George M Robb (born 1833), artist

The oldest child of George Robb and Jane Thomson was another George Robb, born in 1833. The last record we had of George was in 1861, when the family was living at Chingford, Essex, and the younger George was a 28 year old artist. This unusual profession, together with the fact that the census record gives him a middle initial – M – has helped me to find out what happened to him after that.

In 1871 we find ‘George M Rob’, an unmarried artist born in Scotland, lodging with the rather large family of gardener John Fawcett, in Queen’s Square, Undermillbeck, Bowness, Windermere. The only disparity is George’s age, which is given as 28, when it should be 38: otherwise, all the details fit.

Ten years later, in 1881, George M Robb, still unmarried, but now given the slightly more accurate age of 45, is still lodging with the Fawcetts, and is now described as a landscape painter. The situation is little changed in 1891, when George, said to be 60 years old but in reality about 58, and still an artist (the additional note ‘sculp’ probably indicates sculptor) can still be found living with the Fawcetts.

Obviously, his parents’ money enabled George to pursue his vocation as an artist, though it didn’t make it possible for him to own a house of his own. Alternatively, living what must have been a modest existence may have been part of a romantic dedication to the landscape which kept him in the same corner of the Lake District for at least 20 years. One imagines that if he did have independent means, then George’s continuing presence was a welcome source of income for the Fawcett family (they were able to retain at least one servant).

George died in Kendal in 1891, at the age of about 58. Interestingly, the death record gives his name as George Mickleham Robb. This has to be a misreading of Meikleham, the name of his aunt Penelope’s second husband. But Penelope didn’t marry William Meikleham until 1844, which raises the possibility of an earlier connection between the Robb-Thomson-Young family and the Meiklehams. It may be of relevance that, at the baptism in 1819 of John Young, son of Penelope Thomson and her second husband John Young, the witnesses were Henry Thomson (Penelope’s half [?] brother) and a ‘William Meiklejohn’. The younger William Meikleham, who would later marry the Youngs’ daughter Penelope, would have been 17 at this time (though he graduated in the following year), so it might have been his father, also William, professor of astronomy at Glasgow University.

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