Monday, 20 July 2015


Two little boys in Victorian attire - but not the Goodings brothers!
On 6th. June 1844 Private Robert GOODINGS of the 98th. Regiment married Mary Ann MARSH in St. John’s, Hong Kong. Robert was 21 years of age and Mary just 17.

At this time the Hong Kong Administration was desperate to obtain constables for the new police force and the majority of the early recruits were seconded from the 98th. regiment.  By 1845 Robert was in the Force.

Over the next few years Robert and Mary had several children but the climate was harsh and babies died.  Fortunately two sons, Robert Augustus (born 20 December 1849) and Alfred Marsh (born 28 July 1851) did survive.

In 1852  the Gaoler (John Thomas Mitton) passed away and Robert transferred from the Police to the Gaol staff.

The family lived at the Gaol - and there was also a job for his wife as the matron of the gaol hospital.

In 1854, ten years after their marriage,  Mary gave birth to a daughter but this was one child too far and she died in childbirth at the age of 27. 
This is her headstone in the
Colonial Cemetery, Happy Valley, Hong Kong

Although the paint has worn the name Mary Ann is still clearly visible.  The name Collingwood can just about be made out towards the bottom of the inscription – and this was the name of one of her sons who had died as an infant.

Sacred to the memory
wife of
who died at Victoria
23rd. May 1854
aged 25 years …………
son of the above
who died 10th. November 1849
aged 3 ……….

Robert was left a widower with three very young children to bring up.  As a result, six months after Mary Ann’s death, when a colleague at the Gaol passed away Robert married the widow Mary ROE.  But Mary ROE came with a daughter so now there were four children to support

A few months later the little girl who had been the last child of Robert’s first marriage to Mary Ann died at the age of 1 year and 1 month.

But the Goodings production line knew no bounds and all too soon little Emily was born.

Robert then caught dysentery and died on 2nd April 1856 at the age of 33.  His stone can also be found in Section 9 just a few rows down from his first wife.

Sacred to the memory
Keeper of the Victoria Gaol
for many years …. of the
Zetland Lodge of Freemasons
Hong Kong
who died of dysentery
April 2nd. 1856

This is the end of the story as far as Robert and his first wife are concerned but of course it does leave his second wife all alone in Hong Kong with four children to raise. Sadly, a few weeks after Robert’s death her newly born baby, Emily, passed away so the number was reduced slightly.  

Mary had taken over the job of Matron at the Gaol and this bought in a few pennies but needless to say she really needed to find another husband.  The expatriate community was extremely small at the time so Mary ended up marrying the man who had replaced Robert as Head Gaoler.

Mary was a practical woman and knew it would be difficult to care for all the children, especially as only one of them was her own.  What was to be done with the two Goodings boys? 

The solution was simple – they had to go into the army.  Young Robert enlisted in Hong Kong on 28 May 1859.  His age was given as 11 years and 5 months when in fact he was only 9 years and 5 months.  However, Robert did well with his army career and from being a lowly Drummer Boy rose all the way to becoming Bandmaster. 

Alfred was 11 when he enlisted at Aldershot and his career saw him rise to the rank of Lance Sergeant.  

Both Robert and Alfred left the Army in the 1880s.  They moved to Liverpool and lived at 28 Carlton Hill.  Alfred married Jane Peck and they went on to have a son and two daughters. 

The brothers had managed to survive all that life had thrown at them in Hong Kong and throughout their army careers – but they both died young.  Robert died in July 1888 at the age of 41.  His brother, Alfred, followed him to the grave just six months later.  Unlike their parents the brothers have no headstones to mark their graves.  They were buried in common graves with 12-13 other people.