Robert Mitchell, George Bullough ‘s companion and secretary throughout his world tours and beyond, was born in Keighley, West Yorkshire on the 5th April 1858. The son of John Mitchell, born in Steeton and Sarah nee Holgate, from Keighley, the 1861 census shows them at Eastwood Row, Keighley. John is shown as cordwainer and provision dealer. A cordwainer was a term for a shoemaker. Robert was the youngest of four children. The eldest Thomas, 12 in 1861, Mary, 9 and Rose, 6 are all scholars. The family are at the same address in 1871 with John shown as grocer and shoemaker, son Thomas by then 22 is a cabinet maker, daughter Rose, aged 16 is a grocer’s assistant presumably helping out in the family shop. Robert is a scholar and also in the household is Welberry Holgate, stone mason aged 16, their nephew from just over the border in Colne, Lancashire. By 1881, Robert is staying in Langley Park, Sutton, Epsom with his sister Mary and her husband Ambrose Willis whose occupation is given as ‘demonstrator in Mechanics Dept, Robert is shown as an undergraduate in Science and a William Thomas, visitor, has an occupation of ‘scientific man in solar physics’ . Obviously a very scientific family and a family who have risen out of a more humble background to improve themselves.
By 1891 Robert is staying with his widowed father and sister Rose at Eden Cottage, Steeton. He is shown as a tutor in Magnetism and other physical sciences.
In January 1895, George Bullough and Robert Mitchell are shown on the passenger list of the Ville de la Ciotat sailing from Noumea to Sydney. Their names in this list appear to be linked with those of HH Richard and AL Allen. Later in 1895 George Bullough aged 25 and Robert Mitchell aged 38, along with William Cockburn, valet, are to be found in the passenger lists of the Majestic sailing from New York to Liverpool.
Robert Mitchell gave copious reports to the Accrington Gazette about their exploits on their travels but the reports become increasingly political in tone and then cease abruptly and despite ending ‘To be continued’ they are not, leaving one to suppose the editor had had enough. The articles give a fascinating view of the travels and begin by describing some of the contents of Rhyddings Hall, Oswaldtwistle where some of the items on display in Kinloch Castle were first exhibited. These include the bronzes in the Great Hall of the monkey eating eagle and the incense burners.
On the 12th October 1899, on board the Steam Yacht Rhouma at Rum, Robert Mitchell, aged 41, was married to Eileen O’Moore , aged 25, of Kew Gardens, Kew. Robert elevates his father to ‘Gentleman’. The witnesses were George Bullough and HC Hinton. Eileen O’Moore gives her parents as Cyrus Edward Doyle and Emily Rosalie Doyle maiden surname McKay and there is a faint footnote showing that Eileen had changed her name from Doyle to O’Moore. Eileen was an adventurous soul who joined her husband and George Bullough when they journeyed to South Africa to give support to the British troops by turning the Rhouma into a hospital ship.