Thursday, 17 September 2009

A baker in Australia

M.V. Krait

Samuel Robinson, son of George and Eliza Ann, born 15th December 1872, married Jane ("Jean") McNeice on 6th December 1897 in the Belfast Civil Registrar's Office. He was first a Linen Remnants Salesman and later he became a Wood, Coal and Coke Merchant. In the 1911 Census, when he and his family lived in Ambleside Street, Shankill, he described himself as a Hawker. He and Jean had eight children who lived, George Robinson, Jane, Esther, Samuel Cecil, Richard, Ruth, Lily and Tilly.

We know a little about George, born 1900, to whom he had passed on the second name of Robinson. He must have been of an inventive turn of mind for in 1934 he took out a Patent for the design of a Razor Blade on behalf of George R. McIlhagga & Company, Belfast. He extended this patent from Great Britain to the USA and Australia. Whether the blade was ever manufactured we do not know. Somewhere I have a copy of the patent, but my filing system has let me down - I can't find it or else I would have illustrated the blade! The Razor Blade Company must have flourished, for when George died in 1977 - he must have still have been taking an active interest in the firm at 77 - the following notice appeared in the Irish Independent Newspaper on 4th January, 'Owing to the death of Richard McIlhagga, proprietor, the premises of Northlight Razor Blades & Co., 26 Wellington Quay, Dublin 2, will remain closed until Monday January 10th.' Interestingly it appears that George had moved the business from Belfast to Dublin. Perhaps this was at the suggestion of his brother Richard, who, as we will see in a later blog, had moved there too.

We know little or nothing about the five girls of Samuel and Jean but we do know something of the other two boys, Samuel Cecil, who liked to be called Maxwell, and Richard. Samuel was born on the 4th of July 1908. He trained as a baker, and became a very good one, eventually winning competitions. Samuel emigrated to Australia, and was possibly the Mr. S. McIlhagga aboard the ship Orama leaving London and arriving Melbourne 6th April 1926. He would only have been 18 years old. Four years later he married Lillian Frances May Scott at Petersham, New South Wales. She was the daughter, born in 1909, of George Ernest David Scott and Emma Maria Borrowdale. She was 'Typiste' (stet) on their marriage certificate. 'Max' and Lillian have three children, five grandchildren and four great-grandchildren in Australia. Later Max married again to 'B' who lives in the Northern Territories.

Max was clearly the great family 'character'. When he arrived in Melbourne, Victoria, he first visited his McNeice relatives there - his mother was a McNeice. He moved on to Sydney in New South Wales and then to Queensland to work on a Cattle Station for some time before returning to Sydney and once again taking up bakery. Here he won a baking contest organised by the Baker's Association. This, incidentally isn't the only time we'll meet baking in the McIlhagga family. Max was, however, a great romancer! He used to tell how he enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force in World War 2 and how he saw service in England and in Egypt. He would then tell how, being so upset at the death of his eldest daughter that he put all his RAAF memorabilia in her coffin. It must be true that Jean, born 1933, who married Colin Cormack in 1959, had a tragic death. We can assume this from the fact that they both died on 21st February, 1959. Maybe they were on their honeymoon. However I'm afraid there is no real evidence that Max did enlist in HM Forces in the second world war. In fact Baking was an exempted occupation!

It is certainly true that after the war Max had a 'Corner Store' acting as a Jackaroo, selling mainly groceries, at Balmain, Sydney, for some years. It was during this time that his wife Lillian died. 'Sam' became very conscious of the tragedy of the war and he became a volunteer helping to maintain the only operational War Memorial in the world, the Motor Vessel Krait, illustrated above, a vessel which had been captured from the Japanese in 1941 and used to raid Singapore Harbour in 1943 and 1944. He decided to join the Royal Volunteer Coastal Patrol, an Australian organisation similar to the British Royal National Lifeboat Institution in Great Britain. On Saturday 11th May 1985 Sam was in his front garden at 195 Barrenjrey Road, Newport, New South Wales, when he had an angina attack, a condition he had had for eleven years. It is said that he could not get his tablets from his pocket in time to prevent his death. His death record gives his occupation as 'Area Manager' and his 'other' first name as Robertson! He was cremated at Northern Suburbs Crematorium, Sydney, with a very large attendance by members of the Royal Volunteer Coastal Patrol. A death notice was published in the Sydney Morning Herald on 13th May 1985.


  1. MC Ilhagga
    I also am a Mc Haggie/Mc Ilhagga
    my gggrandmother was Margaret Mc Ilhaggert
    she married Alexander Scott her parents
    were William Mc Hagga m Agnus Mc Cosh
    Any relation?
    My nana had a butter/factory shop at
    25 Gray Street, Yarraville
    Victoria Australia
    and owned several properties around Yarraville

  2. shilo: See my blogs for 3rd and 4th July.

  3. "It must be true that Jean, born 1933, who married Colin Cormack in 1959, had a tragic death. We can assume this from the fact that they both died on 21st February, 1959."

    Colin Cormack did not die on the same day,I am not aware of his death to date,however I do know he lived many years after that.
    Jean (my auntie) died of cancer.

  4. Thank you Anonymous for this correction. I apologise for the wrong information, and have corrected it on the Family Tree concerned. If you wish you can email me direct at

  5. The George Robinson McIlhagga you mention as born in 1900 was the second husband of my maternal grandmother Kathleen who lived at 59 Kings Road, 62 Abbey Park and died at 126 Holywood Road all in Belfast, George manufactured razor blades at a converted house in Cumberland Road, Dundonald, Belfast in the 1950's and died suddenly when they lived in Abbey Park. Kathleen already had a daughter (my mother) by her first husband called Green (who went to America and remarried)Ellen Trueick Callighan (nee Green). To the best of my knowledge he did not have a son but the McIlhagga glazing company continued as Fairco McIlhagga until 2009, when it was declared insolvent.