George Y. Robertson

by Alex

George Robertson was “one of the Twenty-three Gentlemen” who attended the first ‘Let it Blaw’ in 1881. He was born at Howatstone Farm near Livingston. His father owned the farm so George’s early years were very much linked to work on the Land. By the early 1850s the family had moved to Harlaw Farm, Balerno……


George was not a Founder Member

but was in attendance at the Club’s first Supper in 1881


1882,  1883,  1884,  1888,  1894,  1897,  1905,  1906,  1907,  1908,  1909 


1888,   1891,  1892,  1893,  1894,  1895,  1896,  1897,  1898,  1899

1900,  1901,  1903,  1904,  1905,  1906,  1907,  1908,  1911,  1912,  1913



  Proposer of the Toast  “The Immortal Memory of Robert Burns”  1882,  1883,  1888,  1896

Proposer of the Toast  “Let it Blaw – the Balerno Burns Club” 1883,  1888,  1894,  1907,  1908,  1909

Proposer of the Toast  “Our Hosts” / “The Landlord – Landlady”   1883,  1884,  1892,  1908,  1909

Reply to the Toast  “Let it Blaw” – the Balerno Burns Club”  1883

Reply to the Toast  “The Commercial Interests of the District”  1884

Reply to the Toast  “The Agriculture of the District”  1887,  1888,  1889,  1894

Proposer of the Toast  “Absent Friends”  1890,  1891,  1893,  1912

Proposer of the Toast  “Educational Interests”  1891

Reply to the Toast  “The Lasses”  1892,  1895,  1904

Proposer of the Toast  “The Imperial Forces”  1903,  1904,  1911

Proposer of the Toast  “Success to Agriculture of the District”  1904

Proposer of the Toast  “The Commercial Interests of the District”  1910

Proposer of the Toast  “Other Poets”  1911

Served on the Club Committee

1885,  1886,  1887,  1889,  1890,  1891,  1892,  1893,  1895,  1896,  1898,  1899

1900,  1901,  1902,  1903,  1904,  1910,  1911


By his early 20s, George’s education was complete and he appears to have gained employment in Edinburgh as a teacher of Languages, staying as a boarder in a house at 3 Broughton Street, Edinburgh.

George never married and, by the mid 1870s, had returned to his farming roots near Balerno. The house and lands at Craigentarrie (just east of Threipmuir Reservoir) had been subdivided, and George took a 19 year lease on half the property. It’s thought the house was in a state of disrepair as it was some time before he actually resided there.

While it’s known that George wasn’t one of Let it Blaw’s Founder Members, he was one of the 23 Gentlemen who attended the first ‘Let it Blaw’ in 1881.

As can be seen by the details of contributions at Club Suppers, George played a ‘huge’ part in moving the Club forward in those early days serving as Club President for eleven years and proposing the Toast to “The Immortal Memory of Burns” on no less than four occasions.

By early 1891, George was working as an Estate Supervisor while staying in Bavelaw Castle, the only other resident being a young housekeeper/servant by the name of Unity McGinty. At that time, it’s assumed he was carrying out his Estate duties in tandem with working Craigentarrie.

In his role as Club Bard, George presented a collection of rhymes at the 1891 annual Supper and mentioned many other prominent members of the Club in the text. Following the Supper, George’s presentation was printed by Club Member A. G. Moir and a copy of the printed version was inserted into the Club Minute Book by Club Secretary John Fairbairn. The layout of the printed version was adapted to suit our website and can be viewed at Ragged Rhymes.

At a Committee Meeting on 21st January 1896 the following was recorded : “A few of the Committee Members had considered it desirable that the Club should show its respect and esteem for George Robertson, who had left Craigentarrie for Edinburgh, in some suitable manner. It was agreed by the Committee to present him with a Purse & Sovereigns at the Festival Night.”  The presentation was duly made at the 1896 annual Supper.

In the report of the 1897 Supper, John Fairbairn, Club Secretary, wrote “The Chair was occupied by Mr George Y Robertson of Bavelaw Castle.” For that reason, having left Craigentarrie for Edinburgh the previous year, it’s assumed George had carried on his Estate Management duties.
The following was recorded relative to the annual Supper held in January 1907: George Robertson, the Chairman, in giving the Toast to the “Balerno Burns Club,” sketched the history of the Club and referred to some notable incidents in its 26 years of existence. After making some observations on the Motto of the Club he concluded with saying :
Up then Brithers ane an  a’
And drink the Toast,
“Let it Blaw”

This Toast is still proposed to this day.

Recently found in the archives of the ‘Colinton Local History Society’ is George’s handwritten ‘Greetings to Colinton Burns Club – January 1908‘, one of numerous messages that were exchanged between Burns Clubs each January.

At a meeting in the Malleny Arms on Tuesday 31st March 1909, the following was recorded : “The Club to the number of 31 met in the “Haggis Hall” this evening to present a portrait to the present Chairman, George Y. Robertson. The Chair was occupied by the Rev. David B. Turner of Currie, while Thomas Horsburgh of Johnsburn acted as Croupier. The Chairman had on his right the Guest of the evening (Mr Henderson), and was supported by Fred Thomson, Advocate, Edinburgh and Dr. James A. Raeburn, Edinburgh.  After the Loyal Toasts given from the Chair had been duly honoured, John Fairbairn made the presentation. He spoke of the deep debt of gratitude the Club owed to Mr Robertson for not only starting the Club, but for the active interest he had always taken in it since its formation in 1881.  As Bard, his effusions of poetry on various occasions had been highly appreciated and one composed in 1891, about some of the Members had been received with applause.  The portrait was unveiled amid much enthusiasm. Mr Robertson replied in very feeling terms and thanked the Club most heartily for their kindness. An original poem by the present Bard, George Shiels, was read and received with very warm approval. The Croupier paid a compliment to the photographer, Alex Montgomery of Juniper Green, who had executed the work in a highly artistic manner.  A large and varied programme of Songs and Recitations was gone through and a very enjoyable Meeting was closed by Votes of Thanks.”

George developed cancer and died on 12th January 1913 at the Royal Scottish Nursing Home at 20 Torphichen Street, Edinburgh.

At a Committee meeting in the Malleny Arms on Tuesday 14th January 1913 the following was recorded : “A hastily summoned Meeting of Committee was held this evening when there were present Messrs Thomas Horsburgh, John Fairbairn, George Calder, Robert Butler Snr., William Rankin, Andrew Falconer, William Scott and James Henderson; Mr Horsburgh presiding. Mr Horsburgh explained they had been convened to consider what steps should be taken on account of  George’s death which had taken place on 12th inst.  After some conversation it was unanimously resolved to cancel the Dinner this year out of respect to his memory. The Secretary was instructed to send cards to those Members he was unable to acquaint verbally of the resolution of the Committee. It was arranged that as many Members of the Club as possible should attend the funeral on Thursday 16th.