No. 6766, 2nd Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles
Killed in action on Monday 24 May 1915 (aged 31)
Dickebusch New Military Cemetery, Belgium (Grave L. 26)
Newtownards and District War Memorial
Presbyterian Church in Ireland (PCI) Roll of Honour 1914 – 1919 for
Greenwell Street Presbyterian Church Newtownards
Brother of Rifleman Frederick McKee (No.18/1542)
Robert McKee was born on 26 May 1883 in the townland of Drumfad, Carrowdore and he was baptised in Carrowdore Presbyterian Church. Robert was a son of James and Mary Ann McKee (nee McCormick) who were married on 25 November 1876 in Greenwell Street Presbyterian Church Newtownards. James McKee from Drumfad was a son of James McKee, a labourer. Mary Ann McCormick (aged 19) from Drumfad was a daughter of James McCormick, a weaver.
The McKee family lived in the townland of Drumfad, Carrowdore; at 28 Court Street, Newtownards and at 77 Greenwell Street, Newtownards.
James McKee worked as a general labourer and he and Mary Ann had nine children:
William James (born 27 March 1877 in Drumfad; worked as a tailor; died of tuberculosis 3 January 1908 aged 30)
Elizabeth (Lizzie, born 29 November 1880 in Drumfad)
Robert (born 26 May 1883 in Drumfad)
Grace (born 8 April 1886 in Drumfad; died of whooping cough 10 December 1886 aged 8 months)
Frederick (born 16 April 1888 in Drumfad)
Margaret Jane (born 28 March 1890 in Canal Street, Newtownards; died of pneumonia 16 March 1894 aged 3)
David Henry Wilson (born 2 November 1892 in Canal Row, Newtownards)
Margaret Jane (born 19 November 1894 in Canal Row, Newtownards)
Alexander Fulton (born 3 April 1902 in South Street, Newtownards; died of marasmus 18 May 1902 aged 1 month)
William James was baptised in Carrowdore Parish Church of Ireland Church; Eliza, Robert, Grace and Frederick were baptised in Carrowdore Presbyterian Church and Margaret Jane, David Henry, Margaret Jane and Alexander Fulton were baptised in Greenwell Street Presbyterian Church Newtownards.
Their father James worked as a carter and he died on 9 July 1911 as the result of an accident (aged 53). A cart passed over his body on 8 July 1911.
Robert McKee was an ex-soldier who had served in South Africa with the Royal Army Medical Corps. He served for three years with the colours and for nine years in the reserve. In civilian life he worked as a labourer.
Robert McKee and Mary Kelly were married on 9 January 1907 in Newtownards Parish Church of Ireland Church (St Mark’s). Mary Kelly from Mill Street, Newtownards was a daughter of Edward Kelly, a labourer.
Robert and Mary McKee (nee Kelly) had four children:
William James (born 17 November 1907 in West Street, Newtownards)
Edward (born 3 July 1909 in Mill Street, Newtownards)
Margaret (Maggie, born 25 February 1911 in Mill Street, Newtownards)
Winifred (born 12 December 1914 in Mill Street, Newtownards)
All were baptised in Greenwell Street Presbyterian Church Newtownards.
Robert McKee was a member of the local branch of the Ulster Volunteer Force and when war broke out he joined the Royal North Downs. On 3 December 1914 he went to the Front and soon afterwards was promoted to the rank of Lance Corporal.
Lance Corporal Robert McKee was killed by enemy shellfire on 24 May 1915, two days before his 32nd birthday. At the time of Robert’s death his wife Mary and their children were living at 101 Mill Street, Newtownards. When Mary heard officially on 7 June 1915 that Robert had been killed in action she already knew that he was dead. Two days earlier she had heard the news from an uncle who had received a letter from one of Robert’s comrades in arms. The news came less than a week after Mary McKee had received a field postcard from her husband intimating that he was quite well.
Robert McKee’s youngest child, Winifred, whom he never saw, was only six months old when he died. Robert’s younger brother Frederick McKee was killed in action on 7 June 1917, two years to the day after the news of Robert’s death was officially conveyed to his family.
There were three Killed in Action notices in the 12 June 1915 edition of the Newtownards Chronicle, one from his sorrowing wife and family, one from his sorrowing mother, brothers and sisters and one from his sister and brother-in-law Lizzie and Alexander Andrews then living at 78 Greenwell Street, Newtownards. The one from his wife and family contained the verse:
No scream of shells disturb his rest,
No tramp of charging feet;
The Commander above has said, “Well Done;”
Need we grudge him the rest so sweet.
Some day, some time, my eyes shall see
Thy face I loved so well;
Some day I’ll clasp his loving hand,
And never say farewell.
Thine a hero’s grave.
The one from his mother, brothers and sisters contained the verse:
His death to us has caused great pain,
We trust his soul that Christ has gained;
We pray in our Redeemer’s name
That he and us shall meet again.
We pray Thee, Lord, in mercy shield
His kind comrades upon the battlefield.
Though link by link is broken,
And tears unseen may fall,
Look up amid thy sorrows
To Him who knows it all.
The one from his sister Lizzie contained the verse:
He wandered far from where his heart
Had bound its earthly tie.
And in a far off distant land
His body now doth lie.
In 1916 his wife and family placed an Our Heroes – In Memoriam notice in the Newtownards Chronicle and it contained the verse:
Had we but seen him at his last,
Or watched his dying bed,
Or heard the last sigh of his heart,
Or held his aching head.
The midnight stars are shining
Upon his silent grave,
Where the one we loved lies sleeping,
The one we could not save.
In 1916 his mother, brothers and sisters placed an Our Heroes – In Memoriam notice in the Newtownards Chronicle and it contained the verse:
Too far away thy grave to see,
But not too far to think of thee;
No morning dawns, no night returns
But what we think of thee.
Though the cruel war divide us,
And no more your face we see,
But some day we hope to meet you
In that land where rest shall be.
In 1918 his sister and brother-in-law Lizzie and Alexander Andrews then living at 81 Greenwell Street, Newtownards placed an Our Heroes – In Memoriam notice in the Newtownards Chronicle in memory of both Robert and Frederick McKee and it contained the verse:
They are gone, oh how hard, not a friend to be near them,
To hear their last word or dry their last tear;
No parting farewell, no kind word of love
To cheer their last moments or point them above.
Lance Corporal Robert McKee (No. 6766) was buried in Dickebusch New Military Cemetery, Belgium and he is commemorated on Newtownards and District War Memorial and in the Presbyterian Church in Ireland (PCI) Roll of Honour 1914 – 1919 for Greenwell Street Presbyterian Church Newtownards.