The STRONGs of Ulster, Ireland, Chapter 2

Robert STRONGRobert STRONG b. 1830
Courtesy: B&I Strong.

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This chapter describes the life of Robert STRONG (Jnr) of Holywood, Belfast (Ireland), and Auckland (NZ). Note that Robert’s family bible provides birth, death information and census information for his family.

Robert STRONG (Jnr.) of Belfast & New Zealand

Introduction

Robert STRONG (Jnr) was my great grandfather. He was born in 1830 in Holywood, Co. Down, and was a carpenter with James McCracken of Belfast. I first saw Robert's photo in the lounge room of my cousins Brian and Irene STRONG of New Zealand ..... I still remember the surprise of seeing what looked like my grandfather David STRONG. Robert's photo was a large portrait developed on glass and was hand tinted, as was the companion photo of his wife Jane (see my LANE pages). We are grateful to Brian and Irene STRONG for permission to reproduce these photos. A black and white thumb nail of Robert’s photo is above left. The full coloured image of Robert STRONG can be seen here. Note that photos of Robert and Jane in their old age are at the base of this page.

Employment in Belfast

A reference from the Mayor of Belfast describes as follows:

"I have much pleasure in certifying that I have known Mr Robert STRONGE for many years as foreman and general manager of the extensive business of Mr James McCracken, builder, of this town, and I willingly bear testimony to his excellent conduct, strict attention to business, and kindness and courtesy of manner. It is with much regret I learn that so useful a member of the Building Trade is leaving Belfast, as his place will not easily be filled. Mr STRONGE was always strictly temperate, upright and honest in all his dealings. I wish him every success in Auckland, and heartily commend him to every true loyalist. Signed in the Mayor's Parlour, Town Hall, Belfast, this eighteenth day of November, 1874. W. Alex. Henderson Mayor of Belfast."

Source: Henderson WA. Reference for Robert Stronge. Held by museum of United Masters Lodge, 167NZC, Auckland. Nov 18, 1874.

Directory records list James McCRACKEN as follows:

Con Auld mentions the McCRACKEN family's association with Holywood. Could a reader provide more information? Perhaps Robert initially obtained his job with James McCRACKEN due to family associations back in Holywood?

Source: Auld C. Holywood Co. Down: Then & now. Self-published,Holywood; 2002; 30.

More speculation … perhaps James McCracken's grocery business gave Robert the idea for a career change when he went to Auckland?

Mason in Belfast

Robert STRONG joined Lodge No. 609, Friendly Brothers in Belfast in 1853 (aged 23). This was at Arthur Square, Belfast and reasonably close to his home. Ten years after he became Master of the lodge. Robert's grandson, Robert W. STRONG donated Robert's Masonic certificates to a Masonic museum in Auckland NZ.

Family Bible & Robert’s Religion in Belfast

Images and discussion are on the Family Bible page.

Marriages

On 24 Jun 1851 when Robert was 21, he first married Jane ROBINSON, daughter of Torrens ROBINSON, in the Frederick St Wesleyan Chapel, Belfast. On 26 Apr 1862 when Robert was 32, he second married Jane LAIN, daughter of James LAIN & Mary/ Margaret MOORE , in the Wesleyan Chapel, Donegal Square East, Belfast. The LANE family are described on my other pages "LANE/LAIN(E)s of Ulster, Ireland".

Sickness in the Family

In 1861 Robert lost his first wife Jane STRONG (nee Robinson) and their 2yr and 4yr old sons? See the family Bible for Robert’s records of their deaths. Was there an epidemic? The answer was "tuberculosis" in an interview of Robert, son of William Aberdare STRONG. ".......first wife died of TB and this complaint affected some of her children and her grandchildren". Note that one of the surviving daughters of the first marriage, Agnes, eventually died only of heart failure at age 89, but perhaps had passed the disease on to her children..... at least 3 of Agnes' children died of TB. Robert then lost his 16 month son Hamilton to (teething and diarrhoea for one month) in 1865, and then his 2 year old elder daughter Sarah to "Croup for two days" in 1868. Hamilton and Sarah were children to his second marriage. These experiences may have made up Robert's mind to emigrate to a better climate in New Zealand.

Activity in Belfast

The table below summarises the recorded locations and dates in and around Belfast for Robert STRONG (b. c 1830) and his family.

Dates & Locations
Date Location
1825 Rosemary Street Church: Marriage of Robert's parents. (Robert STRONG & Agnes SLOAN). 13 May 1825.
1830 Holywood: Robert born c 1830.
1851 Frederick St Wesleyan Chapel: Robert married Jane ROBINSON. 24 Jun 1851.
1851 Brown Square: Robert lived here when he married Jane ROBINSON. 24 Jun 1851.
1851 Grove St: Jane ROBINSON lived here when she married Robert. 24 Jun 1851.
1853 Arthur Square: Robert joined Masonic Lodge No. 609, Friendly Brothers. 24/12/1853.
1862 Donegal Square East Wesleyan Chapel: Robert married Jane LAIN. 26 Apr 1862.
1862 Alexander Street West: Robert lived here when he married Jane LAIN. 26 Apr 1862. Robert probably lived here earlier when his first wife and 2 young sons died of TB.
1862 Ross St: Jane LAIN lived here when she married Robert. 26 Apr 1862.
1863 Arthur Square: Robert "exalted" as Worshipful Master of Masonic Lodge 609.17 Jun, 1863.
1865 4 Northumberland St: Death of son Hamilton on 10 Oct, 1865.
1868 21 Alexander Street West: Death of daughter Sarah Ann on 19 Jun 1868.
1868 21 Alexander Street West: Birth of son Joseph. 21 Jun 1868.
1870 Dover Street: Birth of son David 4 Aug 1870.
1872 108 Dover Street: Birth of daughter Mary. 4 Dec 1872.
1872 2 Craigs Terrace: Sister-in-law Sarah Anne LANE lived here 4 Dec 1872. Sarah Ann was the informant concerning the birth of Robert's daughter Mary.
1874 120 Dover St: Daughter Agnes lived here when she married Alexander Neill. 19 May 1874.
1874 64 North Boundary St: Son-in-law Alexander Neill lived here when he married Agnes STRONG. 19 May 1874.
1874 Falls Road Wesleyan Sunday School: Son Robert James awarded bible attendance prize. School was located at the beginning of Divis St where it joins Falls Rd.

Emigration

The STRONG family left Plymouth in the ‘Baron Aberdare’ on 14 Dec 1874 as assisted emigrants. They arrived in Auckland after 95 days on 19 Mar, 1875. The "Daily Southern Cross" newspaper reported on 20 Mar 1875 that the following STRONG passengers had arrived: Robert aged 44, Jane 34, Robert James 13, Joseph 7, David 5, Mary 2, Margaret 24. In addition William Aberdare was born on the passage on 4 Feb 1875. Pictured below is the "Baron Aberdare" Photo: San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library.

Baron AberdareShip ‘Baron Aberdare’
Photo:San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library

The general account of the trip in this paper said:

"The Baron Aberdare, a new ship, built to the order of the New Zealand Shipping Company, arrived in port last evening (Mar 19) from London, with a general cargo and a long list of passengers. Captain Edmonds reports that the Baron Aberdare discharged the pilot off Plymouth, on the 14th December, and left the Channel with a fresh N.E. wind. Passed Madeira on the 19th. Experienced light winds, and crossed the equator in long 21 W. on 6th January. Had light S.E. trades and light variable winds afterwards. Passed the meridian of the Cape on the 4th of February. Fresh westerly breezes from there to the meridian of the Leeuwin, which was passed on the 20th February. Ran down the easting in latitude 40 deg S. After passing the Leeuwin had light easterly and N.E. winds. Rounded Tasmania on March 2nd, and since then have had a dead boat here. Two births on the passage, and one infant died. The ship made the run in 95 days from Plymouth. She is described as being a fine new clipper vessel of over 1,500 tons register, and it was confidently expected that she would make the premier passage of the season to this port, but contrary winds delayed her to a great extent. The immigrants have all arrived in excellent health, not an adult death being recorded by the surgeon superintendent, Dr. J. Forman. The Health Officer (Dr. Philson) and the Immigration officer (Mr. Ellis) will inspect the vessel this morning, when no doubt a clean bill of health will be given, as we understand that there is no disease on board of an infections character."
A list of passengers then followed.

Source: The Baron Aberdare. The Daily Southern Cross, Auckland; Mar 20, 1875; page 2, columns 1-2.

The voyage on the Baron AberdareShip "Baron Aberdare" reunion.
Newspaper clipping.Courtesy B. Strong

The "Assisted Emigration to Auckland" register sets out that the STRONGs' emigration cost the government £79-15! Robert STRONG's grandson Robert W. STRONG said:

"My grandparents Robert and Jane STRONG who lived in Belfast, Ireland, decided to emigrate to New Zealand mainly for reasons of my grandfather's health. They went to London where they had to wait until a suitable sailing ship was ready. They were to have sailed in a ship called the Cospatrick , but as there was an outbreak of sickness amongst some of the children they could not sail on that particular vessel. This was indeed fortunate for as the ill-fated vessel was sailing down the west coast of Africa a fire broke out. The vessel was destroyed with great loss of life. There were very few survivors. In due course they boarded a vessel called the Baron Aberdare and set sail. Conditions on board were very crowded and the food was not of the best. On board there were a number of pregnant women and the captain ordered that food from his own table be sent to them to supplement their rations. My grandmother, Jane STRONG, was one of these and as the ship rounded the Cape of Good Hope my father was born. He was named after the ship; William Aberdare STRONG. As the ship came into the Indian Ocean she became becalmed for some time. The pitch oozed out of the seams in the deck. This caused quite a delay, but eventually they got moving again and sailed on to reach Auckland, New Zealand after a voyage that took 104 days. The STRONG family settled in Auckland where my grandfather established a grocery business. Originally in Northern Ireland he was a carpenter. The STRONGs lived for a good number of years in Auckland, but when they grew older they left the city and came to live in the old house on my father's property at Drury, in which house I was actually born."

Source: Strong RW. Interviewed by Brian Strong. 1978.

The voyage on the ‘Baron Aberdare’ remained important to the immigrants, even to organizing a Diamond Jubilee Reunion .... see the newspaper clipping above. Note the last sentence where it says that "The surviving infant, Mr William Aberdare STRONG, of Drury, will attend the reunion." It would appear that the family was grateful for their good fortune in missing the ‘Cospatrick’ voyage.

Further information can be seen here concerning the ‘Cospatrick’, including the painting by Samuel Calvert: "The burning of the emigrant ship Cospatrick off the Cape of Good Hope" [1874]. On the same page, there is a full description of the ‘Baron Aberdare’.

New Zealand

City of Auckland Valuation Rolls show Robert STRONG was a grocer who rented a building in Wellington Street from 1880 to 1885 inclusive. The 1912 roll describes it as a two storey wooden shop with rooms. The house was five doors from the intersection of Wellington and Union streets. It was demolished for an overbridge and motorway. Robert conducted a census each 5 years in NZ and recorded it in his family bible. On 3/4/1881 Robert (aged 50 years) lived at Wellington St. Auckland, with his wife Jane (40 yrs) and five children Joseph (12 yrs), David (10 yrs), Mary (8 yrs), William Aberdare (6 yrs) and John Taylor (1.5 months).

Robert and Jane at DruryRobert STRONG wearing one of his Masonic jewels on his watch chain. Granny STRONG at Drury shortly before she died.
Courtesy B. Strong

Life at Victoria Ave, Eden Terrace. Robert's second census was in 28 Mar 1886 at 24 Victoria Ave, Eden Terrace, Auckland. The same people were present: Robert & Jane, with five children, Joseph, David, Mary, William Aberdare, John Taylor. Robert's third family census was on 5 Apr 1891, which showed that Robert and Jane were present with only three children remaining. By this stage Joseph (22 years) and David (20 years) had left home. Eden Terrace Valuation Rolls and valuation field sheets describe Robert's property as a Hip Roof villa 1 storey with five rooms... occupier STRONG Robert, occupation Grocer, owner Herd, Matthew, Dairyman.

When Robert and Jane retired to Drury, the electoral rolls now described Robert as a carpenter. They lived in one or other of one of their son's (William Aberdare STRONG) houses in Drury until their deaths. The photograph below, courtesy of Brian STRONG, shows Robert and Jane at Drury. Notes on the back of the photos in Robt W. STRONG's writing: " Granddad Robert STRONG. wearing one of his Masonic jewels on his watch chain." …also "Granny STRONG at Drury shortly before she died."

Robert and Jane's headstoneRobert & Jane's headstone
Photo: PD Strong, 2002

Death

The direct quote of Robert's obit from the Auckland Star, 23 Aug 1910 is:

“STRONG, On August 22, Robert, beloved husband of Jane STRONG, and father of William STRONG, Drury, and Mrs A. Neill and John STRONG, of Auckland; aged 80 years. “His end was peace.” Funeral will leave his late residence at 8 PM tomorrow for the Drury Presbyterian Cemetery. Friends please accept this intimation.”

Robert and Jane's headstone reads: In Loving memory of Robert, Dearly beloved husband of Jane STRONG, died 22nd August 1910, age 80 years. Also, Jane STRONG, wife of the above, died 21st August 1921, age 81 years. “They shall be mine saith the Lord of Hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels.”

The Story Continues