Glasgow medical family to feature in TV genealogy show

A story of a record-breaking family of doctors who all trained at the University of Glasgow has been highlighted in the Australian version of television genealogy programme Who Do You Think You Are?

University of Glasgow medical family record uncovered for Australia' Who Do You Think You Are?
University of Glasgow medical family record uncovered for Australia' Who Do You Think You Are?

Eight sons of Dr John Robertson of Dumbarton, West Dunbartonshire all followed their father into medicine over 20 years starting in the 1880s. This family of doctors even merited a mention in the 1989 Guinness Book of Records.

Now their story has been rediscovered by researchers looking into the family of Australian film, television and theatre actress Marta Dusseldorp for Who Do You Think You Are Australia. 

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Working with the University’s archivists, TV researchers found the Robertson family’s medical record story in the 1976 edition of the Graduates Association magazine. The article said that of the 15 children of Dr John Robertson and his wife Elizabeth, ten were boys. Of the ten boys, eight went to the University of Glasgow to study medicine.

It added: “This extraordinary record was recounted to us by Mrs Mabel Robertson, the widow of the youngest son, Frank. Small wonder that, as Mrs Robertson recalls, one of the professors under whom the boys studied one day asked in bewilderment: ‘How many more of you are there?’ After qualifying, the family dispersed across the globe – to South Africa, Australia and England. One died young and only one remained in Scotland.

One of the eight sons, Frederick Gordon Robertson, who began his medical training at Glasgow in 1901, eventually emigrated to Australia. Dusseldorp -  best known in the UK for her part in the BBC1 Australian melodrama A Place to Call Home - is Frederick’s great-granddaughter. 

Ms Dusseldorp paid a visit to the University of Glasgow as part of her filming to learn more about her great-grandfather’s story.

She said: “I was very close to my maternal grandfather Sandy, Frederick Gordon’s son. My grandfather was a great man and a great doctor. He was also a wonderful role model and inspiration to me and my siblings - in fact my brother Joe followed in his footsteps and is a doctor working in Sydney.

“When I embarked on Who Do You Think You Are Australia, I knew medicine was in the blood of my immediate family and I did wonder would we uncover more doctors. But never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined the extent of the connection to medicine going back some 150 years. 

“The fact that eight of ten sons became doctors is incredible.”