The STRONGs of Ulster, Ireland, Chapter 8

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Lives of William Aberdare STRONG’s Sons

Robert William STRONG

Robert W. & Evelyn STRONG at their Child's GraveRobert W. & Evelyn STRONG
at their Child's Grave. 
Courtesy: Heather Trigg (née Strong)

Robert William was born on 11 Jan 1904 in Drury NZ i) . He was interested in the family history as well as in the individual people of the family. He demonstrated this in the records which he passed on, as well as through the contacts he made. This STRONG family history has relied heavily on what RW consciously left behind. We are fortunate that he visited his nephew Brian STRONG (a journalist), and dictated family history details onto a tape ii) . He also framed colour-tinted black and white photographic portraits, developed on glass, of Robert STRONG and his wife, Jane Laine, who were his grandparents. Pictured to the left are Robert W. & Evelyn STRONG at their Child's Grave Photo: Courtesy of Heather Trigg (née STRONG) iii) .

He then gave the photos to Brian STRONG as the only surviving male STRONG in our family in New Zealand (after himself) ii). He donated his grandfather's Masonic certificates etc to a Masonic Museum: These papers included a reference from the Mayor of Belfast, 5 Masonic certificates, which showed that Robert was Master of a Belfast Lodge in 1863, as well as details of Robert's various Masonic degrees iv)…b. Rita Neve said:

"I do remember a Bob STRONG, who I think lived in Wellington when I was a teenager, coming on several occasions to visit the family (Norman Edward Kennedy's family) n the farm at Tahaia, Otorohanga. From memory, I think Dad used to refer to him as a cousin. The visit was always something special, and a great excitement for all."v)

RW attended Drury School from Feb 1910 to Dec 1917, and then went to the Auckland Grammar School (to Dec 1919) vi), vii), xi). A little over 4 years later, he received his "Teacher's Certificate of Attainments and Efficiency" (Class C), dated May 1924 xix) . Robert William was still living in the Drury area in 1931, when Masonic records showed that Brother R W STRONG was initiated at Lodge St James on 21-12-31. Lodge St James served the Papakura and Drury area. Robert didn't become the Master, but according to the attendance book he was a very active member and hardly missed a meeting iv)…a.

In the same year (14 Jan 1931), 26 year old RW married Evelyn Mary BELL (aged 30), daughter of William BELL (1862-1937) and Annie BELL (née BUKOWSKY) (1867-1955), both of Paterangi (near Hamilton) at Christ Church Cof E Ohaupo viii), xxiv). The image below shows the marriage of Robert W. STRONG & Evelyn Bell. Note the ornate headdress (wedding crown), which may have arisen from a Polish tradition within the BELL family. RW referred to these Polish origins in a conversation with his nephew Brian Strong, and said that at the time it was considered “different” to marry out of the dominant ethnic group.ii). Fortunately times have moved on.

Robert W. STRONG & Evelyn BellMarriage of Robert W. STRONG & Evelyn BELL.
Courtesy: Brian Strong.

Polish origins? A bit more research turned up the information that the parents of Annie BELL (née Bukowsky) were both German born immigrants named Julius BUKOWSKI(Y) from Neuenburg, Prussia and & Johanna LAU from Rehna, Mecklenburg xx), xxi), xxiii, xxv). The Polish influence (if any) may have been due to the significant Polish culture in Mecklenburg. Were ethnic origins concealed? The BUKOWSKYs may have had a rough time concerning their German origins. In 1882 Julius signed a Petition, complaining that he had been taken off the Electoral Roll because he was an Alien, even though he had fought in the Maori Wars in the 3rd Waikato regiment, and received a Crown land grant for this service and resided continously on his Ohaupo grant. Julius said:

"That being thus sworn (to serve Her Majesty the Queen for a period of three years in the Colonial Forces), and in receipt of the said Crown grants, your petitioners always considered themselves as Her Majesty's subjects, and entitled to all right and privileges as such, and were on the electoral roll for Waipa, and voted at elections of your Honorable House for years until the last general election, when your petitioners were struck off the roll as aliens. " xxii)

Early in the next century, prejudice against Germans as aliens turned to prejudice against enemy aliens. Perhaps it was easier for Julius and his descendants to allow people to think they were Polish, with a name like BUKOWSKI. At least, Robert William STRONG thought that his wife's relations were Polish! On the other hand Robert could have been right, if the BUKOWSKIs retained a sense of ethnic identity over many past generations. Evelyn's g-grandfather was a ledermacher or leather maker and could have well been an itinerant tradesman with no particular allegiance to any part of Germany?

Robert W. STRONG & Evelyn Bell“Marriage of Robert W. STRONG & Evelyn BELL”… at Ohaupo Christ Church C of E.
Photo of church with the kind permission of Jeni Palmer, Tauranga NZ.

STRONG—BELL. The wedding was celebrated at Christ Church, Ohaupo, on Wednesday, January 14, between Evelyn Mary, third daughter of Mr. and Mrs. W. Bell, Paterangi, and Mr. Robert William Strong, eldest son of Mr. and Mrs. W. A. Strong, of Drury. The Rev. C. W. Clark, of Cambridge, was the officiating minister, and Miss Z. Turnwald presided at the organ. The bride, who was given away by her father, wore an ankle-length frock of ivory silk georgette and lace, fashioned with close fitting bodice and sleeves, and full-flared skirt. Her embroidered silk tulle veil was held in place with a coronet of orange blossom and formed a train. Her bouquet consisted of asters, lilies, and maidenhair fern. In attendance as bridesmaids were the bride's two sisters, Misses Bertha and Elsie Bell, wearing ankle-length frocks of pale blue and pink silk georgette with scalloped flared frills, tight-fitting sleeves and cape collars. Their hats were of crinoline straw with transparent edges of net and daintily trimmed to tone with their dresses. They carried bouquets of roses, lilies, forget-me-nots and maidenhair fern. Two little flower girls, May and Pearl Forkert (nieces of the bride), attended the bride, wearing white silk flared frilled frocks and a bandeau of silk tulle and roses. Each carried a basket of flowers. Mr. Wallace Strong, brother of the bridegroom, acted as best man, and Mr. Alfred Bell as groomsman. A reception was afterwards held at the home of the bride's parents. Mrs. Bell received her guests wearing a frock of brown celanese, with hat to tone, and carried a bouquet of autumn leaves and chrysanthemums. Mrs. W. A. Strong, mother of the bridegroom, wore a nigger brown bengaline frock with hat to match. She carried a bouquet toning with her dress. Mrs. Steen, grandmother of the bridegroom, wore a frock of navy blue satin and black hat, and carried a bouquet of autumn leaves and flowers. The wedding breakfast was spread in a large marquee, decorated with streamers and greenery. xxvi)

Electoral rolls show that Robert transferred as a teacher to Waikiekie (just south of Whangarei) about 1935 ix). The following year Robert and Evelyn had a stillborn child who was buried at Maunu Cemetery, Whangerei on 14 Aug 1936 x)…a. Robert's next school was in the Drury area in 1938 ix), when they gave birth to another stillborn child. This child was buried in the Presbyterian section of the Papakura. Cemetery, on 3 Nov 1938. The headstone at Papakura says: "Baby STRONG - sleeping." x)…b.

RW then commenced continuous casual clerical work in 1939 with the Prisons Division of the Ministry of Justice ( MoJ ) xii), and moved to Coleman avenue Roskill, Auckland by at least 1946 ix). Robert remained at this address until he moved to a retirement village about 1981 ix). In 1947 RW was appointed to the permanent staff of MoJ . He was promoted to the "Clerical Six Division" in 1949, having sat for the (Public Service) Senior Exam Equivalent. This was an internal Public Service exam, phased out in the early 1960s, and had subjects like Public Administration, Government Accounting, Statistics, Social History etc. RW continued with the Prisons Division as a clerk until 1962 - 1963 xii). Brian STRONG says he was the chief clerical officer at Mt Eden Prison, Auckland ii). However, further details of his career are no longer available, since the Dept of Corrections thinks that RW's file has been destroyed. RW transferred at "Clerical Six Division" level in 1962 – 1963 to the Registrar-General's Division of the MoJ. (motivated by an interest in family history?). Robert then retired in the period 1/4/1964 to 31/3/1965 xii)... probably when he was aged 60.

RW was an important character in his family and organised his mother's funeral in 1968 xiii). His wife, Evelyn Mary, died in Auckland NZ, on 15 Jun 1976; she was 75 xiv). 15 years later, Robert William died in Auckland on 2 Dec 1991; he was 87 xv). Robert's death notice advertised a service to be held in the "Edgar Faber Memorial Chapel, Roskill Masonic Village, Queenstown Rd Roskill xvi). He was described as a Retired Civil Servant when his will was granted Probate in 1991 xvii). Both Evelyn and Robert William were cremated at Purewa Cemetery xviii). Pictured below is a photograph of the grave of Evelyn and RW STRONG at Purewa Cemetery (arrowed).

Grave of Evelyn and RW STRONGGrave of Evelyn and RW STRONG at Purewa Cemetery.
Photo: Anon, 2006, as a "random act of kindness".

Below is a close up of the arrowed grave showing the inscription in detail.

Grave Inscription

Sources for Chapter 8 and Robert William STRONG:
      i)  Birth of Robert William STRONG. Reg# 1904/153. Registrar of BDM, NZ.
      ii)  Pers. comm. Brian Strong.
      iii)  Pers. comm. Heather Trigg (née Strong).
      iv)… a  Pers. comm. Jim C. Ross, Secretary, St James Masonic Lodge Number 244, Clevedon, Auckland.
      iv)… b  Pers. comm. Alan Bevins, Curator of the Museum of the United Masters Lodge 167 NZC, Auckland.
      v)  Pers. comm. Rita Neve.
      vi)  Clarke, Ernest. Chalk Cheese and Chimney Pots- A History of the Drury School and Districts. Wright & Jacques, Auckland NZ; 6,facing p7,9, 10,20. Note: his brothers and father were mentioned in the book, but Robert did not score a mention.
      vii)  Photos & documents held by Brian Strong.
      viii)  Marriage Robert William Strong & Evelyn Mary Bell. Reg# 1931/1482. Registrar of BDM, NZ.
      ix)  Electoral rolls.
      x)…a  Receipt from Borough of Whangarei (NZ), dated 22 May 1937, for one parcel of land in perpetuity in the Maunu Cemetery. Burial 14 Aug 1936. Plot# 1057. Courtesy of Heather Trigg.
      x)…b  Papakura Council records. Death 2 Nov, burial 3 Nov 1938. Details: still born infant.
Location: Presbyterian, childrens, Row A, Plot 17. Single depth.
      xi)  Pers. comm. Jill Cargill.
     xii) Information from the Dept of Corrections, Head Office, Private Box 1206, Wellington, NZ. on 7/2/2006, File# GM 9060 02. Supplement to the Public Service Official Circular. List of persons employed on the Permanent Staff of the Public Service. 1 April 1952, p. 196; 1 April 1963, p. 262; April 1964, p. 277; 14 April 1965, p. 313; April 1966.
      xiii)  Death of Margaret Jane Patterson STRONG (née STEEN). Reg# 1968/5386. Registrar of BDM, NZ.
      xiv)  Death of Evelyn Mary STRONG (née BELL). Reg# 1976/6580. Registrar of BDM, NZ.
      xv)  Death of Robert William STRONG. 2 Dec 1991. Registration not yet obtained.
      xvi)  Obit of Robert William STRONG. New Zealand Herald; 3 & 4 Dec 1991.
      xvii)  NZ- ARCHIVES: Probate. STRONG Robert William - Auckland - Retired Civil Servant. Years: 1991 - 1991. Agency: BAZZ. Series: 1570.. Accession: -. Box / Item: Box 4711. Record: 3597/1991. See here.
      xviii)  Purewa Cemetery. See here.
      xix)  NZ Education Dept. Trained teacher's certificate, awarded to Robert William Strong. Dated 1 May 1924.
      xx)  Marriage Julius BUKOWSKI & Johanna LAU. 1856. Registrar of BDM, Vic, Australia.
      xxi)  Death Anna Johana BUKOWSKY. Reg# 1906/383. Registrar of BDM, NZ.
     xxii)  The Ohaupo German settlers. Waikato Times; 1 Jul 1882: 2. See here.
     xxiii)   Robert Janmaat.TheShipsList: barque Helene. See here.
      xxiv)  Pers. comm. Elizabeth Heaphy.
      xxv)  Pers. comm. Sue Goodley.
      xxvi)  Marriage of STRONG—BELL. Auckland Star; 15 Jan 1931: 13.

The Story Continues