Today marks a special day for the Robertson family as their matriach and patriach celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary.
Geoff and Marilyn (nee Heath) Robertson readily admit reaching the milestone has not been without its ups and downs.
“We are total opposites,” Mrs Robertson, 92, said thoughtfully.
“I’d agree with that,” Mr Robertson, 93, said. “Which is both good and bad.”
They also agree they’ve had a good life.
“The fact we’re so different is just a test,” Mrs Robertson said.
Their two pieces of advice are “Stick with it” and “Start young”.
“We were young and fit and we both worked extremely hard,” Mrs Robertson, said.
“I didn’t know any different. In retrospect I worked extremely hard but I just thought that’s what you had to do.”
And would you believe they still exchange cross words?
“It’s not sensible to say you can get through marriage without disagreements,” Mrs Robertson said.
“Arguments are just discussions. You’ve got to be tolerant of other people’s eccentricities.”
At the start, Geoff, a Melbourne boy, had a job in the city as a wool buyer, and Marilyn, known as Mal, who grew up in Bairnsdale, was working in Melbourne as a kindergarten teacher.
They met on a blind date, introduced by mutual friends who later became their bridesmaid and groomsman. After becoming engaged they immediately faced their first challenge.
“Unfortunately, I got the farming bug,” Mr Robertson said, with a wry smile.
He resigned and took a jackaroo’s job in the Western District to “brush up” on his farming skills. “Do you know I only saw him twice between the time we were engaged and the time we were married?” Mrs Robertson said. “And a weekly letter, a pretty weak weekly letter actually. He didn’t tell me he had the farming bug, he didn’t even tell me he’d resigned!”
Married at age 22 and 23 at Scotch College in Melbourne on October 14, 1950, they then had a grand celebration at the Windsor.
Helped by Mal’s father, the original Mr Heath of local real estate company King and Heath, who Mr Robertson said “wanted his daughter back locally”, found them 980 acres to purchase at Bengworden.
Mrs Robertson then faced her own challenges, living in a small house built in the middle of a paddock, with four sons under six years of age.
“We had no electricity for 16 years and no phone at first,” she said. “I’m a practical sort of person and I had a lovely Singer sewing machine. I made all my clothes and the children’s clothes. I loved it.”
She also built an English garden around the house, which grew bit by bit for the family.
They bought sheep locally and from Benambra, and bought more land to enlargen the enterprise eventually creating a 2000-acre holding.
Mr Robertson still visits the farm, ‘Gracemere’, a couple of mornings a week, which is now run by his son Rick and Jen Robertson.
They say the 70 years has gone quickly and being as busy as the Robertsons, so it would.
They have lived in town for the past 35 years and both are heavily involved with community groups, with Mal through her art, being involved with the East Gippsland and Victorian art councils, as well as being a clever bridge player.
Mr Robertson was part of the Bairnsdale Shire Council for three years as well as acting as president of the Gippsland Sheep Breeders Association, and the Victorian Merino Breeders.
More recently he has been involved with Probus and Legacy.
They have also travelled extensively together, spending three and a half months in England and Europe, as well as 10 weeks in South America, and another stint in Eastern Turkey.
Strong family ties have also seen them through.
Their four sons, Andrew, Timothy, Richard and Christopher, attended Bengworden primary school and then Meerlieu, completing the first few years of secondary education in Bairnsdale before going to boarding school in Melbourne, and then university or ag college.
Mrs Robertson bought a flat in Melbourne and thoroughly enjoyed her trips to the city.
“Our boys have all grown into marvelous men,” Mrs Robertson said. “Our wonderful family has been the rock of our lives.”
Celebrating 70 years of marriage today, Marilyn and Geoff Robertson, of Bairnsdale. K419-3336