Robert grew up in the cradle of Britain’s Industrial Revolution and was part of Ashton under Lyne’s Christian Israelite sect. Self-educated, this Stalybridge grocer and tea-trader made it his mission to help northern working men bribed by rich factory owners during elections. He rose to become one of Britain’s first working-class magistrates and mayors, witnessing first-hand some of the most violent riots, radicalism and progressive reforms of the Victorian era.
Robert was committed to justice for all, even when his public challenges to an unfair British foreign policy caused troubles for him. In 1898 at the age of 69, he sold his Ashton pub and took the astonishing decision to convert to Islam, moving to Manchester and becoming close friend of famous convert – Abdullah Quilliam – Sheikh of Islam of the British Isles, who had set up the country’s first mosque, in Liverpool.