Tuesday, 27 May 2014

The Ancestors of The Nabob – the Golan Sproules

There are many Sproules, Leckys, Crocketts and others out there who are, like me, descended from the Tyrone family that Jack Elder called ‘The Nabob Sproules’.  It is not really a very good name for this family tree for many reasons, and in this post I am going to have the temerity to launch a new, updated name for our line of Sproules!

The Origin of the Name

'Nabob' was a term used at the time for someone who worked for the East India Company and became very wealthy -  usually by corrupt means. Our Nabob, Robert Sproule, was born in 1746 and he was a surgeon with the East India Company. There is no hint that he was corrupt in any way, but he did indeed return from India with a vast fortune, and this earned him the nickname 'the Nabob' Sproule.

Robert the Nabob was an interesting character, but he really should not have had a family tree named after him - as he had no descendants! Well actually, he did have one daughter, Rebecca Jane, but the poor lass died in 1810 at twenty years old, without issue.  

Our tree got its name from the fame of Robert the Nabob, as he was by far the best known member of his generation.  In the late 1800s, when Elder was trying to identify the origins of this line of Sproules, Robert the Nabob was still being talked about in the neighbourhood. The Nabob’s older brother had been long forgotten and he is incorrectly named on Elder's tree as ‘James’. Ironically, it was he who was the father of many Sproule families -  the Bridgehill Sproules, the Inchaney Sproules and the most prolific line of all,  the Ohio Sproules. ( I learnt this through the will of Robert the Nabob himself - more on him in later posts.)

Grennan vs the Nabob Tree

Elder knew that this line of Sproules was important as it was a different line from the others that he had already identified. But he was stuck at this generation of the Nabob – it was his big genealogical roadblock. The family trees that Elder had successfully completed had all led loosely back to the Sproules of Grennan and Curraghamulkin.  These families were all descendants of one man, Cornet Andrew Spreull who was born in Tyrone between 1670 and 1680.  Elder seemed to know that the Nabob family tree would not lead there, but he could not get past the Nabob’s generation.

The Ancestors of The Nabob

The ancestors of the Nabob were indeed different from the other lines, they were the Golan Sproules. I found this out through a tortuous tracing of deeds and inheritances, which I wrote about in a previous post. The father of the Nabob's generation was Samuel, son of  Thomas Spreull of Golan. (Abt 1680 to 1761)1

We even know the father of Thomas Spreull of Golan, as he is named in deed dated 1733 – Samuel Spreull of Golan.2  The Golan lands are to the south and east of Castlederg, and it is obvious from Samuel of Golan’s name that the Golan Sproules were on this land from at least 1680. An area of their land carries their name to this day - Golan Sproul.

Thomas Spreull of Golan

Thomas  Spreull of Golan was an affluent man who had extensive lands in Golan, Drumnabeigh, and Altamullan, County Tyrone. He owned corn mills, a bleach green and was also a distiller. He was a friend of the local gentry, the Edwards of  Castlegore, and his son married into this family. Thomas’ eldest son, Robert, married Martha Edwards daughter of Robert Edwards of Kilcroagh. Thomas' son died young in 1740 and it was his grandson, Oliver, who was heir to the Golan land and mills.3  Oliver’s son Andrew built the house at Spamount, and he was father to the Spamount Sproules.

The Nabob was another grandson of Thomas Spreull of Golan. His father was  Samuel and he is named on a later deed as Samuel of Coolnacruniagh (Coolnacrunaght). It is Samuel's children who are are at the top of Elder's 'Nabob Sproules' family tree. Elder actually did reasonably well naming these children, though we get a much more accurate picture from the Will of Robert Sproule the Nabob. The Nabob’s only brother was actually called Thomas, and he inherited the Coolnacrunaght land. He set up the home at the farm called Bridgehill and it is he who is the father of the Bridgehill Sproules and the Ohio Sproules.

Thomas of Golan and Cornet Andrew

Thomas Spreull of Golan first appears on a deed  dated 1719, where he is the witness for  Cornet Andrew Spreull  who is buying the Grennan land.4 Thomas of Golan also went to Omagh to register these deeds. The two were obviously close, but  I have not yet established the relationship between Cornet Andrew and Thomas Spreull of Golan. It is possible that they were brothers, or that Cornet Andrew was an uncle of Thomas Spreull of Golan, as he seems to be older.

Three Lines of Sproules

This now identifies three distinct lines of Sproules in County Tyrone:

  1. The Golan Sproules
  2. The Grennan Sproules 
  3. Tullymoan Sproules
 As far back as 1680 they are three quite separate lines.

The name ‘the Nabob Sproules’ now fades into history, and I can give an updated version of this family tree with its new name, the THE GOLAN SPROULES.



1 Finding the father of the Nabob - The Big Breakthrough on the Sproule Family Tree
2 Deed dated 5th Nov 1733 between Hugh Edwards of Castlegore to Thomas Spruell of Golan Reg of Deeds,  44 481 52279
3 Deed dated 5th Nov 1764 Edward Loftus of Dublin and Oliver Sprowle of Golan giving Oliver the Golan lands which he already has possession. Reg of Deeds 235  609 155913. Thomas of Golan’s will was proved in 1761.
4 Deed dated between Thomas Edwards of Castlegore & Cornet Andrew Spreull  for the lands of Dressog, Dernaser and Grennan in the Parish of Dromore.  Witnessed by Thomas Spreull of Drumnabeigh. Reg of Deeds 41 289 25944.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

The Genealogy of Intelligence in My Line of Sproules

My father, Bob Sproule, was born in 1911, he left school when he was fourteen years old and he went straight to work. Despite this, Bob Sproule of Derry was the brightest, most intelligent person that I have ever met. His greatest joy was to find a new mind puzzle, to crack a maths problem or to solve a complex riddle. Over the years, I often wondered - where did this high intelligence come from?

‘Just’ Farmers?

My father's family had been farmers. My grandfather, also called Robert Sproule, had been born on a farm in Tullymoan, Urney, County Tyrone. As far as I knew, the family were ‘just’ farmers for generations back. (Forgive me, I was a city kid!) 

When I began to research the family history of these Sproules I had many surprises, not least of these was that I was tripping over university degrees in every generation! The farming Sproules of County Tyrone had hidden depths.

The Doctors

In the generation of my great grandfather, James Sproule of Tullymoan, I met the first doctor. James’ older brother, William John Sproule, had attended Glasgow University and graduated with an MD in 1834. William John had a short career as a doctor in the Dispensary of Dunfanaghy, County Donegal. He died in 1839, just five years after graduating.

My great grandfather, James Sproule, was the youngest child of Andrew Sproule of Tullymoan. Andrew had a brother, Samuel Sproule, who was another doctor. Samuel was born in 1774 in Tullymoan, he joined East India Company in 1797 and he went to work as a surgeon in India. Dr Samuel Sproule had a great career, rising to become head of the Medical Board of Bombay.

Another brother of Andrew of Tullymoan was William Sproule. William’s son, Samuel, attended Glasgow University in the same year as his first cousin William John in 1834. Young Samuel must have been even brighter, as he qualified as both a physician and a surgeon!

Andrew of Arnotto Bay Jamaica

Andrew of Tullymoan’s father, Andrew Senior, had a brother Robert. Robert’s son, yet another Andrew, had also attended Glasgow University where he graduated with an MA in 1775. This Andrew Sproule went straight to Jamaica where he made his fortune.

Andrew of Arnotto Bay in Jamaica died there in 1801, a long way from his origins in Urney, County Tyrone. Despite this, he never forgot his roots, and his Will contained a significant donation for the poor of the parish of Urney.

Robert Sproule, the Nabob

We are now back to 1775 with our university graduates, can we go further? Yes, we can! The wife of Andrew Senior of Tullymoan was Martha and she was also a Sproule – Sproules intermarried a lot in those days! Martha Sproule’s brother was Robert Sproule, a famous character known as 'The Nabob'. Robert the Nabob was born in 1746, he qualified as a Surgeon and he went to work in Bombay. I’m cheating a little here, as Robert the Nabob did not actually go to university. At that time, the medical education was one of apprenticeship. Robert the Nabob was apprenticed to another family member, his uncle John Sproull the Apocethary of Strabane, an eminent apocethary and surgeon of his time.

John the Apocethary

John Sproull was born in 1713 and was the son of Thomas Spreull of Golan (1685-1761). He served his time in an apothecary’s shop in Strabane, and following this, he entered the British army as a surgeon. By the 1750s John Sproull was back in Strabane where he became a pillar of the Presbyterian community. He was a member of the “Faculty of Dublin, Physicians, Surgeons and Apothecaries”, and was highly respected in the medical world, writing papers and lecturing in Dublin.
John Sproull is mentioned in a poem on the Irish medical profession by John Gilborne, first published in the Medical Review of 1775 entitled, “A poem, being a Panegyric on the Faculty of Dublin”.

“John Sproull, surgeon of fair town Strabane,
Cautions defends the patient’s back with lawn,
Before he lays his epispastic on,
To keep the blister whole, not let it run.
Cambric or lawn on such occasions wear:
‘Tis better clip your skin than rudely tear:
The force of the cantharides gets through,
And in a gentler manner comes to you.” 1

This was reprinted in The Dublin Journal of May 1840, long after John Sproull’s death. A distinguished Doctor was using the poem as evidence to support his case in an academic argument where he was disputing the invention of a new practice by a French colleague. He argued that the practice was not new, for Surgeon John Sproull of Strabane had invented it over sixty years previously!

However, in an ironic twist, John Sproull’s medical advice may have contributed to his death. This from the Abercorn Papers of 21st May 1787:

“Yesterday se'night Mr Sproull died; the Thursday before he went to see his fields, and found some boys shooting in his meadow, and trampling it; he was provoked by it, and ran after them, till he put himself in a heat, but did not complain when he came home; in the night he was seized with violent stiches and a difficulty in breathing. He insisted on having a great quantity of blood taken from him, which they think hastened him.”

Tullymoan Today

Surgeon John Sproull was five generations of Sproules away from my father, but that natural intelligence had passed safely through the generations to rest with him.

Last summer I had a very special occasion. I met my cousins, the current family of Sproules living on that same Tullymoan farm in County Tyrone. This was the first time I had met them since I was a very young child. They are elderly folk, and although much younger than my father, they are of the same generation and they have been farming there all their lives.

On the Tullymoan home farm, I had the comfort of knowing I was with welcoming family, and the joy of being in that that same twinkly eyed, intelligent company with which I was so familiar.


This article was first printed in North Irish Roots, the Journal of the North of Ireland Family History Society 2013.

1 Reprinted in the Dublin Journal May 1840
2 Letter dated 29 May 1787 from James Hamilton to the Earl of Abercorn, PRONI Reference: D623/A/47/34

Illustration - Essay on Modern Medical Education, No. 5 The Shop From Vol. 1, no. 7: Northern Looking Glass, 3rd September 1825

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Friday, 2 May 2014

The Family of Andrew and Martha Sproule of Tullymoan 1700s

1.    ANDREW SPROULE OF TULLYMOAN was my great, great, great grandfather and he was born about 1740 in Tullymoan, Urney, County Tyrone, Ireland, the son of WILLIAM SPROULE of TULLYMOAN.  He married MARTHA SPROULE of COOLNACRUNIAGH, who was the daughter of Samuel Sproule of Coolnacruniagh and the granddaughter of Thomas Spreull of Golan. Martha was born about 1750 in Coolnacruniagh and she died in 1820 in Tullymoan. Andrew died before 1800.

1.1   ANDREW SPROULE of TULLYMOAN was born about 1770 and he was my great, great grandfather. He died after 1840. He married REBECCA MACKEY who was born in 1774 in Lismontigley, Raphoe, Donegal. She died on 1 Feb 1858 in Tullymoan, Urney, County Tyrone, Ireland (Aged 84).

1.2   ROBERT SPROULE of STRABANE was born about 1773 in Tullymoan, Urney, County Tyrone. Robert lived for a time in Broomfield, just over the border in Donegal,  and he sold that to Jane, the daughter of his brother Andrew and moved to Strabane. He married  ANN LECKY from Altamullen, Termonamongan, Couty Tyrone. He died in June 1834 in Strabane, Tyrone, Ireland.
1.2.1.     ROBERT SPROULE OF JAMAICA and MULVIN was born in Strabane.  He was a planter in Jamaica, having his own property called Orange Vale in the parish of St George. He died in 1862 in Mulvin, County Tyrone, Ireland. He married MARY ANN THOMAS.  ROBERT SPROULE was born on 26 Jun 1843 in Jamaica. He married Mary Jane Brown, daughter of John Brown, on 20 Nov 1861. She was born about 1844, and they lived in Mulvin, County Tyrone.  MARGARET MATILDA SPROULE  ANDREW SPROULE  JANE THOMAS SPROULE was born in 1835 in Jamaica. She married James Ward on 18 Jan 1855 in Melbourne, Australia.
1.2.2.     MATILDA SPROULE She married William Gwynn on 25 Mar 1828 in Strabane, County Tyrone, Ireland.

1.3   SAMUEL SPROULE MD was born in 1774 in Tullymoan, Urney, County Tyrone.  He was a surgeon in the East India Company in Bombay and became Head of the Medical Board there. Samuel retired to England in 1828, and died on 30 May 1829 in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, England. (Aged 53). He married Eliza Walker, daughter of William Walker, on 10 Nov 1818 in Bowland (Samuel 42 , Eliza 22). Eliza was born in 1796 and she died on 6th Nov 1827 in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, England (Aged 31). Samuel Sproule, President of the Medical Board of Bombay
1.3.1      ANN JANE SPROULE was born on 29 Sep 1819 in Bombay, India. She died on 2 Sep 1876 in Elham, Kent, United Kingdom (Age at Death: 56). She married SIR JOHN RIVETT-CARNAC, son of James Rivett Carnac (Baronet) and Anna Maria Richardes, on 19 Dec 1840 in Bombay, India. John Rivett-Carnac was born in 1818 in Baroda, Madhya Pradesh, India and he died on 11 Aug 1883 in Farleigh House, Cheriton Road, Folkestone, Kent, England. Ann Jane became Lady Rivett-Carnac.  MARY ELIZABETH SPROULE RIVETT-CARNAC was born about 1842 in Hordle, Hampshire, England. She died in Apr 1862 in Kensington, London, United Kingdom.  FRANCES HENRIETTA RIVET-CARNAC was born in Jun 1843 in Lymington, Hampshire, United Kingdom. She died on 23 Nov 1925 in Hampshire, England.  CAROLINE ANNE EMMA RIVETT-CARNAC was born in Sep 1844 in Warborn Boldre, Hampshire, England. She died on 04 Jul 1921 in The Nursing House, St. Georges Road, Pimlico, Middlesex, London. She married John Pennock Campbell in 1875 in Lymington, Hampshire, England. He was born on 04 Feb 1835 in Jamaica. He died on 25 Dec 1903 in 10 Drayton Gardens, South Kensington, Middlesex, England (Age: 60). JAMES HENRY SPROULE  RIVETT-CARNAC was born in Sep 1846 in Lymington, Hampshire, United Kingdom. He became Sir James Henry Sproule Rivett-Carnac on the death of his father.  He married  MARY JEANNIE HENDERSON. She was born about 1856 in Bodmin, Cornwall, England. She died on 05 Apr 1927 in 24 Chester Terrace, Eaton Square, Westminster. Sir James Henry died in 1909 in Kensington, London, United Kingdom (Age at Death: 62). Sir James Henry Sproule Rivett-Carnac JOHN LOUIS RIVETT CARNAC was born about 1851 in Milford, Hampshire, England. He died on 28 Dec 1863 in Torquay, Devon, England.
1.3.2      HARRY ROBERTSON SPROULE was the illegitimate son of Samuel Sproule, and he was born on 25 Sep 1809 in Bombay, India. He died on 22 Jul 1828 in Brighton, Sussex, England.

1.4   JAMES SPROULE of MELLMOUNT was born about 1776 in Tullymoan, Urney, County Tyrone, Ireland. He died on 01 Aug 1840 in Jamaica. His lady was CHARLOTTE TAYLOR, daughter of The Honourable Simon Taylor in Jamaica. She was born in 1795 in Jamaica. She died on 17 Apr 1849 in Mellmount, Strabane, County Tyrone. The Family of James Sproule
1.4.1.    MARGARET MADDEN SPROULE was baptised in Jamaica on 25 Jan 1814. She was registered as the ‘reputed daughter’ of James Sproule. She died on 18 Aug 1846 in Mellmount, Strabane, Tyrone, aged 32. She married her first cousin, Samuel Sproule MD, son of James’ brother  William Sproule and Ann Knox, on 16 Jan 1836 in Urney, County Tyrone. (Aged 22). He was born on 15 Oct 1814 in Glentimon, Tyrone, Northern Ireland. He died on 28 Aug 1848 in Marseilles, Bouches-du-Rhône, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, France (Aged 34). Margaret Madden Sproule
1.4.2.    WILLIAM TAYLOR SPROULE OF ILLINOIS was born on 22 Jan 1816 in Jamaica. He went to America in the mid 1840s with his brother Robert Samuel Sproule. He lived first in Rush, Indiana, then in Clinton, Decatur, Indiana. Finally, he settled in Sumpter, Cumberland, Illinois, where he had a large farm. He married Paulina Ballenger on 18 April 1847 in Rush, Indiana. She was born on 14 Feb 1822 in Kentucky. She died between 1857-1865 in Indiana. William Taylor Sproule died in 1902 in Coles Co., Illinois.
1.4.3.   MATILDA ANN SPROULE was born on 11 Oct 1819 in Jamaica. She died on 12 Oct 1905 in Bowling Green, Strabane, County Tyrone, aged 84. She married William Smyth of Bowling Green on 11 Jun 1842 in Urney, Tyrone, Ireland. He was born in 1812 and died on 17 Jun 1889 in Strabane, Tyrone, Ireland.
1.4.4.    ELLEN MADDEN SPROULE was born in Apr 1822 in Jamaica. She died on 06 May 1849 in Mellmount, Strabane, Co. Tyrone, Ireland, aged 27.
1.4.5.    ROBERT SAMUEL SPROULE was baptised on 18 Sep 1826 in Jamaica. Robert went to America in the mid 1840s, and lived in Rush, Indiana near his brother William Taylor. He married Mary F Campbell on 19 Jun 1849 in Cass, Texas, USA. He later moved to Marion, Indiana, near to his nephew William Knox Sproule, where he was a lawyer and a newspaper editor.  He died in 1873 in Indianapolis, USA.  She was born in 1826 in Ohio.
1.4.6.     Jane Nugent Sproule was born about 1831 in Jamaica, she did not marry and died on September 1919 in Kilkeel, County Down, Ireland.
1.4.7.     SARAH CHARLOTTE SPROULE was born about 1834. She married Andrew N Reid on 21 Jul 1859 in Strabane, County Tyrone, Ireland. Andrew was born about 1830 in Lifford, Donegal, Ireland. Sarah Charlotte died in December 1920 in Kilkeel, County Down.

1.5   WILLIAM SPROULE of GLENTIMON was born about 1778 in Tullymoan, Urney, County Tyrone, Ireland. He died about 1827 in Tyrone, Ireland. He married  ANN KNOX who was born in Glentimon, County Tyrone. She died on 12 Jun 1847 in Glentimon.
1.5.1.    SAMUEL SPROULE MD was born on 15 Oct 1814 in Tyrone, Northern Ireland. He qualified as a surgeon in 1834 and a physician in 1835, and joined the East India Company in Bombay in 1836. He died on 28 Aug 1848 in Marseilles, Bouches-du-Rhône, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, France (Aged 34). He married Margaret Madden Sproule, daughter of James Sproule of Mellmount and Charlotte Taylor, on 16 Jan 1836 in Strabane, Urney, County Tyrone, Ireland (Aged 22). She was baptised on 25 Jan 1814 in Jamaica. She died on 18 Aug 1846 in Mellmount, Strabane, Tyrone (Aged 32). The Family of Margaret and Samuel


* The full tree of  The Tullymoan Sproules