Topic: Robert Bole Morrow (1836-1919)

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Robert Bole Morrow was born in Ireland and served most of his adult life with the British Military in India. He followed his brothers, including Arthur and Edward Morrow out to New Zealand later in life, arriving in 1877.

To view an archived and responsive version of this article as at June 26, 2016, click here:
Father: Hugh Morrow (1806-1871)
Mother: Eliza Bole (1813-1892)
Born: 1836 in County Longford, Ireland
Died: July 10 1919 at Newton Rd Auckland
Siblings: Elizabeth Hooper nee Morrow (1839- ), John Morrow (1840-1866), Hugh Morrow (1840-1921), Arthur Morrow (1842-1937), Ambrose Bole Morrow (1850-1921), Edward Morrow (1850-1924), Thomas Hussey Morrow (1850-1906), Richard Morrow (1846-1892)
Military Record: NZ portion digitised by Archives New Zealand and available here, Imperial and Indian armies portion uncertain though there are letters describing his service in the NZ portion.
Migrated to NZ 1877 from India


1/2 length portrait of R B Morrow.
Also featured in the supplement to the Auckland Weekly News 17 July 1919 p034

Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19190717-34-3

At the age of 73 he typed a letter to The Officer Commanding Auckland Military District, in response to a request for further evidence in support of an application for the Colonial Auxiliary Forces Medal and the Colonial Auxiliary Forces Decoration (later denied). This letter is within his NZ Military Record, available here (text below).



Newton Road
21st December 1909.

The Officer Commanding
Auckland Military District,
District Office. AUCKLAND.

I am in receipt of your Memo. No. P.C. 676/09, asking for a statement of my services in the Imperial and Indian Army which I herewith enclose. I was unable to do so sooner as I had mislaid some letters and as it is nearly fifty years I did not remember dates until the letters turned up.

  1. Hon. Major Robert Bole Morrow.
  2. Date of Birth, 26th September 1836.
  3. Ensign, this requires explanation as appended below.
  4. Governor General of India’s Body-Guard.

When I joined the Imperial Service it was during the time that commissions were obtained by purchase. On my deciding to go to the Indian Service as at this time I got an offer to be appointed Musketry Instructor to the Goorkha Battalion as they had been armed with the Enfield Rifles and Colonel J. Tytler, V.C. of the 4th Goorkhas had applied for the services of an Imperial Officer to instruct his Regiment in the use of the rifles. The appointment was offered to me by an old friend, Colonel Gordon, who was then Chief Inspector of Musketry in India and as I was strongly recommended by my Colonel A. G. Vesey, who advised me to take this step and that he would forward my papers for sale of Commission to the Horse Guards with a recommendation that I should be allowed to get back my commission money £450. On accepting the appointment as Instructor of Musketry to the Goorkhas.

I should not have left H.M.S. 46th but that as I had been an Ensign for eight years without a chance of promotion and as I had been purchased over twice by the young Officers much my junior, I could stand it no longer and decided to go to the Indian Service as I was unable to pay the extra £250 for my Lieutenantcy in consequence of my poor Father having unfortunately gone security for a large amount about £10.000 for an old school fellow, a Mr. Thos. Dennehy, who was stipendary Magistrate of the County Longford, Ireland and my Father had to dispose of the old home in Ireland and come out to settle in New Zealand.

Oh my joining the Indian Service as Instructor of Musketry to the Goorkhas I was promoted to a Lieutenancy and was sent as a Doing Duty Officer to the 4th Goorkhas to instruct them in Rifle Exercise and in fact to teach them how to shoot. I joined them at Almorah, a Station in the Himalayas on the borders of Nepaul, forty miles from Nynee Tal, when I had completed their instruction to the satisfaction of Colonel J. Tytler, my services were applied for by Colonel McPherson V.C. of the 2nd Goorkhas “The Royal Simore Rifles” and I proceeded to join them at Dehra Doon, N.W. Provinces and was attached to them as a Doing Duty Officer for about two years and served with them on two punitive expeditions against the Hill Tribes for which I received The North West Frontier Medal and Clasp, I also hold the Indian Mutiny Medal.

Having finished with the Goorkhas I got appointed Political Officer to a Native Rajahas Territory at a place called Theree in the Himalayas and was so employed for about four years and was promoted to the rank of Captain by the then Governor General, the late Lord Mayo, who gave me the appointment of Doing Duty officer to the Governor General’s Body Guard.

Medallion front and rear

Medallion front and rear, passed down through the famoly. Front inscription "A. Kohn Auck" reveals the Auckland Silversmith known to be operating late 1800s to be the craftsman. 

At this time H.R.H. The Duke of Edinburgh came to visit India and the Chief Commissioner of Meerut, Mr. Fleetwood Williams, C.B. applied for me to be sent in command of the Escort to the Duke during his tour in the North West Province in Dehra Doon with the Governor General, Lord Mayo, and for whom I got a letter of thanks from the Viceroy (Copy enclosed) and also a copy of a letter from K. G. Ross, Esq., C. S., Superintendent to the Dhoon enclosing for my acceptance a photo of H.R.H. The Duke of Edinburgh with his autograph.

I may say that shortly before my leaving India I got badly mauled by a tiger, out shooting on foot, and I was strongly recommended by the Doctors to go for a voyage to Sea at once or else I should probably lose my leg, So I decided to take the bonus granted me on retiring with the Hon. Rank of Hon, Major and came out here and went to Rotorua for some four months, where my leg got all right again and healed up splendidly.

I am afraid, Gentlemen, that you will find this a long and tedious statement of my services, but I could not explain it any shorter than I have done.

I have the honour to be,
Your obedient Servant,
(signed) R.B. Morrow.

Later in life he elaborated on one particular tiger shooting (not the one that led to a mauling) in an account written for some children. It reads:


Man eater of Kumaon

As told by Colonel R.B.Morrow

1864 December 7 (also published in the New Zealand paper “Observer” on 8 July 1916, Page 15)

Negative yet digitised: Full length portrait of Colonel Robert B Morrow with a tiger he shot near the village of Sunkookla, Himalayas
Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 646-A14159

Snapshot from a damaged print below…

Note the muzzle-loading gun, the power and priming flasks and the cap and bullet pouch 

This tigress was shot by me at Almora in the Himalayas, about forty miles from a place called Nynee Tal. The tigress was in this district for over eight years. She was called the “Lungra Bag“ (lame tiger), as one of her forepaws was about twice as large as the others. We found after I had shot her that it was caused by her having killed a porcupine. She must have struck him with her paw, and got a lot of quills right through her paw, and this no doubt caused her to be lame, and on that account she took to killing natives.

Police reports show that during the eight years she had killed over seventy-three people, and consequently there was a large reward put on her head, some £25 , or 300 rupees, and I was the lucky one to scoop the pool.

I was quartered with the 4th Gurkha mess at the time in the station of Almora, and there had been quite a number of parties sent out on different occasions to try and shoot the tigress, but she was exceedingly cunning, and whenever she killed a native at a village she did not come back for a length of time, and the parties sent out to try and shoot her never even saw her once.

One day I was at the 4th Gurkha mess at lunch (Colonel John Tytler,V.C.’s regiment), and the deputy commissioner, Mr. T. O. Mann, came in with the news that the tigress was lying on the pathway to the village of Sunkookla, watching the natives.

I told the deputy that I would go, as some of the other officers had been out on several occasions. The deputy commissioner said that he would like to go with me, so I got my trusty rifle, etc., and we started. When we got near the small village we had to go off the main road. We had to continue our journey by a pathway called a “Pug-—Dandi”, and as we sighted the village we saw a lot of natives on a green hill a little way from the village, as they were afraid to go into their houses for fear of the tiger, as she was on the pathway close to the houses. The natives called out to us and told us not to follow the path, as she was lying on the path. They said that if we got down the ravine a little we could see her and get a shot. We did so, and on looking up we saw her lying on a large rock. She was lying quite flat down, and I could only see the tips of her ears and her eyes. She was watching us. I told the deputy commissioner that as he was not at all a good shot, he had better get up the place we had just come down, and I would follow him, but I kept my eye on the tiger.

As soon as he went off, and was getting up the hill so that we could get above her, she stood up and was about to come down to us. I said quietly to him, “Look out, I’ll fire, I can see her plainly now.” She gave me a good chance of a shot at her head, and I got the bead of the sight on the tip of her nose, and let fly. The ball caught her nicely just above the eyes, and she dropped on the rock, quite dead. I called the deputy commissioner and said, “It’s alright, she is done for.” The natives seeing her still on the rock, said, “The tiger’s asleep, and the sahib has missed her”. I walked quietly up, after having loaded my rifle (a muzzle loader in those days) and sat down on the tiger‘s back. There was great rejoicing. They all came running down to where I was, and all salaamed and touched nw feet, which is a great honour among the natives. They called the tiger all sorts of bad names, and beat her with their slippers, which is the meanest treatment that they can give to anyone. Some said, “You ate my father,” and other, “You ate all my brothers and sisters.”

I immediately started skinning her with the help of a Gurkha, and the natives took the body. They asked as a great favour to have it, as they say it makes a person very strong to eat tiger’s fat. I then rolled the skin up with the head, paws, and tail left on, and tied it in a large blanket, and slung it on a bamboo, and two or three natives carried it up with me to the station of Almora, two or three miles distant. When we got to the racquet court there were a lot of the officers of the Gurkhas playing a game. The Chief Commissioner, Colonel H. Ramsay, was also present , and some of them asked me if I had any luck. I said, “It was only a great jungle cat, after all,” and they said, “Oh. we thought you’d be sold a bargain, as we were.”

I said to Colonel Ramsay who was standing alongside me, “I’ve got the Bungra Bag,” (man eating tiger of Kumaon), and the chief asked if I had the skin, as he’d like to see it, so I got the Gurkhas to open the blanket, and had the skin spread out for the commissioner’s inspection, and he asked “How do you know she was lame?“ I said, “If you will look at the right forepaw you will see some thick porcupine quills right through the paw, and sticking out on the top”. After he looked at the skin he put his hand on my shoulder and said “It’s alright, it’s the man eater, you come over to my Kutcherry (court) to-morrow about 10 o’clock, and I’ll. pay the Twenty-five pounds reward with pleasure, and allow me to congratulate you on your success. You’ve rid the country of a great pest that has killed over 73 people in the district during the last eight years.”

Of course, the other officers were greatly put out and said “What luck, he had to get her, we’ve been down several times, and never even saw her.”

(The skin of this animal was brought home by Mr B. Blood, and is now set up in the Dublin museum).

This account was written by Col. Morrow many years after the event, as a matter of interest for some children of his acquaintance.



Group photo of old colonials 

Scanned photograph of five gentlemen of the Empire in various uniforms from a family album within the (nee) Morrow family. At centre is Col. Robert Bole Morrow.  

In 1911 he also wrote the following letter, detailing some activities in New Zealand. It appears to be carefully worded to support the technical requirements for an application for medals already mentioned. It is less certain whether he actually took place in the Parihaka put down and it is perhaps telling that his name is absent from lists of soldiers at Parihaka.



Newton Road,
Auckland 6th May 1911.
Officer Commanding,
Auckland Military District.


I have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of your letter dated the 26th. April 1911 and herewith enclose a statement of my services in New Zealand with Volunteers &c.

I joined No. 3 Company Auckland Volunteers under the command of Captain (now Lt. Colonel A. Morrow) at the time of Te Kuities disturbance at Parihaka in November 1881 (Certificate enclosed from him). I was elected an Hony. Lieutenant by the Company and I never withdrew my name from the Volunteers since that time. I was appointed 2nd. in command of the Empire Veterans of whom over 200 are old New Zealand Volunteers, by the then Governor “His Excellency, Lord Ranfurly” and on the death of Captain Daveney I was appointed commandant and have been Officer Commanding ever since.

When the contingents were sent out to South Africa I gave a helping hand In getting a number of young men to join them. Amongst whom were eight(8) young men from the Parnell Orphan Home of which, I may say, I have been a Trustee for over 20 years. I had also four (4) young men go out from the Costley Training Institute one of whom came back a Captain, a young man named “Wood” and three (3) of the lot came back Sergeants. I am pleased to say that all who went to South Africa from both Homes came back safely and were highly spoken of as well behaved young men.

I have been on the Trust Board of the Costley Training Institute for over 16 years during which time I have always taken a great interest in the boys’ welfare and had them well drilled and instructed in gymnasium work by Professors Carrollo and Potter. The Honourable G Fowlds, minister of Education and Defence is well aware of this fact as he has been on the Trust Board for some 15 years and is the Chairman of the Board at present. He knows the interest that I have always taken in the boys welfare.

I take the liberty of mentioning these facts to show that It has always been a great pleasure to me to do what I could for both men and boys under my charge and have done so ever sine I came to New Zealand. I hope that the Defence Department will kindly take all the above into their favourable consideration and grant the favour I ask, viz., the two N.Z. decorations, the V.D. & L. Service.

I have the honour to be,
Your obedient servant,
Signed R.B. Morrow



Later in life

Digitised print “Sue and Geoff”
Showing Sue (Doris Mary) Fairfield and her brother Geoffrey Fairfield in prams, with Colonel Robert Bole Morrow standing behind

Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 646-292

Digitised print “Simla”
Showing a front view of Simla, with Geoffrey Fairfield, senior sitting on the steps of the house, and Colonel Robert Bole Morrow sitting next to him with two dogs at his feet. Evelyn Mary Fairfield is standing next to an ornate pram containing her daughter, Doris.

Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 646-308

Northern Gun Club team, winners of the New Zealand Inanimate Pigeon Shooting Association’s first competition R.B. Morrow standing far right.

Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19001109-3-4

The competitors for the New Zealand Inanimate Pigeon Shooting Association’s cup, 3 Nov 1900, R.B. Morrow standing far right.

‘Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19001109-3-5’

Taken from the NZ Graphic, 08 February 1902, p264

Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, NZG-19020208-264-3

Inanimate Pigeon Shooting Contest for Challenge Vase, Auckland.
Taken from the NZ Graphic, 03 October 1903, p966

  1. Dr. Collins shooting. 2. Major Morrow (scorer) and Mr Walters (referee). 3. Mr George Bloomfield about to fire. 4. Mr Noakes waiting his bird. 5. Dr. Owen preparing. 6. Major Whitney shooting. 7. Mr Kelly about to fire. Inanimate Pigeon Shooting Contest for Challenge Vase, Auckland.
    Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, NZG-19031003-966-1


Death Notice Auckland Star, 11 July 1919, Page 10


Obituary appearing in the New Zealand Herald,

11 July 1919, Page 8


Colonel Robert Bole Morrow, a veteran of the Indian mutiny, and eldest brother of Mr H. Morrow, of Richmond, died recently at Auckland at the age of 82.

Colonel Morrow was born in the County of Longford, Ireland, in September, 1836. He joined the Westmeath Rifles militia as ensign in 1854, and was subsequently transferred to H.M. 46th Regiment of the Line. The headquarters of this regiment was drafted to the Crimea in the same year, the regimental reserve in which Colonel Morrow was serving being sent to the island of Corfu, in the Mediterranean.

After the Crimean war Colonel Morrow accompanied the regiment as instructor of musketry, to take part in repressing the mutiny in India, in which he was wounded. He also served with the 2nd Ghoorkas in the frontier war against the hill tribes, for which he received the mutiny and frontier medals. He next served on the staff of the late General Sir Robert Garrett at Simla, and was afterwards temporarily employed on the staff of the then Viceroy, the late Earl of Mayo.

Being a marksman of considerable repute, and a great sportsman, he accounted for, among other game, 64 tigers, and by request of the Viceroy, arranged the train of elephants 40 in number, for the big game shooting, on the occasion of the visit to India of the late Duke of Edinburgh. The duke had the good fortune to bag several tigers.

[See a later 1909 visit here with a different prince but a realistic indication of big game shooting in comparison to the romantic, and racist version here].


 After a service of 19 years in India, Colonel Morrow came to New Zealand in 1877, and had resided here ever since. He took an active part in church matters in connection with St. Sepulcure’s parish for a number of years, and a very kindly interest as a committee man, in the Children’s Orphan Home and the Costley Boys’ Institute. Upon the organisation of the King’s Empire Veterans, he was appointed to the command.



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Robert Bole Morrow (1836-1919)

First Names:Robert Bole
Last Name:Morrow
Date of Birth:1836
Place of Birth:County Longford
Country of birth:Ireland
Date of death:July 10 1919
Place of death:Auckand
Fathers name:Hugh Morrow
Fathers date of birth:1806
Fathers date of death:1871
Mothers name:Eliza Bole
Mothers date of birth:1813
Mothers date of death:1892
Military Service:British Empire battles in Northern India
Member of Society:Kings Empire Veterans