Monday, 16 August 2010

My paternal grandfather, Charles Roberton

My grandparents all died before I was born so any impression I have of them has always been based on the stories my parents told me.

This is my father's father, Charles Roberton. He was born in Jamestown, Dunbartonshire, Scotland in 1881. This is what my father wrote about him.

My father was  born on 25th March 1881 in Jamestown in the parish of Bonhill, Dunbartonshire. His parents were Thomas and Helen Roberton and he was the fourth child and third son of a family of eight.
He was educated at Jamestown school and I can remember him telling me that when he was about eleven or twelve years old he worked what was called 'half and half'. That is, he worked part of the day and went to school for the remainder of the time.
About 1907/08 he emigrated to America and stayed there for fourteen years mainly around the Detroit area, although I believe he also had a spell working as a fireman on the Trans Canadian railway.
A search of the Detroit City Directories showed the following entries for a Roberton, Chas:-
1911                                                             Boards                       875 Congress
1914             Watchman                                      "                           37 Hamtramck
1915              Machinist          Pd & Co                  "                           241 Concord
1916                   "                    "                                                   251 Meldrum
1918             Autoworker                                 Resides                      91 Avalon,
                                                                                                      Highland Park
I have a small document holder of my fathers which contains two documents (a) an Employee Pass dated 1918 for the Ford Motor Company with his photograph attached to it and (b) a Registration Certificate in my father's name with the address 94 Avalon and the date 12 Sept 1918 on it. These two documents tied my father to the directory entry for 1918 ayt 94 Avalon.
His eldest brother, Thomas also emigrated and did in fact remain permanently in America. The fact that Thomas was in Detroit at the same time as my father is confirmned by an entry from the Detroit City Directories for 1914 which records a Thomas J Roberton, a plumber, with a house at 37 Hamtramck. This is the same address as a Chas Roberton was boarding at in 1914.
My father became a naturalised American citizen on 25th September 1917. He returned to Scotland for what was to be a visit, my my mother, got married and never returned to his adopted country. His American citizenship did in fact cause a minor problem during the second world war as he had to technically register as a foreign citizen.
He did not pass an apprenticeship as all his brothers had, but obtained a position in 1922 as a labourer in what had been a large estate on the banks of Loch Lomond at Balloch. The estate had been owned by 'the Browns of Balloch' but was later taken over by the Glasgow Corporation and run as a public park. During the thirty odd years he worked there he became an excellent gardener and our own garden was ever the envy of all our neighbours.
He was not a talkative man except when discussing his garden. Our cottage was situated at a crossroads near to the back entrance of the park and the road continued up the hill to a succession of farms. On a summer evening, my father would walk up the hill to a gate about half a mile away. There he would fill his clay pipe with a strong tobacco called Thick Black, light up, and leaning on the gate spend a contemplative half hour staring down to the vale below until it was nearly dark,then he would slowly saunter back home.

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