James Robertson, O.B.E., B.Sc., J.P, F.I.C.E.
Obituary from TDGNHAS, Series III, Vol. LXXI, p.170
James Robertson became a member of this society on 20th March 1936: He had come to Dumfries as a member of the Dumfriesshire County Council Roads Department in 1929 and by the mid 1930s had become County Road Surveyor — at that time perhaps the youngest in Scotland. When he commenced work most of the county roads had gravel surfaces and during his time all these were tar-macadamed. Financial restrictions had not made things easy - in the 30s the only significant work was the construction of a short stretch of model dual-carriageway at Johnstone Bridge. During the war further difficulties were experienced in maintaining the road systems for heavy wartime traffic. In the immediate post-war period of hope plans were prepared to dual-carriageway the A74 complete with a cycle track and footpath — only to be shelved by post-war austerity. However, by the time of his retirement in 1967, work had commenced.
In addition to his membership of this society, he was also instrumental in creating the Dumfries & Galloway Architectural and Engineering Society in 1946. Under his initiating presidency it was able to bring speakers to Dumfries to allow members of differing professions to hear lectures on topics which they would not otherwise have heard due to the then restrictions on travelling.
Within this society he was a force for many years: It is remembered that in the late 40s and early 50s, on John Clarke's digs at Milton (Tassiesholm), always when work started there was the stock of picks, shovels, spades, stakes, rope: there was the high-sided wooden caravan for shelter: there were the ranging-poles, the dumpy level - all courtesy of the County Council Roads Department - the work could not have been done without them. About the same time many happy days were spent with R C Reid and A E Truckell in search of Roman roads and forts around Roberton on the Clyde or up towards Kilmarnock.
Mr Robertson delivered lectures to the society on several occasions — firstly in December 1946, when he talked on Further notes on Old Roadways in Dumfriesshire. Although the bulk of James Robertson's researches were of a literary and record nature, it should not be forgotten that in the late 40s he also conducted excavations on road structures at Annanhead Moss. His knowledge of the Roman, mediaeval and early modern roads and bridges in the area was great — much of it was published in his latter years. His period as President, 1968–71, was a successful and active one for the Society: His presidential address, on 8th October 1971, was on the subject of Landmarks around Dumfriesshire.
A E T & J W
Publications in TDGNHAS
- Notes on the Roman Roads through Annandale. Series III, Vol. XXIV, pp.10–17
- Roman Roads in S-W Scotland (4) From Castledykes (Corbiehall) to Crawford (as co-author with C A Ralegh Radford, R C Reid and A E Truckell). Series III, Vol XXXI, pp 30–34
- Wanlockhead Roads. Series III, Vol LIV, pp 161–164
In 1993, under the editorship of his son Gordon, he published The Public Roads and Bridges in Dumfriesshire, 1650–1820, pp 266, G.C.Book Publishers Ltd, Wigtown.