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Name: Robert Philip (possibly Phillipe) Noonan (Croker).


Born: 18 April 1870 in Dublin. Putative Son of Samuel Croker, who had two "wives": Jane Usher Croker (and children) and his "Liaison Lady" Mary Noonan; her children apart from Robert were Adelaide, Ellie and Mary Jane. Samuel Croker was an inspector in the Royal Irish Constabulary, and then a magistrate. He was a  well-educated Irishman, of Dublin. Died about 1875/6. RT's mother then remarried, making RT very unhappy. His education was uncompleted.

About 1890: 


15 October 1891:

17 September  1892:



August 1896: 




Early September 1901:

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15 January 1906: 

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Late 1907 or early 1908: 


c 1908: 


Late 1908-early 1910: 




August 1910: 


26 November, 1910: 


3 February, 1911: 




23 April 1914: 





May 1918: 


29 September 1946: 


October 1951: 


6 October 1955: 


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In January 1959: 


2 June 1962:

Late May/early June 1967: 


5 June 1967: 


August 1968: 


September 1968: 


19 August 1970: 






May 1991: 


29th May 1999: 


8th October 2000: 


2nd July 2013: 

It is believed that Robert possibly left for South Africa from London; the family probably having removed from Ireland some year previously.


RT marries Elizabeth Hartel, age 18, at a Protestant church in Cape Town. He is a decorator. She dies (1895?) of typhoid fever.


Daughter Kathleen born in Cape Town. Baptized at a Protestant church in April 1895.


Wife dies.


RT and Kathleen move to Johannesburg. RT is involved in pro-Irish groups there, and suggestions that he helped to form  the militant Irish Brigade, which fought with the Boers against the British forces. The main founder of the Brigade, John McBride, was executed in Ireland in 1916 by the British for his part in the Boer War. RT works as a foreman and very good signwriter for a company. Very attached to his child, who was at a residential school.


His sister Adelaide Rolleston and her son Arthur join him at Cape Town from Chile, via London. (her husband had died). RT had invited them, to set up a home with him. He seemed to be earning well enough to help pay for their trip. The start of the Boer War at Joburg (11/10/99) means they leave the city and set up home in Cape Town. Arthur died in First World War; his name is on the Alexandra Park war memorial.


The four people sail to England on the SS Galician.


The four come to Hastings to join sister Mary Jane at 38 Western Road, St Leonards. There is a gathering there with the two other sisters, but none of RT's brothers, who he never seems to see again.


The four move to 1 Plynlimmon Road. RT acquires a job at Bruce & Co, Electrical and Sanitary Engineers and Builders, of 2 York Buildings. RT needs this job apparently because his old good financial position seems to have gone. With Bruce he is a top-paid interior decorator, very skilled - this gives him virtually a class of his own. He had been a highly skilled self-employed man in South Africa, well- educated. Many of the RTP incidents are based on RT's  experience at Bruce apparently. Daughter Kathleen is sent to school in Deal.


The four move to top flat in Grosvenor Mansion, 115 Milward Rd. Stay for four years or so. It has three attics. Kathleen is  sent to the Roman  Catholic school, the Convent of the Sacred Heart in Old London Rd. RT leaves Bruce and starts with Burton & Co, Builders and Contractors, Funeral  Directors, Decorators, of 88 Stonefield Rd. RT also writes coffin plates. The whole atmosphere of the RTP comes form Hastings rather than St Leonards, even though he wrote most of it there.


RT and most of Burton's staff work at Val Mascal.


RT completes for Easter the high quality artistic renovation of the chancel of St Andrews Church in Queens Rd - gift from Burton to the church.


General election, the first since RT arrived in Hastings. This brought him into direct contact with politicians in the town, including socialists. Liberals were expecting to win Hastings, but it and Rye were the only Tory gains in the whole country. The national Labour Party was formed 15/2/1906, with 29 MPs. In Hastings individual socialists only began to organise after the election- but the town went back 25 years far its models, and repeated the whole socialist process locally. This throws light on the RTP. RT was a convinced socialist, being part of his nature. But until 1906 he was in some isolation in Hastings. "Only when the socialists finally began to organise independently did he find the organisation and comradeship to meet his need,and it seems to me no accident that this should have been the impulse needed to call out his particular kind of talent and give it direction". (Ball, p81).


Initial meeting in the Cricketers pub in South Terrace of people wanting to set up a branch of the Social Democratic Federation; included RT, AIf Cobb and Edward Cruttenden (of 16 Wellington Sq). Followed on 12 October by first public meeting to form the branch, in Pelham St. Chairman there: F Owen. By the end of November the local papers Observer and Weekly Mail had started violent anti-socialist propaganda, a new source for RT's notebooks.

The Cricketers at the time that Tressel was there (1906)    


By then there were socialist and Labour groups all over the town. "I believe this local situation played a part in determining how Robert was to portray the role of socialism and socialists in the book". (Ball, p87).


RT left working at Burton's (conflict and trouble?) and went to Adams and Jarrett's in Norman Rd and Alfred St. The four also left 115 Milward Rd, going to unknown addresses at Warrior Sq and St Johns Rd.


RT threw himself into SDF work. Tough action against socialists by police and employers meant the SDF branch developed a hard core of militant socialists, among them RT


RT and Kathleen move to 241 London Rd, without Adelaide and Robert. They were believed to be not brotherly and sisterly; RT had little feeling with any sisters. The flat (not self-contained) was over a cycle shop at the top. About this time (1905-8?) there is a-serious recession in the national   building trade - many small firms in dire straits - brings cut in standards - all in the RTP - bring insecurity and greater risk of unemployment, plus seasonal lay~off.- With scarce jobs and weak trade Unionism in South Coast regions the unions did not offer men a solution in places like Hastings. 


Ball says: "Why didn't this lonely man ever remarry? In fact none of his friends ever remember him having any women friends, the company of  women, or any hint of sexual relationship." (p132)


Possible time when a fair copy of RTP was finished. Nobody knows for sure, or when he started. RT was often writing at Milward Rd; it may have been - the manuscript or advance notes, or something else. Ball thinks he "projected a book" (RTP) in 1903/4 or even earlier, and began organising it in 1907 from notes written earlier. Ball thinks he probably finished a main draft in 1909, and then spent_many months making a fair copy. the original title was probably "The Ragged Arsed Philanthropists" - ragged arsed is an ancient colloquialism amongst working men but there is no hard evidence for this. He changed his name to Tressell because trestles are a part of the basic equipment of house painters. RT was full of hope about the book, but he was suffering increasing sickness which in 1910 was reducing him to real poverty. The  manuscript was nearly 1700 pages, handwritten. Sent to three publishers, who returned it.


RT's health worsening. By winter 1909/10 he was having serious attacks and spending more time at home than at work. He decides to emigrate. As the book has not worked he wants to go to Canada and start again. He made arrangements to go to Liverpool, with Kathleen (16) going to her aunt Mary Jane at her school at 48 Kenilworth Rd, backing onto 37 Carisbrooke Rd. Should only be there a few weeks, until RT has sorted out Canada trip. They will leave 241 London Rd.


RT  Leaves from Warrior Square Station for to Liverpool to earn the fare for his and Kathleen's trip to Canada. She never sees him again.


RT admitted to Royal Liverpool Infirmary (workhouse) hospital.


RT dies at the Infirmary of bronchial pneumonia. Buried as a pauper a week later.


Mary Jane moves to 12 Upper Maze Hill. She had three daughters and three sons. Kathleen had the RT manuscript . See Ball's chapter 25 for story of how it was published.


The RTP is published for the first time, in expurgated form, by Grant Richards Ltd. Cost 6 shillings. Author: "Robert Tressall". Ball finds in 1946 that the manuscript was 250,000 words, but only 150,000 were published in 1914. It immediately has many reviews in the national press, but the start of the war halts it.


Daughter Kathleen (Croker) emigrates to Canada. Marries her cousin Paul Meiklejon (Mary Jane's son).


Kathleen and her three year old daughter are believed killed in a car accident.., Husband killed during the war? But in 1967 Ball finds her still alive. Her father's grave is discovered.


Richards publishes the second, abridged edition, with only 90,000 words. Price down to one shilling. Reprints appear in the 1920s, plus other editions by other publishers (?) from 1927 onwards.


Ball and small group of friends manages to buy the manuscript from Robert Partridge. Ball then finds how much was cut out, and the change in the orientation of the book (see his chapter 33).


Tressell of Mugsborough published by Lawrence and Wishart. Ball had been trying to get the manuscript published, but with no luck.


Lawrence and Wishart publish the book in full, for the first time.


Ball sells the manuscript to the National Federation of Building Trades Operatives


they hand it over to the TUC at a simple ceremony, "where it now resides" (1973).


Hastings Trades Council unveils plaque at 115 Mlward Road


BBC2 broadcasts dramatisation of RTP (re-shown 19 June 1969).


The Times publishes interview with Kathleen, Ball's first knowledge she was not killed in 1918. He meets her 29 June. She is 75, living in Gloucestershire, has daughter Joan who is married to Reg Johnson.


Kathleen visits Hastings for the second  time since 1914. She had visited briefly in the 1950's


RT's burial ground found in Liverpool. Shown in short BBC TV film in late 1970.


David Haines sees St Andrews Church being demolished. Over next few days national interest in attempt to save part of RT's painting there. They save part of a wall.


Publication of FC Ball's One of the Damned.


Memorial stone laid on RTs grave,


Joan Johnson unveils plaque at her grandfather's birthplace in Dublin's Wexford Street


Michael Foster, MP for Hastings & Rye, unveils blue plaque at 241 London Road,  St.Leonards on sea as part of the Robert Tressell event.


Joan Johnson, born 7th November 1915 dies at East Grinstead, Sussex.


Reg Johnson, Joan's Husband and Tressell's grandson-in-law passes away after a short illness

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