Friday, 13 May 2022

Robert Sproule becomes - the Nabob

Robert Sproule had returned after 17 years in India and had married Jane, his cousin, in Strabane in 1785. He was far from being a ‘Nabob’ at this time according to his cousin, John Gamble, for he tells us:

“They lived for some time on their meagre income, but fate stepped in again.” p557 Society and Manners

Gamble has the couple living somwhere in the Strabane area on ‘their meagre income’ until at least 1791, when Robert received  the first of two large, and very unexpected, sums of money.  This first one came from the East India Company;

“He received with compound interest a large sum which he had lent the India Company several years before, and which, from the confusion of their affairs, he had in a measure despaired of ever getting.”  John Gamble P.557 Society and Manners

This large sum of money had arrived from the East India company sometime around 1791, according to Gamble. But it is here that we must digress for a short time only from John Gamble’s account of the life of Robert Sproule.

We have very definite evidence that Robert Sproule was not living in Tyrone until 1791, nor was he living in a manner that was in any way 'meagre’. By at least 1787, Robert Sproule Esquire was well established in his large household in Dundalk, a household with at least 11 hearths and, in this Hearth Tax, servants quarters were not counted;

“Received the 20th Day of May 1789 from Robert Sproule Esquire of Dundalk the sum of £1 s.2 for 11 Hearths due to his Majesty the 21st of November 1788 and payable the 21st of January 1789.” Hearth Money receipt No. 325 Parish Dundalk. William Bryden Hearth Collr. Hearth Collector (National Library of Ireland)

Gamble does not mention Dundalk in his account, so how do we know that this gentleman, Robert Sproule of Dundalk, is the man in our story? Well, there are many pieces of evidence such as his name appearing on several deeds,  but the simplest is that Robert actually tells us at the beginning of his Will;

“In the name of God Amen I Robert Sproule formerly of Dundalk in Ireland but now residing at Parker’s Well in the parish of St. Leonards County of Devon in England Esq.”

So Robert Sproule of Dundalk was indeed the Robert Sproule of our story, newly arrived from India. He has good deal of money earlier than Gamble thought, and he is also lending money out to relatives. It is a mystery why they chose Dundalk, County Louth to live in. Perhaps Robert had a friend who lived there, for we know that Robert’s friends are important to him.  

The next sum of money came from none other than his great friend from India, Joseph Alserson. Robert’s old friend Joseph, who he had saved in that outward journey to India, had died in June 1789 in Bombay.  His will was proved in Bombay in 1789 and in London in 1791.

In his will, the Captain left;

“To my worthy and dear friend, Robert Sproull, Esq., late surgeon of Bombay and now residing in Ireland the sum of two thousand pounds sterling.”

Two thousand pounds for Robert, but that wasn’t all. Joseph Alderson had left the bulk of his estate to his ‘adopted son’ also named Joseph Alderson. Joseph says that his son had been born in his house, and that the son's ‘real mother’ was named as Mrs Elizabeth Worth. He also tells us that that Robert Sproull had been his son’s sponsor at his christening. 

The Captain went on to say in his will that should his son Joseph die before the age of 21, then all of the estate of Captain Joseph Alderson was to go to Robert Sproull, surgeon of Strabane. We don’t know exactly what sum of money that Robert finally recieved from his friend, but it would appear that he was now justified in holding the title of ‘the Nabob’ – to the Tyrone people at least!

Robert Sproule the Nabob remained in Dundalk for some time, I don't know how long exactly. The last deed I have with his name as 'Robert Sproule of Dundalk', is dated 1793. 

Their last move was to Devon, to a house called Parker's Well, in the Topsham Rd, Exeter. I had always imagined that they went there because of Joseph Alderson. I thought that the house might have been owned by Joseph and that this was part of the legacy. But the house was not in Joseph's Will, and I have found absolutely no connection between Joseph and Devon at all. Joseph Alderson was from London, he died in Bombay, and there is no indication that he ever returned to England. 

The family moved to Parker's Well for some other reason, one that I am still chasing down. It may have something to do with the local 'gentry', a family called Bowring or Baring (as in Barings Bank!).

The house was described in a guide written in 1806 as;

" a neat and gentle villa, built on a gentle eminence…it is called Parker’s Well from a noted spring that issues under the bank" (The History and Description of the City of Exeter, 1806, Alexander Jenkins)

And there is a footnote to this page;

The family had lived there with their only child, daughter Rebecca Jane, who had been born in 1790. They were members of the small St Leonard's Church, which was just at the end of their road.
From Exeter Memories
However, Robert Sproule the Nabob did not live very much longer. Gamble tells us;

“Conversing cheerfully with his family, he suddenly fell down, and almost immediately expired. He had long dreaded this event, and was frequently heard to say that he was convinced his liver was almost entirely consumed within him.”

Robert died on Monday 2nd February 1807. His obituary in the newspaper read:

"To those who knew him any panergyric would be useless; he died lamented, for he lived beloved." Trewman’s Exeter Flying Post 5 February 1807

He must be buried in the graveyard of the old St Leonard's Church. This is knocked down and replaced with a new church 1836. This was a long time after the death of Robert Sproule the Nabob, and yet still the plaque that had been above the altar, was again given pride of place over the new altar of St Leonard's Church, Exeter.


  • Society and Manners in Early Nineteenth-Century Ireland, by John Gamble — edited and introduced by Breandán Mac Suibhne, published by Field Day 2011

  • Will of Joseph Alderson, Captain in the Honorable Company's Marine of Bombay in the East Indies and Commander of the Drake Cruizer of Bombay, PROB 11/1205/281, The National Archives, Kew

  • The Will of Robert Sproule, St Leonard's Devon, The National Archives, PROB 11/1456/235


Other posts in this series:

2. The Story of Robert Sproule the Nabob 1

Thursday, 12 May 2022

Robert Sproule the Nabob and The Horse

 By the time Robert Sproule had lost all of his money, it was twelve years since he had left Ireland, but he remained in India for a few more years. His cousin, John Gamble, gives us more of his story in his book Society and Manners in Early Nineteenth-Century Ireland.

18th Century engraving of Bombay, Britannica.com

Eventually, Robert made his way back to Bombay to prepare for the journey home, and it is here that he met once more with his old friend, Joseph Alderson. This was the young adventurer who had travelled with Robert on his journey to India, and who Robert had saved when the ship went down. Joseph Alderson was now a Captain in the East Indes Company Navy, and was Commander of a ‘Country Ship’, which I believe is a ship that stayed round the Asia area.

 Joseph Alderson had stayed in contact with his friend Robert and as he had travelled to distant countries, he would send a present from each place to his ‘saviour’. On this occasion when they met in Bombay, he presented Robert Sproule with a valuable Arabian grey racehorse! Of course, Robert refused this, but his friend insisted that he take it, so take it he did.

When Robert left India shortly after this, he left instruction for his agent to sell the horse, and the Arabian Grey was sold for five hundred guineas. This money was then returned to Captain Joseph Alderson.

Gamble tells us that the horse was later taken to England where it was sold for £1200 and it became "the most famous Arabian horse in England"!

Now, that was the story related by John Gamble. Over 200 years later, Breandán Mac Suibhne set off to see if he could find this horse that became, “the most famous Arabian horse in England.” Could the horse story be true?

He actually seems to have had no difficulty at all in finding the horse, it was called ‘The Wellesley Grey' after his owner, Henry Wellesley! Breandán tells us in footnotes in Society and Manners;

“The ‘Wellesley Grey’, a horse imported from India by Henry Wellesley (1773–1847), youngest brother of the first Duke of Wellington. Another of his brothers, Richard Colley Wellesley, second Lord Mornington (1760–1842), had been governor-general in India; Henry acted as assistant to him in 1797–99 and 1801–02.

The Wellesley Grey stood at Chestnut, Hertfordshire, and Virginia Water, Surrey, producing many fine horses, notably Fair Ellen (1806). Few great sires were imported from India, which makes this identification quite secure; the horse’s date of birth is not known, but he died in winter 1811–12; hence, if he died of natural causes, it is probable that he was several years old when Robert Sproule was leaving India c. 1787.”  (Breandán Mac Suibhne, notes on p.556 with extensive sources Society and Manners)(My note, Robert was back in Ireland in 1885 see below)

I went looking for the 'Wellesley Grey' and immediately found this painting called, “The Wellesley Grey Arabian Led through the Desert”! It is by Jacques-Laurent Agasse, painted ca. 1810 in London. I don't know why the 'Wellesley Grey' was placed in the desert, but this must be a painting of the horse in our story, the famous Wellesley Grey horse that came from India and was formerly owned, ever so briefly, by our Robert Sproule! Quite amazing to see it!

The Wellesley Grey, by Jacque-Laurent Agasse ca. 1810
Despite rejecting this opportunity to further enrich himself with this horse, Robert Sproule headed back from India with £2000 in his pocket, Gamble tells us. He went from England straight to Ireland. 

Although Gamble doesn't tell us, we know that Robert arrived back in 1885:

Sproul served his time to his uncle and went to India about 17 years ago; he had in his apprenticeship contracted a love for one of Mr Sproul's daughters; they made some sort of an engagement.

The poor girl has been very sickly for some years, and is very much changed; however he continued steady as she did, and yesterday they were married; I beg pardon for this trouble, but I could not help mentioning the uncommon goodness of my son's friend”  (Letter written 18 September 1785 James Hamilton agent in Strabane, to the Earl of Abercorn;  PRONI D623/A/46/17)

So this tells us that Robert lost no time in marrying his steadfast love, his cousin Jane, and that they were married on 17 September 1785 in Strabane. 

John Gamble tells us;

“For a short while he lived on his small income, and, could we read the heart of man, had perhaps greater happiness than he afterwards had on a much greater one.”

But I believe, in fact, that Robert Sproule was not poor when he arrived home, he already had acquired the first chunk of wealth that put him near to the status of a 'Nabob'.


Society and Manners in Early Nineteenth-Century Ireland, by John Gamble — edited and introduced by Breandán Mac Suibhne, published by Field Day 1911


Other posts in this series:

2. The Story of Robert Sproule the Nabob 1

Wednesday, 11 May 2022

The Story of Robert Sproule the Nabob 1

There are three of us bringing you the story of Robert Sproule the Nabob who died in Exeter, England in 1807, aged 61 years.

Firstly, we have John Gamble, a cousin of his and a contemporary, who had many discussions with him on his past history. 

John Gamble wrote down the whole fascinating  story of Robert Sproule and his work as a surgeon in Bombay and he recorded this in his book ‘Society and Manners in Early Nineteenth Century Ireland’ written in 1818. 

A modern historian, Breandán Mac Suibhne, is our second story-teller. Breandán  republished this Gamble book in 2011 and he added his own amazing research, filling a multitude of details of the background. 

I, Kate Tammemagi, am the third person on this story and I bring the family history of this Sproule family. For I too am closely related to Robert the Nabob, as his sister Martha Sproule is my 3rd great grandmother. (A Sproule-Sproule marriage). 

Gamble begins the story in about 1766 with the young Robert Sproule working as an apprentice to his uncle, the eminent John Sproull the Apocethary, in his shop in Strabane. In those days medics could train at university, and they were then referred to as ‘doctors’.  The other route was the apprenticeship route, and the student then became a ‘surgeon’.

An apothecary and his apprentice working in the laboratory.
 Engraving by J.G. Murray, after W.H. Hunt, 1842
The young apprentice Robert became enamoured of one of John Sproull the Apocethary’s three daughters, not with the youngest, Gamble tells us, as is customary in story books, but with the oldest of them, Miss Jane Sproule;

“The attachment was a mutual one, and when he was leaving home to seek elsewhere his fortune, the fond couple betrothed themselves to each other, with many a solemn protestation and vow. A foolish kind of engagement in general it is, but in this instance it proved otherwise, for the lover was constant, and the lady was true. Besides, he had the prospect of a speedy return, for he had got an appointment at Bombay, and India was then an unwrought mine, where gold was to be had almost for the digging.” P.554 Society and Manners

In 1768 Robert Sproule left Strabane and set off to go Bombay. The first stage of this fateful journey was from Newry to Liverpool.

On this first leg, disaster struck and, somewhere off the coast of Cheshire, the ship was wrecked. Our young Robert Sproule survived, but lost all of his clothes. Good friends got him ‘a second outfitting’ and he was able to go on with his journey to Bombay.

Route from London to Bombay

However, the next stage was no better, for the ship to India again was wrecked. There were deaths among both passengers and crew this time, but our resilient Robert  Sproule managed to save not only himself, but several others. Among these was a young man from London, who John Gamble does not name, but Breandán Mac Suibhne discoverd  was  a man called Joseph Alderson. Joseph Alderson was to become a life-long friend.

A West Indiaman - the ships that sailed to India

Another ship picked the survivors up, and they eventually made their way to Bombay. Here Robert Sproule joined the Army as a surgeon, and the young adventurer, Joseph Alderson, went off to seek his fortune.

Over the next few years, Robert was constantly in the field with his Regiment as they waged battles with local leaders throughout India.

"He was present at the taking of many rich places, his share of the spoil of which was considerable”. p.555 Society and Manners

So Robert had a share of  'riches' taken. However, there was more riches to be had that he did not share in. Military in the East India Company raided local places for rich plunder, and all levels made a great deal of money in this way. The term 'Nabob' was a name given to those who became rich in this unsavoury fashion, and was actually a derogatory term. However, Gamble is anxious to stress that Robert did not himself partake of the seizing of these rich goods;

Immediately on the occupation of some town, he took possession of a pagoda or mosque as an hospital; and barely glancing his eyes round to see that it would answer, he left a few of his followers, and ran out to superintend the bringing in of the sick and wounded. In the interval, it was visited by a party that were more observant, and who rummaged every hole and corner, until they found, under a heap of rubbish, treasure sufficient to have made them all happy, could riches make men so. But they cannot, and least of all, riches got in such a manner.”

Over the years Robert accumulated quite a bit of money, but alas, he didn't manage to hold on to it! John Gamble tells us that part of the story involved Robert Sproule helping out an ‘intimate acquaintace’ by covering his debts with a money lender – to the tune of £11,000! That was an enormous sum of money in those days, and it was almost all of the money that Robert had saved. Even Gamble doesn’t go in to details on how exactly the money was lost, but basically his friend died, and this money was never returned to Robert. 

At this point, Robert Sproule had been in India for 12 years, and was now penniless. He had actually just written to Jane Sproule, his beloved in Strabane, saying that he would return very soon, but now  he felt that he could not do that.

So Robert remained in India, as Gamble puts it;

 "My friend wasted in India a few more of the blissful years of his youth, and irretrievably injured his constitution, not from his own cupidity, but by the advantage taken of his good nature by another."



Society and Manners in Early Nineteenth-Century Ireland, by John Gamble — edited and introduced by Breandán Mac Suibhne, published by Field Day Press 1911


Tuesday, 10 May 2022

The Nabob

An email from Exeter, England, Nov 2019

Hello,
You don't know me I'm afraid. I am just a PA who works for Devon County Council and on wet days, sometimes I go for a walk around the nearby church at St Leonard's Topsham Road, Exeter in my short lunchbreak.
I have been trying to find out a bit more about the intriguing plaque on the wall of the church dedicated to Robert Sproule. It doesn't have a date and it does not say who put the plaque up but the message is lovely:

"Dedicated to Robert Sproule
This tablet is erected by one who knew thy worth, experienced thy friendship, and laments thy loss, friend of my soul, farewell"

I found your research on the internet and I was wondering if you can tell me anything more about it?  Who might have put the plaque up and why?  It's so lovely and it is in a precious place right over the altar of St Leonard's Church.
Kind Regards,
Daisy Spencer (not real name)


A letter from Bombay 1785

Written on 27 March 1785 from Constantine O'Donnell in Bombay to the Earl of Abercorn,  

“The Europa Indiaman sailed in January last, since which no ship has left this for Europe. A Mr. Sproul, a relation of the doctor's in Strabane, took his passage on her; he had been principal surgeon for some time before, and though by no means as easy in his circumstances, as those who generally leave this after having had the hospital, yet he is worth as much as should be considered a decent competence.” PRONI D623/A/68/6

A letter from Strabane, Tyrone 1785

A letter written 18 September 1785 James Hamilton agent in Strabane, to the Earl of Abercorn:

“A very intimate and good friend of my son Robert's, a Mr Sproul nephew to Mr Sproul of this town dined with me a few days ago in company with Majors Law and Gardner,  two very intimate friends of my son John's.

I never could receive more pleasure than I did in the account they all gave of them, Sproul of his friend and the others of their's. John had written me often about Law and Robert of Sproul.

Sproul served his time to his uncle and went to India about 17 years ago; he had in his apprenticeship contracted a love for one of Mr Sproul's daughters; they made some sort of an engagement.

The poor girl has been very sickly for some years, and is very much changed; however he continued steady as she did, and yesterday they were married; I beg pardon for this trouble, but I could not help mentioning the uncommon goodness of my son's friend” PRONI D623/A/46/17

Records in Dundalk, Louth

1) Hearth Money receipt No. 325 Parish Dundalk. “Received the 20th Day of May 1789 from Robert Sproule Esquire of Dundalk the sum of £1 s. 2 for 11 Hearths due to his Majesty the 21st of November 1788 and payable the 21st of January 1789.” William Bryden Hearth Collr. Hearth Collector

2) Receipt No. 5 Parish Dundalk 1788 “Received from Robert Sproule Esquire of Dundalk £4 Carriage for the Duty on one Carriage with lower wheels, for the Year ending 25th March 1789...” (National Library of Ireland )

 These are all Robert Sproules -  Robert on the plaque of the church of St Leonard's, Topsham Road, Exeter; Mr Sproul in Bombay in 1781; Mr Sproul in Strabane in 1785; Robert Sproule in Dundalk in 1789. What connects them? Yes, of course – they are all the same man, the same Robert Sproule.

This man who was loved by his friends, this man who was a not so well off Surgeon of Bombay, this man who was a very affluent ‘esquire’ in Dundalk, this is the same Robert Sproule who died in his house called 'Parker’s Well', in the Topsham Road, Exeter, England in 1807.  

He is better known to us as Robert Sproule the Nabob.

 

Other posts in this series:

2. The Story of Robert Sproule the Nabob 1

Friday, 6 May 2022

The Family of Thomas Sproule of Caugherty / Caherty

 THOMAS SPROULE of Caugherty / Caherty, Ballyclug, County Antrim was the son of JOHN SPROULE of Caherty who died in 1824 and his wife Martha. ( See The Parents of Lendrick Sproule of Caugherty, Ballyclug. Thomas was born in Caugherty about 1796 and he died there on 29 Aug 1871, aged 75. His son John was present at his death. (Irishgenealogy.ie)

Thomas married ROSE WATTS. She was born about 1806 in Antrim. She died on 21 May 1879 in Lower Broughshane Ballymena, Antrim at the home of her daughter Rose. (Rose's name appears on the death cert of her son Robert, on Ancestry.com)

Thomas Sproule of Caherty and Rose Watts had the following children:

BENJAMIN SPROULE (SPROWLE) was born about 1829 in Caherty, Ballyclug, Antrim and he married MATILDA CATHCART, daughter of Alexander Cathcart  and a Miss Hood of Lower Broughshane, Ballymena, on 11 Jun 1859 in Ballymena. (Benjamin's sister  Ann Eliza Sproule married the brother of Matilda Cathcart, Alexander Jun) Matilda Cathcart was born in 1831 in Lower Broughshane. The family moved first to Indiana, then Toronto, and finally settled in Flint, Geneses County, Michigan.  They had 8 children, Robert, Mary, Matilda, Anna, Benjamin, Elizabeth, Nathaniel and John.  Benjamin died on 18 Oct 1896, in Flint, and Matilda died there on 30 Aug 1898.

 ANN ELIZA SPROULE was born about 1830 in Caherty, Ballyclug, Antrim. She died in Victoria, Australia in 1885. Ann Eliza married Alexander Cathcart, son of Alexander Cathcart and Miss Hood of Lower Broughshane on 28 Aug 1857 in Ballymena, Antrim. (Irishgenealogy.ie)  Alexander was the brother of Matilda Cathcart who married Benjamin Sproule, Ann Eliza's brother.  Alexander was born about 1830 and he died on 10 Jul 1906 in Victoria, Australia. They had 3 children all born in Ireland before they left to live in Victoria, Australia – Ann, Mary Isabella and Alexander Cathcart.

ROBERT SPROULE was born about 1832 in Caherty, Ballyclug. Robert Sproule was a miner and he died in a mining accident on 08 Jan 1867 in Victoria, Australia. He married Maria Walsh on 26 Oct 1863 at Bendigo, Victoria. She was born about 1843 in Ireland. She died in 1877 in Victoria, Australia. Robert and Maria had only one child, a son, John Thomas Carroll Sproule.

ROSE SPROULE was born in 1836 in Caherty, Antrim. Rose married JEREMIAH SMYTH, a farmer from Kinbally, son of  James Smyth, on 18 Oct 1878. (Irishgenealogy.ie) Rose died on 08 Aug 1908, aged 72,  in Kinbally, Skerry, Antrim, Jeremiah (Jeremey) was present at her death.  (Irishgenealogy.ie) Jeremiah died on 12 Aug 1911 in Kinbally, aged 85. They had a daughter Eliza Jane living with them in the 1901 census, and she was still there with Jeremiah in the 1911 census. However, I can't find her birth record, so I am unsure if she is Rose's daughter, or if Eliza is a daughter from Jeremiah's previous marriage.

SARAH JANE SPROULE was born about 1842 in Caherty, Ballyclug, Ireland. She died on 23 Aug 1901 in Aghnadore, Racavan, Antrim. She married ALEXANDER JOHNSTON, a carpenter, on 10 Apr 1862 in Broughshane, Racavan, Antrim. He was born in 1836 and he died on 16 Mar 1891 in Gilmore St, Ballymena (Aged 55). Sarah Jane and Alexander had at least 10 children, Thomas, Jane, James, Rose, Matilda, Alexander, Francis, Agnes, Sarah, and William.

MARGARET JANE SPROULE was born in Apr 1844 in Caherty  Antrim, Ireland. She married Alexander Kenny on 17 Jul 1867 in Broughshane 1st Presbyterian Church, Ballymena. Alexander Kenny was born on 24 May 1842 in Ballymena, Antrim. (From Naturalization Records,  New York, U.S., State and Federal, Ancestry.com)  The family emigrated to New York in 1894, and they lived in Manhattan. (On Naturalization and Census records) I have not found a definite death record for Margaret Jane Sproule, but we know that she is present with Alexander on the 1905 Census record in Manhattan, and Alexander is recorded as a widower in the 1910 census.  Alexander  died on 09 May 1915. Margaret and Alexander Kenny had at least 8 children, all born in Ballymena, their birth dates are on his Naturalization application, Alexander, Louisa, Margaret, Matilda, Thomas, William, Mamie and Robert.

MATILDA SPROULE was born about 1850 in Caherty, Ballyclug Parish, County Antrim,  Ireland. She married Matthew Montgomery, a Carpenter, son of John Montgomery, on 25 Dec 1868 in Antrim. He was born in Ballymena, Antrim, Ireland (the Montgomerys were recorded as having no children the 1911 census). 


There are no further children that have been confirmed as children of Thomas Sproule of Caugherty and Rose Watts.

Monday, 18 April 2022

The Family of Lendrick Sproule of Caugherty / Caherty, Ballyclug, Antrim

 LENDRICK SPROULE OF CAUGHERTY was born in 1785 in Caherty, Ballyclug, Antrim, Ireland. Caugherty is the old name for this townland in Ballyclug, Caherty is the modern name. Lendrick died on 05 Dec 1896 in Caherty, Ballyclug at the age of 111.  (Broughshane Grave Inscription and Irishgenealogy.ie)

Lendrick Sproule's father was John Sproule of Caherty, who died in 1825, and his mother was Martha. (The Parents of Lendrick SprouleKate Tammemagi) Lendrick married AGNES who died on 01 Apr 1886 in Caherty, Ballyclug, at age 70. (Irishgenealogy.ie)

Lendrick Sproule of Caugherty and Agnes had the following children:

AGNES SPROULE died on 31 Aug 1904 in Caherty, Ballyclug. (Irishgenealogy.ie) Agnes was aged 69 not married. She appears in the 1901 Census living in Caherty with her brothers.

JOHN SPROULE OF CAHERTY was born in 1836 in Caherty, Ballyclug. He died on 16 Oct 1902 in Caherty aged 66. He married Margaret Boyd, daughter of James Boyd, on 31 Jul 1860 in Broughshane, Racavan, Antrim. I could not find Margaret after this wedding. She is not with the family in the 1901 or 1911 Census and there nor is she anywhere else in Antrim. There is no death record for her. John is in Caherty in the 1911 census, and he is listed as ‘married’ at his death in 1901.  John’s son James Sproule, was present with John at his death, and James is named on his probate record. I haven’t found a birth for James, nor have I found a death for him. The only James Sproule of the right age in the neighbourhood in the 1901 and 1911 census returns was a James who worked in the Ballymena Workhouse.

ROBERT SPROULE BOOKKEEPER was born in 1840 in Caherty, Ballyclug. He died on 09 Nov 1909 in Broughshane St, Ballymena and his son Samuel Sproule was present at his death. (Irishgenealogy.ie) At the time of his death, Robert was a House Furnisher, but in his earlier working life he was a Clerk and Bookkeeper. Robert married Elizabeth (Lizzie) Hanna, daughter of William Hanna, of Balee Cottage, Ballymena, on 08 Aug 1865 in Broughshane, Antrim. Robert and Lizzie went to live in Liverpool shortly after this, and were there until after the 1901 census. They had 6 children that I know of, Jane Maria and William, both born in Linen Hall St. Ballymena. Rogert Lendrick, Maria, Samuel Patrick and Jane isablella all born in Lancashire, England. I have not found the record of Lizzie Hanna’s death. Two of Robert’s children, William and Jane Isabella, were living with the family in Caherty in the 1901 census and William inherited the Caherty farm.

PATRICK SPROULE OF CAUGHERTY was born in 1841 in Caherty, Ballyclug, and he died on 09 Mar 1903 in Caherty, Ballyclug. Patrick was a bachelor, and he lived with his brothers on the Caherty farm.

HUGH SPROULE OF CAUGHERTY was born about 1852 in Caherty, Ballyclug, Antrim, Ireland. He died on 13 Jul 1921 aged 71, in Caherty, Ballyclug. He was not married.

LENDRICK SPROULE OF CAHERTY was born about 1855 in Caherty, and he was a Shoemaker. He died on 24 Jul 1894 in Caherty and William, son of Robert, was present at his death.


Other Posts on this Family:

1. The Mystery Picture - R. Sproule Shop

2. Robert Sproule the Saddler – the Lendrick Connection 

3. The Family of Hugh Sproule of Ballycreggy and Bridge St Ballymena, and Mary Ann 

4. The Parents of Lendrick Sproule of Caugherty


Sunday, 17 April 2022

The Crumkill Sproules – are they Caugherty/Caherty Sproules?

 Near to Ballymena, County Antrim, there is one more townland, Crumkill or Cromkill, which has Sproule families. Is it possible that these Cromkill Sproules are in the same family as Lendrick Sproule of Caugherty / Caherty?

As we can see from the map, the three townlands are certainly close to each other, so a relationship between these Sproules is possible, even likely.

In Cromkill in Griffiths Valuation of the mid 1850s we find two Sproule households. One is Samuel Sproule, and he is a farmer, but his holding is tiny, just 3 acres.

The second is Jane Sproule, and she simply has a house. 

Griffiths Valuation, Cromkill, Ask About Ireland

Samuel Sproule of Cromkill

Samuel Sproule died on 17 June 1871 and we learn from his death record that he is married, and that he is 72 years old. So Samuel Sproule of Crumkill was born about 1799ish, and he is the same generation as our 3 brothers in Caherty. If you look at his death record you will see that an Elizabeth McClelland was present at his death. Often this person will be a close relative and therefore I thought she might be a daughter. 

Samuel Sproule of Cromkill, Irishgenealogy.ie

I hunted Irishgenalogy.ie for the death of the wife of Samuel Sproule of Cromkill. There it was in 1872, she was called Mary, ‘farmer’s wife’ and she died just over a year after Samuel, on 23 Dec 1872. This time, a William John McClelland was present at the death.

Mary Sproule of Cromkill, Irish Genealogy.ie

Surely this must mean that Elizabeth McClelland, who was with Samuel Sproule at his death, is the daughter of Samuel and Mary Sproule. Elizabeth’s husband must be this William John McClelland who was with Mary at her death? I would have said that this was a certainty - I would have been totally wrong!

In the marriage record of this couple on Irishgenealogy.ie there was no Elizabeth Sproule there at all! William McClelland of Cromkill/Crumkill had married Elizabeth Bartholomew, also of Crumkill in 1864, and Eliza was a spinster then.

The McClelland wedding, Irishgenealgy.ie

In addition, when Samuel Sproule died, his small bit of land went to this same William John McClelland.

What this tells us is that Samuel Sproule of Cromkill and his wife Mary had no children, or if they did have children, none of them lived in the area or maybe they had no children in Ireland.

This means that we have no way of connecting Samuel Sproule of Cromkill to the family of Sproules of Caugherty at this point in time. He might be, or he might not be, related.

The chances are higher, however, that Samuel is related to his neighbour, Jane Sproule of Cromkill. Can we learn anything by looking at her?

Jane Sproule of Cromkill

Jane Sproule is living in a house with no land in Crumkill in Griffiths Valuation. We find Jane Sproule of Crumkill's death in Irishgenealogy.ie. She died on 26 Dec 1875, and on this record we learn that Jane is a widow and that she is a weaver. Like Samuel Sproule above, it is not a Sproule who is present at her death, but a lady called Elizabeth Dempster.

Jane Sproule, Cromkill, Widow, Irishgenealogy.ie

The widow Jane Sproule of Crumkill was 73 years old at the time of her death, so she was born around 1802. Again, Jane is that same generation as Samuel above, and as the Caugherty Sproule brothers.

I could not find any record of the death of Jane Sproule’s husband – no other male Sproule death in Crumkill. But I did find a very interesting record indeed!

The last record that I found of Sproules in Crumkill was the one that finally brought some certainty. It was a marriage record, which I thought at first gave us the name of the husband of the Widow Jane Sproule. The record was of a marriage on 7 Nov 1848 when a Jane Sproule of Cromkill married a William Reilly, Weaver. Her father was named as John Sproule of Cromkill, Weaver. I was thrilled – this had to be the daughter of my widow Jane Sproule, and I had found her husband, John Sproule the Weaver!

Jane Sproule of Crumkill's wedding Irishgenealogy.ie

It took a while to focus one important detail on the record. We can see the age of the happy couple. Jane Sproule was 47 years old at the time of her wedding! The wedding was in 1848. Jane Sproule of the Wedding was born about 1801 – so she wasn’t a daughter of these Cromkill Spoules! She was another sibling.

Jane Sproule who married William Reilly had to be a sister of either, or both, Samuel Sproule and the husband of the Widow Jane Sproule.

And John Sproule the Weaver of Crumkill was their father. This John Sproule the Weaver is the same generation as John Sproule of Caugherty, father of Lendrick.  Two John Sproules in the same generation are definitely not brothers!

The Cromkill Sproules

The Caugherty/Caherty Sproules

So the bottom line is:

  • The Cromkill Sproules are not siblings of Lendrick, Thomas and John Sproule of Caugherty. This is assuming that Samuel Sproule is a brother of the husband of Jane Sproule the Widow, a fairly good assumption.
  • The Cromkill Sproules are not first cousins of the Caugherty brothers, for their fathers are both called John Sproule.

If they are related, and we don’t have evidence that they are, it is much further back in the generations.

Important Footnote:

I found another member of the Cromkill family, a son of one of the two households. Unfortunately, I don't know which house that he belongs to.

 His name is Robert John Sproule and I found him in the Military Records in Findmypast.ie. Robert gave his birth year as 1829, and says he is from the Parish of Connor, near the town of Ballymena. Crumkill is the only Connor townland which had Sproules at that time, so Robert John Sproule is a Crumkill Sproule.

Robert had a very distinguished career during his 21 years of service in the Royal Regiment of Artillery - he was Corporal, Sergeant and finished as Master Gunner 1st Class. He served in Gibraltar and the Crimea.

Robert John Sproule said he would live in Ballymena at his discharge on 12 Oct 1875, and he gave his trade as Weaver. 

He is definitely one of the Cromkill Sproules. 


Information on the other family, the Sproules of Caherty/Caugherty:

1. The Mystery Picture - R. Sproule Shop

2. Robert Sproule the Saddler – the Lendrick Connection 

3. The Family of Hugh Sproule of Ballycreggy and Bridge St Ballymena, and Mary Ann 

4. The Parents of Lendrick Sproule of Caugherty