Forbes was born in Vancouver, Canada. His father, Forbes Proctor Robertson, was an Aberdonian and his mother, née Amy Dorothy Lancey, of English and German descent, came from London. After a few years the family moved to nearby Seattle, where his father was in the retail trade, and he began school. However, his mother was not at ease in the North America of the l920s and so when he was aged seven the family resettled in Eastbourne, Sussex, closer to his mother’s roots. There, he developed his love of the countryside, eagerly observing flowers and butterflies on the South Downs. His father was, however, dissatisfied with the quality of his education, and so when Forbes was 12 the family returned to Aberdeen, to St. Swithin Street, where he and his brother, Angus were enrolled in Robert Gordon’s College. Forbes was very successful academically and happily developed his many interests, especially in the flowering plants of the Aberdeen area. Living on a Canadian war pension (his father was invalided out of the First World War), life during the 30s was frugal; however, books, especially poetry, were readily available from the public library. Already his aim was to be a trained naturalist.
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