Saturday, 5 October 2013

John Inch and Jack Elder - Early Sproule Family Historians

Jack Elder worked on the history of the Sproule Family in County Tyrone  and he recorded a series of notes and family trees. Between 1880 and 1930, Jack Elder investigated the family himself, and he also gathered a great deal of information from earlier researchers. Elder also had the help of 40 pages of information left by John Inch, who had died in 1877.

John Inch was born on June 29th 1795, the son of Leonard Inch and Ann Sproule.1 Leonard and Ann Inch had lived first in Strabane but soon after their marriage they moved to a place that Inch called “Corough-a-Mulkin” in the parish of Lower Langfield in County Tyrone. Their son, John Inch, emigrated to New Brunswick in Canada in 1820, taking with him his Sproule stories and family histories. 

Jack Elder also lived in New Brunswick, he went there in 1886. A few years later he heard of John Inch and his notes on the Sproule Family of Tyrone. He contacted the nephew of John Inch, and managed to acquire a copy of the 40 precious hand written pages. Elder used the notes to help compile a series of Sproule family trees which were produced in 1890. I will include these in the next few posts.

Unfortunately, I have been unable to establish if John Inch’s original notes still exist. However, in one of his letters dated 1928, Elder gives us a flavour of the John Inch Sproule Family History: 

In his history he ‘nothing extenuates’.   The
Sproules were not all saints: there was occasionally no
marriage tie when there should have been, etc. 

He tells of the number of acres of land that various Sproules owned,
the number of milch cows they had etc.  Of his granduncle
Joseph Sproule of Alta-moo-land (as he spells it), brother
of Martha (who married James Mathewson) he says:

“This man had a son, if not other children, whom he disinherited for
marrying the servant girl, and in his old age sold his farm
at £1,350.” Of his Uncle Joseph Sproule of Clover Hill,
he says:

“This man married Rebecca Porter of Castletown,
near Strabane, and with her received £500 fortune” (This
Rebecca was a first cousin of Jane Porter, novelist). 

He gives even the nicknames of our ancestors.  Andy Sproule
of Grennan was nicknamed ‘Andy Bacach’ (-bacach being Irish
for ‘a lame person’), "and the whole family was designated
sometimes by those few who had an outfall with any of them
‘The Bacach Sproules.’ 

Andy's son Joseph, of Carrickamulkin, “was nicknamed ‘Joseph
Nablugh,’  an Irish word for 'sour milk.'  This arose, it
was said, from his sending milk, at the request of a number
of poor families, into the village of Dromore for sale;
therefore, the whole family was called, when spoken of in
derision by some, and by others in sport, the ‘Buttermilk
Sproules’  But I have said enough about the Sproules for
the present.

Jack Elder calls my line of the Sproule family ‘The Nabob Sproules’ and later posts will explain why!


1 The Inch Family of Ulster and New Brunswick Canada by Inch, James Robert, b. 1835
Extract of Letter from Jack Elder, Ont., Canada to J.F. Caldwell, Belfast.; PRONI T1264/3; CMSIED 9804826 
Sunday, April 1, 1928

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