Woman of the Week, Mrs. `Bobbie` Robertson, Evening Telegram, 1948, August 7, p. 8
Everyone knows that when we are legally the tenth province of Canada, there won’t be any duty to be paid on Canadian goods. But what about the imports from countries other than Canada? How will these new duties compare with the Newfoundland rates?
Mrs. “Bobbie” Robertson, secretary to the Canadian Government Trade Commissioner in Newfoundland, has the answer to these questions in a large book in her office, and uses this book many times over in one working day. It is the only one of its kind available at the moment, and the answers it gives are more complicated; for instance, sugar in its many guises has different kinds of duty to be paid on it, depending on its polarization value, how it comes into the country and where it comes from.
This is only one example of many questions Mrs. Robertson answers in the course of a very busy day at her office. Her job, which is the only one of its kind in the country, is very interesting and she loves it. The people she meets and the interesting letters the Trade Commissioner receives are all part and parcel of what she feels is a fascinating job. Never bored and always active, she can talk easily and intelligently on almost any subject you care to mention.
This, we feel, is because Mrs. Robertson is very well read. Her greatest passion, besides her work, is her books. The walls of her cheerful room at the Crosbie Hotel are lined with books, and many more are stored away in trunks and boxes. Her work demands that she be familiar with all Canadian news and trade papers, besides those that are published in Nfld. And she is happy when, off duty, she can be with a book, especially her volumes of Rupert Brooke. His poetry she knows and loves, and she collects everything she can find written by him or about him.
Born near Dundee, Scotland, Mrs. Robertson was educated in Forfar Academy, and then took a commercial course at the renowned Skerry’s College. She has lived in Newfoundland for over 20 years, and has never lost her soft Scots accent, which is so attractive.
Beginning in 1935, she worked for six years with Commission of Government in the Land Settlement schemes and Department of Rural Reconstruction. Whilst she was there she gained an intensive knowledge of Newfoundland and finds this most useful in her present position. In 1941, she became secretary to Algot F. Johnson, head of one of the four construction companies which built the United States bases in the country, and worked at Fort Pepperell.
Then in July, 1942, the first Canadian Government Trade Commissioner, R. P. Bower, came to St. John’s and Mrs. Robertson became his secretary. The work then was chiefly concerned with the organizing of the allocation of commodities, and it has since grown. Now, with the third Commissioner to Newfoundland, Mrs. Robertson helps Newfoundlanders who want Canadian sources of supply, gives word pictures of Newfoundland markets to Canadian firms, and a yearly report is sent to Ottawa on [sic] also some correspondence with other Canadian Trade Commissioners, for they have an office in every country in the world that deals with Canada.
Each year she receives three weeks holidays, and every other summer vacations at Appleton, Glenwood, her favourite spot in Newfoundland. Here, too, she is active and happiest when she can do something to help her hostess, like blueberries and partridgeberries which grow to profusion.
When we were talking to her last week, she spoke especially of the friendly atmosphere between the Newfoundland importers and the Canadian Trade Commissioner’s office. We cannot help feeling that Mrs. Robertson, with her warm smile and friendly nature, is largely responsible for this happy state of affairs, and we are certain that she does much to keep it going, especially during these days when no-one seems to know when we shall finally become part of Canada’s great family of provinces.