Robert Holliday

Robert (Robie) was born in 1855 in Genoa, Italy, the son of Thomas Holliday and Ann Jeal. Thomas moved the family from England due to his work as an Engineer. He died at Greenwich in 1862 leaving Ann with ten children.

Ann travelled with her daughters Fanny (22), Mary (19) and Annie (9), and son Robie (17) on the ship Glenmark to Lyttelton in 1871. He called himself a labourer. Daughter Clara (16) and son William (11) followed on the ship Halcione in 1873. All were assisted immigrants. Three sons remained in England.

The family settled on the west coast and Miss Holliday opened the Greymouth Academy for Young Ladies. A number of the daughters married and in 1875 the family sold up and moved to Wellington.

In 1878 Robie and his brother Thomas acquired Mr Jackson’s business at Stationers’ Hall, Lambton Quay and began trading as R. Holliday & Co: Importers pf Books, Stationery and Fancy Goods. He  claimed considerable experience in the business and began immediately with a large clearing sale.

His first advertisement was for “the most beautiful variety ever imported to Wellington in cloth, raised wood and beaded cushions, chair-backs, banner screens, tea coseys and slippers” His latest consignment was of “fancy goods of an unusually attractive description”.

His shop windows were a novelty too. In 1881 his windows were illuminated and a solitary lady who was working the newly introduced Davis’ sewing machines. He also drew customers in with exhibitions of oleograph portraits received from overseas including that of Lord Beaconsfield and Mr Gladstone.

The shop also served as the “box office” for the Opera House, Theatre Royal and other places.

In 1900 his widowed sister Annie Parker and her son Randall came to live with Robie in his house on Clifton Terrace.

He sold his business to Messrs Whitcombe and Tombs Ltd in 1912 and made this third trip to England in 1914 where he had intended taking a tour of the continent with a Cook’s touring party “but on account of the ugly rumours about war, decided not to go”.

He returned to New Zealand in March of 1915 and December he had a serious nervous breakdown from which he never recovered.

Robie died on the 30th August 1918 aged 63 at Porirua Hospital and was interred at Karori with his mother. His death “will be regretted by a wide circle of friends”.

Plot: Ch Eng/#/89

Robie’s shop at Stationers Hall on Lambton Quay (left)