The Young Robert Morrow
Robert Morrow was a son of Hugh and Margaret Jane Morrow. Robert was born in Sessia, Newmills, Dungannon, County Tyrone where family lived throughout his life. Hugh Morrow was a shoemaker.
Robert's mother Margaret Jane was the daughter of Isaac William Ash McKnight, who was a tailor. She was born in Newmills. The 1901 census lists Margaret as 44 years old. It is therefore estimated that she was born about 1857.
It should be noted straightaway that Robert retained that name throughout his life. He is not referred to as Rob or Bob or Bobby or any other shortened form of his name in any letters or newspaper reports.
Robert was born on the 7th September 1891 in Sessia, just outside Newmills. He was one of ten children in the Presbyterian family. Robert's siblings were as follows:
- Richard Morrow was the eldest of the Morrow family. It is estimated from the 1901 census that he was born about 1879. No birth evidence can be found.
- Mary Morrow was the eldest daughter of Hugh and Margaret. GRONI lists a female child born on 26th November 1879, confirmed through Presbyterian Church Records for Newmills, but is not listed anywhere thereafter. Mary was baptised on 16 January 1881.
- Elizabeth Morrow was another daughter of Hugh and Margaret. It is estimated from the 1901 census that she was born about 1884. Again, GRONI does not list this birth.
- Matilda 'Tilly' Morrow. Tilly was born on 14th March 1885. Church records give her date of birth as 10th March.
- Hugh Morrow was born on 28th October 1887.
- Isabella Morrow was born on 11th October 1888, but is not listed on any census thereafter. It is suspected that Isabella died young. Another speculated outcome is that because she was only 6 years old when her father died, she too was taken under the care of the Presbyterian Orphanage Society.
- William John Morrow was born on 2nd March 1890.
- Ellen Morrow. Church records list Ellen's date of birth as 11th October 1888. It was estimated from the 1901 census that she was born about 1890. Again GRONI does not list this birth.
- Thomas Morrow was born on 28th January 1893. Newspaper reports suggest that Thomas was a 'delicate nature'.
- Edith Morrow was born on 4th January 1895. She was baptised on 24th October 1895.
Both Hugh and Ellen Morrow were baptised on the same day, the 24th February 1889.
Both William John and Robert Morrow V.C. were baptised on the same day, the 8th December 1891.
The Morrows were a farming family and had a small holding in Sessia.
Tragically, Hugh Morrow, Robert's father, died on 1st February 1895. His youngest daughter Edith was just four weeks old. Robert himself was just 5 years old.
Hugh, who was 47 years old, left behind his wife Margaret Jane and a large family in rather struggling circumstances. Because of this, Robert was taken under the care of the Presbyterian Orphanage Society for a period of time.
The Presbyterian Orphanage Society was based at Gortnaglush / Carland National School, alongside Carland Presbyterian Church. It is believed that Robert spent a period of time living there.
The 1901 census records that Robert was 10 years old. He was now living with the family in Sessia, Tullyniskan, County Tyrone. The two eldest sisters were working as fertiliser spreaders.
The family home had between two and four rooms, and the roof was of a perishable material such as wood or thatch. There were four small outhouses attached to the farm. Mrs Morrow owned the land. The census form was collected on 17th April 1901.
Robert received his entire education at Carland / Gortnaglush National School. The teacher of the school was Mr Thomas H McAdoo.
The plaque remains on the building next to Carland / Gortnaglush Presbyterian Church.
Here our young hero remained until he was 14 years and 3 months old, enjoying not only the efficient tutelage of Mr McAdoo, but also the valued and friendly assistance of the Minister of Carland congregation, the Rev. Arthur Torrens. The Reverend Torrens went on to live in Wagga Wagga, New South Wales, Australia.
School records for 1905 suggest he was good attender attending 38 of 45 days. It was his final year of school. His younger brother Thomas attended the school at the same time. He was due to leave on 1st June 1907.
There was no doubt the memory of Private Morrow would long be cherished by his school fellows who had the pleasure of his companionship until June 1906. While at school was regarded with the utmost affection by both master and pupils. He was of very steady habits.
Young Robert had an indomitable perseverance and many of his schoolmates would have readily endorsed the opinion expressed of him by his Mr McAdoo who said:
"Robert was a quiet, determined lad, but civil and obliging. If he made up his mind to a certain course, nothing except superior physical force could prevent him from carrying out his purpose"
It was a quote about the young man which quite personified Robert Morrow in later life. Robert was of a quiet disposition, and proved to be of great help to his widowed mother.
The 1911 census does not list Robert as living with the family at house 1 in Sessia, Tullyniskan, County Tyrone. Only the two youngest children, Thomas and Edith, still lived with their mother in Sessia. The house had between two and four rooms, and the roof was of a perishable material such as wood or thatch. There were four small outhouses attached to the farm. Mrs Morrow owned the land. The census form was collected on 25th April 1911. It is almost certain that this is the same house as was described in the 1901 census.