Friday, 6 September 2013

James of Cowden - and Tullymoan?

Was James, Laird of Cowden, the father of all Tyrone Sproules? The more I investigated, the more convinced I became that this was true. The early Sproules believed that James Spreull had sold his estates in Renfrewshire in 1622, came to Ireland and settled in Tullymoan, County Tyrone. The records in Scotland definitely supported this story. The evidence is clear, James Spreull of Cowden had sold all of his estates in 1622 and his son, James the Younger, had left Cowden with money in his pocket.

James Spreull in Ireland

I didn’t have far to look to track down James Spreull in Ireland. The very first record of a Sproule is in the Muster Roll of 1631, and there he is, James Spreull in the Barony of Raphoe, County Donegal - only a few miles from the townland of Tullymoan in County Tyrone.1  He is on the land of Ludovick, Lord Duke of Lennox, the same Duke of Lennox who was overlord of the Cowden lands in Scotland. There were 59 overlords in Ulster, or undertakers as they were known here. Lennox was one of the minor undertakers with only a couple of thousand acres. It is more than co-incidental that the first Sproule arrives on his patch of land! The clues are lining up in the right direction.

The next muster roll of 1642 is even more interesting. James Spreull is mentioned again. This muster was also held in Raphoe, but this fact doesn’t tell us a lot since all of the regiments in the North West were mustered in Raphoe at the time. However, if we look at the regiment to which James Spreull is attached, we can get another glimmer of light on the story. James is now in the regiment of Captain James Hamilton, whose lands were not in Donegal. Hamilton lands were in County Tyrone.1

On to Tyrone

This would indicate that at some time between 1631 and 1642, James Spreull moved east from Donegal to County Tyrone. Was he in Tullymoan? I have no definite evidence as yet, and the hunt continues. However, everything that I have found so far points to the veracity of the original story. I have found no reason to doubt it.

But was this James, James the Younger, the father of all Tyrone Sproules?  I think not. I am sticking with the version believed by the first Sproules, it was his father James of Cowden who was the ancestor of all Tyrone Sproules.  James Spreull the Younger was not alone when he came to Ireland. He had at least two, possibly three, travel companions!  


1 Ulster Ancestry, Money Rolls of Donegal 

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