George Robinson, Vancouver Island Pioneer

The Final Years

If we seem nebulous about how long the stay in Olympia was, we are equally hazy on the length of the stay in Hastings. All we are sure of is that the two together occupied about four years. Our next certain date is January 3rd, 1875, when George Robinson wrote to Victor Ernest from Dudley, where he was now Manager of Blowers Green Colliery. The letter says:

"My Dear Son -

"Having a few leisure moments I avail myself of them to write you a few lines - not that I have anything of great importance to write about, but knowing that you will be glad to hear of our welfare - I am glad to say that we are all well in health, tho' both George and Fanny have each had slight attacks of illness, within the past few weeks, confining them to the house for a few days. The weather here for the past three weeks has been very severe and it is said that there has been more snow already this winter, than there has been in one winter for many years before.

You will be glad to hear that I have succeeded in obtaining employment as an above ground Manager of a Colliery in the neighbourhood of Dudley. It is in fact the adjoining colliery to the one that your Uncle John has been employed at so many years - I have now been thus employed for more than 3 months, and as far as I know to the contrary, I am likely to remain - tho' I am sorry to say that there appears to be some little dissention amongst the partners, and I cannot, of course, say what effect this will have on the permanency of my employment, tho' one of them told me within the past few days, that he was satisfied with my efforts. This of course places me in a better position pecunariarly, than we have been since my being in England, and if I have the good luck to keep my present situation I shall hope to be able to realize a sufficient sum in a few months, to carry me back to Uncle Sam's `Illahe' - for I am sure that I shall never like this country - unless I was in an independent position which is not very likely to be in this country. Tis true that I am doing what - in this country is termed `doing well' but with what I am doing - it would take from 20 to 30 years to realize an independence for a few years afterwards - I was however very fortunate - for in this, my first engagement - I succeeded in getting a greater salary than your Uncle John is getting altho he has had his situation for nearly 40 years - besides which - I have the promise of an advance, if I continue to give satisfaction - If I get the advance promised - I shall then get very nearly as much again as your Uncle - so I feel that I must not complain tho' I feel that however well I may do here, that I shall not be able to do half as well as I was doing at Olympia, nor nearly so well as I was once doing in Victoria - of course I do not know what my success may be again, if I return to the West. However I shall not think of returning at present, but shall try to save a few pounds here, if I can, so that I may then have the means of carrying me elsewhere, in case of necessity. We are still residing in Linchbourne St. Dudley - but in writing you had better address your letters to me at Holly Hall - as the Colliery letters come thro' the Holly Hall post office, and any letter or paper addressed to me at Holly Hall, would be sent to me at the Colliery, as long as I continue there, and if I should leave there - they would then be left at Bryants.

Of course you heard of George Bryant's death - the other part of their family are all well - George's eldest girl (about 4 or 5 years old) is being kept by Esther Ann and her father - George's widow has been confined since his death, and has another daughter - being the only two left behind him - Your Aunt Grainger is as well as usual - Your Aunt Thomas (Mark Bate's mother) has been very ill for a long time past - she has had another stroke, which has considerably impaired her, both physically and mentally - Your Uncle John I am sorry to say - has had a slight stroke, which for a time deprived him of the use of one side of his body - but he has - I am happy to say, so far recovered as to be able to resume his duties at the Colliery for 2 or 3 month's past. Joseph Duce (your Aunt Robinson's eldest son) is still terribly afflicted with fits - he is very clever at his trade (shoemaker) and has one of the best connections of the kind, in the Town, it is a pity he is so afflicted with the fits, as he is a very steady and worthy young man. Fred and Willie Duce are each married. - I wrote to Mark Bate last May, but he has not yet deigned to reply - but he will do so, before I write him again - he is an ungrateful wretch - I despise him - I have recently heard from Esther Ann Bryant of Amanda having presented her husband with a son - I have not however heard from her - I wrote her a few weeks ago - but before I heard of her confinement - I hope she is doing well - I wrote your Aunt Maria some months ago and returned her some title deeds that she had sent me for signature but I have not heard from her since in acknowledgement - give my regards to her and say that I am anxious to hear that she got the deeds all safe - I saw Noah Shakespeare's12 father a few days ago - he was then, all right - you will be surprised to hear that upon reading a Dudley paper a few weeks ago - I read an advertisement of `Doctor Frederick Dally!!!! Dental Surgeon etc. etc. etc. !!!!'13 - who it appears resides in Wolverhampton (about 6 miles from here) but who visits Dudley weekly - I made it my business to give him a call and so to convince myself of his identity - he was dressed up to the knocker - sported some 3 or 4 gold rings and other jewelry in profusion - he was regularly taken aback - seemed completely thunderstruck - but he became quite affable - seemed very glad to renew my acquaintance (at least he said so). I have seen him once since, and I have given him several of the Victoria papers - by the bye that reminds me that I must thank you for the papers you have sent me - I have received them pretty regularly until the last few weeks - I have not now recd. one for the last month - but perhaps it is the Pacific RR that is again blockaded with snow - I should also tell you that George has joined the Juvenile Rechabite's14 - he pays one penny per week and is entitled to a doctor and 2/6 per week in case of sickness, he seems quite proud of his position.

I think I have now told you all of any interest - give my kind regards to all my old friends that you meet with - of course not forgetting Mr. Shotbolt15. I was surprised to hear of his marriage - but doubt not but that she will make him a good wife. By the bye have you begun to think about a wife yet? - if you were here I would recommend a young lady to your notice - she is a teetotaler and has to work for her living - she is intelligent and industrious - but is probably a year or two older than yourself - I took her portrait some time ago - if I can find a spare one, I will send it to you - accept the affectionate regards of myself and the whole family and believe me to be your affectionate parent.

George Robinson"

On 9th November, 1875, Victor Ernest took George's advice and married, to Victoria resident Charlotte Aslett. Our next letter, from Caroline, comments on this news. George Robinson had meanwhile left the Colliery and taken a better-paying position as manager of the Steam Brick Works, Lillington Road, Leamington, Warwickshire. The letter is so headed and is dated August 27th (1876).

"Dear Ernest

"I must not allow your father's letter to be dispatched without writing a note along with my sincere congratulations on your marriage (although so long after the important event) but he had longed to receive a letter respecting it. I do hope you will be very happy with the one chosen; wishing you both health, happiness and prosperity. Mrs. Hall and myself have corresponded together ever since you kindly sent her address, so I used to hear a little news of Victoria from her, through her good sons, who seem to write often to their parents. I read in the papers you kindly sent of John Hall intending to visit England. I wrote a week or two ago to Mrs. H. to inform me of his arrival when he comes, but as yet I have not recd. a reply. I did regret being so far off from Burnley as I should so much like to have visited them, when Mr. Richard was at home, I also read of his arrival back in Victoria from Mr. H. - will be glad to see them both once more - You did not name in yours where you have taken up your abode - and do not be so long again before you write. I expect all your laziness is gone by this, it was excusable to be lazy at writing as you had a cage to furnish to put the bird in - I should think it was far the most comfortable and economical to have a wife, than staying at an hotel.

"Your father has written about his bad accident, it frightened me very much when he came into the house with his fingers cut in that dreadful state but I thought I must have more nerve at such a time than less. I happened to have handy a large piece of lint (which I brought over with me from America in case the girls or myself met with an accident) I just put it on and it seems I could not have done much better. It was a good thing the (unreadable) was going; on the (unreadable) and that it healed so quickly, it was 2 months Tuesday it happened.

"I am sure you will be glad to hear that your father and myself are going on very comfortably - we are living in such a pretty place, so different from Dudley, it was so black and such a lot of low people there. I was glad to take up my bed and walk off - Your Aunt Grainger seems very anxious about your Aunt Snow going so far after Mr. I - she says your Aunt Snow does not write to her but she will send a letter when she knows your Aunt I is at home. Please give my love to Amanda, we have been expecting a letter from her. I expect she will find it as I did plenty to do, and labour so high, if she goes on thus how his sons - she will I expect have a good lot of sons to work on her farm if they live long enough. Should you see my esteemed friends Mr. and Mrs. Bales please give my kind love to them. Also Mrs. Williams and Mrs. Robertson, should like to know how they are getting on. I hope your father is bookd. for England the remain of his days altho I fear it at times - but I think he is doing well now. Give my kind love to your wife and let me know where her native place is, and friends in England as we may find them out in our travels. Your father wishes to post this letter, so I must add only our kindest love and I am in haste.

"Your affecte. Mother

Caroline Robinson

"If you see Mr. Russel present my Compts glad to hear he has got a little son and heir."

It is a pity that although Caroline's letter was evidently an enclosure to one of George's, and covers those matters that George did not deal with, only Caroline's survived among Victor Ernest's scant papers. If we had both letters, we should probably know much more about what was happening in Leamington, and be able to fill in those parts where Caroline's handwriting is undecipherable.

But we must move on with George Robinson who, although he had moved with his family from Dudley, had not quite severed connections with the city of his birth. For a time at least he remained active in the Dudley branch of a temperance group, the Knights Templars. Among the documents which have passed down to us is a testimonial which, according to a notation in the upper left corner, was "Presented with Good Templar Collar to G.R.". The testimonial, written in beautiful copperplate script, reads:

"Dudley, Worcestershire

October 1st, 1875

- To Bro George Robinson -

"We the undersigned members of the K.T.C. in this Town beg your Acceptance of this Testimonial as a slight recognition of the devoted services rendered by you to the great Temperance cause in this your Native place since your return from America -

"We wish to assure you of our heartfelt sorrow at being called upon to part with you, your conduct has been uniformly courteous and dignified and your devotion to principle has won the admiration of us all - And we pray that the same good Providence that has smiled upon you in the past will continue to smile upon you in your new home (even more brightly) and that your valuable life may long be spared for still more usefulness for the Overthrow of the Demon Strong Drink and the uplifting of fallen humanity-

"We are Dear Sir & Brother

"Yours fraternally

"James Poole
Bennett R. Gibson       William Turner
Thomas M. Hinton       William Hall
James Rowcroft       Joseph Leech
George Taylor       Richard Round
Isaac Albert Prince       William Williams"

We have noted before how set George Robinson was against "the Demon Strong Drink". From stories handed down to us in family lore, we gather that in the days of his youth, George was a convivial roisterer who could down his ale with the best of them; later he became violently Temperance and continued so as long as he lived. The same ambivalence applied to religious matters, for in his early years he faithfully attended church; in his later ones he not only refused to worship but adamantly insisted that his children have nothing to do with religion. Some things George Robinson may have been, but the last thing he could have been accused of was being wishy-washy.

After some years at the Steam Brick Works, Leamington, George went to Scarfields Brick Works as Manager, and on leaving this position he became Postmaster at Alvechurch. When he finally retired from Alvechurch, he and Caroline returned to Hastings, where he invested in cottage properties. The rentals from these were his main source of income for the rest of his life.

Meanwhile, back in Victoria, B.C., Victor Ernest and his wife Charlotte had borne for him two grandsons and a granddaughter; Edgar (1876), Florence Adelaide Ann (1877) and George Ernest (1878). Then in 1884 Victor Ernest died suddenly, following a brief illness. After a suitable interval of Victorian mourning, Charlotte re-married, to a fellow Printer and old friend of the late Victor Ernest, John Joseph Randolph. The final letter in our small collection from Victor Ernest's papers is one from George Robinson to his twelve-year-old grand-daughter Florence. Written from 32 St. James Road Hastings, and dated Octr 20th 1889, it reads:

"Miss Florence A. Robinson

My Dear Granddaughter,

"It was with feeling of greatest pleasure that I received your dear Mama's letter with your note enclosed informing me that you were all well in health and also that you have got on so nicely with your writing and that George is getting on so nicely with his studies - his uncle George made so great progress that he gained the Queen's prize, which intitled him to 3 years schooling free. I am proud that you are trying your best to learn all you can, it will be of great use in your after life and you will command the respect of all who know your attainments. I hope you will write to me and tell me if George has succeeded in getting his prize and how you both get on with your learning. I am glad to hear your pleasing account of Mr. Randolph towards you and your Brother and I hope you will each behave as well as you possibly can, so that he shall not have cause to correct you - because if correction is needed and he fails to administer it - he then fails to do his duty - you will understand what I mean Dear - wont you. I was glad to read in your dear Mammas letter that you and George were each of you making good progress with your learning - I hope you will continue to do so. Your dear Mama will be so proud to think that you have made so much progress - and I am sure that I shall be just as proud - every one in my family got lots of prizes from their schools - your dear Father and your Aunt Amanda each took the highest prizes in Kidderminster school, and I should like to hear of your doing similarly. Please tell Mamma that George stopped at Alvechurch but has since gone to Dudley and I understand that he is doing a good business for himself in the Clock and Watchmaking - and Georgiana Caroline - she staid at Reddich post office where she is now but I expect her to pay us a visit in a week or two and Fanny staid at Birmingham a few weeks and then came to Hastings - but I wish she had stopped at Birmingham post office until now - Your full account of Beacons hill - makes me wish to be there - it must be very fine to have the chained bear and the gold fish and live Trout - I should like to be there but its so very expensive - or else I should come - please to kindly remember me to George and say that in this note what I have said to you is just as much for him so I hope he will accept it as such and I shall be allways glad to have a note from him. Good bye - may God bless you. Yours affectionately

George Robinson

"I send three pictures each for you and George."

Very evident in this letter is the disregard for Victor Ernest's eldest son, Edgar. This was no doubt deliberate; Victor Ernest had maintained from the boy's birth that he had been born too soon after the wedding and was, ergo, not Victor Ernest's son. Poor Edgar was suffered with but slighted until at the age of fourteen he ran away to sea and vanished for many years from the family's ken. Even in death, Victor Ernest was to have his influence felt; Edgar was not mentioned in George Robinson's will.

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