Robert Allen was born on June 16, 1836, in Neath, Glamorgan, Wales, to Robert and Margaret (née Jenkins) Allen. He was the eldest of six children born to the couple, although after his mother died in 1849, his father remarried and had a further five children to his second wife. The family lived in a town called Briton Ferry, on the mouth of the River Neath, where Robert Senior ran a successful shoemaking business. Robert Junior followed his father’s trade after finishing his schooling at age 12.
On 3 September 1860, he married Alice Williams in the town of Merthyr Tydfil, where she worked piling iron bars for a local smith.
Alice had been born on May 24, 1831, in Cadoxton-juxta-Neath, to William Williams, a carpenter, and his wife Jane (née Hopkin). Alice had nine siblings. Her family lived in Llantwit-juxta-Neath, in the Neath Canal Lock House, as her father was the canal engineer and in charge of running the lock.
In July 1861, Robert and Alice, with their six-month-old first child Margaret, boarded the “Derwent Water” in London, a ship bound for New Zealand. They arrived in Otago five months later after an arduous voyage.
The family initially joined the gold rush, settling in Clyde at the Dunstan Diggings, before moving on to Switzers, now known as Wakaia. Robert continued his family trade, repairing and selling boots to the hordes of miners.
The couple had four more children in New Zealand; three daughters and one son, William Henry, born in Dunedin in 1866. By 1877, the family was living in Caversham, where Robert ran a successful shoe business until 1907. He also maintained interests in Wakaia, and with his son William, entered an agreement with a miner named Arthur Sidey to form the Mystery Flat Gold Mining Company to dredge two claim areas at Mystery Flat in Wakaia.
In 1907, Alice died on August 31st while visiting with their daughter Janet in Wellington, and by October, Robert had decided to sell up and move to Warepa in Clutha, where his eldest daughter Margaret was living with her husband, John Christie, and seven children. Robert died on the 1st of September 1922, after 10 years of declining health, at his daughter’s Warepa home.