The Robert Tressell Society
(formerly "The Robert Tressell Centre")  
Tressell Timeline Part 2

Click here for Part 1

Late 1907 or early 1908: 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. 

241 London Road in 1897 - a dairy at this time
c 1908: 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)

SDF Meeting 1908

SDF Meeting on the beach
(near the Queens Hotel)

Picture: Brian Lawes collection

Late 1908-early 1910: 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.
1909: 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.
August 1910: 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.
Warrior Square Station around 1910
picture Ion Castro collection.

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26 November, 1910: RT admitted to Royal Liverpool Infirmary (workhouse) hospital.
3 February, 1911: RT dies at the Infirmary of bronchial pneumonia. Buried as a pauper a week later.
1911: 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.

23 April 1914: 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.

1914: Daughter Kathleen (Croker) emigrates to Canada. Marries her cousin Paul Meiklejon (Mary Jane's son).
1918: 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.
May 1918: 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.
29 September 1946: 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).
October 1951: Tressell of Mugsborough published by Lawrence and Wishart. Ball had been trying to get the manuscript published, but with no luck.
6 October 1955: Lawrence and Wishart publish the book in full, for the first time.
August 1958: Ball sells the manuscript to the National Federation of Building Trades Operatives
In January 1959 they hand it over to the TUC at a simple ceremony, "where it now resides" (1973).

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Kathleen Noonan (c) Joan Johnson

The Plaque on 115 Milward Road
2 June 1962  Hastings Trades Council unveils plaque at 115 Mlward Road
Late May/early June 1967: BBC2 broadcasts dramatisation of RTP (re-shown 19 June 1969).
5 June 1967: 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.
August 1968: Kathleen visits Hastings for the second  time since 1914. She had visited briefly in the 1950's
September 1968: RT's burial ground found in Liverpool. Shown in short BBC TV film in late 1970.
19 August 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.
1973: Publication of FC Ball's One of the Damned.
1977: Memorial stone laid on RTs grave,

Tressell's last resting place, June 1977,Thanks mainly to John Nettleton (right, with microphone)

Photo: Ron Bill

photo Dee Daly
The Plaque March 2002.

It reads
born Robert Noonan
painter signwriter
and author of
"The Ragged trousered Philanthropists"
18th April 1870 -
3rd February 1911

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May 1991: Joan Johnson unveils plaque at her grandfather's birthplace in Dublin's Wexford Street
photo Dee Daly
Wexford Street in March 2002. The plaque is slightly to the right of the projecting sign in the centre of the picture.
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29th May 1999: Michael Foster, MP for Hastings & Rye, unveils blue plaque at 241 London Road,  St.Leonards on sea as part of the Robert Tressell event.
plaq-mf5.jpg (4454 bytes)
plaq-1.jpg (7986 bytes)


8th October 2000: Joan Johnson, born 7th November 1915 dies at East Grinstead, Sussex.

2nd July 2013: Reg Johnson, Joan's Husband and Tressell's grandson-in-law passes away after a short illness




Photo by Ion Castro 27th July 1999

Joan & Reg Johnson



Data taken ftom "One of the Damned" by FC Ball, 1973, and from "The Robert Tressell Papers", by the Robert Tressell Workshop, 1982 with amendments by Joan Johnson 1999

By Steve Peak, 1993. 36 Collier Road, Hastings TN34 3JR

Pictures (c) copyright Ion Castro 1999 - 2013 except where stated


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