ON THURSDAY, December 6, 1900, a tragedy took place at Number 2 Clackmannan Road in Alloa at the home of 67-year-old Miss Euphemia Ambrose.

Miss Ambrose’s nephew James Ambrose Robertson had arrived at her house around 3 o’clock that afternoon from Edinburgh, joining her and Charles Gray, a cousin, who lived with her. Gray had left as he had errands to run, and the pair seemed to be on good terms when he did so.

Nothing is known about what they did for the rest of the afternoon, but that evening at around 7 o’clock Gray returned to the house and found a porter from Alloa train station at the door with Robertson’s luggage.

The porter, Harry Young, had received no answer when he had rung, but realised the bell was not working so knocked, but there was still no response. All he heard was Miss Ambrose’s little terrier barking in the distance.

He looked round the house and although there was a light in the hallway, the rest of it was dark. Gray was also surprised to see the house in darkness, as usually there was a light on in the kitchen at that time of the evening.

Once entry to the property had been gained, Miss Ambrose and her nephew were found dead in or near the kitchen. Miss Ambrose was found in a bed under bed covers in a small apartment just off the kitchen, while Robertson was found on top of the counter pane.

Neither had any marks on their bodies and it was quickly suspected the young man had poisoned his aunt then had taken the poison himself.

Robertson was a chemist who suffered from mental health issues, spending time in hospital. He lived in Leith, although both he and his aunt originally come from Fraserburgh.

He had been an inmate at the Morningside Asylum in Edinburgh that summer, but had been discharged as it was believed he had been cured of his "mental ailment".

Over the years, the 30 year old had set up several businesses but none had been particularly successful. He had used the advertisement "Got a headache? Come to Robertson and he will cure it".

He had unlimited faith in his drugs and the public believed in him. When his business was going well, he was described as happy, warm-hearted and kind.

However, after his aunt had left Fraserburgh, his mental health suffered so he followed her south, first to Birnam in Perthshire then the capital.


MISS AMBROSE had been complaining of feeling unwell so it is possible her nephew made up a remedy but put in the wrong ingredient and poisoned her by mistake.

However, the police suspected murder. Remains of paper used by chemists for putting powders in was found in the fireplace near the kitchen grate, along with a single match, and the police believed Robertson had tried to burn it.

A couple of empty glasses recently used were found near the bodies. In one was the residue of a white substance but none in the other. No vial containing a poisonous substance was found.

Robertson’s body was searched but again no drugs or poison were found.

On the kitchen table lay two envelopes. These contained the wills of Robertson’s mother who left everything to him, and Robertson’s own will, in which he left everything to Gray.

The paper used for Robertson’s will was found in the house, so it was concluded he had written it while there.

Also on the table was Robertson’s gold watch and chain, which he bequeathed to Gray.

Dr J. Paul Low, the local physician, was called to the house and the police surgeon arrived soon after, but both were pronounced dead.

Police believed the incident happened not long after Gray had left the house that afternoon.

A post-mortem examination of both Miss Ambrose and Robertson was carried out on the Friday afternoon by Low, and Dr Home Hay, who was also a magistrate in Alloa.

Earlier in the day, Miss Ambrose had been seen in town, and had been in reasonable health as Dr Low had attended to her and not seen her in some time. It was also ascertained Robertson had not purchased any drugs in Alloa following his arrival.

During inquiries, it emerged Robertson had visited his aunt and uncle in Edinburgh on the Wednesday evening.

He had seemed nervous and depressed, so they had suggested a short visit to his aunt in Alloa. He had departed Edinburgh at 1.15 but had left his luggage, a tin box, behind, so on arrival had asked Young to keep an eye out for it as he believed it would arrive on the next train.

Young confirmed that Robertson had left instruction for it to be taken to his aunt’s house in Clackmannan Road. He described Robertson as being ‘ordinary.’

The bodies of Miss Ambrose and Robertson were taken by train to Edinburgh on Saturday, December 8, where they were later interred.

No motive was ever established.