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who was peg robertson?

March 24, 2024
A selection of black and white photos of a woman travelling around Europe

Who was Peg (Margaret) Robertson? Well she was my (Annabelle, CEO here, hi) grandmother and big source of inspiration for The M Scale and our branding.

I wanted to put pen to paper to let our supporters know the story behind the brand, and it all starts with Peg.

Growing up, I was always relayed adventurous stories from my grandmother of her travels abroad – peppered with a healthy dose of feminism.

From New Zealand to England

A woman in the 1950's standing on deck a ship with a rack of luggage - black and white.
Peg on her way to England.

In 1952, at the age of 22, Peg boarded a boat to travel to England in search of adventure. I should mention this was from New Zealand, so the trip would have taken near on 5 weeks. The ship she boarded was mostly used to bring immigrants to “god’s own” New Zealand, but ever the contrarian, Peg hitched a ride going the other way. This is just the beginning of Peg’s ability to buck societal trends and set the tone for the future of her daughters and granddaughters. While most young women from Whanganui were preoccupied with finding a husband and having children – the expected – Peg was sunbathing on deck crossing the Panama Canal.

A woman in a white sundress on the deck of a ship smiling at the camera.
Crossing the Panama Canal

The Original Kiwi OE

I remember her showing me the printed dinner menu from the boat, I believe coronation chicken was present. Which is a coincidence considering she had established her life in London in time for the Queen’s very own coronation in 1953. Peg and her housemates, including her brother Peter, decorated their flat, and we still have the roadside ticket issued by the New Zealand stand on Hyde Park Corner in my family’s collection of beloved memories. Nowadays the temporary migration of Kiwis to London could almost be considered a rite of passage, I did it myself, Peg was just about 30 years before her time.

A black and white photo of a row of London flats with people celebrating out the front and streamers hanging out the windows.
Celebrating the Queen's Coronation.

Before I moved to London in 2017, Peg told me that I’d have to go and see if the pub “The Prospect of Whitby” was still open, in Wapping. She mentioned that her and the other nurses would go there every Sunday for a roast and a pint, and when she later returned with my grandfather in the 90’s they were able to relive that memory. I remember it clearly because my sister and I laughed at the name “Wapping,” but in fact, 2 years later due to a dodgy flat experience of my own, I found myself desperately taking a room in a flat share that would become my home for the following year in Wapping – and we would frequently get a roast from The Prospect.

A photo of an old pub on the river Thames, 1950's. Black and white.
The Prospect of Whitby 1950's
A photo of the same pub in colour from the front on a cobbled street with a sign saying "The Prospect of Whitby"
The Prospect of Whitby 2017

Peg also did a stint working at the old Royal Mail sorting office on Rathbone Place, which I only found out when I told her I’d joined a company located on Rathbone Place. It really seemed I was walking in her footsteps – unknowingly.

Travels

During her time in the Northern Hemisphere, Peg took the chance to explore, often by hitchhiking.  She explored much of the UK and Europe. When I told her I’d met an Italian man and fallen in love (now my husband) she told me about how she travelled Italy with a friend. They’d both started at one point (perhaps Rome, the details are hazy) gone their separate ways and agreed to meet on a day and time two weeks later at Lake Como.

I’ll let the photos tell the rest of her stories, as there are too many to regale.

A selection of black and white photos of a woman travelling around Europe

Returning home & family

Alas, after a few years of exploring, New Zealand called her home, where Peg once again stood out as an unmarried woman at 24. She took a job in the local postal service in her small town of Whanganui and happened to meet a dashing unwed 24-year-old man whose job it was to train the office workers in the brand-new air freight process being introduced. They would find themselves in love, married and having four children. That love would last 58 years until the passing of Stuart, and as someone who bore witness to their love, I believe it was founded on a mutual interest of travel, progressive and feminist ideas, and a wicked sense of humour – right until the end.

A photo of a young couple in wedding clothes standing outside a church. 1950's black and white.
A photo of the same young couple later in life, posing for a photo together

Feminism

Peg raised three daughters and a son. My own mother went on to have my sister and myself, so it’s fair to say women dominated the Robertson family. Fortunately, we had Peg and Stuart to guide us into being strong (sometimes stubbornly so) pragmatic, no-nonsense women – with a love of travel.

Often you would hear Peg mutter under her breath things such as “if women designed cars there would be a space for your handbag,” or “if men got their periods, the sewer system would be designed to handle sanitary products,” – after a clogged bathroom incident from one of her teenagers. Probably the most poignant comment was “if men had periods, the products would be a lot more advance and bathroom facilities would be designed completely differently. Manging a period would be easy, not hard.” My grandparents encouraged the women in their family to be interested in what is happening in the world, to seek higher education if it suited them, and most of all, to travel.

How this relates to The M Scale

incredible designer to start building an image of what The M Scale is. I kept coming back to Peg.

I was inspired to create The M Scale out of my own frustrations with managing menstruation during travels – it has since grown from that original idea.

I kept thinking about the elderly women, who, once they heard my idea, would say “oh it’s about time,” or “gosh are women still having to deal with that issue?” I thought of Peg, travelling the world boldly and fearlessly and having to manage her menstruation during the process, which would have been a lot harder!

We ended up taking a design very much inspired from the 1950’s and 60’s, with a focus on technology – this is a problem that should have been solved years ago but hasn’t.

Also, above all, I wouldn’t be who I am without the strong matriarch guiding the way for me and my female relatives I am confident to have a voice, stand up against something that is wrong, and above all – a feminist.

Credit where credit is due

So, credit where credit is due. Sadly, Peg passed away two years ago, at the age of 92. It would have been her 94th birthday this March. She said something to me during one our last chats that I will forever think about. As her sight and hearing had largely gone, and she was one of the last survivors of her generation, she had little in the way of entertainment. That didn’t seem to bother her though, as she told me “I’ve had such a wonderful life, I sit here and look through all of my memories in my mind and that can keep me entertained for hours.”

A black and white image of a woman sitting and patting a dog in front of a concrete wall.

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