Thursday, 30 May 2013

Tales of Tullymoan in 1920

My Father, Robert Sproule,  by his Grandson, Robert Harkin


Many of us carry pictures in our heads, distant memories of our childhood that we want to treasure forever. In his later years, my father tried to capture some of his childhood memories in poems. He had lost his sight at this stage, and he worked with a tape recorder to paint evocative word pictures. 




The Farmhouse Kitchen

Robert Sproule, or Bob as my father was known, was born in Derry in 1911. He spent his childhood summer holidays on the Tullymoan farm in County Tyrone, with his Granny Sproule and his uncles. He described the Sproule boys as big, well-built men, and I am sure this is true as my father and grandfather were fine big men themselves. The farm employed labourers, and these came from the locality or from the hiring fairs held in Strabane and Letterkenny. 

At the end of each day, all the men came in from the farm for their tea. The maids, Mary Jo and Lizzie Curry,  would boil a huge pot of spuds. The men sat at either side of a long wooden kitchen table. Mary Jo and Lizzie went to the head of the table and tipped the pot so that the hot potatoes ran down the middle of the table to land in front of each man. They drank the tea out of deep bowls and finished with homemade bread and butter.

The Clay Pipe Sessions

In the evening, farming neighbours called to the house, and they gathered round the fire. My father described the ritual of the  ‘clay pipe sessions’, where one person filled a clay pipe, and that pipe was passed to each man in turn until it came to the last man, who was always his Uncle Sam. Uncle Sam had his smoke, then cleaned the pipe, and returned it to its owner. Another man’s pipe was filled and lit, and passed round as before. Every man smoked every pipe, and each one was cleaned by Uncle Sam. The person who started each round, who filled each man’s pipe and lit it using tongs and a red hot coal from the open fire, was Granny Sproule herself.

The Much Loved Granny Sproule 

The main character in my father’s Tullymoan stories was always his Granny Sproule. Granny was Mary McGlinchy, widow of James Sproule of Tullymoan. Granny Sproule had made a huge impression on this young boy, and she filled the memories of the old man.

Granny Sproule, by Robert Sproule

I mind the time when I was nine and me Granny was eighty four
That’s what she said for many a year, and many a year and more
She used to sit at the open grate, with the clay pipe in her hand
And she could smoke both day and night as well as any man
She would take her pipe and fill it up, right up to the brim
With a tobacca she loved called Warhorse Plug* that she kept in a yella tin

From then to now is very long, for seventy years have come and gone
But still I can see her sitting there, smoking happily in her fireside chair
With a wrinkled face, and her gaunted cheek, and her pointed nose, like a turkey’s beak
Her toothless gums, and her eyes so bright, that I believed she could see at night
Her withered hands were another sight, both stained brown from her old clay pipe

Me Granny usually dressed in black, and a wee shawl hung down her back,
Of Galway grey, but now jet black
If I did anything wrong or bad, chased by me uncles or me Dad
I used to run between Granny and the fireside wall, and snuggle up beneath her shawl
She’d raise her stick and shout at them all, and stop them dead as if they’d hit a wall
Then her arm around me, there we waited, until their anger had abated

She ruled the kitchen sitting there, like an ancient queen in her fireside chair
She had two servant maids at hand, both well under her command
She kept them going to and fro, Lizzie Curry and Mary Jo
But I loved Granny best of all, as she leant against the fireside wall
And she turned with a toothless grin, and welcomed me as I came in

*Warhorse Plug tobacco is still going today! It is known as a very strong ‘manly’ tobacco, not for the faint hearted!

For more information on Mary McGlinchy see Matriarch of the Tullymoan Sproules

Friday, 24 May 2013

Mary McGlinchy, Matriarch of the Tullymoan Sproules

One of the few stories that was handed down to us through family lore concerned the religion of the Sproule clan. The Sproules in Tyrone were traditionally Presbyterian. However my family, the Sproules of Tullymoan in the parish of Urney,  are Roman Catholic. As far as I know, we are the only line of Sproules who are Catholic.

The Story of Poor Robert

The story was that one of our ancestors, a Robert Sproule of Tullymoan, married the ‘servin’ girl’ in the house. She was a Catholic, and when they had children together, she reared all of the children as Catholics. She also tried to persuade her husband Robert to convert. Even on his death bed, she was still begging him to see the priest, but he refused. This gave rise to much sad, sympathetic head shaking about the state of ‘Poor Robert’s’ soul!

When I explored this, I found that there was truth in this story, but I was rather surprised to find that the tale had been modified in only one generation. It was my Grandfather’s father who had been the husband in question, however ‘Poor Robert’ was in fact called James Sproule. James was 53 when he married Mary McGlinchy in 1869. Mary was 31 at the time of her wedding and she came from a large family in the nearby parish of Termonamongan, County Tyrone. Mary and James Sproule went on to have eight strapping children, the last of whom were twins Henry and my grandfather Robert.*

Mary McGlinchy, Owner of Tullymoan

As you can guess from all of the children being Catholics, the youthful Mary was a very strong character! My father visited Tullymoan often as a child, and told stories of the Granny ruling the house with a rod of iron! This is supported by the fact that when her husband James Sproule died in 1897, he left the Tullymoan farm and his entire estate to his wife, Mary Sproule. James had five sons, the eldest of whom, Andrew and Samuel, were aged 27 and 25 at the time of James’ death.  Most of the boys were working on the farm, but none of them was mentioned in James’ will.  The only name was Mary Sproule.

Mary McGlinchy, the servin’ girl in the house, had become Mary Sproule, the matriarch of the Tullymoan Sproules, and it is she who is the mother of the Catholic Sproule line.

*Note, Since writing this blog, I have learnt of another child in this family, Richard Sproule, who was born in 1881 and died in 1882. Little Richard was remembered fondly by his older brother Thomas Sproule, and Thomas passed  the story of little Richard to his grandchildren. Richard was the youngest child of Mary and James Sproule.

More information on the McGlinchy Family History

McGlinchy Family History

1.    JAMES MCGLINCHY was the father of Mary McGlinchy, and was my great, great grandfather. James McGlinchy was born in 1810 in Laghtmorris, Termonamongan, County Tyrone. He married Mary Dolan in 1830. She was born about 1809 in Tyrone, Northern Ireland.  This information came from the 1851 census. Mary Dolan died in 1869 in Castlederg, Ireland (Death Age: 60).

James McGlinchy and Mary Dolan had the following children:

2.1 MICHAEL MCGLINCHY was born 1835.
2.2 OWEN MCGLINCHY was born 1836.
2.3 MARY MCGLINCHY was born in 1838 in Laghtmorris, Termonamongan, County Tyrone. She died in 1923 in Tullymoan, Tyrone, Ireland. She married James Sproule of Tullymoan, son of Andrew Sproule of Tullymoan and Rebecca Mackey of Lismontigley, Raphoe, County Donegal in 1869. James Sproule was born about 1816 in Tullymoan, Tyrone, Ireland. He died on 10 Mar 1897 in Tullymoan, Tyrone, aged 81.
2.4 PATRICK MCGLINCHY was born about 1840
2.5 DENIS MCGLINCHY was born about 1842
2.6 CHARLES MCGLINCHY was born about 1844
2.7 ISABELLA MCGLINCHY was born about 1845

2.8 WILLIAM MCGLINCHY was born in 1850

Mary McGlinchy and James Sproule had the following children:

3.1 ANDREW WILLIAM SPROULE was born on 15 Nov 1870 in Tullymoan, Tyrone, Northern Ireland. He died in 1909 in Strabane aged 38.

3.2 SAMUEL SPROULE was born on 17 Feb 1872 Samuel Sproule became the owner of Tullymoan when his mother died in 1923 and his family are there to this day.

3.3 REBECCA JANE SPROULE (BECKY) was born on 7 Jul 1873

3.4 CATHERINE SPROULE (CASSIE) was born on 20 Jan 1875.  Cassie married PHILIP MCNULTY.

3.5 MARGARET MATILDA SPROULE (TILLY) was born on 15 Apr 1876.  Tilly married James Loughlin on 8 Sep 1913.

3.6 THOMAS SPROULE was born on 24 Aug 1877.

3.7 HENRY SPROULE was born on 31 May 1879. He married SARA ANN MCCLOSKEY in Sep 1916.

3.8 ROBERT SPROULE was born on 31 May 1879 in Tullymoan, Tyrone, Ireland. He died in 1966 in Derry, Ireland. He married Sara Dreenan, daughter of Owen Dreenan of Ardmalin, Malin Head, County Donegal and Annie McLaughlin in Dec 1908 in St Eugenes Cathedral, Derry. Sara Dreenan was born about 1892 and she died on 10 Mar 1938. 

The Story of Mary McGlinchy the Matriarch of Tullymoan

Friday, 17 May 2013

The Dreenans - the End of the Line

The story of the Dreenans of Donegal is the saddest chapter of my family history. This is the story of an ancient family name that is no longer here in Ireland. There will be no Gathering of Dreenans in Ireland this year, because there is no-one here to call them home.

Sara Dreenan Sproule
My grandmother Sara was the wife of Robert Sproule, and they lived in Derry. We didn’t know her, as she had died in 1938 when my father was 27 years old and unmarried. We had been told that Sara’s maiden name was ‘Dreenan’ and that she had come from Malin Head, in Donegal. The name Dreenan is unusual. When I began to look in to the family, I felt that it was possible that the name Dreenan was a Donegal mispronunciation of the more common Irish name, ‘Drennan’.  I was very surprised to find that Dreenan was a very old Irish name, though it was confined to just two areas, Galway and Donegal. The name seems to have derived from the Irish word DraighneĆ”n or DroighneĆ”n which is Irish for a blackthorn tree.

The History of the Dreenans

In 1665 there was a tax collected on hearths in Donegal, called the Hearth Money Rolls. This gives us valuable information on the residents of Donegal at that time. In this, I found a Dreenan, called Andrew O’Dreenan, and at that time he had one hearth in his home in Kinaugh, in Malin Head. Malin Head is the most northerly tip of Ireland and it is a wild, windswept, rocky place. Keenagh, as it was later spelt, is a townland in the centre of the Malin peninsula.
Malin Head - Lewis’s Topographical Directory of Ireland 1837

In the next available tax record, the 1827 Tithe Applopment Book, there are now four families of Dreenans in Donegal, all living in Malin Head. Daniel Dreenan is in Ardmalin, in the far northern tip. There are two James Dreenans, one in Keenagh and one in nearby Ballykenny. Owen Dreenan is in also in Keenagh.

When I made this great discovery, it was one of those exciting ‘high five’ moments in the detective work of genealogy.  For this Owen Dreenan of Keenagh was my great, great grandfather, and here he was in the same townland as Andrew O’Dreenan of 1665! They were surely of the same family! (But not proven as yet!)  Owen Dreenan was born in 1802 in Keenagh, but by the 1857 Griffiths Valuation record, Owen  has  moved right out to the north west coast of Ardmalin, the very tip of Ireland. Here my great grandfather, also called Owen Dreenan, was born in 1837, on a tiny plot of poor land overlooking the wild, rocky Ineunan Bay. In 1857, there are two other families of Dreenans in Malin Head. Thomas, is in Northtown, Ardmalin and John is in Keenagh. It seems that John was doing best at this time, as he had a house and land in both Keenagh and Umgall. John was born in 1833 and he had married a woman called Ellen McLaughlin in 1869.
Ineuran Bay from the Lawrence Collection
During all this time, there are records of Dreenans, both old and young, travelling to America. I found the first record in 1847 at the height of the famine, where a whole family of Dreenans from Ardmalin left from Liverpool for the US. Few stayed to settle on the poor land of Malin.

The Last of the Dreenans

By the 1901  Census there were just two families of Dreenans in Donegal.  My great grandfather Owen Dreenan had married Annie McLaughlin in 1875, and in 1901 they were living in a two roomed thatched cottage with their healthy brood of nine children. The other two households had fared less well. Thomas Dreenan had died in 1877, and there is no trace of his family. John Dreenan had died in 1891, and his widow Ellen is living with her two sons in a two room house in Ardmalin.

By the 1911 Census, the widow Ellen Dreenan is living alone in a one roomed building without a window. Even a byre in Ireland has a window, so I can only speculate that poor, lonely Ellen was living in some kind of hen house. Her son John had died in 1906 and I found no record of the other son.

The last family of Dreenans living in Donegal was that of my great grandfather, Owen Dreenan. Only one family left to pass on the name, only one family to remember the old ones. Indeed, if we look at the whole of Ireland in the 1911 Census, there is only one other family of Dreenans and they were in County Derry.

The Dreenans Today

When I began the hunt for my family, my focus was on the past generations. I had no interest in finding distant cousins living here or abroad. But the Dreenans were different. I tried to find anyone with that name living in Ireland today. Sadly, I found none. Despite all my efforts, I could find not one Dreenan living here. The ancient name is gone. There were very few families of Dreenans, and the rocky shores of Malin Head could not sustain them. Some died here, and America has taken others.

There are Dreenans in America today, not many, but they are there. If any of these American Dreenans would like to get in touch some day, you will be very welcome, my long lost cousins.

For more information:

Dreenan Family History

1.       OWEN DREENAN OF KEENAGH was born in 1804 in Keenagh, Malin Head, County Donegal, Ireland. He died on 9th January 1886 in Ardmalin, Donegal, Ireland, aged 82.  His son Owen Dreenan reported the death on the Death Certificate.

Owen Dreenan had:

2. OWEN DREENAN OF ARDMALIN died in Sep 1930 in Ardmalin, Malin Head, Ireland, at age 93. This would give his birth year as about 1837. He was born in Keenagh, Donegal, Ireland. Owen Dreenan married ANNIE MCLAUGHLIN in 1875 in Inishowen, Ireland. Annie McLaughlin was born in 1854 in Donegal, Ireland. She died in Sep 1932 in Inishowen,  aged 78.

The children of Owen and Annie Dreenan:

3.1 THOMAS DREENAN was born on 18 Nov 1876 in Ardmalin, Malin Head, County Donegal.

3.2 MARY ANNE DREENAN was born on 02 Nov 1878 in Ardmalin, Malin Head, County Donegal.

3.3 PATRICK DREENAN was born in Jun 1881 in Ardmalin, Malin Head, County Donegal.

3.4 MICHAEL DREENAN was born about 1886 in Ardmalin, Malin Head, County Donegal. Michael married on the 12th Jan 1913 in Boston – and gave Owen and Annie McLaughlin as parents. His bride was Mary McConologue

3.5 CATHERINE DREENAN was born about 1887 in Inishowen, Ireland. She died unmarried in March 1949 in Inishowen, Ireland (Death Age: 62).
Catherine (Cassie) was the bridesmade at the wedding of Robert Sproule and Sara Dreenan in Dec 1908 in St Eugene’s Cathedral, Derry.
Cassie Dreenan was a servant in what looks like a nursing home in 16 Infirmary Road, Derry in the 1911 Census. This is about 10 minutes walk from where sister Sara was living in Argyle Street with her husband Robert Sproule.
It is possible that Sara came in to Derry with her sister Cassie to work in this establishment, and that was how she met policeman Robert.

3.6 DENIS DREENAN was born in Jun 1889 in Inishowen, Ireland. He died in Dec 1947 in Inishowen, Ireland (Death Age: 57).

3.7 SARA DREENAN was born about 1892 in Ardmalin, Donegal, Ireland. She died on 10 March 1938 in Derry.
She married Robert Sproule, son of James Sproule of Tullymoan and Mary McGlinchy in December 1908 in St Eugenes Cathedral, Derry.
Robert Sproule was born on 31 May 1879 in Tullymoan, Urney, Tyrone, Ireland.
He was a policeman in the Royal Irish Constabulary and, at the time of his wedding, he was stationed in Athenry.
He retired from the RIC at the time of independence in 1922. He died in 1966 in Derry, Northern Ireland.
In the 1911 Census, Robert and Sara are living in 43, Argyle Street, with their baby Veronica. They lived there for some time, according to my father’s stories.

3.8 EUGENE DREENAN was born in Sep 1894 in Ardmalin, Malin Head, County Donegal. He married an unknown spouse in Mar 1933 in Inishowen, Ireland.

3.9 WILLIAM DREENAN was born in Dec 1896 in Inishowen, Ireland. He died in Sep 1952 in Inishowen, Ireland (Death Age: 54).

The story of the last Dreenans can be found in The Dreenans - the End of the Line

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

From Question to Quest

It began with a very simple question, ‘Who were they?’  Like so many others, I wanted to get to know my family, I wanted to know their stories. My line of the Sproules came from a townland called Tullymoan, in Urney, County Tyrone. I was born in Derry, and we knew very little of the Sproule family history. I set off to find the answer to that simple question, ‘Who were these Sproules?’

As I followed the Sproules back in time, I found myself further and further from the gentle rolling hills of rural Ireland and the sedate Presbyterian culture of Urney. Eighteen months on, that simple question has become, ‘The Sproule Quest’.

Worthy of the Word ‘Quest’?

The word ‘quest’ implies travelling to far distant lands, having exciting adventures, with perhaps some wild romances thrown in.

Needless to say, I did not leave my comfortable living room. However, my trusty laptop and I spent many happy hours travelling fearlessly through the genealogy online world.  We learnt the best routes, made great new discoveries and gathered precious pieces of evidence along the way.

But this journey was not mine. It was those long dead Sproules that I was tracking through the mists of time who were the true adventurers. It is for them that I claim the term ‘Quest’. Their long forgotten stories tick all the boxes to qualify, and it is their adventures that I wish to share here.

Clady Bridge by Jim Hamilton

The Beginnings

I was born a Sproule, the daughter of Robert Sproule of Derry, who was son of Robert Sproule of Tullymoan, in the parish of Urney, Co Tyrone. The Tullymoan Sproules were farming folk on rich, rolling land near Clady, close to the border with Donegal.

My Grandfather was the youngest of a large family, and he had left the Tullymoan farm to join the Royal Irish Constabulary in 1901. Eventually he settled his family in Derry. We had lost touch with Tullymoan Sproules,  and I was left with just a few pictures of my Grandfather, and a couple of family stories to help me on my search.

The Sproule in Jamaica

One family story that had been handed down gave a hint of what was to come, though at the time I didn’t take it very seriously. It was said that an uncle, Andrew Sproule, had gone to Jamaica, made his fortune and had left all of his money to the Presbyterian Church in Urney. As children we were not too amused by this Uncle Andrew, who we felt should have left his money to his poor relatives!  But even as children, the story seemed totally unbelievable, it was too farfetched.

As with much family lore, I found that there was truth in this story, but it was not quite accurate. Firstly, the ‘uncle’, who I would have thought should have lived in about the 1920s, in fact died in 1801! My great, great Uncle Andrew Sproule, of Arnotto Bay Jamaica, did indeed leave a fortune, much more than the hefty £1000 that he left to Urney.  In fact, he left specific instructions that the Urney money was to be distributed to the poor, which it was for a long time thereafter. The Jamaican connection plays a major part in the Sproule story, as does Bombay!

My Goals

I have two goals now.
I feel it is important to document this line of the Sproule family tree, but more than that, I would like to try to tell their stories. To do this, I will have to set the context, to explore widely different worlds such as the nature of those times in Tyrone, the culture of the white plantation owners in Jamaica, the East India Company and the structure of the British rule in India and so much more.  My goal is to use this blog to paint these pictures and to tell the story of the Sproule Quests.

My second goal is to find the origin of the Tullymoan Sproules. The Sproule family came to Ireland from Scotland. There is some very good genealogy work done on the original Tyrone families, though there are big holes in the evidence! However, no-one has ever found where the Tullymoan Sproules originate. They do not fit comfortably into any known lines. They may also be important to the whole Tyrone Sproule story, as there is a view that they were the very first settlers in Ireland.

My goal to trace the origins of the family and to use this blog to document the search.  It is tricky, but I have some very good lines of enquiry!

I hope you will wish me well on my quest, as I wish you well on yours!