John George Robley

John George Robley was born at Kelso, near Bathurst, New South Wales on 13 September 1843, and was baptised at Kelso Church of England on 4 December 1843. John George was to become a pioneer of the Gosford/Wyong area, north of Sydney.

His parents were John Robley (1818 - 1880) and Maria Brooks (born 1819, death date unknown). John was the eldest son of Christopher Robley, who arrived in Sydney as a convict, in 1810. Maria was born in Sydney in 1819, the daughter of Corporal George Brooke (or Brooks) and Susanna (surname unknown). Brooke had arrived in the colony with the 48th Regiment, in 1818. When this regiment left Sydney in 1824 it appears that Maria was left in the Female Orphanage School at Parramatta. It would seem that her mother Susanna was either dead or unable to care for the 5 year old. Maria spent her childhood at this orphanage, becoming apprenticed there in 1830. She and John Robley married in Sydney on 6 May 1839 and within the next few years moved to Kelso. This part of New South Wales was still relatively unpopulated, a route across the Blue Mountains separating Sydney from the interior having been discovered only in 1813.

John Robley had been a baker in Sydney and followed this trade in Kelso He and Maria had a second child, Susanna Margaret Robley, born at Bathurst on April 11, 1845. What happened to the family in the next few years in unclear. Susanna Margaret died aged 18 at Kangaroo Point, Queensland on 13 February 1864, leaving two baby daughters. Why she moved to Queensland is not known. Maria disappears from the records at about this time also.

In about 1855 John Robley and his 12 year-old son John George moved from Kelso to Gosford (then known as Brisbane Water), north of Sydney. They would have arrived by boat, because there was no road from Sydney at the time. The area's main attraction was the abundance of timber, especially cedar. John George became a sawyer and log-splitter.

In 1861, John Robley was the victim of a robbery. His son gave evidence to the Bench of Magistrates in the case of George Knight, charged with stealing "the sum of 42/1/- in money and other things, the property of a blind man named John Robley." Among the things stolen was "a ring, with a locket attached". It would be nice to know if the ring and locket were remembrances of John's wife Maria Brooks. The court records do not make it clear if the property was ever recovered. John died in 1880, aged 61.

On 2 May 1864 John George Robley married Isabella Ramsden at the Presbyterian Church, Sydney. Isabella was born in Stockport, England in 1844 and had arrived in Sydney in 1856 with her mother and stepfather.

John George Robley and Isabella (Ramsden) Robley.

John George and Isabella spent a few years at the Tambaroora goldfields in central New South Wales, before they returned to Gosford (presumably without any huge return for their labours). They had seven children, only two of whom survived infancy:

By 1885 John George was licensee of the Union Hotel, Gosford.

Union Hotel, Gosford.

In 1888 he was Secretary of the Gosford Cricket Club. The following reminiscences were printed in the Wyong Advocate in 1922 and reprinted in the Gosford Times on January 26, 1928:

"The first cricket club was started in 1858 by Lyall Scott at Ourimbah, the bat was made from blue gum and ironbark, and the ball from gutta percha pipes. There are only three men now living who were members of the original club, viz., G. Taylor, J. Buscombe and J. Robley; and George Spears is the only man now living that was a member of the opposing team. The first match was between Ourimbah and Gosford in Harrison's Paddock, and Gosford won by three wickets. The next match between the same teams was played at Frog Hollow, Gosford again winning. When Ourimbah met Gosford again on the same ground they defeated Gosford by several wickets. The games were generally played for the dinner. The reason all games were played at Gosford was on account of no suitable ground at Ourimbah. On the evening of each match dancing was indulged in and continued until the small hours of the morning after sunrise. The trip to Ourimbah was made on foot, but players were unaccompanied by their sweethearts, as like the sailor, they had one in every town they visited."

Early Gosford Cricketers. John Robley third from left.

In 1889 John George and Isabella Robley moved to Wyong, a town just north of Gosford, and in that year John built the Royal Hotel. In about 1894 he was licensee of the Commercial Hotel, Wyong. In 1904 he built a two-storey building, intending it as a hotel to be called the Oxford. However when it was completed he was refused a liquor licence on the grounds that Wyong already had two hotels, the Royal and the Commercial, to cater for the liquor requirements of the local community. He therefore decided to use it as an accommodation house, which he called the Coffee Palace. At ground level were kitchen and dining room, and upstairs were seventeen bedrooms.

Isabella was in great demand in the area as a midwife, often travelling on horseback to many outlying farms to assist in this way.

Isabella (Ramsden) Robley.

By 1912 John George had given up the hotel business, and began farming on a property just outside Wyong. In retirement he and Isabella moved "back to town", living in Byron Street Wyong for the rest of their lives. John George died on 29 October 1931, aged 88. The Gosford Times of that date published an obituary"Passing of a Pioneer - John G. Robley". Isabella lived to the grand age of 100, dying on 5 August 1944. The Gosford Times published an obituary on 6 August 1944.

Bibliography:

Dundon, Gwen: "Old Gosford and District in Pictures" (1977) Dundon, Gwen: "More Old Gosford and District in Pictures" (1978)

Dundon, Gwen: "Third Old Gosford and District in Pictures" (1980)

Stinson, Edward: "Pictorial History of Wyong" (4 vols. 1979 - 1983)

Swancott, Charles: "Blue Gum Flat to Budgewoi" (1963)

John Ross, Albury, NSW. November, 2005