The Kings Candlesticks - Family Trees
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William ROE [18197]
Elizabeth BANNISTER [18198]
William ALLIES [18199]
(Abt 1782-1808)
Mary DALTON [18200]
John Bannister ROE [18190]
(Abt 1803-1869)
Mary Anne ALLIES [18196]

Harriet Jane ROE [18191]


Family Links

1. Robert John MULLINS [18192]

Harriet Jane ROE [18191]

  • Born: 1845, Blandford DOR
  • Marriage (1): Robert John MULLINS [18192] on 24 Apr 1862 in Blandford DOR
  • Died: 13 Nov 1924, Grahamstown South Africa aged 79

bullet   Another name for Harriet was Jinnie.


bullet  General Notes:

The following biography is reproduced courtesy of Mike Davies.

Harriet Jane Roe, always called Jennie, (pronounced Jinnie), was born in England in "The Old House", Blandford, in Dorset in 1845. It is still there, a very historic house, one of the few that survived the Great Fire of Blandford in the eighteenth century. It was built in the Jacobean period, about 1650, long before Jennie's father bought it. The walls are old mellow red brick. Above is a steep hipped slate roof with spreading eaves and twisty chimneys. Behind is the big walled garden.

All the ten Roe children were born there. The Roes had been connected with Blandford for several generations. Jennie's grandfather had various businesses. One was a button-making cottage industry, whereby metal circles were sent around to the cottages, and women covered them with over-sewing. He also owned some small vessels that traded with Newfoundland. Jennie's father was a business man too. He imported wine at one time and also helped to set up the new Building Societies in Blandford.

His wife's maiden name was Mary Anne Allies. She was born in the small village of Alfrick in Worcestershire, but the family returned to Bristol after the early death of her father, William Allies. (This is where Mary Anne Roe, Jennie's mother, met Susannah Mullins, Robert John's mother, and they became friends.) Granny Roe, as Jennie's children called her was a delightful person to judge by her warm, vivid and sensible letters to Jennie. She was a great walker and an enthusiastic and knowledgeable gardener. She was the person who sent the eagerly awaited 'Box' to South Africa every year. This came by sea, and was filled with necessities difficult to get in the Cape, like a Willcox and Gibbs sewing machine, and strong serviceable cloth for clothes but also lovely exciting little things for the girls' dolls' house, or lead soldiers for the boys. There were 9 children, and Jennie was their youngest daughter.

We think of Jennie as the grand old lady, matriarch of the big Mullins family. She stood for the best of traditional Victorian values, believed in her duty to God, and her country. However she always, on the morning of a school examination would come to the front door and kick her slipper after the current anxious victim, 'for luck', and though the truest Christian, always bowed to the new moon and turned her purse, much to the amusement of her children. She did her best to love her neighbour as herself, and tried to instil these values in her children.

Win writes, "I truly think mother had no fault. She could be righteously indignant, she could reprimand severely, but she was lovely beyond compare. She interpreted the will of the Master wherever she went - and always - and was merry withal."

It is harder to sum up a woman's life than a man's, because what she does is not in the public sphere, or not in those days. If, however, you look at Jennie's siblings and their achievements, you get some idea of her capabilities.

Of her two sisters, Moggie, the elder, married a widowed clergyman and looked after his six children. She welcomed all Jennie's children and made her home the base for the South African nephews when they all came over to Oxford, one by one. The next sister, Eliza, married the painter, Alfred Fripp. He was especially well known for his studies of children, and the models for these were often Jennie and her younger brothers. (The popular and frequently reproduced painting, 'The Breton Fisher Boy,' of a boy wearing blue and standing on a rock with his basket and fishing tackle, was modelled by the youngest Roe son, Reggie. Alfred Fripp also painted the portrait of Jennie's mother, called by the family, "Whistler's Mother", because it had a resemblance to that famous painting.)

Two of her four living brothers were sailors. Harry, the one who met Robert on the voyage back from South Africa, and brought him home for Christmas, had sailed all over the world. One time he was wrecked on the coast of Australia and lived for weeks on penguin eggs, till rescued. Everyone (except his mother, who always believed he would return), thought he was dead and so got a great fright when, one morning, he was found fast asleep on the drawing-room sofa, having finally made his way home and climbed in through a window at the dead of night. Another beloved brother, known to all the Grahamstown Mullins children when they came over to England, was called Madgwick. He too was in the Navy and later became bursar to the Royal Naval School at Greenwich. The brother just older than Jennie was Charles. After Oxford he joined the Indian Civil Service. (He married Eliza Gaskell who had grown up at Chettle House, not far from Blandford. This house still stands and is open to the public). Eventually he was knighted for his services as Vice Chancellor of the Punjab and as a notable Sanskrit scholar. The brother just younger than Jennie was Reggie, he was a maths scholar of Balliol College, Oxford, then went out to Australia as the headmaster of Brisbane Grammar School and eventually became the first Vice Chancellor of the University of Queensland.

I suspect there was something of the adventurer in Jennie, and after hearing the amazing tales of distant places that her brothers brought home, she would have longed to travel herself. Like her brothers, Jennie was both very intelligent, and had a strong sense of service towards the developing Colonies.

By the age of sixteen, an age when most modern teenagers are still at home being rebellious and difficult, both Jennie and Robert had made huge life choices and started out as missionaries to Africa. She was fearless in doing everything she could to support Robert's work during the two years of their missionary time together at Bolotwa. It must have taken courage for a young girl, straight from England and totally unfamiliar with Xhosa language and ways, to work amongst them particularly at a time when they were desperate and starving.

Theirs was a marriage of true companionship, even if Robert was somewhat 'Victorian' in his expectations of a wife's duties. Writing to her mother to thank for a 'Box', Jennie writes, "Grahamstown is such a dreadful place for fashion; every new thing from England comes here at once, and people are continually changing their clothes as they can generally afford to do so. There are a large number of soldiers here, and they are continually giving balls and things of that kind, but of course I shall not go to these...." She was so young and it seems such a shame that she couldn't go to the balls! My grandmother told that when Jennie turned forty, Robert decreed that she should wear a cap. She cried quietly all day, but when he came home in the evening, the cap was on!

Later when Robert moved to become the principal of The Kafir Institute in Grahamstown, Jennie taught with him in the school and organised the board and lodging of its pupils. There were about sixty black students to feed and supervise. When the Kafir Institute moved to 'The Old Home' and they had more accommodation she added to Robert's stipend by taking, as additional boarders, various St Andrew's boys and an occasional DSG girl or member of staff, making about thirty in the extended family! They lived and ate with the Mullins', and Jennie looked after all their laundry and mending. She did the ironing of the Eton collars herself, in a hot little laundry with a raging fire to heat the irons, even in the summer. At times there were as many as 110 collars per week. This way she earned a little towards the 'Oxford fund'. Both she and Robert dreamed of sending all their sons went to Oxford University, and ultimately achieved this on a clergyman's salary, even though Robert always gave his 'tithe' to the church for its missionary work.

In addition Jennie kept a swarm of bees for honey and chickens for eggs as well as the occasional roast fowl. As a clergyman's wife she had Parish Duties, such as caring for the sick, elderly and lonely. She started the 'Ladies' Benevolent Society', known as 'The Bee', with Mrs Merriman in 1867, sewing to raise money for charities, especially the hospital. This she continued all her life, in addition to being the sort of mother they all adored! There is no doubt that all her vast family thought she was very special. She had very little domestic help and no permanent 'Nanny', but as Janie and Ethel grew up they took a big share in helping, and after the holiday to England the very dear Mary Penny joined the family. 'Penna' was the step-daughter of her elder sister, Moggie, and handicapped by being very deaf. However she was very dear to all the children and especially loved tiny babies!

Every night, no matter how tired Jennie was, there was sewing and mending to be done for all the family. She made everyone's clothes, including Robert's and the boys' suits. She also made the shoes for the smaller children on her own last. Finally before she went to bed she pulled Robert's diary out and recorded for him the work he had undertaken that day. Sometimes the writing wanders off the line and shows how terribly sleepy she was!

From the beginning of their married life Sunday evening after Evensong was open house for Supper at the "Old Home". The servants were 'off' and so Robert and Jennie got the meal of soup, cold beef and potatoes themselves. Robert was a competent cook, having looked after himself for the seven years before his marriage. Later on the daughters did the work! The evening always ended with friends and family all singing hymn 595, the hymn for Absent Friends, round the piano, for so many of their near and dear were far away in England.

Every two on so years another baby was born until in the end there were fourteen little Mullins. Everyone was special, and Jennie had time for everyone. There were birthdays and picnics and all the usual gatherings of a happy growing family. Then of her thirty two grandchildren, most went to school in Grahamstown and grew up running in and out of 'The Old Home', as their parents had.

Like all families, it had its tragedies. The worst of these was the death, due to diptheria, of three little children in 1879/80. After this great sorrow, her mother, Grannie Roe, wrote, "You always were the most unselfish of girls, and I'm sure being so adds greatly to your happiness. Many, many happy years will still be yours, dearest Jennie. I love to sit and think what you were to us at home and what I feel sure you are now to many in a distant land. If I have done nothing else for posterity, I have sent out three children who in distant quarters of the globe are a blessing to those around them, and are, I am sure, doing their best to improve mankind."

There were triumphs too, the founding of St Andrew's Preparatory School by their eldest son Rob and taught in by the daughters, very much in the tradition of the Mullins' schoolmasters at Box and Corsham. There were the military achievements of their sons, notably the VC awarded to the second son, Charles, in the Boer War for the battle at Elandslaagte. Later in WW1 Alec too was decorated for gallantry. Other sons and sons-in-law and their families also answered the call and selflessly went to England help the 'Mother Country'.

I still have a few of Jennie's letters to her daughter Win and to her little granddaughter Molly. She wrote regularly to her mother and sisters and all her children and grandchildren, if they were far away. Her letters are written on sheets of blue-grey paper, folded in half, which I believe were sent every year in the 'Box' from England. She had a good strong handwriting and wrote on all four sides. Her letters to her mother were written on thin paper, and 'crossed', in the custom of the times! All these letters bear witness to the way she constantly thought about everyone and found time for each, although the family was so big. It was the way she kept everybody close. Even when she was in great pain at the end of her life she wrote in person to say goodbye to every one of her children who were far away, including her grandsons in England.

The following is an extract from Hilda Mullins' book about her childhood, and shows I think how very 'un-Victorian' and child-centred Jennie was as a mother. I guess the episode took place shortly before the birth of Ruth, the last of the Mullins babies.

'Soon afterwards Mother came upstairs to have a short rest. Hilda and Boy were painting and Nonie and Win were tidying out the dolls' house. They all called, "Mother," at the same time and she came round to admire their different works. Hilda had just painted a little boy with very red cheeks and very yellow hair. "What a dear little boy," said Mother, "I am so fond of fair hair."

"Look at my horse," said Boy, "I hardly went over the line!"
"No, I see you didn't. That's famous. Don't let him kick you, he looks dreadfully fresh." "Now look at us," cried Nonie and Win who had been waiting impatiently, and Mother moved over to the doll's house. The little Mullinses had the most beautiful dolls' house ever seen.

While Mother was still inspecting everything, Ethel came in. "Come along, all of you," she said, "and play in my room for a bit while Mother rests."
"Oh, please not!" they begged, "We won't make a noise really, truly not." "Let them stay," said Mother "I love to hear their voices. They don't disturb me at all." Ethel shook her head, "You can't possibly rest properly with all of them in here," she said. "We'll be just as quiet as mice," Nonie told her. And so Mother had her rest with them all whispering and creaking noisily about on tip-toe. She didn't seem to notice when a book slipped on to the floor, or when Win dropped the frying pan, but before the wheels of Father's buggy had stopped at the front door, she was off her bed and getting ready to go downstairs and greet him.' [1]

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Ref: Brief Lives - Robert and Jennie Mullins and their 14 Children 1854-1924


Harriet married Robert John MULLINS [18192] [MRIN: 6552], son of George MULLINS [18251] and Susannah GARDNER [18252], on 24 Apr 1862 in Blandford DOR. (Robert John MULLINS [18192] was born on 30 Jun 1838 in Box WIL and died on 24 Apr 1913 in Grahamstown South Africa.)

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