Mr Hawthorne was born in Hamilton, Lanarkshire in 1873, and was born again in the same town while attending meetings in the Kensington Hall in 1895. Mr James Lees, so well known in later years as an intrepid missionary in central Europe, was saved at this time and whilst attending the same meetings.
It seemed to mark young converts in those early days that they almost at once took an interest in the Scriptures, and at all available opportunities miners and carpenters were found huddled together around the Bible, eagerly gleaning food for their souls whilst they partook of their daily food. Robert Hawthorne was no exception. His Bible he dearly loved and, while life lasted, all who listened to him knew that he was no stranger to the page of inspiration. He was baptised and received into the assembly at Low Waters, Hamilton.
He, with Mr John Bernard, also in later years an earnest evangelist and teacher in the British Isles and North America, paid a short visit to the Mourne district of North of Ireland on a preaching holiday. Seeing something of the need, and the conviction in his heart becoming real to him of Gods call, he soon afterwards went forth into full-time service for the Lord and for almost 51 years continued steadfastly.
The greater part of his service was in Northern Ireland, where God used him in the conversion of sinners and in much help in ministry amongst the assemblies. He made his home in Belfast, where he was in fellowship in Ballyhackamore Assembly and in later years Albertbridge Road. He visited in the Irish Republic a fair amount and, as well as encouraging the few small groups of believers there, he preached the gospel and visited the homes of the people, the Lord working with him. He also made a number of visits to the Orkney Islands, sometimes being away from home for six months at a time, and again God blessed His servant and people were reached for eternity. In company with Mr John Rankin he had tent meetings in the North of England, where he met and married his wife, Miss Ann Boadle. The Lord blessed them with three children, all saved and happy in assembly fellowship. His son, John, is now engaged in full-time gospel service in the North of Ireland.
Our brother was not only a clear, forceful gospel preacher, whose searching messages made many a sinner to tremble, but he was an able minister of the Word and frequently on conference platforms throughout Ulster, as well as at times in other centres, gave "goodly words".
He enjoyed truths regarding the person of Christ and could present these, as well as prophetic, church, and practical matters, in a convincing way, so much needed in a day of uncertainty and questionings. In his crisp presentation, with his strong Scottish accent, retained despite 50 years in Ireland, he left his hearers in no doubt as to what he believed to be the truth of God.
His manner on the platform may at times have given the impression that he was a little gruff and perhaps severe, but in the home and amongst the saints, he was discovered to be a kind, sincere, and sympathetic servant of the Lord. But, when circumstances demanded it, it was soon realised that neither frown nor favour of men would deter him from the ways of God.
He preached a good deal in Ulster with Mr W McCracken, Mr R Beattie, Mr J Stewart, Mr J Megaw and other full-time labourers, enjoying their confidence and seeing God at work. His path was even and undeviating until, after a short illness, God called him home in January, 1949 from his home in Belfast.
His remains were laid to rest in Dundonald Cemetery when his valued, life-long friends, Mr T Campbell and Mr W McCracken shared the services.