He was born at West Hoppyland near Hamsterley. He was the son of a farm labourer. He served his apprenticeship at Raisby Quarry, Coxhoe, where he married Margaret May of West Cornforth. Margaret's family dissaproved of the marriage to a lowly blacksmith. Her uncle (a well known preacher) and her father owned a number of small pits at Metal Bridge, Escomb, Cockfield Fell and Woodhouse.
After their marriage the couple moved to York, working on maintenance at Clifton Mental Hospital. In the late 1890's they moved back to Bishop Auckland as landlord of the Edinburgh Castle Hotel in Bondgate. Later he became a blacksmith at Toronto pit and with his family of two sons they moved into a pit house 6, Institute Terrace, Toronto.
In 1914, war broke out, German workers who were building Patent Coke ovens at the pit were taken away and interned. Horse-drawn taxis apparently turned up and carted them away, it fell to Robert to finish the job.
Robert died on 14th August 1917, Ethel's last memory of her father was of him writhing in agony on the floor by the kitchen fire, says his grandaughter Margaret Bond, Ethels daughter.
His sons Thomas and Jonas were summoned from the front of the Somme, but arrived home the day after the funeral. The boys returned to the front, Thomas won a Distinguished Conduct Medal when he took command of his company of the 11th Durham Light Infantry, after all his officers became casualties. He died in 1941, a year after his mother.
Jonas was wounded in the leg and captured, he seems then to have been shot as a prisoner of war. His family received confirmation of his death August 1919, the letter was addressed to Robert, his father, who had died two years earlier.
The irony of this, Margaret (Robert's wife) and 14 year old Ethel were ejected from their home as they had no further connections with the colliery and went to live in Bishop Auckland.