James Duncan Robertson was born in Glasgow on 16 January 1912, the son of James Robertson, a local Headmaster and Phemie Helen Hunter Muir, a school teacher. He was the eldest of four children who included two brothers and a sister. On 18 June 1947, he married Isobel Mary (‘Elma’) Lamont Leitch, a geographer whom he met while both were lecturers at Glasgow University. Known to his family as Jim, James was affectionately and almost universally known to his colleagues as ‘J D’.
On his father’s side, he was descended from Shetland merchants and fishing folk, on his mother’s side from Ayrshire farmers. From annual holidays in Shetland, he developed interests in the sea and the life it contains, in islands and in birds. He attended Rutherglen Academy, Glasgow, from 1917 to 1924 in the Junior Section and from 1924 to 1929 in the Secondary School, emerging as Dux medallist in 1929.
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