Huddleston, Robert (1814–87), poet, was born 5 April 1814 in Moneyrea, near Comber, Co. Down, son of James and Agnes Huddleston of Moneyrea, farmers. He was educated in Cowan's school, Moneyrea; when he grew up, he farmed about fifteen acres, and, like his father, repaired guns. He played the fiddle for wedding dances, but was himself unmarried until at the age of 48 he married (28 February 1862) the 19-year-old Margaret Jane, daughter of James Ellison, farmer; it is somewhat ironic that years earlier his first poem had been written to ridicule just such a marriage between youth and middle age. He published Poems and songs on rural subjects (1840) and A collection of poems and songs on different subjects (1844), both by subscription and after some financial and other difficulties; he quarrelled with his printers. He published nothing more, though he worked on an ambitious novel and left much in manuscript, including correspondence. His poems frequently use vigorous, rich, idiosyncratic Ulster-Scots; in one, the only English-speaking protagonist is the devil. Huddleston's almost obsessive desire for fame and belief in his own ability caused him to write increasingly bitter and passionately worded prefaces and letters attacking the unmerited unfairness of his circumstances. It is said his satirical abilities made him locally feared; he admitted himself that he was prepared to use ‘rural music's power’. The breathless urgency and linguistic creativity of Huddleston's verse are unlike anything else written in Ulster, and some of his interests and topics were also unusual for his time (though not perhaps for his place). Huddleston frequently expressed nationalist views on politics; like John Pinkerton (qv), he was most likely influenced by the liberal traditions of the non-subscribing presbyterian church to which he belonged; the minister (1809–53) of the poet's own congregation, Moneyrea, was Fletcher Blakely (qv), and from 1879 to 1884 the post was held by Harold Rylett (qv), a prominent Land Leaguer. Huddleston was interested in Gaelic tradition as well as in Ulster-Scots folklore, and he may have learned a few words of the Irish language.
Huddleston and his wife had two daughters and a son; one of the daughters died aged 9; the other daughter and his son (who was killed in a fight in America) both died soon after their father. Robert Huddleston died 15 February 1887; he was able to leave a considerable sum of money to his family, but had never found the fame he so desperately wanted. His papers are in the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum, Comber, Co. Down.