles to a police office, it was a serious offence, a very serious thing for the man so taken, and one for which be would be entitled to recover fair damages. The jury retired at 3:40 p.m. and returned in about five minutes with a verdict for plaintiff damages £100.

Star 4 August 1894, Page 7 August 3. (Before Mr C. A. Wray, S.M.)
Abusive Language — Michael Mulhern, a publican at Temuka, was summoned by Constable Stanley, of Pleasant Point, for using insulting language and behaviour towards him at Washdyke. Defendant was fined 40s and costs.

Timaru Herald, 14 February 1894, Page 3 Before C A. Wray, Esq., R.M
Michael Mulhern, licensee of the Royal Hotel, was charged with having committed a breach of the Licensing Act m permitting a game of bagatelle to be played after the hour of 11 o'clock on the night of February 3rd. His Worship expressed regret that Mr Mulhern, who appeared to conduct his house in an orderly manner, had not had a clear understanding of the Act, of which there had clearly been an infraction. He would take the facts into consideration and inflict a fine of only 20s and costs.

Timaru Herald, 9 November 1894, Page 1
NOTICE OF APPLICATION FOR TRANSFER OF LICENSE. I PETER COIRA, of Temuka, formerly an Hotelkeeper, but now out of business, being the owner of the land and premises at Temuka on which the Royal Hotel stood, and which Hotel is how being rebuilt by me, and from which said premises Michael Mulhern, of Temuka; Publican, has been legally ejected by me, and I Edward Henry Brewer, of Temuka, Saddler, the proposed new tenant of the said Hotel and premises do hereby give notice that we desire to obtain and will at the next Licensing Meeting to be holden at Temuka on the THIRD day of December, 1894, apply for a transfer of the License which the said Michael Mulhern held in respect of the said Hotel and premise's to the said Edward Henry Brewer. Dated the Eight Day of November, 1894. PETER COIRA. EDWARD HENRY BREWER

Timaru Herald, 14 September 1895, Page 3
A public meeting was held m the Town Board Office, Temuka, on Wednesday evening for the purpose of presenting Constable Egan with the Royal Humane Society's Certificate and Bronze Medal, awarded for bravery in rescuing Mr Mulhern from the fire at the Royal Hotel. The certificate is beautifully engraved, and recites a resolution of the Royal Humane Society of Australasia, "That the courage and humanity displayed by Eugene Egan, of Temuka, New Zealand, aged 40 years, in rescuing Michael Mulhern, a hotel keeper, aged 45, from his burning hotel on the 6th August, 1894, call for the admiration of this Court and justly entitle him to the bronze medal of the society, which is hereby awarded." Both certificate and medal are enclosed in handsome leather cases. Mr James Blyth, and Mr Henry, captain of the Fire Brigade, spoke warmly of the way Constable Egan had distinguished himself, and congratulated him on gaining such a distinction.

Press, 21 July 1910, Page 8
Nurse Haig; (Mr Barklie) claimed £14 8s from Michael Mulhern and Sarah Mulhern, for nursing fees. Judgment was given by default, with costs £1 16s 6d.

Press, 17 June 1926, Page 14
The death took place at the Timaru Public Hospital on Tuesday, after a illness, of Mr John McRobbie, of Timaru a reputed to have been a centenarian, his age being stated as 109 years. In his early days, Mr McRobbie worked at various callings in, his native land, spending a considerable time in Glasgow, and then came to New Zealand, first settling in South Canterbury, where he found employment with various local bodies, in connexion with road formation. Afterwards he set up in business on his own account and, for a time, resided in Christchurch, but later returned to Timaru, where he spent the remainder of his days. Up to a couple of weeks ago, he was in his usual health, active and keenly interested in things in general. The funeral will take place at the Timaru cemetery this afternoon.

South Canterbury NZGenWeb Project

Grandparents provide a link with the past. They know about life before television. Grandparents also provide a link to the history of uncles and aunts and the wider family and have created many of the traditions and celebrations that make your family unique and special. Every child should have some. wrote I. Munro in 2012