Robert Dunn

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Born: Died: Married: Elizabeth Harley Mother: Father: John Dunn Descendant: Mary A. S. Dunn
Census 1841 1851 1861 1871 1881 1891 1901 1911 1921

Robert Dunn was the father of Mary Dunn. He was a mariner. He was alive and living in the parish of St Hilda in 1865 when he married Elizabeth Harley, but had died by 1871, six years later. Both claimed to have been of full age (21) so his birth date would have been before 1844. Elizabeth was born in 1838, so he most likely was within a few years of this. He had two children after he was married, so it is likely he was alive until at least 1867. His father was called John Dunn (and was a gardener). Robert never appeared in a census after he was married, so it's impossible to know for sure his birthplace.


Robert Dunn's father was John Dunn (a gardener).

  • The Mariner's certificated for a John Dunn say he was born 5 Oct 1840.
  • In 1861 there is a Robert Dunn, who is 20 years old, lodging at Cuthbert Street, Westoe. He is a sailor, and born in Scotland. This could be our Robert Dunn.
  • A Robert Dunn was born in 1835 at United Presbyterian,Spittal,Northumberland,England, his father was John Dunn, and his mother Elisabeth.
  • A Robert Dunn was born on the 26th Nov 1839 (c.6 Apr 1840) at Gateshead, Durham to John Dunn and Jane Hood
  • BMD:B: Robert Dunn, Q4 1840, South Shields Vol 24, p190, mother Byers
  • BMD:B: Robert Dunn, Q1 1840, Gateshead Vol 24, p99, mother Hood (Jane Hood) - Too early.
  • 1851 census - a John Dunn (50, Joiner, Whalton, Northumberland) and Ann Dunn (48, Rumblekirk, Durham) are living at Boldon. No children listed.
  • The John Dunn born in West Boldon on the 8th October 1840 had a father called Robert Dunn (Police Officer) and mother Mary Dunn (nee Byers). This seems to rule him out as being the right Robert Dunn, as his father was called John Dunn, and was a gardener.
  • One transcript of a marriage says John Dunn married Ann Byers in Boldon on the 9th December 1848 - that's 8 years too late!

There are a set of Certificates of Competency for shipping for a Robert Dunn (born 1840 Boldon), they are as follows:

  • Application: Robert (Byers crossed out) Dunn, Seaham Hall Lodge, Seaham, born 5th October 1840, Boldon, Durham.
  • 10 Jan 1862 - Certificate of Competency as Second Mate (stamped 13 Jan 1862
  • 11 Jan 1862- Ordinary Examination passed - issued at the port of Sunderland
  • 15 June 1863 - Certificate of Competency as First Mate (stamped 22 June 1863)
  • 19 June 1863 - Ordinary Examination passed - issued at the port of Sunderland
  • 17 June 1867 - Ordinary Examination passed - issued at the port of Sunderland
  • 19 June 1867 - Certificate of Competency as MASTER


Robert Dunn married Elizabeth Harley on the 3rd July 1865 at the parish church of St Hilda, South Shields, Durham.

They were both of full age, of this parish, and unmarried. He was listed as a mariner, and his father was John Dunn, a gardener. Her father was John Harley, a teacher.

The witnesses were Thomas Stewart and Dorothy Coulson.

Interestingly in 1881, when Robert was dead, there was living in the same house as his family two widows, Mary Ann Stuart, and a Dorothy Harley.


From the Shields Daily News, 04 July 1865:

DUNN - HARLEY.- At St. Hilda's Church, South 
Shields, yesterday, Mr Robert Dunn to Miss 
Elizabeth Harley.


They had at least two children:

  • Mary Ann Stewart Dunn (1st May 1866)
  • Margaret Harley Dunn (~1868)

This is probably our Margaret Dunn as she was born in ~1869: BMD:M: Margaret Harley Dunn, Jul-Aug-Sep, 1897, South Shields, Vol: 10a, Page 1089 Adam Herdman (but the other marriage on the page is John Harley Coulson!)

This is not our Margaret Harley Dunn, as she was born in 1891: BMD:M: Margaret Harley Dunn, Oct-Nov-Dec, 1909, Newcastle upon Tyne, Vol: 10b, Page 251 (Frederick Armstrong or Thomas Wakenshaw).

J. H. Coulson (John Harley Coulson) was the son (1870) of:

Robert William Coulson m. Dorothy Ann Jane Harley 18 Jan 1865, Westoe, Durham

So two (probable) cousins married (probably) on the same day and are on the same page in the register.

Dorothy Harley was allegedly born in June 1841 in Warrington Quay, Northumberland


By 1871 Elizabeth was widowed, so Robert would have died between 1868 and 1871.

We know that Robert was a mariner, so this newspaper article in the Newcastle Journal on the 10th September 1870 may be referring to him (although Robert Dunn is not a rare name):

  It is supposed at Shields that the boat reported as 
  having been washed on shore at Brouwershaven, marked
  "Mars, of North Shields," indicates that some disaster has 
  befallen the said vessel, which left Shields about a fort-
  night ago, bound for Rotterdam, since which she has not 
  been heard of. There were seven hands on board the 
  Mars. She was under the command of Mr Robert Dunn, 
  of North Shields ; the mate also belongs Shields, whose 
  name is also Dunn. The Mars was built at Redbridge in 
  1810 and is registered 208 tons, and the property of Mr 
  Errington Dawson, of North Shields.

And an earlier news story from the Shields Daily News, 8th September 1870:

Supposed loss of the Brig Mars of North Shields

By the "Shipping Gazette" we learn that some
wreckage come ashore at Ouddorp, near Goree, on
the 31st August, together with a name board
marked "Mars," and we learn from a Dutch paper
that a boat has been washed ashore at Brouers-
haven, marked "Mars, North Shields." No ac-
count has been heard of the crew, and great fears
are entertained for their safety. From enquiries 
made we learn that the Mars left the Tyne about 
a fortnight ago, bound to Rotterdam, with coals.
There were seven hands on board. The captain
was Mr Robert Dunn, of Camden street, North
Shields; and the mate, Mr Dunn, of Stephenson-
street, North Shields. The mars was 288 tons
register, and the property of Mr E. Dawson, but-
cher, Tyne street, and was insured.

On the 7th January 1870, a Robert Dunn was on board the Steamship Gambia when it sprung a leak and sank in a gale between the Dudgeon and Spurn light vessels, London for Aberdeen. Crew and passengers, 55 in number, all rescued from the boats by Russian barque ‘Solon’ and landed at Shields. This is unlikely to be our Robert Dunn, as he was 35 (so a little old) and also an "able-bodied seaman", whereas our Robert Dunn had already passed his exams to be a Master (even if he wasn't a captain of a ship, he'd probably still be a first mate or something similar).

Other References

These are records for people with the same name as Robert Dunn, but might not be the same person. Even if they are not the same person, they are useful to record for elimination of other records.

  • BMD:B: Margaret Harley Dunn, Jul-Aug-Sep, 1868, South Shields, 10a, 597
  • Burial: Robert Dunn, Blackhill Cemetery, Consett, Durham, 15 Sep 1870. Age is given as 0, not sure if that is a baby, or just not filled in.
  • BMD:D: Robert Wallis Dunn, 25 (1842) Q2 1867, Teesdale (Durham), Vol 10A, p144. Possibly a little early, given his second daughter, but not impossible.
  • BMD:D: Robert Park Dunn, 37 (1834) Q3 1871, Durham (Durham), Vol 10A, P246 - the birth year is hopeful, but the third quarter is after the 1871 census.
  • BMD:D: Robert Dunn, 41 (1830) Q4 1871, Stockton (Durham), Vol 10A, P76, probably too old, and again after the census.
  • Baptism: Robert Dunn, 1835 United Presbyterian, Spittal, Northumberland, father John Dunn, mother Elisabeth of Shoreswood Norham parish, October 1835.
  • Baptism: Robert Dunn, 10 Dec 1837, St Micheal Bishopwearmouth, Hylton, father John Dunn (Carpenter) mother Elizabeth
  • Baptism: 14 Aug 1838, Tynemouth, Northumberland father John Dunn, Mother Dorothy Dunn.

From the Shields Daily News 8th August 1870:

DUNN.- At Camden-street, North Shields, on the 4th inst., aged 4 months, John George, son of Mr Robert Dunn, mariner.

From the Newcastle Journal, 20 February 1864:

TRACT, all that well known Collier Brig, 
the LONDON, Robert Dunn, Master, 252
Register Tons ; has delivered 417 Tons of Coals,
shifts without ballast ; has expended on her Hull, within
the last Twelve Months, £700. Now lying at the Custom
House Quay, North Shields. For further Particulars, apply
to the Master on Board ; or to CHARLES SMITH and SON, Quay-
side, Newcastle.
  February 19, 1864

This might not be the right Robert Dunn, as this was over in Liverpool (and there were several Robert Dunns active at the time).

Shipping and Mercantile Gazette, 31 December 1866:

  Board of `trade, Dec 29, 1866
At the Local Marine Board for the Port of Liverpool
on the 21st inst., an investigation was held, by order of the 
Board of Trade, into a charge of drunkenness preferred 
against Robert Dunn, Chief Mate of the Guaduana, of 
Liverpool, by Mr. A. Ashmall, the Owner. The Local
Board being of opinion that the charge wa proved, ad-
judged the certificate of service, as Master, No. 37,982, of
Robert Dunn to be suspended for three months.

From the Durham Chronicle, 01 June 1860:

At Gateshead Fell, at St. John's Church, 28th ult., Mr Robert.
Dunn, of Spennymoor House, to Catherine, daughter of the late
Thomas Swinburne, Esq., of Gateshead.

From the: Newcastle Daily Chronicle, 14 March 1865:

HOUSE, situate No 1, Wharncliffe Place, Wharncliffe Street, 
Scotswood Road, in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, containing Draw-
ing Room and Parlour, Lodging Room, Two Attics, Kitchen,
Pantry, and Water Closet, with Yard and other conveniences
behind, as the same are now in the occupation of Mr. Robert 
Dunn, at an annual Rental of £26.

From the Shields Daily News' 20 October 1864:

DUNN.- At Stone-quay, South Shields, on the 18th 
inst., Jane, infant daughter of Mr. Robert 
Dunn, tailor.

From the Newcastle Guardian and Tyne Mercury, 02 November 1861:

At Newcastle, In Gloucester Street, on the 30th ult., 
the wife of Mr Robert Dunn, engineer, of a daughter.

From the Shields Daily News, 19 June 1867:

The following have passed the examinations 
held at South Shields on the 17th and 18th June.
Masters.- Robert Dunn, Thomas Colling, and 
William Good.
First Mate.- Robert Reed.
Only Mate.- William Shipley
Eight Candidates failed.

From the Newcastle Journal, 28 April 1862:

TRACT, 4-16ths of the BRIG LONDON, Robert Dunn, Master, 
252 Register Tons. The above Vessels were formerly employed
in the Goods Trade between this Port and London.
Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 27th April, 1862.

Master Certificates for Robert Dunns:

  1. 24934, 17/21st June 1867 at Sunderland, Address: Seaham Hall Lodge, Seaham near Sunderland. Born 5 Oct 1840, Boldon, Durham. Ships: Clarendon, Ballarat, Lepatus, Himalaya, Maria Hay, Veleda. Second Mate 1862. First Mate 1863.

1840 Oct-Nov-Dec South Shields Durham Volume: 24 Page: 190

  1. 14603, 8th Feb 1860 at Perth, born 1832, Newburgh, Fife. Addr: High Street, Newburgh. Only mate April 1856.

NOT our Robert Dunn - in 1881 was with wife Jane in Gourock (born in Newburgh Fife).

  1. 1853,#11530, 27 Mar 1851 at Dublin. Address: Pearson St, North Shields. Born 26 Mar 1820 in North Shields, Northumberland.