Friday, 26 July 2013

The Amazing Journeys of The Adventuring Sproules

There were five of them! There were five Sproule brothers, five sons of Tullymoan, born between 1765 and 1780 on the farm near Clady, County Tyrone. From there, they made great journeys - the mileage covered by some of the brothers and their children was astounding!

The stories of their travels were largely lost to us over time, and it is great to be able to bring them back to life.

The Family in Samuel's Will

It was the will of Samuel Sproule that confirmed that the adventuring Sproules were, in fact, brothers. Samuel was a meticulous man, bless him! In his will of 1828, Samuel made sure that his fortune would always have a home – if this person dies, then the money should go to that person;  if that person dies then the money should go to the other person ; and so on. In doing so, he bequeathed us an invaluable list of his immediate family members!

He names his four brothers and some of their children.  I have added some details which will give you an idea of some of the journeys undertaken by this family.

1. “Brother Robert of Strabane”
Robert is the first brother mentioned in Samuel’s will. He died in 1834 in Strabane, County Tyrone. Samuel names two of Robert of Strabane’s children:
·     Matilda Sproule - Matilda married William Gwynne in March 1828 in Strabane. She is also mentioned in the will of James of Mellmount.
·   “My Nephew Robert Sproule of Jamaica”  This is the Young Robert that I had found on the plantation in the parish of St George in Jamaica.  
Young Robert lived in Jamaica for most of his life, however he made an amazing journey in 1855. He went from Jamaica to Australia to attend the wedding of his daughter. He then returned to Jamaica and on to Ireland! Robert of Jamaica died in Mulvin, County Tyrone in 1862. 
This is the line of Sproules where the eldest son is called Robert to this day.

2. “My late brother William” 
Brother William had died prior to 1828, the date of Samuel's will. Samuel leaves money to the widow and to her son:
·  “My Nephew Samuel Sproule” This is Young Samuel who I had found working as a Doctor in Bombay. Samuel Senior was fond of his nephew and he left £200 for his education and advancement in the first draft of his will.
Later Samuel added a codicil to his will specifically about Young Samuel:
“I have a particular wish to have my young nephew Samuel Sproule, only son of my late Brother William, to be provided for,  whom I entertain a favourable opinion of”
He requests that Young Samuel is moved from his school in Strabane to a school in London for a year or two.  He asks “my esteemed and proven friend Major Carnac” (James Rivett-Carnac) to get Young Samuel an appointment in the East India Company, and he provides money for this purpose.
No wonder the second Doctor Samuel Sproule did so well in Bombay!

3. “Brother James of Jamaica”
Samuel mentions Brother James of Mellmount and Jamaica only briefly, but it is enough to confirm that James was indeed one of the five brothers!
Here is just a taste of the mileage sailed by these folk.
James of Mellmount's eldest daughter was called Margaret Madden Sproule. Margaret was born in Jamaica in 1814 and she traveled to Ireland where she was married in 1836. Her spouse was her first cousin, Young Samuel Sproule, son of the late brother William. Young Samuel had gone to Glasgow to University, then to Bombay to work, but he traveled back to Ireland for the wedding. They then both sailed to Bombay, where he was stationed. Young Samuel died in a shipwreck in Marseilles, France in 1848, and Margaret died in Tyrone. Their son, William Knox Sproule was born in Calcutta, lived in Ireland, and became a big banker in Indianapolis. I got dizzy just writing that!

4. “Brother Andrew of Tullymoan” my great, great grandfather
Samuel names two sons of Andrew of Tullymoan:
·         “My nephew William John Sproule of Tullymoan (son of my brother Andrew)”.
This was the first I had heard of a William John, a completely new find! 
·         James Sproule of Tullymoan -  my great grandfather

5. Samuel Sproule – Samuel, the author of this will,  was of course the fifth brother.
Samuel had gone to Bombay in 1797, travelled to England to marry Eliza Walker in 1818 and returned to Bombay to work as Head of the Medical Board there. In 1827 Eliza and Samuel travelled from Bombay to live in Cheltenham in England, where they both died.

Problem Solved – But Wait!

I was thrilled to have this confirmation! They were indeed all brothers from the home farm in Tullymoan, County Tyrone. For two whole days I basked in the rosy glow of a job completed. But wait! There were a couple of loose ends. Who was the Uncle Andrew Sproule who had been in Jamaica and had left the money? There was no mention of him. He had died in 1801. Was he from an earlier generation of travelling Sproules?

And who was the Robert Sproule in the entry from the Strabane Journal?
DIED July 22, 1828
On Friday last, at Castletown, Mrs Sproull, relict of the late Robert Sproull, Esq. of Bombay, at the advanced age of 80 years.
Who was this Robert Sproule? He must have been in Bombay in the mid 1700s! There had to have been an earlier generation of them, and they had to be related!

On the third day I cranked up my trusty laptop and got stuck in again!

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  1. Hi Kate I am greatly enjoying your stories on the Sproule family. Who was Robert Sproule's daughter and who did she marry in Australia in 1855, and where did they live? I am Shirley Gillis and my G-Grandfather John Gillis (son of Aaron and Jane) emigrated from the Raws in 1853 to Australia. I believe that your family were related to my Gillis/Beattie family in Co Donegal/Tyrone in the mid 1800s. I have a letter from the Ulster-Scot Historical Society 1958 which mentions the Rev John Sproule of Donaghmore Presbyterian Church saying that he remembered his father often saying that he visited Gillis at the Raws and attended Alt Presbyterian Church with them. John Sproule apparently wrote a booklet "A History of the Congregation with a background of Presbyterianism in Donegal" presumably c1958, and I would love a copy if you can find it and scan/email it, or we can purchase it.
    I also have a copy of a letter written by 11-yr-old Mary Beattie to her parents Wm and Mary Beattie nee Gillis in Australia in 1865, in which she mentions that her “Aunt Sproule has been confined to bed these 2 years”. Young Mary developed measles at 4 yrs in 1858 when the family was about to board the ship for Australia and her maiden aunt Jane Gillis (John’s sister) came to England and took her back to live with herself and the grandparents (Aaron and Jane Gillis) in the Raws. Young Mary never saw her parents or siblings again! I would love to know who aunt Sproule was, and did she marry a Beattie or a Gillis? Or another cousin? Orrs, MacFarlanes and Crowes were related also.
    Hoping that I may now set you off on a different trail or two with the Sproule family.
    My Email is and I hope to hear from you in the near future. Best Wishes and Kind Regards, Shirley Anderson nee Gillis.

  2. Hi Shirley,
    Thank you so much for your comment. Robert Sproule was in Australia in 1855 for the Wedding of his daughter
    Jane Thomas Sproule. She was married in Melbourne 1855, "at the house of Mr Sproule, according to the ceremonies of the church of SCOTLAND." Jane stayed in Australia & had at least 5 children and they were called Mansfied.
    You are very fortunate to have all of that information on your family, especially the Mary Beattie letters. Hold on to all of it and think of writing it up yourself! I will keep an eye out for your connection, and if I find anything useful along the way,I'll let you know. Keep following the blog, I will be returning with very interesting information on Jamaica in a few weeks.
    Thanks again,