John Hugh Roberts – a Canadian family at the turn of the century.

John Hugh Roberts  ( 1828 – 1912) was a Welsh born mystic that wrote the ‘Druid manuscripts‘ and “Stone Book of Knowledge‘ and was also a pioneer in the developing years in both Ontario and British Columbia.  He was a tailor by trade who  came  to Canada  with his wife Anne to start a new life  and her they had three dynamic children. As well as tailoring , he purchased property for development. He had come to Canada initially in 1859 and then went back to Wales with his wife and son Tomhu for 6 years. In 1866 then moved back to Toronto , then went to Winnipeg (1883)  to help start the Welsh Colony and then in 1885 he brought property at Quebec and 10th and settled in Vancouver for the last twenty years of his life. Both him and his son Tomhu both fought the great fire in Vancouver in 1885.

Early Canadian author

His daughter, Mississippi, gave birth to Charles Steele, who was the first boy registered to be born since the incorporation of Vancouver.

Charles Steele was good friends with Mary Bertrand and when he passed at 92 years old the writings of John Hugh Roberts ( Charles Steele’s grandfather) , family dairies ( 60 years plus a small diary from Wales), family photos and paintings of his uncle Tomhu Roberts were gifted to her. She then gifted them to her son Dale Bertrand.

Charles Steele, grandson of John Hugh Roberts, was the first white boy to be registered to be born in Vancouver

John Hugh Rober’ts son Tomhu Huron (Tomtu)  became a noted “Early Canadian artist”. His daughter Sarah married the son of the famous explorer Charles McKenzie

John Hugh Roberts was a visionary developer and astute investor thru the 1890 – 1900 and thus  had more financial freedom later in his life. John Hugh  spent the last 20 years following his passion – writing  stories of his beliefs and life experience. He was trained by his grandmother from Wales and her two friends .. called the “Three Mermaids” in the Druidical ways and one of the things he  wrote  about was the teachings he had seen on stone tablets as a boy. He spent the last nine years of his life compiling the book he called the “Stone Book of Knowledge”. Six books of this writings have been published by Dale Bertrand with Azatlan Publishing  the from 2007 -2019- ”Druidical Quest”, “The Three Mermaids”, “Chief Festival of the Druids”, “Gaelcerth of Halloween”, “Nennius” and  a facsimile of the “Stone Book of Knowledge”.

Article from Celtic Connections.

 Tomhu Huron Roberts (1859 – 1938) was an “Early Canadian artist”  (born  in Collingwood). He did go to Wales with his family when a baby and spent six years there. In 1866 the family returned to Canada. When 22 he studied in  1880 at Odell and Trout and apprenticed at Bridgman and Foster in Toronto.  Otto Jacobi rented a room in one the families’ houses and advised  on techniques. His family moved to Manitoba to the Welsh Colony in 1883 and then Vancouver  in 1884 just before it officially became a city.   Tomhu kept painting and sketching and was the one of the founding members of the Pioneer Art Gallery on Cordoba Street in 1886.  

Tomhu Huron Roberts, son of John Hugh Roberts at the turn of the century in Canada.

The book Artist’s Overland by the Burnaby Art Gallery states,”Tomhu Roberts seems to have been the first registered artist to live in Vancouver and make a living as an artist. He must have seen the city firsthand, for the Roberts family came to the city in 1884. His work marks the end of the topographical era, for he deals with the landscape in a subjective fashion, using colours in an emotion evoking way which would of been quite novel in British Columbia at the time.”  His painting “Big Rock, Third Beach”, is reproduced in J. Russell Harper’s “Painting in Canada a history”(1966). In 1978 Mr. Dale Bertrand inherited some of the artist paintings, sketches, sketch books and the dairies kept by the artist’s father,  John .H. Roberts, .. Dale undertook research of the artist in 1979 with two exhibitions in Vancouver in 1982 (at the Petrov Gallery) and in the same year at the Graphica Art Gallery Edmonton , and later in Toronto.  In the book the ‘Coast, the Sea and Canadian Art‘, the author says, The air feels dense and still-quiet like Vancouver at the end of a hot July day. And the pumpkin coloured cloud is a complete surprise. Robert’s audacity is still a little thrilling. In “From Desolation to Splendour” Maria Tippett & Douglas Cole says of Tomhu on one remarkable sketch he inscribed notations on how correctly to paint the foliage of a cedar..”. Tomhu’s sketches are detailed and sensitive.. he loved the countryside and people who were part of his family and community in Canada. A very notable and true “Early Canadian” artist.

Many of the aspects of this creative family are fascinating to us. Wanted to post a little on the family to share on the Blog ‘Druidical Quest” that features John Hugh Robert’s writing and beliefs.

Some of John Hugh Roberts manuscripts

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