[From Manx Quarterly #6, 1909]
Died March 7th, 1909.
A gentleman who has for over twenty years past done the Isle of Man in general and Douglas in particular, useful service, passed away unexpectedly on Sunday, March 7th. Mr David M. Robertson, principal of the Isle of Man School of Art, and art master at the Douglas Secondary School, had not been in good health for a fortnight previous to Sunday, and, indeed, was advised by Dr Mackenzie, whom he consulted, to keep his bed for a period, with a view to securing much-needed rest. A slave, however, to what he conceived to be duty, Mr Robertson persisted in fulfilling his engagements at the School of Art and the Secondary School, an approaching examination rendering him somewhat anxious to give especial attention to the preparation of those of his pupils who were entered for it. Last week, his condition was anything but satisfactory, but on Saturday night he was in good spirits, and was evidently feeling rather better. A Douglas gentleman who for a long time had been one of his most intimate friends spent the evening with him, and they chatted pleasantly for an hour or two. Mr Robertson retired to bed early, and at five o'clock on Sunday morning he became very unwell, and suffered severely from nausea. He, however, fell asleep again, but at about eight o'clock there was a recurrence of nausea. Mrs Robertson had Dr Mackenzie called up by telephone, and the doctor speedily repaired to Ard Beg, Mr Robertson's picturesque cottage residence in Brunswick Road. On arrival, he found his patient in a very weak condition, and death took place from heart failure shortly before nine o'clock. About twenty-five years ago Mr Robertson succeeded Mr W. J. Merritt in the principalship of the School of Art, and ever since he has laboured assiduously and conscientiously in the interests of the institution. An excellent teacher and a very capable artist,he was responsible for the training of many young people who have as exponents of drawing, painting, and designing been a credit to the Island. A native of Scotland, he ever retained an ardent affection for the land of his birth, and always took a prominent part in the proceedings of the Isle of Man Caledonian Association. Tall and spare of habit, he was a very active man, and one of the last to be suspected by the ordinary person of suffering from heart disease. As an artist, he had a considerable vogue, and his pictures of Manx scenery were frequently hung in exhibitions across the water. He leaves a widow and five children. Mrs Robertson is a Scotswoman, and she has made for herself in Douglas a large circle of friends, from whom she has received numerous expressions of sympathy in her sore bereavement. The eldest child, a daughter, is a governess in South Africa, and another daughter, who is studying for the teaching profession, is at a training college. Two daughters and a son the youngest child are at home. One of the two daughters, Miss Jean Robertson, has been very ill for almost a year past, and only recovered sufficiently to take open-air exercise about a month ago.
The funeral took place on Wednesday March 10th, and it was very largely attended. Those interested in educational matters, in which Mr Robertson figured so prominently, formed the majority of those present. The late Mr Robertson was engaged as Art Master under the Douglas School Board, and practically all of the members of the board, together with the chairman (Mr W. H. Kneale) and the clerk (Mr T. R. Lewin) attended. The teaching staff and the boys of the secondary and elementary school at Park-road immediately followed the hearse. Of the committee of the School of Art, the Attorney-General, Mr P. Christian, J.P., Mr M. Carine, Mr G. F'. Clucas, H.K., Mr R. F. Douglas, and several other members attended. King William's College was represented by the Principal (Rev E. H. Kempson) and Mr G. L. Colebourne. The deceased gentleman was a member of the Caledonian. Association, and several members of the committee of the association, including the chairman, Mr J. Gerard, were present. Other prominent persons in the funeral procession were Mr A. W. Moore, J.P., S.H.K., C.V.O., Mr D. Maitland, J.P., H.K., Mr J.R. Cowell, J.P., H.K., Mr A. Rigby, H.K., the Rev D. Inglis, the Rev Canon Taggart, and Rev J. Davidson, as well as many of the best-known and most influential citizens of Douglas. The floral tributes were beautiful and numerous. The chief mourners were Mr William Robertson, of Scotland, a brother of the departed; Mr Alex. Robertson, his nephew; and three of his children. Mr A. J. Ridge, a close friend and colleague of Mr Robertson, and Mr R. F. Douglas assisted in the funeral arrangements. Mr R. H. Collister attended to, the carriages. The interment was in the Borough Cemetery, the Rev J. Davidson officiating.
A meeting of the committee of the School of Art was held on Thursday 11th March, at Government Buildings, when references were made to the late master of the school. There were present: Mr John Boyd (in the chair). Mr L. Goldie-Taubman, J.P., Mr A. Rigby, H.K., Mr P. Christian, J.P., Mr A. H. Marsden, J.P. (Mayor of Douglas), Mr Geo. Kaye, Mr R. F. Douglas, Mr M. Carine, Mr H. Cowle, Mr F. B. Sissons, and the hon. secretary, Mr G. F. Clucas, H.K.
Mr Clucas moved that Mr Boyd take the chair, in the absence of the Governor, who was suffering from a bad cold, and was unable to attend the meeting.
This was seconded and carried.
Mr Clucas said: Mr Chairman; before commencing the business of the meeting, I think we shall all be agreed that it would not be seemly for us to let this opportunity pass without putting on record our deep regret at the sudden death of Mr Robertson, and our sincere appreciation of his work at the school. Mr Robertson was appointed master in December, 1884, so that he was master of the school for rather more than 24 years. I have no doubt that you, Mr Chairman, and Mr Christian will be able to speak of his unvarying courtesy and kindliness to his pupils during that long period better than I can, inasmuch as you have had a much longer acquaintance with Mr Robertson and a very much longer connection with the school, whereas I can only speak for the past six or seven years during which I have acted as secretary. But perhaps you will allow me to say a few words about one point with regard to Mr Robertson's services, which, I think, in any mention of his work, should not be forgotten, and that is: he carried on his work here under very considerable disadvantages. He was naturally, in matters of art, isolated here. I believe that for a long time he was the only member of the profession on the Island. He had no stimulus and encouragement in the way of art classes and associations with other members of his profession, and of art galleries and all that kind of thing which exist in many of our large towns. Another fact is that for a long time now, this school, through no fault of ours, and certainly through no fault of Mr Robertson's, has been in a much less prosperous condition than formerly. The number of pupils has decreased and the funds have gone down. All that has been very discouraging to us, and if it is so discouraging to us, how much more must it have been discouraging to Mr Robertson. He had each term to teach a smaller number of pupils and to do with a salary necessarily diminished. From what I know of Mr Robertson, he never displayed anything but the greatest optimism and the greatest pluck in carrying out his duties under these very adverse circumstances. I am sure that we in considering the work he has done for the School of Art, will be compelled, in thinking of this fact, in thinking that during a long part of that time he must have been, from what we know now, in failing health, we must look upon the work he has done for the school and way he did it with nothing but sincere admiration. I, therefore wish to move: " (1) That the committee of the Isle of Man School of Art desire to place upon record their deep regret at the sudden death of Mr D. M. Robertson, who for twenty-four years has held the office of Master of the School; and to express their sincere appreciation of the ability, courtesy, and unfailing devotion to duty displayed by him during his tenure of that office. (2) That the secretary be instructed to send a copy of this resolution to Mrs D. M. Robertson, and to convey the heartfelt sympathy of the committee with her and her family in their great bereavement."
Mr P. Christian: Mr Chairman and gentlemen, I am glad of this opportunity of seconding the vote proposed by Mr Clucas. Mr Robertson has been with us now, as he has said, a great many years well on for a quarter of a century. Mr Robertson called on me a few days ago, and reminded me of the fact, and when he mentioned it I felt how quickly time flies indeed, it almost took my breath away, because it seems only a few years since he came here and settled in our midst. He came to us a little more than a youth in the prime of life, full of energy and activity, and he has displayed that activity and energy until the end until within a few days of his death he manifested a great deal of interest in the school, and the fact that our examinations have always been so successful points to the fact that he has been a thoroughly good headmaster. I am sure we all sympathise very deeply indeed with Mrs Robertson and her family in their very sad bereavement. He has been taken from us and his sorrowing family, full of life and energy, and it seems strange that he should be taken from us and from those he loved so dearly just at this particular time. I am sure our hearts go out to his family in their great and sudden loss, and all we can do is to pray that God's blessing may rest upon them and that He may sustain them in their terrible time of bereavement.
The Chairman, having expressed regret on behalf of the Lieut.-Governor on hip. unavoidable absence, said: Before putting this resolution, I should like to say that I associate myself with every word said by the mover and seconder. I myself have been connected with Mr Robertson from the time he landed here, and I can only say that what has been stated could not have been said in better words. I beg to put the motion.
The motion was carried in silence. Before, the business of the Eastern Authority for Higher Education was proceeded with on March 9th, the Chairman (Mr J. E. Douglas) said: It is my painful duty this afternoon to refer to the sudden death of Mr D. M. Robertson. And I have to propose a vote of condolence with the family in their sad bereavement. Mr Robertson has been connected with the School of Art as master teacher for 25 years. He has also been art teacher in the Secondary School for many years, and I believe he was also art teacher at King William's College. I am sure every member of this board very deeply sympathises with the widow and family who have been plunged into such sorrow so unexpectedly. I move a vote of condolence. ,
Mr W. H. Kneale : I beg to second that.
The motion was carried in silence, the members upstanding.