Although Robert's birth at High Southwick has been confirmed with his birth certificate. There is no record of his baptism in the Southwick at the time. He was however later baptised on 12 Jun 1864 at St. Mary Magdalene Roman Catholic Church in Seaham Harbour when he was 8 years old.
At the time of the 1861 census, Robert, aged 5, a scholar, b. Southwick, was living with his father and stepmother at 24 Cottage Row, East Murton, along with his brother John, aged 11, a coalminer b. Sunderland, and half sister, Annie, aged 2, b. Sunderland.
Robert has been identified on the 1871 census at Murton Colliery, living with his step-mother, Ann and her new husband, Thomas Henry. 15 year old Robert, a coalminer and his sister, Annie were recorded with the surname Henry.
Robert migrated to Australia with his brother John (and his wife Sarah) on the "Windsor Castle" which arrived in Brisbane, Queensland on 10 March 1876. At the time, Robert was described as single and aged 20 yrs. His brother John was 25 yrs and married, John's wife, Sarah was 23 yrs.
The family travelled as Free Passengers. The following description of Free Passengers as it relates to Queensland immigration has been found:
"Free passengers were granted by the Government to particular categories of immigrants and their families, which were, from time to time, particularly required in Queensland. Applicants were required to pay 1 pound and a similar amount for each member of the family counted as a statute child. To be eligible, they had to be unable to pay their own passage, they could not have resided in any Australian colony, and they must intend to reside permanently in Queensland."
Although Robert made his way to Newcastle in NSW, where he met his future wife, Isabella. They were married in 1881 in the home of the bride's brother, William Court at Hamilton Commonage. The consent of William Court guardian of the bride was given to the marriage. By the rites and ceremonies of the Primitive Methodist Church. Witnesses: William Court and Sarah Jane King.
Robert was first identified on the 1882/3 Electoral Roll at Newcastle, as was his brother, John with the spelling of their surname as HAILES, situated at Commonage. Robert did not appear on the Electoral Roll in 1883/4 in either the Newcastle or Illawarra electorates, although it is known that he was living at Clifton at the time. Robert is listed on the 1884/5 Electoral Roll at Clifton again with the HAILES spelling. In 1885/86 he is in the electorate of Northumberland at Adamstown, which is consistant with the birth of his third child, Mary. The family appear to have remained in Newcastle, as Robert was included on the 1886/7 Electoral Roll at Stockton in the electorate of Newcastle. Although it is known the family returned to the Illawarra district as their fourth child, Isabella was born at Clifton in 1887, Robert is not recorded on the Electoral Roll again until 1891/2 at Clifton in the electorate of Illawarra with the spelling HALES. He is recorded here again in 1892/3 and 1893/94, the latter spelling being HAILES. No further listings of Robert can be found on Electoral Rolls.
The township of Clifton came into being in 1877, when the Coal Cliff Colliery was developed. From a Press Report in 1877 it is learnt that a number of well built weatherboard cottages with galvanised iron roofs had been erected about half a mile from the mine, and the spot was known as "the Village of Clifton." The mine manager, Mr. Hale, had a villa residence almost on the edge of the cliffs.
Robert was declared bankrupt twice during the 1890's. On 3 March, 1890 Robert petitioned the Judge in Bankruptcy and was subsequently declared bankrupt. Robert declared that he was a miner, residing at Clifton, and was married with five children. He claims slackness of work and pressure of creditors caused his bankruptcy. A total of 16 creditors were noted including his brother-in-law, Captain Ball. The debts were contracted from 1885 through to 1889 and totalled nearly 42 pounds. The creditors included storekeepers, butchers and bakers at Clifton, Stockton, Adamstown, Hamilton and Wickham. Robert's only asset was wearing apparel valued at four pound. Obviously Robert's wages would have been similar to that of his brother-in-law, John Court, who had also been declared bankrupt in 1887, and thus such debts would be quite significant to those on an average miners wage of only one pound per week.
The second occurrence was on 11 Apr 1893 at which time Robert made the following statement: "I have filed my statement of affairs. I don't wish to amend it. I have been bankrupt before that was about 4 years ago I never obtained my certificate I was then living at Clifton was a miner my liabilities were between 30 and 40 pounds that was through slackness of work and pressure of creditors. I have not paid anything of that yet. My present occupation is that of a coal miner at Helensburgh. I kept no books of account. I attribute my present bankruptcy to slackness of work and sickness in my family. 3 at once and one died." At this time, his liabilities were just over 25 pound.
Construction of the Illawarra Railway between Sydney and Nowra was carried out and used in several stages, and finally completed in 1893. The section from Clifton to Wollongong was opened for traffic on 21st June 1887, the Jubilee Year of the Reign of Queen Victoria, and the Crown Street Bridge over the railway cutting near Wollongong Station was named Jubilee Bridge to commemorate this event. 67 Life for this family was one of many hardships, and on the evening of the 15th June, 1895, Robert was killed after being run over by a train on the Helensburgh Railway line. The following appeared in the "Illawarra Mercury" dated 15th June 1895:
"A FATAL ACCIDENT - A HELENSBURGH MINER KILLED BY A TRAIN A miner named Robert Hails was run over by a train and killed early on Thursday morning in one of the tunnels near Helensburgh railway station. He had stayed rather late in the township and on going home had to pass though the tunnel where the accident occurred. The driver of the train, feeling that something had been run over, stopped the train and went back, and found the deceased lying dead and terribly bruised. One leg was cut off and carried about two chains from the body. The stationmaster was roused, and the Helensburgh police communicated with, and the body was conveyed to an hotel for the inquest. The deceased who was 39 years of age, leaves a widow and six children unprovided for. Evidence was given by Isabella Hails (wife of the deceased), William Hanley, jams Gordall, Henry Jeffreys (driver of the engine) Thomas Smith (guard), and the local constable (J.H. Wilkinson). The jury returned the following verdict -'That deceased came to his death by injuries accidentally received on the 13th of May though being run over by a passing train - No.67 - in No. 2 tunnel on the Illawara line. We desire to add the deceased was trespassing on the line, and great credit is due to the driver and guard in calling instant attention to the accident and stopping the train.' "
Unfortunately although the actual Coroner's Inquests for this period have not survived the Registers of Coroner's Inquests were consulted. The inquest was held on 14 June at Helensburgh Court House by Francis Woodward. The only additional information included in the Register was that Robert possessed `household effects valued at 5 pound'.
Robert did not leave a will, nor was any record found in the Intestate Index. Robert was buried in an unmarked grave in the Church of England section at Helensburgh Cemetery. His daughter, Sarah was buried with her father when she died four years later. Several members of the Hails and related families were also later buried alongside Robert, including his daughter, Mary and her family, his wife Isabella, her second husband and their son.
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