In 1818 Ednam House was bought by John Robertson, a
successful merchant in London but originally from Kelso. (His
brother-in-law ran the Ednam brewery.) His wife Margaret
was born in Berwick and her grandfather was formerly minister
of Bedrule, so she too had local connections. They had been
married for ten years when they decided to settle in Kelso. In
1842 John died, but his widow continued to live in Ednam
House until her death. Well known for her many charitable
works in the town, Mrs Robertson regularly gave money to the
Inspector of the Poor to help destitute people in Kelso. She
took a great interest in the Ragged School and left it an annuity
in her will. She contributed much of the cost of the rebuilding
of St Andrews Episcopal church in 1869, by the famous
architect Robert Rowand Anderson.
However, her greatest gift to the town was undoubtedly Shedden Park. In October 1850, on learning of the untimely death of her favourite nephew Robert Shedden, she decided to preserve his memory, by giving to the people of Kelso a public park to be named in his honour. Two fields were purchased next to the Coldstream Road for £1200 - a lot of money in those days - and Mrs Robertson gave a further £500 to lay paths, plant trees and shrubs and enclose the park with railings. She later donated two cannons from Shedden’s ship, which stood in front of the Keeper’s Lodge; and she also gave to the trustees some houses in Rose Lane whose rents would provide income to run the park.
Such was the gratitude of the people of Kelso that a fund was started to raise a memorial arch at the entrance to Shedden Park in honour of Mrs Robertson. The park was officially inaugurated in October 1851with a grand procession, a ball and a bonfire in the Square.
Who was Robert Shedden? Robert Shedden was Mrs Robertson’s nephew. His family were regular visitors to Kelso. He had a successful career in the Navy rising to the rank of Lieutenant Commander. In 1848 he set sail from Leith in a schooner, the Nancy Dawson, which he had equipped from his own resources. He intended to go round the world collecting information for the Geographical Society, and also to help in the search for Sir John Franklin. In 1845 Franklin, a famous Arctic explorer had set off with two ships to try to find a route around northern Canada. His ships disappeared without trace in the polar ice and by 1848 a full scale search was under way to try to find him and his men.
In 1849 Robert Shedden in the Nancy Dawson joined two naval vessels in searching the area between the Behring Straits and the Mackenzie River. Shedden sailed further to the north-east of the Straits than any ship before. However, in September, with a mutinous crew, worn down with illness and with the ice closing in, Shedden was forced to turn back. His ship headed for Mazatlan in Mexico where he died in November aged only 28 years.
Find out about the contribution people from Kelso have made through the ages. Biographies of characters with Kelso connections who have made their mark throughout the world.View Storyboard: Mrs Margaret Robertson of Shedden Park