John Lewis 1823 - 1903
At the time of the 1851 census, John was recorded as a "mariner" living with his widowed father-in-law Samuel Bryant and his sister-in-law Mary Herrin, in Flushing, Cornwall.  However, John's wife Ruth has not yet been found in the same census.

In 1854 John signed up for "Continuous Service" in the Navy, according to his Navy records in the British National Archives.  At that time he was described as 5' 7" tall with black hair, blue eyes and a "fresh" complexion.  The records show that he had started service with the Royal Navy on the HMS Swift on 8 March 1838.  In 1838 he would have been aged only 14, and too young to join up.  However, as was fairly common at the time, he lied about his age claiming to have been born in 1921 rather than 1923 so that he would be accepted for service.

John served on a number of Royal Navy ships including the Swift (1838-1841), Linnet (1841-1843), Albion (1843-1848), Crane (1848-1854), Minx (1855-1857) and Impregnable (1857), before becoming a coast guard in Ireland.

John's eldest daughter, Sarah, was born in Londonderry, Ireland in 1861, which suggests that he was serving there at that time.  The next recorded birth found was for John's daughter Ruth who was born in 1862 at Ross Coastguard Station in Killala, Co. Mayo, Ireland.  All the subsequent births of his children were also recorded at Ross Coastguard Station up until the birth of Arthur Thomas in 1873, when John was cited as a "Coast Guard Pensioner".

On 28th November 1888 in Ardnaree Church, Ballina, Co. Mayo, John's daughter Sarah Lewis married Charles Richard Robins (1860-1935) the son of another coast guard, Charles Robins (1827-1898), who had served on the SS Valiant with her father.  This is presumably how the families originally met.  At the time of the marriage, the groom was living with his pensioned father (Charles Robins senior) in Achill Sound, Co. Mayo, close to the Achillbeg coast guard station where his father had served.

Although Sarah was born in Londonderry, Ireland and her husband Charles in County Cork, Ireland, coincidently, both sets of parents were born in Cornwall England, and both fathers had signed on with the Royal Navy in Plymouth, Devon.

At the time of Sarah's marriage in 1888, she was residing in Castle Road, Ballina, Co. Mayo, presumably at her parents' home.  During the census in 1901, John and his wife Ruth were still living in Ballina with two of their sons, William and Charles.
                           by David Gallagher, April 2013



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John Lewis was born in Saltash, Cornwall, just across the river Tamar from the large British naval port in Plymouth, Devon, England.  According to his baptism record he was born on 17 May 1823, the third of eight children.  John's father, Stephen Lewis (1777-1883), lived to be 105 years old.  Stephen was born in Newport, Pembrokeshire, Wales and was a gunner in the Royal Navy.  John's mother was Sarah Martin born in 1796 in North Tamerton, Cornwall.
At age 26, John married Ruth Bryant (aged 23) on 31st July 1849 in the parish church of St. Andrew in Plymouth.  His profession was recorded as "Mariner" aboard the "Packet Crane".  A packet ship was, originally, a vessel employed to carry Post Office mail packets to and from British embassies, colonies and outposts.  A surviving piece of woolwork art depicts John's ship "H.M.B. Packet Crane".
John died in 1903 and is buried in a family grave (Plot 60) in St Michael's Church in Ardnaree, Ballina.  The only marker on the grave is "Lewis".  However, the church burial records reveal the following family members in the grave (kindly provided by the Rev. Susan Patterson):

Margaret Victoria Lewis, buried 1st Jan, 1889, aged 70, address: Ardnaree school house.
Stephen Lewis, buried 20th Nov, 1892, aged 30, address: Castle Road, Ballina.
John Lewis, buried 24th May, 1903, aged 85, address: Castle Road, Ballina.
Elizabeth Armstrong Lewis, buried 29th Jan, 1905, aged 3 months, address: Garden St, Ballina.
Ruth Lewis, buried 16th Feb, 1906, aged 78, address: Garden St, Ballina.
William Richard Lewis, buried 29th Aguust, 1906, aged 4 weeks, address: Garden St, Ballina.
Elizabeth Lewis, buried 27 Oct, 1937, aged 67, address: Charles St, Ballina.
William Henry Lewis, buried 8th Feb 1948, aged 82, address; Poppy Lodge, Ardnaree, Ballina.
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