This is the official website of Harry Robertson:
A Scot by birth, a proud Australian by choice
This site is presented by Evan and Lyn Mathieson through the Mathieson Australian Music and Image Archive (MAMAIA) for Harry’s widow, Mrs Rita Robertson, who is the Sole Copyright Owner of all of Harry’s works.
Rita has been pleased to make all of Harry’s manuscripts, recordings, and their family photographs available for our ongoing project. It is the wish of Rita and her family that Harry’s works should be archived accurately, so all material is checked carefully before being made available on this site.
The aim is to make a comprehensive collection of all of Harry’s works so that those genuine in their interest may access accurate copies of his material. Should anyone wish to use any part of this copyright material for other than private use, please contact us via our Webmaster.
We thank our dear friend Rita and her family for their ongoing enthusiasm and participation in building this archive as a tribute to our friend Harry. We were befriended by Harry and Rita in Brisbane in the 1960’s and our friendship grew over the years. When Harry died in 1995 we organised a Tribute Concert in his honour at the Woodford Folk Festival. Rita was the Guest of Honour, and it was at this time that she confided to us that she would really like to put together a complete archive of Harry’s life and music to pass on to their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, as well as the “folk” of present and future generations who shared our common ideals through song. Out of friendship, love, and respect for both Rita and Harry, we willingly took on this task for her. It continues to be an ongoing labour of love.
Harry was a singer songwriter in the true Oral Tradition. He did not read music, so we learned the tunes for his songs directly from the man himself – often as they were newly written. Once Harry had settled on a tune it stayed constant, but he often re-worked the words in the same way as he fine-tuned the ships’ engines he worked on. His many word drafts had to be crosschecked with his old tape recordings, and where he had not left a recording, we accessed those performers who had learned the songs directly from Harry himself. We had worked as members of Harry’s Organising Committee for the 1969 Moreton Bay Folk Festival (now known as the 3rd National Folk Festival) and knew the man well. Our understanding of Harry’s talents, honesty, and genuine social conscience, coupled with Evan’s excellent performance memory of the songs and Lyn’s research and archiving initiatives, have underpinned the integrity of this whole project.
Our first step was to ensure that all of Harry’s copyright material was secured in Rita Robertson’s name, and that all of his works were registered with APRA-AMCOS.
In 2001 we organised (through the National Film and Sound Archive ) the re-issue in CD format of Harry’s only commercial recording, the award winning 1971 LP “WHALE CHASING MEN”, and arranged for Rita to be Guest of Honour at the Offcial Launch in Canberra at the 34th National Folk Festival. We also compiled the song words and background information for a 24 page insert booklet to be included in the CD case. Earlier this year (2009) the contract that ScreenSound Australia (as the NFSA was then known) had entered into to undertake the “Whale Chasing Men” CD production expired, so we have now put Harry’s whaling song words and introductory text on this site along with MP3’s of the original 1971 recordings of the songs. These are downloadable for private use.
In 2007 Evan recorded a selection of 18 Harry’s songs under the title “Harry’s Legacy” This CD included a 24 page full colour insert booklet of the song words, with archival photographs and background information from Lyn’s research. “Harry’s Legacy” may be purchased from Trad and Now.
In 2009 we are delighted to celebrate Rita’s 80th birthday year with the Launch of a new 18 track CD “Tribute To Harry Robertson 1923-1995”, recorded by Evan and researched and produced by Lyn. This CD features a fine selection of many of Harry’s previously unrecorded songs as well as two archival tracks of Harry himself performing one of his poems and leading a shanty chorus on the original “Ballina Whalers”.
As you can see this site is a work in progress. Please come back and visit us again. We’d love to hear from you.
Evan and Lyn Mathieson
PO Box 21
Donnybrook 4510, Queensland, Australia
All Content on this site unless otherwise indicated © Copyright Evan and Lyn Mathieson, Brisbane 2009.