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Name: ROBERTSON, Harold George 'Rab'

Nee: bro of J. Robertson

Birth Date: 3 Jan 1884 West Kilbride

Death Date: 3 July 1941 Nairobi

First Date: 1912

Last Date: 1941

Profession: 'Rab the Rhymer'. A legendary Mombasa journalist and author, who edited the 'Coast Guardian' for 4 years in the 30's. Joined the 'Mombasa Times' as editor during WW2

Area: Mombasa, 1925 Box 297, Nairobi, 1930 'Mombasa Times', Mombasa

Married: Marjorie Cecilia 'Madge' Forrester b. 1888

Children: 3 sons: W. (1906); A,G. (1908); J. G. (1912)

Book Reference: Letter - E. Rodwell, Red 25, Red 31, Red 22, Gazette, Medals, Kenya Bio, Leader14, Barnes, Red 19, Gillett, KAD, Red 25, Leader14, Red Book 1912

War Service: served with the local forces in olocal Campaign for 3 years

School: Hutcheson's Grammar School, Glasgow, Athenaeum Glasgow School of Art & University

General Information:

Newspaper Reporter, inaugurated the Critic, a popular weekly, later joined the EA Standard in Mombasa. Known as 'Rab the Rhymer'
Red 22 - Journalist; formerly Editor of the 'Leader'.
Gazette - 7/4/15 - Liable for Jury service, Nairobi District - H.G. Robertson
Medals - East African Ordnance Department - Harold G. Robertson, EA Supply Corps, No. 33, Serjeant
Kenya Bio - Zwanenberg has J.K. Robertson ?- His origins in Kenya are rather obscure. It is thought that he came around 1912, when he worked on the 'East African Standard' or 'The Leader'. He served with the British Forces during the East African campaign and afterwards returned to newspaper work. He was working with 'The Leader' when he joined Rene [sic] Stevenson, the editor of a rather poor fortnightly paper called the 'Outlaw'. What happened to Stevenson is unknown, but in May 1922, Robertson branched out on his own with the 'Kenya Critic' which incorporated the 'Outlaw'. Robertson not only edited the paper but wrote most of the copy himself and consequently the tone and quality of the paper reflected his own idiosyncratic views. The 'Critic' was always run on a shoe-string budget, although when it closed down in April 1923, it appeared to be increasing its circulation; certainly the paper was well supported by the advertisres. Robertson then worked for the 'Mombasa Times' until he was sacked in 1930. In 1933, he started the 'Coast Guardian' which ran until 1937. He then returned to the 'Mombasa Times' in 1940 where he worked until his death 2 years later, a still penniless propagandist. …….. [more on his writing - 12 page article]
Barnes - Mombasa Cemetery - H.G. Robertson, died 10 Jul 1941 age 56, Nairobi, Gall stone, Ashes interred
Gazette - 12/11/1919 - Register of Voters - Nairobi, North Area - Harold George Robertson - Journalist, 4th Avenue, Parklands
Red Book 1919 - East African Society Journalists, Nairobi - Hon. Secretary - H.G. Robertson
Gazette - 7/10/1925 - Petition for Insolvency - Harold George Robertson, Journalist of Mombasa
Old Africa - 22-11-15 - Christine Nicholls - Harold George Robertson, or ‘Rab the Rhymer’. He was a Scotsman, born on 3 January 1884, probably in West Kilbride, Ayrshire, the son of William and Martha Robertson. He went to Kenya on 9 August 1912, describing himself on the ship’s manifest as an artist. With him went his wife Mrs M. Robertson, eight years older than himself, and three sons – aged six, four and an infant. His elder brother James G. Robertson followed him three months later and as a contractor was responsible (with Gow and Davidson) for the building of the New Stanley Hotel in 1913.
Harold Robertson thrust himself immediately into journalism in Nairobi, joining the staff of the East African Standard and the Leader. This did not satisfy him and he began the East African Tatler and Free Lance, published by the Leader. The Tatler, a satirical magazine without advertisements and containing articles, short stories, poems and cartoons, all of them composed mainly by Robertson, did not continue after the outbreak of World War 1 in August 1914.
Harold joined the armed forces, serving in the East Africa Pioneer Company, East Africa Supply Corps and East African Ordnance Department, earning the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. Yet his journalistic instincts remained with him during the war and he contributed poems to Reveille and began the Morogoro Trumpeter. This was published monthly on a duplicator. ‘What with the continued lack of ink and paper,’ he complained, ‘stencils that are almost unobtainable with the added trials of heat melting the wax, sand and dirt adhering to the gauze, ink coagulating or drying up, our plight is frequently to be pitied.’
The name changed to the Dodoma Trumpeter and then just Trumpeter, and the magazine continued from January to August 1918. It was full of camp gossip, anecdotes and sketches; the June 1918 edition shows a cross-looking Robertson and the artist Jack Leith in its editorial office. Any profits went to buying a piano and sporting gear for the troops.
After he was demobbed Robertson joined the Leader, but left in 1922 and joined Ronnie Stevenson in starting a publication in Mombasa called the Outlaw which indulged in ‘sapient sarcasm; cheery cynicism.’ With Robertson as its sole contributor, this lasted only three months (February-April 1922) and was incorporated in yet another new publication, the Kenya, Tanganyika and Uganda Critic, which moved to Nairobi. Now Robertson, who composed almost the entire journal, was in his element, sniping at officials, the government and his pet hates, Ewart Grogan (‘a silver-tongued orator, a log roller and axe grinder’) and Lord Delamere. He resented and relentlessly satirised the large, patrician landowners of Kenya. He described Nairobi society as ‘shallow, hypocritical and gossiping.’ Really he was a middle-class liberal at war with the conservative landed aristocracy.
In the first issue he said he would present a cake to the man who uttered the most outstanding or stupid remark of the week. The first three cakes went to the Governor, the Mayor of Nairobi and the Director of Public Works. Robertson lived in Lenana Road, Nairobi, with his wife Marjorie Cecilia, a stenographer, but after the Critic folded on 14 January 1923 he was declared insolvent (Kenya Gazette, 7 October 1925).
He moved to Mombasa as Editor of the Mombasa Times. From this he was sacked for his vehement opinions and in 1934 he joined with Sir Ali bin Salim and others to found the Coast Guardian. This folded after four years and Robertson retired to a small house in Tudor, from which he ran a news agency. When World War II broke out he was asked to return to the Mombasa Times, where he worked with Edward Rodwell, who lamented that the old fire had gone from him.
Robertson developed a gallstone, went to Nairobi for treatment but died there on 3 July 1941, aged 57. His ashes were buried in Mbaraki cemetery, Mombasa, on 10 July. His gravestone reads ‘In loving memory of Harold George Robertson, RAB, his life was gentle and the elements so mixed in him that nature might stand up and say to all the world this was a man.’
This may seem incongruous for such a firebrand, and yet his poems, for which he was known as ‘Rab the Rhymer’, appeared ubiquitously in Kenyan publications and were often most sensitive.
(For those who wish to read about Robertson’s views propounded in the Critic, see Theodore Natsoulas in International Journal of African Historical Studies, vol.5, issue 4, 1972, pp. 610-628)

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