The are two records of a Robert McIlhagga sailing to Australia. A Robert accompanied by Margaret was aboard the PS Asturias from Southampton, England, arriving Freemantle 22nd September 1947. There is a much earlier record of Robt. McIllhagga (or McIlhagga) who sailed from London to Freemantle aboard the PS Orsova, arriving 30th April 1929. Robert James was indeed a seasoned sailor. Born 13th May 1885 at Ballee, a townland in the parish of Connor, County Antrim, it is said that he left Ireland at the incredibly young age of 11 years old as a Cabin Boy on sailing ships. He was the third child and second son in a large family of eleven children. We can only speculate as to a reason for leaving home at such an age. It is said that he was never to see his brothers or sisters again as he travelled round the world many times. We have a note of some of the ships on which Robert sailed. They include the following: SS Kwinana 1915; Allinga 1915; Niagara 1917; Suva 1923; Kokiri 1924; Airangi 1925; Rona 1927; TSS Esperance Bay 1928; Time 1933; Orungal 1933; Fiona 1934; Mackarra 1934; Dumosa 1936; Canberra 1937; Cobango 1938; Ngakuta 1940; Wallarah 1946; Mgatoro 1947 and Malaita 1949. He possibly ended up 'down under' as what the Australians call a '£10 Pom', the name for folk who had got an assisted passage.
Robert James remained a seafarer after he married Nellie Flora Macleod (daughter of Roderick Macleod and Caroline Robinson) in Sydney in 1923. They had three daughters. There are now five grandchildren, three great-grandchildren and three great-great-grandchildren. 'R.J' himself was one of a family of eleven children, of whom eight were alive in 1911. This is one of the facts we learn from the 1911 Census. We know who some of them were. Matilda Jane (possibly known as Jean, b. 8th Jul 1877) married Robert Dalzell and had three children. William (b. 1st July 1879) went into the Royal Marines for a time. Elizabeth (b. 1886) married Richard Henry Cleland who was killed in the First World War. John (Jack, b. 3rd Feb. 1888) was in the SNLR for a time. Samuel (b. 1891) married Mary Hunt. Andrew (b. 13th Apr 1896) laboured in a Belfast Iron Works as a teenager, then was a Fireman in the Merchant Navy in his early twenties. Margaret may have been the person who sailed to Australia with Robert in 1947. She was named after her mother, Margaret Craig, who on 8th April 1876 married Robert McIlhagga senior (b. 1859 in Ballee), in Kirkinriola, Ballymena. They moved to Belfast where the lived at 5 Azamor Street, Woodvale. This is the address that appears in the 1911 Census when Robert, Samuel, Andrew and Margaret were at home. The following year Samuel and Andrew gave the same address when they signed the Ulster Covenant. And it was at this address that Robert senior died on 13th October 1912.
We don't know whether Robert senior had any siblings. We do however know that he was the son of James McIlhagga, born about 1833 who married Jane Middleton in 1853 in County Antrim. For the time being it is James we must consider to be the progenitor of this family line. It is interesting to ask whether there is a James born about 1833 who 'fits the wider picture'. As Ballee is in the parish of Connor it is natural to look to the family in the townland of Maxwellswalls, where there is indeed a James, one of the four 'brothers' who are in the Tithe Applotment book there. However he must be a generation early and unless he or one of the others had a son James we have run down a cul-de-sac! At present I do not know of another James who would enable us to take this line back a generation.