In the last post I wrote about the links between the Thomson and Robb families of Glasgow and the island of Jamaica, including their involvement in the ownership of slaves. I was particularly intrigued to discover the names of George, Elizabeth, Jane and John Robb in the list of those claiming compensation after the abolition of slavery in 1833. I’m fairly certain that they were the children of George Robb and Penelope Thomson, the latter belonging to a family with numerous Jamaican connections, and the former being (I believe) the brother of my 3rd great grandfather Charles Edward Stuart Robb.
Old House of Assembly building, Spanish Town, Jamaica
I noted that John Robb’s claim to compensation was entered by the administrator of his estate, since John is described in the claim notes as ‘late of Scotland, a gentleman’. The name of his administrator is given as J.G.Vidal. This was John Gale Vidal, whose profile on the Legacies of British Slave-ownership website describes him as ‘a resident planter and attorney in Jamaica, long-serving Clerk of the House of Assembly, eldest son and principal heir of John James Vidal and Elizabeth Wade Vidal.’ John James Vidal is described on the Legacies site as a ‘slave-owner and then annuitant of Berkshire Hall estate in Jamaica’ who died in Clifton, Gloucestershire, in 1823. His wife Elizabeth’s maiden name was Allwood; she was born in Jamaica and died in Devon in 1858.
John James Vidal (father of J.G.Vidal)
John Gale Vidal was born in Jamaica in 1792, the eldest of seven children. Two of his younger brothers – Francis and George – became clergymen. John served in the Jamaican militia, rising to the rank of Captain. He became an attorney at the age of 20 and held a number of important offices in the colony up until the time of his death from cholera in 1850.
The fact that a Jamaican attorney acted as administrator of his estate suggests to me that John Robb was either a fellow resident of the island, or an absentee owner with interests there. I’ve yet to find a record of John’s birth, but I believe he was probably born in Glasgow 1808 or thereabouts (his parents married in 1805, and his siblings were born 1806, 1807 and 1810; his father George died in about 1811). Nor have I come across a record of John’s death, but obviously it predated the claim, which was made in 1836, meaning that John was probably a young man in his late twenties when he died. As we have seen from the experience of John Vidal and others, his relative youth would not have precluded John Robb from already having qualified as a lawyer and/or establishing himself as a merchant or plantation owner.
The possibility that John Robb lived and worked in Jamaica before his early death makes the connection between the colony and my direct ancestors closer than I had imagined. Perhaps John’s father George Robb, a Glasgow merchant, also had interests in the island? And if George was indeed the brother of my 3rd great grandfather Charles Robb, then might the Jamaican connection throw light on the mysterious origins of my 3rd great grandmother Margaret Ricketts Monteith, whose middle names hints at an association with another prominent Jamaican family?