Select Robson Miscellany

Here are some Robson stories and accounts over the years:

Possible Robson Origins

In the Black Gate Museum in Newcastle, there is a fragment of a cross that was discovered at Falstone.  The same inscription is written on both sides of the stone, on one side the inscription being in Roman letters and the other Runic lettering and what is defaced on one side is legible on the other.   The exact meaning of the words in Anglo-Saxons somewhat differently rendered by different authorities, but approximates to something like the following:

"Eomar set up this...a memorial to Hroethbert his uncle.  Pray for his soul."

A local authority, Dr. Charlton, has said that this is the "Robert" from whom the Robsons and Robertsons take their name.  In this case the Robson name would then be stretching back some twelve hundred years. 

Robson and Graham Feuding

One day a group of north Tynedale Robsons made a foray into Liddesdale and stole a large flock of Graham sheep which they brought back into Tynedale.  When it was found that the Graham sheep were infected with scab which spread like wild fire through the existing Robson flock, the Robsons were furious and made a second foray into Liddesdale.  Here they caught seven members of the Graham family and executed them all, hanging them from the neck.

As a "calling card," the Robsons left a sinister note stating that:

"The next time gentlemen cam' to tak' their sheep they are no' te' be scabbit!" 

The Raid of Redeswire

The raid of Redeswire began in 1575 as a dispute between the wardens of the middle marches about Henry Robson, a well-known freelance, who, the Scottish warden had demanded, be given up for execution as the English warden was saying that he had excaped.

Such disputes seldom stopped at words and, after an interchange of insults, the men of Tynedale began the fray by shooting their arrows at the Scots.  The fighting became general and the Scots were being wordted.  Then the men of Jedburgh, led by their provost, marched upon the field and turned the tide of battle.  A defeat therefore for the Robsons!

Robson Incidence in England and Scotland

Robson is very much an English border name.  The table below shows the incidence of the name in England and Scotland in the 1891 census.

Numbers (000)



Border counties



There was some Robson spillover into Scotland, but not that much, and a few Robesons in Berwickshire on the Scottish borders.  Scotland has as well the Robertson name and clan which was based around Perth.  

An Old Robson Remembers

The following reminiscences came from Mark Robson's book Some Denholm Families, published locally in 1928.

"At the foot of the Loanin', there stood, fifty years ago, a thatched cottage with a smiddy attached – also a killing-house – rented by Beattie the butcher.  In that thatched cottage was the blacksmith, my great-grandfather. 

Where he came from I cannot tell, but I have heard a story of how, when a Liddesdale minister was examining some school children in Bible knowledge and had asked who was the strongest man, a child replied "Tam Robson o' The Yett."  Thomas Oliver once told me that this Robson was an ancestor of mine.  Anyhow, away back in the late 1700's, two sons were born to the blacksmith at the foot of the Loanin' – John and Thomas.

Thomas was my grandfather.  He married in 1811 Bell Hardy from Dargues in Reedwater.  Some yearts ago I saw the entry of that marriage in the parish church at Elsdon, a remote hamlet east of Otterburn.  Thomas had a large family, six daughters and four sons who were: Thomas, a blacksmith in Hawick; James, a blacksmith in Middlesbrough (but who died at Denholm in my father's house); John, my father a blacksmith in Denholm; and William, also a blacksmith.  William knew every rabbit-hole near the village and every salmon-redd for miles in the Teviot.

My father's smiddy was where the third house from Martin the baker's stands.  In 1864 he removed up the Quarry Road where he built a smiddy, dwelling-house, and stable.  He married, at the age of 17, Mary Newton, my mother, a lass of 20 from Gordon in Berwickshire.  So readers will note the real Border blood that runs in my veins."

Bobby Robson's Coal Miner Roots

Bobby Robson would often speak eloquently about his father, Philip, a coal miner from Langley Park near Durham, who had been a Newcastle United supporter all of his life.

Robson Sr worked at the colliery in the village; 51 years at the coalface and just one missed shift.  He lost an eye in an accident under the ground, but he never spoke about that, nor did his family. 

“He would go down the pit white and would come up black.  There was no colliery bath back then and he would wash in the tin tub we had at home, trying to go from black to white again, but a miner never felt he had entirely cleansed himself of the grit and dust.  Then on Saturday he would love to take us to St James’ Park, because he adored Newcastle United."

Philip Robson and his wife, Lillian, had five boys, no car, no television.  He didn’t drink and didn’t smoke.  On Thursday evenings he would go to the workingmen’s club in the village, buy himself a soft drink, and enjoy the whist drive.

Every second Saturday morning, with two of his boys, he would take the 10 o’clock bus from Langley Park to Marlborough Street station in Newcastle, and from there it was a short walk to St James’ Park. 

“I remember going with my dad and my brother Ronnie.  We would be outside the ground at 12.15 and be first in line waiting for the gate to open at 12.30.”

My dad was able to see virtually every home game when I managed England, but he had passed away by the time I became manager of Newcastle.  For him to see me manage the club he used to take us to watch would have been the thrill of his life.  He would have somersaulted all the way to St James’ Park.  You see, he went to work white, came home black, but inside, he bled the black and white of Newcastle United.”

Bobby was close to his father and, because he too had spent time working in the colliery, he understood the dignity and achievement of his father’s life. 

William and Ezekiel Robeson

William Robeson was just fifteen years old when he escaped with his elder brother Ezekiel from the Robeson plantation at Cross Roads in Martin county, North Carolina.  They escaped on the Underground railroad, leaving North Carolina and crossing Maryland into Pennsylvania.

William stayed in Pennsylvania, studied, and became a church minister.  Ezekiel returned to North Carolina, however, after the Emancipation Proclamation.  The two sides of the family were not to meet during their lifetimes nor that of William's son Paul.  It was not until 2006 that Paul Jr. met with the other side of his family.


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