Eight Centuries of the Spreull and Sproule Families

Eight Centuries of the Spreull and Sproule Families

By James Richard Sproule

September 2012




Table of Contents Preface ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 4

The Origins of the Sproule Surname ………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 7

The Spreul Coat of Arms………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 10

The Lands and Properties of the Leading Sproule Family ………………………………………………………………………. 12

The MacFarlane Connection …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 21

The First Spreulls ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 24

Walter Spreull I (1230? – 1306?) ………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 26

Walter Spreull II (1265? – 1330s?) ………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 34

Walter Spreull VI (1380s – 1448/49) …………………………………………………………………………………………………… 41

Thomas Spreull (1411 – 1503) …………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 42

Robert Spreull (1430s? – 1488/89)……………………………………………………………………………………………………… 44

John Spreull – fought at Flodden (1459-61? – 1513) …………………………………………………………………………… 47

John Spreull, Jr. (1490? – 1528/29) …………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 51

Thomas Spreull (1522? -1580s) …………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 53

John Spreull (1540s – 1618) ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 60

James Spreull (1564 – d. after 1628) – last of Cowden ………………………………………………………………………… 64

Margaret Spreule and John Denniston ……………………………………………………………………………………………….. 71

Jonet Spreule of Ladymure and Cathcart ……………………………………………………………………………………………. 74

Canon John Spreule, Scholar and Churchman ……………………………………………………………………………………. 77

Robert Spreule, Burgess of Glasgow (1480s ? – late 1560s?) ……………………………………………………………….. 79

John Sproule, of Castlehill; Provost of Renfrew; M. P. (1585 – 1662?) ………………………………………………. 84

John Spreull, (1616 – 1690?) Town Clerk of Glasgow ………………………………………………………………………… 86

Descendants of the Town Clerk ……………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 104

John Spreull (1607 – 1685) Baillie of Paisley …………………………………………………………………………………….. 109

Bass John Spreul (1646 – 1722) ………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 114

The Spreulls of Paisley ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 128

The Spreull-Shortridge Connection ………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 131

The Spreulls of Milton, Dunbartonshire …………………………………………………………………………………………… 140



The Spreull-Crawford’s of Cowdonhill …………………………………………………………………………………………….. 148

Scottish Miscellany ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 157

The Irish Sproules …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 165

The Athlone Sproules ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 169

The Longfield Sproules …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 174

The Quaker Sproules ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 187

Anne Sproule ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 190

The Huguenot Connection ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 193

Captain John Plummer Ardesoif Royal Navy ……………………………………………………………………………………. 198

The Country Tyrone Sproules …………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 213

Sproules of Upper Greenan, Crillan, Carrivetragh and Canada ………………………………………………………… 226

The St. George Sproules …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 255

Godfrey Spruill and Carolina ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 258

Miscellany of Prominent Sproules ………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 271

Spreull DNA Project …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 279

A Select Bibliography ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 281

Endnotes …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 285




Preface  The name “Spreull” is first found in the thirteenth century in the west of Scotland. Before the first Spreul, the soon to be introduced Walter, it is likely that the family followed the naming convention of the time; the sons taking on the fathers first name prefixed by Fitz-. By the early thirteenth century, however, surnames started to be used and the name Spreul seems to have come to the fore and been used ever after. While any history of this age if full of uncertainty, if not outright speculation, what can be said with confidence is that the Spreul family was and is a very small one, only one family is given in the English and Scottish records.  From these small beginings the Spreul’s migrated over the centuries from Scotland to different parts of the world, often changing the spelling of the name as they went.  Although today you can find any spelling just about anywhere, the Spruill, Spruiell, Sprewell, and Spruell spellings are common in the Southern United States; Sproul and Sproule are found in the North Eastern U.S., Canada and most likely spent a few hundred years in Ireland; Spurrell’s are found in parts of England, Wales and New Foundland.  Whatever the spellings, the roots are invariably traced back to Walter Spreul living in the late 1200s, in Scotland.

This book is a history of our family and while I can claim credit as a researcher, editor and sometimes writer, much of the work has been carried out by others, in particular Albert Frederick Sproule and Robert James St. George Sproule, whose efforts on the early Spreuls form such a significant portion of what follows.  Scanning through the sources it becomes obvious that while all Spreulls may be from the same family, and that the family is not very large, this history only scratches the surface of what the Spreulls have done.  This work is by no means meant to be definitive, and time and further research will undoubtedly warrant further editions.

James Richard Sproule

Cradley House

New King’s Road

London, 2012

Copyright asserted 2012



The Sproule name is clearly not a common one and it is understandable that when any Sproule chances upon another, they wonder if there is a relation – to which the answer is almost certainly yes.

This book is a labour of love and many an idle hour of work.  It draws heavily upon two works in particular: Fred Sproule’s “The Sproule Families of Scotland” which was published privately in 1990 and the work by Robert James St. George Sproule, who traced out the St. George connection and also collected a considerable amount of historical context about the very early Sproules.  This book has benefited greatly from access to internet sources, and has sought to add into gaps where information could be found, as well as place events in a greater historical context. This edition has also, wherever possible, added maps, illustrations and pictures.

When Fred Sproule put together his book on the Sproules, the internet was not even in its embryonic stage and genealogical research was a lengthy and often confusing task.  The research can still be confusing, but the ability to access new information from long forgotten archives has utterly transformed genealogical research.  This new work takes advantage of many of these new sources and wherever possible places them into what is known of the family trees.  That said, many of the problems encountered by Fred Sproule still exist, some of which were:

  1. Some records have yet to be digitalized and are available only in distant archives, although such records are unlikely to have materially altered this account.
  2. Deterioration of the original copies often makes the publicly available microfilm copies difficult or impossible to read.
  3. Before the mid 1500s the great majority of various kinds of documents were written in Latin. The gist of other Latin documents has been arrived at with the help of a Latin dictionary. A modern Latin dictionary, however, does not always solve the problems of Medieval Latin.
  4. Even when handwritten copies of records are reproduced in microfilm, the style of calligraphy presents problems.
  5. Finally, the disappearance of many of the records of the earlier centuries creates gaps in information that are very difficult to bridge.

The reader’s indulgence is requested when my remarks are prefaced by such words as “perhaps” “presumably”, “probably” and “it would seem”.  Wherever possible footnotes of sources have been provided.

Albert Fredrick Sproule put together what is probably the correct, and certainly most rigorously researched line of descent of the Sproules of Coldoun (or Cowden), Renfrewshire. Others who have written about this family have made serious errors because they were unaware of thirty abstracts that were prepared from Sproule land documents which at one time were in the possession of the Earls of Dundonald. If by chance these documents are still in existence, their full contents would be much more helpful and reliable than the abstracts. Other records that have been ignored or inadequately used by others would especially include The Registers of the Privy Council of Scotland, The Registers of the Great Seal of Scotland and The Registers of The Privy Seal of Scotland.

This research was greatly helped by having access to the genealogical library of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints in Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S.A. Special mention should also be made of helpful information supplied by the Mitchell Library of Glasgow and by the University of Glasgow.



Notes on the authors:

Albert Frederick Sproule was born near Monaghan, Ireland in 1926 and came to Canada in the spring of 1929 settling on a farm about east of Calgary, Alberta. He was a high school teacher. Albert Frederick Sproule died in 2005.

James Richard Sproule was born in Montreal in 1962 and served in the Royal Navy before becoming an economist in the City of London. He registered a Sproule coat of arms with the College of Arms in London in 2009.



The Origins of the Sproule Surname  Over thirty different spellings of the surname “Sproule” appear in the records that predate 1800. The most common spelling between the late 1200s and the 1600s was Spreule. In the 1600s the spelling Spreull was widely used among certain branches of the family. In the 1700s and the early 1800s the spelling Sproule gained ground and the ou spelling now predominates.

Three different pronunciations of the surname may be heard at the present time. They are “Sprool” as in “cool”, “Sprowl” as in “owl”, and “Sproule” as in “role”. My family has used the “role” pronunciation for an unknown time and the Sproule spelling since the mid-1800s. In this account when records are directly quoted, the spelling used in such records will be kept. In other situations the Sproule spelling or the most popular spelling of the time will be used.

In the middle ages surnames were not constant from generation to generation, rather surnames where they existed often consisted of Fitz plus father’s first name. Surnames began to come into use in Scotland in the early 1100s. One of the oldest extant records involving a Sproule is a 1283 property transaction of one “Nicholas Sprowell”, a burgess of Glasgow1. A passage in the Latin document speaks of “Nicholo dicto Sprowll”. The word “dicto” means “called” and this form of reference was often used in the early period of surnames. The adoption of permanent surnames was, in any case, gradual and by no means were spellings uniform. Even in 1711 the marriage certificate of William Sprowl* has his relations signing their names using a variety of spellings on the same document. It is not surprising therefore that old established families should enjoy the luxury of many variations of their surname. The Spreulls were no exception to differing spellings and since the name first appeared, around the time of Alexander III of Scotland (1249-1286), there have been many variants, the earliest recorded, significantly, Spreul. Other variations include: Spreull, Sprule, Sprewl, Spreule, Spreuile, Spreall, Spruyile, Sprwl (from Wales) Sproull, Sproul, Sprool, Sproole, Sprowl, Sprowle, Sprall, Sprawl and Sproule.

There are various meanings that may be associated with the surname of Sproule, all of which may be wrong. Four dictionary meanings seem worthy of consideration. The name may come from the Middle Scottish word “spreul” which means “to sprawl” but this seems an awkward if not unlikely way to identify a person. Next, according to Brewer’s Britain and Ireland, the name Sporle (in the entomology of the town in Norfolk) was an old English word for ‘wood or glade where spars or shafts for spears are obtained’2. Another possibility is that the surname comes from the Old English word “spreawlian” which means “to move convulsively”. Again, the meaning does not seem to lend itself to the origin of a surname. Finally, in an English dialect described as a corruption of Middle English, there is the word “sproul” which means “energetic” or “active”. This possible origin seems more flattering. It is suggested that “Nicholo dicto Sprowll” is best translated as “Nicholas the Quick”. Such an appellation would have been a descriptive way to have distinguished a particular Nicholas from several other persons who also bore the name of Nicholas.

One can reject the idea that the name Sproule came from a Scottish place name, even though a Sproulston (Sprouliston or Sprouliston) can be found on a large scale map of Renfrewshire. Sproulston can be located about four miles west and a little south of Neilston. The earliest reference to Sproulston encountered dates to a period between 1335 and 1367 which is several decades after the “Nicolo dicto Sprowll” referred to above3. This suggests that the place name came from the surname rather than the reverse. A place name origin would have resulted in references such as “Nicolo dicto Sprouliston” or “Nicolo de Sprouliston” but such was not the case.                                                        * The original of which is held by Ruth Sprowls, see illustration.



It is worth setting the first Spreulls in a geographical and historic context.  The lands of Coldoun (Cowdon) adjoining Neilston in Renfrewshire were granted to a Walter Sproule by the Earl of Lennox. The land grant is judged to have been made in the late 1200s or very early 1300s. A review of the early background history of the Neilston area of Renfrewshire, murky though it may be, may prove helpful.

Renfrewshire has an interesting link with English history. In 1138 King David I of Scotland invaded England on behalf of his niece, Matilda, who was engaged in a struggle with her cousin Stephen for the English throne. The Battle of the Standard which took place on Cowton Moor near Northallerton in Yorkshire was lost by King David and his non-Scottish allies. After the defeat, Walter Fitz Allan, Robert de Croc, Neil Constenin* and other Norman Barons of Shropshire, and Richard Wales† and other chieftains of Wales took refuge in Scotland. Perhaps a Sproule was among these newcomers and was of either Norman or Welsh origins.

In 1140, two years after the Battle of the Standard, King David made Walter Fitz Allan the hereditary High Stewart of Scotland and granted him a tract of land in what later became Renfrewshire. One account states that Cowdon was the ancient site of the original castle of the High Stewarts’s4 before a castle was built at the town of Renfrew some years later. At some date a Fitz Allan granted a portion of the Neilston property which could have included the Coldoun property, to Robert do Croc. A CrocLennox marriage5 may have brought the Coldoun property to the Earls of Lennox and at some time the Earl of Lennox granted Coldoun to a Walter Sproule.

Bringing the first Sproules into the picture:  there was a Priory at Sprole, Norfolk, founded by a knight of that name in the time of Edward I (circa 1200), as a cell to the monastery of St. Florence, in Anjou. Is it possible that Nicholas and Walter Sprole’s Norman ancestors‡ travelled from France, to Norfolk, and thence to Scotland? The Anjou connection would seem to suggest that the founders of Sprole Priory were part of William the Conqueror’s army, or at least followed in his wake. It was common in the Middle Ages to name oneself Christian name then name of such and such a place. It is pure speculation, but if the Spreulls had been instrumental in the founding of Norfolk’s Sporle Priory, it would not be surprising to have subsequently adopted the place name as a surname.

Could the Spreull name be even older than the 13th century Walter Spreull?  The book: “The Ancient History of the Distinguished Surnames” states: The family name Sproul is believed to be descended originally from the Boernicians. This ancient founding race of the north was a mixture of Scottish Picts and Angles, a race dating from about the year 400 A.D. Their territories ranged from Edinburgh in the north, southward to the North Riding of Yorkshire in England. By 1000 A.D. this race had formed into discernible Clans and families, perhaps some of the first evidence of the family structure in Britain. All very romantic, but with DNA testing suggesting that the Spreul’s have Norman roots, the possibility of earlier Scottish roots seems unlikely to be true, at least through the male line.

So who were these ancient Spreulls? One remarkable fact emerges. Today there are Spreulls to be found all over the world, and regardless of how they now spell and/or pronounce their names, they all claim descent from the same man: Walter Spreull, seneschal to the Earl of Lennox in the thirteenth century. From where and how the parents of Walter Spreul the first arrived in Scotland is unlikely to ever be

* The fugitive Neil Constenin is said to have his first name perpetuated in the name Neilston (Neil’s town) which adjoined the Coldoun property.

† Richard Wales, the Welsh chieftain, is thought by some to have been the ancestor of that famous Scots patriot, William Wallace. William Wallace’s home was near Elderslie, a few miles from Neilston.

‡ DNA evidence does stongly suggest that the Spreul’s were originhally Norman



known, nor is there ever likely to be an agreed origin of the name. What is certain that by 1240 Walter Spreull was established in the west of Scotland and what follows is as best can be determined, the history of his descendants through twenty-two generations and eight centuries. So, who was he and where did he come from?



The Spreul Coat of Arms A coat of arms is an ancient method of identifying knights, their families and kin on battlefields. While a coat of arms is always granted to an individual, it is also inherited from one generation to the next. Differing branches of the same family often have similar coats of arms, demonstrating ties of kinship, while also being identifiably different. This is the case with the Spreull family.

The military origins of a coat of arms can clearly be seen in the shield and helmet which make up large elements of any coat of arms. The central part of a coat of arms is the shield, the shield being surmounted by a helmet upon which sits a crest. Depending on where the coat of arms has been granted, there is a family motto either above the crest (Scotland) or below the shield (England, Ireland and Canada).

The granting of a coat of arms was for centuries the mark of a gentleman and signified that the holder was at the very least a part of the retinue of a peer (i.e. Lord) who was himself allied to the King. For this reason, grants of arms were historically, and are still, granted in the name of the monarch. By the middle ages the monarch had devolved granting of arms to one of a number of organisations. For Scotland, this is the Lord Lyon King of Arms in Edinburgh; for England, The Earl Marshall (The Duke of Norfolk) through the College of Arms in London; for Ireland, the Irish Herald in Dublin. More recently, Canada has also established a herald.

The first Spruell to be granted a coat of arms was Walter*. This coat of arms was, according to JH Stevenson’s Scottish Heraldic Seals, granted to Walter Spreull in 1296. This consisted of “a hunting horn stringed between three roses”. This source sites Walter Spreull as being one who signed the Ragman Roll and is listed as being the “del counte de Lanark”. The granting of a cost of arms, as well as the symbols used on those arms, gives us some idea of Walter’s status.  Coats of arms would only have been granted to knights of the local lord (in this case the Earl of Lennox) and Walter’s closeness to the Earl is signified by the fact that the Lennox Coat of Arms consists of four roses, while the hunting horn itself is significant as it was a symbol that only a local lord and his retinue would be familiar, as only they would have the right to hunt.  However, it is notable that the seals of attributed to Walter Spreull that are held in the United Kingdom National Archives at Kew, do not match the description given by Stevenson.

By the mid fourteenth century a new coat of arms was granted to another Walter Sproule.  The shield of the Spreull coat of arms is described, in the parlance of heraldry as “Or, a fesse cheque azure and argent between three purses (or palmers scrips) gules”†. In plain language: a shield with a gold background upon which there are three red purses, or sacks, with a blue and white chequered pattern in a stripe across the centre of the shield. These sacks were “palmer’s scrip or wallets, often appearing in the arms of a great traveller, or an explorer”. Palmers were pilgrims.6 Palmer scripts are sacks used by pilgrims or soldiers for the carrying of a single days ration, although they were used for a variety of other tasks as well, including the carrying of money. No evidence has been encountered to suggest that any of the early Sproules were either explorers or pilgrims.

The significance of the purses is more likely to stem from Walter Spreull being responsible for arranging to pay the ransom for Scotland’s King David II after he had been captured by the English, a story that will be covered in more detail later. Alternatively, the purses may refer to the role Walter Spreull had as

* At this point in history, the granting of a Coart of Arms was still relatively rare, it was the Stewarts who between 1560-1639 who oversaw the expansion of the gentry, granting over 3700 families Coats of Arms.  The Stewarts were also active in selling titles, inventing the title of Baronett and selling Earldoms and Baronies, although not to any Sproule’s.

† Described in Alexander Nisbet’s “System of Heraldry” of 1722.



seneschal to the Earls of Lennox. Walter would have been in charge of the Earl’s treasury, hence the purses. Quite obviously this was a position of great trust, which supports the motto of “Semper Fidelis” (Always Faithful). Across the middle of the shield is a blue and white chequered banner, this band has at times been variously: straight, a chevron, or a wavy pattern. The chequered band is used widely in coats of arms of families from the west of Scotland* and was originally a sign of allegiance to the Scottish kings. This again supports the idea that the new coat of arms was granted in recognition of the raising of the ransom of King David II.

While the Spreull/Sproule shield has been remarkably consistent, the crest on top of the helmet has varied considerably over the centuries. For Scottish branches of the family, crests have included a hunting horn (tying in the coat of arms of the first Walter Spreull), an open book (relating to the Spreull who was Canon of Glasgow), a water blodget (a sort of yolk with water buckets), or in the case of Bass John Spreull a palm tree with seals (ornaments). As the family moved to other parts of Britain, the crest has changed. The Somerset (England) branch of the family has a crest of “a falcon bellied, devouring a partridge”. Many of the Athlone Irish branches of the family use a red hand (signifying attachment to Ulster and often indicating a Baronetcy, although not in the Sproule’s case). Most recently, James Richard Sproule has chosen a square tower emblazoned with a hand, surmounted by a cat.

The family motto was originally and most often “Semper Fidelis” (always faithful), although other branches of the family have altered this as they have altered the crest. “Bass” John Spreull’s motto was “Sub Pondere Cresco” (I grow under a weight), while a Sprewell motto has been listed as “Manet in œternum” (It endureth for ever). James Richard Sproule has chosen “Sampere Auld” (To know the truth of things) as the motto for the Athlone branch of the family.

Families can also have a “badge”, which is used by both family members, as well as those who are loyal to that family. Such badges were the origin of the regimental cap badges still used by British and Commonwealth soldiers to this day. James Richard Sproule has established the Sproule family badge as a green maple leaf, pierced at an angle of 45 degrees by three golden arrows. The symbolism of the badge being, a maple leaf representing Canada and the arrows being both a play on the ancient meaning of the word Spreull, as well as being a part of the MacFarlane clan badge.

* For instance, the Lindsay (Lindzie) coat of arms is a red background with an chequry fess identical to that of Spreul



The Lands and Properties of the Leading Sproule Family Prior to 1238, the principal Lennox residence was a castle on Dumbarton Rock and until 1460, and perhaps to a later date, the chief Lennox residence was on the island of Inchmurrin near the southern end of Loch Lomond. Bellock or Belloch on the southern shore of Loch Lomond was also a site of a Lennox residence. With the advent of the Stuart line of the earls of Lennox, the chief Lennox seat became Crookston Castle in Renfrewshire.

In the late 1200s one “Walterum Sprewl” (Walter Sproule), was seneschal to Malcolm, the 5th Earl of Lennox. In fulfilling his duties this Sproule would have been a key link between the various parts of the Lennox and MacFarlane families. It may be a coincidence, but the coat of arms of the earls of Lennox, the bearings of the MacFarlane chieftains, and the seal of Walter Sproule, the seneschal, all displayed roses. If a clan bond existed between the Sproules and the MacFarlane’s for a few generations, Sproule fealty to the earls of Lennox would have taken precedence.

The leading Sproule family held three properties from the earls of Lennox and related successors for 340 years, if not longer. A review of the location and features of these properties will provide a helpful setting for the presentation of the genealogy and story of this Sproule family.

Dalquhurn (Dal’whan)

There are a number of spellings for this Dunbartonshire property. The one selected for this account is Dalquhurn. A seemingly reliable authority states that the name should be pronounced Dal/whan7 although it should be pointed out that the early spellings suggest that for a time the name was pronounced Dal/kern. In Gaelic, Dalquhurn means “field of the scurvy grass”8. Scurvy grass is a plant of the mustard family and has small white flowers and heart-shaped leaves. The plant has been known to have been used in the preparation of salads and medicines and possesses a tar-like flavour.

Dalquhurn lay in the vale of the Leven River, the stream that drains Loch Lomond into the River Clyde beside the 240 foot high Dumbarton Rock. More specifically, the property lay on the west side of the Leven just south of present day Renton and within the Parish of Cardross. The Sproule home on the property was situated about half a mile south of Renton, meaning it was about three miles from Loch Lomond to the north and about two miles from the Clyde to the south. A tiny stream called Poachy Burn flowed near the home and to the east a loop in the Leven is called Dalquhurn Point. As yet the size of Dalquhurn has not been established but it is estimated to have been somewhere between sixty and ninety acres. A house of some substance is noted on the 1654 Blaeu Atlas of Scotland, the Province of Lennox called Dun-Britton.

From an excellent book entitled “Lennox Lore” by I.M.M. MacPhail, the Spreull’s neighbour at Dalquhurn in the early days would have been none other than Robert the Bruce himself. Twelve years after Bannockburn and with the country enjoying a rare period of comparative tranquillity, Bruce returned to the Lennox there to spend his last years in semi-retirement. In 1326 he acquired about 208 acres of land from the Earl of Lennox on the west bank of the river Leven immediately south of Dalquhurn where he built a “Manerium” or manor house within sight of the castle rock at Dumbarton. Though the actual site of this house has never been definitely determined it is known to have been of mainly timber construction with a thatched roof. Inside the house the Kings chamber had painted walls and glazed windows and apart from the usual domestic apartments also included the queen’s chamber, a hall and a small chapel. The surrounding parkland was for hunting and a special building nearby housed the King’s falcons.



The author, Tobias Smollett (1721-1771), was born in what had been the Spreull home in 1721, the Dalquhurn property having been sold by a descendant of a Sproule heiress in 1659. An author writing about the home states:

“Smollett’s birthplace appears to have been a severe, unadorned, three-storied building with a low wing at its west end. Though not pretentious or beautiful, it stood on high ground above the Leven and afforded a romantic view of Dumbarton castle and its stirring association of Bruce and Wallace”9.

This is perhaps unduly unkind description as Smollett himself wrote of the river Leven where he was brought up as a child:

No torrents stain thy limpid source; No rocks impede thy dimpling course, That sweetly warbles o’er its bed, With white, round, polish’d pebbles spread

Professor William Richardson (1743-1814), of Glasgow University, one of Smollett’s friends, echoes this sentiment in Idyllion:

Fair Leven, in soft-flowing verse Exults in Smollett’s name; Nor fails triumphant to rehearse The islands whence she came; The woody islands, resounding cave And rocks that Lomond’s hoary  billow laves

If the home was of corresponding size when it was still under Sproule ownership, one is inclined to think that it may have served as an alternative residence to that located on the much larger Sproule property of Coldoun adjacent to Neilston in Renfrewshire. Another possibility would have been that the Dalquhurn home sheltered the heir of the Sproule properties. When during his lifetime the father turned over the properties to his heir, perhaps the father would opt to spend his remaining years living at Dalquhurn.

The Dalquhurn residence seems to have still been standing as late as the 1840s when it was demolished and a church was erected on or near the site10.


Dalmuir, the other Sproule property in Dunbartonshire, had a number of spellings and the pronunciation may have varied over the years. In Gaelic, Dalmuir means “big field”11. Dalmuir fronted on the north bank of the Clyde approximately six miles upstream from Dumbarton Rock and about ten miles downstream from Glasgow. It is assumed that Dalmuir Burn which empties into the Clyde either ran through the property or flanked it on the west side.

At one time there was a hamlet on the north side of the Clyde called Dalmuir Shore and as late as the 1860s a quay of “haggard aspect” marked a centuries old landing spot12. Maps as late as the 1930s show a small centre called Dalmuir on the railway that paralleled the Clyde. Some older maps show Dalmuir House but just when the structure gained that name has not been ascertained.



Dalmuir may have been the smallest of the three long-held Sproule properties. It was possibly from forty to sixty acres in size. A house of some substance is noted on the 1654 Blaeu Atlas of Scotland, the Province of Lennox called Dun-Britton.


One source suggests that the name “Coldoun” may have originated from the Gaelic “Cul/duin” which is said to mean at the “back of the hill”13. Linguistic scholars now emphasize that many place names of this part of Scotland are of Welsh origins and that in Welsh “col/din” means “hill fort”14. The Welsh meaning seems more realistic than the Gaelic meaning.

In keeping with the Gaelic meaning, however, traces of the foundations of Cowdon Hall and its outbuildings may be seen on the slope of the hill on the west side of Neilston. Ordnance Survey Maps mark the outline of Cowdon Hall in this location and it is possible that the shell of the residence was reasonably intact until the late 1800s. Although Cowdon Hall was last occupied by a Sproule in 1621, it is said to have been lived in by other proprietors until 1760.

Unlike Dalquhurn and Dalmuir which lay in Dunbartonshire, the largest of the properties of the leading Sproule family was located nearly nine miles almost due south of Dalmuir across the River Clyde in Renfrewshire. The portion of Coldoun on which the residence was located bordered the west side of the village of Neilston. In a direct line Neilston is about eight miles due south-west of the heart of Glasgow. In earlier centuries the distance by path or road was around ten miles.

Early alternate versions of the name “Coldoun” were “Coldoune”, “Coldane” or even “Kowden”. For a time the letter “l” in the preceding versions was probably vocalized. In the late 1500s and early 1600s the property began to be referred to as “Cowdon” and the residence, according to some histories of Renfrewshire, became “Cowdon Hall”, but this seems to have happened post 1600. The Coldoun property may not have been in Sproule hands quite as long as Dalquhurn or Dalmuir but one cannot be certain of this as some of the early Sproule land charters have obviously not survived.

Crawford, in his “History of Renfrewshire”, published in 1710, says: “In the parish of Neilston lie the lands of Cowdon, which gave first title of Lord to Sir William Cochrane, afterwards Earl of Dundonald.  An ancient family of the Sprouls did possess the fore mentioned lands for many ages”, but the first of that name that has been found mentioned in charters was Walter Spreul, ‘Senescallus de Dumbartown’, i.e. High Steward of Dumbarton, who obtained from Malcolm, Earl of Lennox, a charter of the lands of Dalguham, ‘pro hamagio et servitio suo’, i.e. “for his homage and service”, as the charter testifies and by the witnesses appears to be in the beginning of the reign of Robert Bruce [Robert I, 1306-1329].  There is also in existence a resignation of the lands of Cowdon by Walter SPREUL [perhaps third or fourth in descent from Walter, the grantee of the charter], so designed in favour of Thomas SPREUL, his son and apparent heir, A.D. 1441, which Thomas was father of John SPREUL of Cowdon, who had a charter of these lands, A.D. 1481, as Robert Spreul, his son had a charter of the same lands, A.D. 1515, which Robert, last-mentioned, was father of John Spreul of Cowdon, who was succeeded by a son of the same name [John SPREUL], who was father of James Spreul of Cowdon, in whose person this family failed15.

The earliest known records of the lands variously known as Caudon, Coldoun or Cowden show that this important estate in the parish of Neilston in Renfrewshire once belonged to the Stewarts, probably dating from the time of Walter Fitz Alan, the first high Stewart of Scotland in the reign of King Malcolm IV in the middle of the twelfth century. His grandson the third high Stewart, also called Walter, who had succeeded his father Alan in 1204 was married to Beatrix the daughter of Gilchrist, Earl of Angus, by whom he had five sons and three daughters. In 1228 the eldest daughter, Elizabeth, married Maldouen,



the 3rd Earl of Lennox, and received from her father as part of her dowry, the lands of Cowden. The property remained in the hands of the Earls of Lennox until it was made over in a grant by Malcolm, the 5th Earl, to Walter Spreull, his seneschal, in about 1305.

The Spreulls held Cowden, until 1622 when it was sold by James Spreull to Alexander Blair, a scion of the Blair’s of that ilk who, on his marriage to Elizabeth, heiress of Cochrane assumed the name of that family. At his death the property passed to his second son, Sir William Cochrane, who later became the 1st Earl of Dundonald. It remained in the possession of this family until the death of the 5th Earl in 1725 when it was inherited by the Marquis of Clydesdale, later the 6th Duke of Hamilton, whose mother was a daughter of John, 4th Earl of Dundonald.

In 1766 the Hamilton’s disposed of the estate to Baron Mure of Caldwell. At this time it comprised nine separate farms, or mailings, one of which, Coudonhall, was presumably the “home farm”. Towards the end of the 19th century William Mure, the great grandson of the Baron, sold the estate to James Orr, a mill owner, who built himself an impressive new mansion about half a mile from the old hall and within a few minutes’ walk of Crofthead Mill which had been built by his firm, Stewart, Orr and Company, in 1792.

Cowden Hall

The actual building would have been a fortified tower, with a larger walled area surrounding it.  The tower would have had a large fireplace and would have housed all of the family, probably in one or two rooms. While farmhouses would have had the animals on the lower floors, Cowden probably had sufficient outbuildings for this not to be necessary.  To have built such a structure would have required the permission of the local lord, and permission would only have been granted to loyal knights.  Such fortified houses were the best, indeed only, means of defence against marauding bands until the invention of artillery in the 1500s.

Cowden is still marked on the ordnance survey map, these are detailed maps of all of the UK printed by the Government and they note every significant building in the country, including ruins. Parts of the house are still (in 1999) just about standing, although there are trees growing up beside (and inside) the house, which is itself covered in ivy. The house consisted of a large tower, common for its time, of which a portion of the chimney stack remains standing. There was also a lower hall off to one side, again portions of this remain. It appears that the ground level has risen considerably as there is what seems to be a ground floor fireplace mantel at about waist height. Originally it would have probably been the main cooking area and as such been between 5-6 feet tall. The piling up of earth is also evidenced by the very low floor area of the one story annex, which is again about a yard below the adjoining field.  The whole house is approximately 10 yards by 20 yards, but at the time Walter Spreull lived in the house, it would almost certainly had a further wooden outbuildings, and perhaps living areas, none of which obviously remain. Reports, admittedly written in the late 19th century state there was a stone inscribed with the Spreull crest above the doorway, but over the ensuing century both the stone and indeed the doorway have disappeared. The part of the house that would have been enclosed is now piled high with loose stones which have simply fallen in. In addition the local farmer has used a number of the stones to construct a dry stone wall which abuts the lower hall*.  The remains of the wall are now covered in a high dirt mound, with the occasional wall poking above it. Directly beside the remains of the tower, Scottish Power has erected an ugly electricity pylon.

* This is very common.



The ruin stands on the summit of a low hill on the south bank of Cowden Burn not far from where it joins the River Levern, about one mile to the west of Neilston, and is surrounded on three sides by ancient trees of ash, beech and plane.  When at the end of the last century, the railway was built, both the burn and the main turnpike road were diverted from their original courses and the northern slope of the hill below the castle cut back so that it is now steeper than in ancient times. By no stretch of the imagination could the ruins of old Cowden Hall be described as impressive or even romantic and it must be said that after more than seven hundred years, there was considerably more remaining of Cowden Hall than of Gilchrist’s fortress at Arrochar or the great Lennox stronghold at Balloch.

Ancient Cowden Hall lies within 200 yards of the remains of a large Victorian country house; there are the remains of a once grand walled garden, an overgrown tree lined avenue and a derelict stable block and an ornamental pond. There are however no signs of the grandiose mansion with its three hundred and sixty five windows, built by the Orr family. They lived there until the First World War during which it had been used as a convalescent home for British and Belgian Soldiers. Between the wars it had been converted into flats and a social centre for mill workers and during the second war it had been occupied by a firm in the “rag trade” evacuated from London. In 1945 the estate was acquired by the local council who had demolished the house five years later. Of this once proud estate only the magnificent trees remain, imported from all over the world by the Orr’s, as well as the wall which surrounded them.

In keeping with the Welsh meaning of Coldoun as “hill fort,” a small roofless, one-storey ruin may be located about six hundred yards to the west of the traces of the foundations of the Cowdon Hall. The walls of the small ruin are constructed of large undressed stones and the structure certainly looks rugged enough to have been used as a hill fort. An Ordnance Survey Map identifies the structure as the ruins of an earlier Cowdon Hall. One may be persuaded to believe that it is more likely that the name “Coldoun” originated with this old ruin. On the other hand to call this structure Cowdon Hall at any time in its history seems erroneous. The walls of the building enclose an area no larger than a sitting room of a middle-class home. There is no structural evidence visible to the eye that the rugged ruin was ever larger and there are no traces of outbuildings. On the other hand the meagre ruin of the Cowdon Hall has sturdy stone walls in the vicinity which probably at one time enclosed outbuildings, livestock yards and gardens.

In the case of the small structure, it may have originated as a small fort and was then purportedly used as a hunting lodge by members of the Croc family in the 1100s. After that it may have been used as a modest home, a shelter for cattle, and so on. The surveyors compiling the Ordnance Survey Map of the district may have erroneously identified this ruin as an early Cowdon Hall as a result of local folklore.

Cowdon Hall had two chief means of approach. The access that would have seen the most use would have been that from the east, or Glasgow side, through the village of Neilston. The other approach, less used, but more pleasing to the eye, would have been from the west along a route roughly paralleling the present Highway A736 coming from Ayrshire. This route parallels a portion of Cowdon Burn which flows north-easterly along the bottom of the valley just below Neilston. Near the present outskirts of Neilston on the west, an abandoned roadway bears to the right and passes between two tall dressed-stone pillars and then for a distance strikes up a gentle slope in the direction toward where Cowdon Hall once stood. The style and construction of the stone pillars on which entry gates once hung do not seem all that old but they could date to pre1760 when Cowdon Hall was still used as a residence.

The boundaries of the Coldoun property while under Sproule control can only be guessed. In area, the estate could have ranged from 700 to 1,800 acres. Its boundaries may have formed a rough triangle, its apex being in the north-west at a spot formed by the juncture of Cowdon Burn with the Lavern Water in



the valley below Neilston. The left side of the triangle probably ran south-west along the Cowdon Burn and then on to the vicinity of Loch Libo. The right side of the triangle may have angled south-westward past Neilston to or near to the border of Ayrshire. In this area it can be established that in 1441 that Uplaw16 was a Sproule holding and that in 1514 that Knockglass was a Sproule holding17. It is not known, however, if the north-east boundaries of these lands were coterminous with the south-west boundary of Coldoun. The names Uplaw and Knockglass may be found on lands about 2.5 miles south-west of Neilston.

The view from the site of Cowdon Hall is blocked to the south-east and east by the slope of the hill on which the residence stood. Across the valley to the north-west rise the Lochliboside Hills which limit the view in that direction. It is claimed, however, that from the top of Corkindale Law, with an elevation of 848 feet, and lying about two miles west of Neilston, that there is one of the best panoramic views of a large area of Scotland. On a clear day one may look to the west-north-west and see Dumbarton Rock on the north shore of the Clyde, the dale of the Leven, Loch Lomond, Ben Lomond of altitude 3,192 feet, and other summits of the Grampians. Looking to the north-east and east are the Kilpatrick and Campsie Hills, Glasgow, and a glimpse of the Ochils, the Lomond’s, and the Penthills. To the south-east one may see features of the Southern Uplands and occasionally the Cumberland Mountains in England. To the south-south-west lies the plain of Ayr and far in the distance the mountains of Mourne in Ireland. More to the west lie the Arran Mountains and so back to the starting point18.

Travel between the Three Sproule Properties

The distances between Coldoun, Dalmuir and Dalquhurn would have meant that the attending of the affairs of these properties would have involved a good deal of time spent in travel. The locations of the three properties roughly corresponded to the three points of an isosceles triangle with its base connecting Coldoun and Dalquhurn and its apex at Dalmuir. Travelling “as the crow flies” the distance between the Coldoun residence and Dalquhurn was about 13.5 miles, from Dalquhurn to Dalmuir about 7.5 miles, and from Dalmuir back to Cowdon Hall about 7.5 miles. A direct trip from Cowdon Hall to Dalquhurn was, however, not practical. Ranges of steep-sloped hills lay between Cowdon Hall and the Clyde and the width and depth of the Clyde in the vicinity of Dumbarton would have made such a trip slow and arduous. The easiest route between Cowdon Hall and Dalquhurn was by way of Dalmuir.

Upon leaving the Coldoun residence adjacent to Neilston in Renfrewshire, the valley of the Lavern Water would have been a suitable route to travel north-eastward to the vicinity of present day Barrhead. There the traveller would have struck northward through some hills to the valley of the White Cart, near Paisley. At Paisley the White Cart would have been crossed to its east bank and then followed downstream to where it joined the Black Cart. At that point the traveller would have veered off to the right to reach a spot on the Clyde below the village of Renfrew where a ford would have been used to reach the north bank of the Clyde. The ford was only eighteen inches deep at low tide but from four to five feet deep at high tide. Obviously at low tide the river would have been easy to cross either on foot or on horse; at high tide a boat or raft would have been essential. After crossing the Clyde one would have gone northwestward along the river bank for about two miles to reach the Dalmuir property. On leaving Dalmuir, the north bank of the Clyde would have been followed downstream to the village of Dumbarton near the mouth of the Leven. The traveller would then proceed up the east bank of the Leven for about 2.5 miles, forded the stream to the west bank and the Dalquhurn residence was close at hand.

Even allowing for some minor deviations from the route just described, a one-way trip from Cowdon Hall to Dalquhurn would not have exceeded 20 miles. Provided one reached the Clyde in a period of low



tide, a trip by horseback between the two properties could have ranged from between three to five hours depending on the urgency of the trip.

The proprietors of Coldoun would have made frequent trips to Paisley and Glasgow. Paisley, a larger centre than tiny Neilston, would have been about 5.5 miles away going by the route used to travel from Cowdon Hall to Dalmuir. The distance from Dalquhurn to Glasgow would be close to sixteen miles.

While at the time, Glasgow was a small town, it was still the largest market town and a bishop’s headquarters. The construction of a cathedral began in 1124 and annual fairs began in the late 1100s. A wooden bridge across the Clyde is known to have existed in the late 1200s when the population of Glasgow was about 1300 people. A possible origin of the name “Glasgow” is said to be “green fields”.

Features of a Laird’s Life

The successive Sproules who held Dalquhurn, Dalmuir and Coldoun from the earls of Lennox were among those the Scots call “lairds”. Lairds were country gentlemen, the equivalent of those the English called squires. The amount of land held by a person was the chief yardstick by which one came to be called a laird.

In the period under review – from the late 1200s to the early 1600s – a laird was trained in the use of arms and customarily bore arms when beyond his own lands. The fact that they bore arms also lay behind their being granted coats of arms.  As a knight, a laird was required to support the lord from whom he held his lands in the latter’s quarrels, and in turn expected his lord’s support in his own feuds. In time of war, the laird would serve in a mounted unit commanded by his lord, or perhaps be put in command of a detachment of foot soldiers that might have been mainly composed of his own tenants if his estate was of some size. When his overlord died, the laird could expect that his lord’s heir would renew the laird’s land charters on the payment of a special charge. When the laird died, his heir would again pay a fee to the lord for the regranting of the land. The holder of a land charter could make arrangements to transfer a property to his heir during his own lifetime. This frequently happened when the heir was to be married or shortly thereafter. In such a case the father would often retain a “life-rent” for his own use. Annual rents payable to the overlord could also be a feature of holding property. In the case of an underage heir, the overlord had the right of wardship or could appoint someone as the guardian. Until the minor came of age, the guardian had control of the revenues of the property. The overlord or the appointed guardian also could arrange the marriage of the heir or heiress.

In relation to the amount of land he held, a laird would have a number of tenant farmers on his property. It was usual for a laird to have legal jurisdiction in cases involving his own tenants, sometimes just in civil disputes but at times in criminal cases as well.

The tenants usually paid their rent charges in kind. With the passage of time a number of the tenants on a laird’s estate would often be blood relations, they being younger sons or the descendants of his younger sons. Some of the relations would be the descendants of the laird’s ancestors. A network of blood relations linked by property arrangements could strengthen a laird’s position. Marriage alliances of a laird and his family could have significant implications. In addition to cultivating their own plots of land, a laird’s tenants would spend a portion of their time planting and harvesting the land the lord retained for his direct income. The field crops were oats, beir (a type of barley), hay, a little wheat, and flax in some areas. The poorer lands would be just sown to grain for a year or so and then were allowed to revert to pasture for several years. Ordinarily oxen were used in the preparation of the soil. Grain was broadcast by hand at seeding time. Sickles rather than scythes were used in harvesting.



Cattle and sheep would be driven to pasture and herded during the daylight hours as hedges and stone walls to protect crops were but slowly introduced in Scotland. At night the animals would be watched, tethered, or shut up to protect the crops. Toward the end of the medieval period, the black cattle of the lowlands found a market in England as did the wool of the sheep. Goats were kept by some people as a source of milk and as a source of skins. In certain areas timber was a source of revenue.

Mutton, beef, and a little pork from his animals would have featured in some meals. Farmyard fowl and a dove-cote would have added some variety. Further afield, grouse, hare, and partridge could be hunted, and fish and waterfowl could be obtained from the streams and lochs on a laird’s property. At one time red deer were plentiful in the lowlands but by the 1600s the cutting down of forests caused the retreat of the surviving deer to the greater security of Highland glens. Oatmeal porridge was an important staple and oatmeal flour would have been used in baking. Beir made very poor flour and wheat flour was considered a luxury. A limited range of vegetables as well as some herbs for medicinal purposes could be grown in a garden. An important beverage prior to the introduction of tea would have been the locally brewed ales, augmented by French wines for those who could afford them. Cows and goats would have furnished both milk and cheese. A small selection of fruits may have found seasonal usage. Honey was an important sweetener.

The quality of life enjoyed by the lairds varied considerably. In the 1600s:

“a rent roll of 500 pounds sterling was considered great wealth in Scotland, 50 pounds was common, and many ‘bonnet lairds’ supported their families on 20 pounds of rent and the produce of their own fields. These figures could be multiplied by ten to represent the corresponding grades of English squirarchy.”

A biographer of the author, Tobias Smollett, interpreted Smollett’s father’s income of 300 pounds per annum from the Dalquhurn property in the first half of the 1700s as an indication of hardship19. Whether the biographer’s assessment was accurate would be difficult to judge unless one knew the factors involved, particularly the effect of inflation. It would seem that the combined revenues of Dalquhurn, Dalmuir and Coldoun must have placed the income of the Sproule lairds of Coldoun considerably above the level of 500 pounds per annum. This conclusion recognizes the belief that much of the Coldoun property may have consisted of grazing lands which one would think would have lowered the rental income.

Almost all lairds, especially in the lowlands, could read and write, and until well into the 1500s this meant a mastery of Latin. Education acquired a higher priority in Scotland than in other countries of Europe. In 1496 an attempt was made to legislate that those with the status of a laird or higher must educate the eldest son of the family.

A laird’s social life would have involved those of similar status although it is said that there was more equality among the Scots than people of other countries. The church was the focal point of each community and during the Reformation in the mid-1500s and on to the end of the reign of James II, religion and politics frequently convulsed the national life of Scotland. After Presbyterianism prevailed in the lowlands, the moral behaviour of all came under close scrutiny. The affairs of each parish were usually dominated by the nobleman of the area. His wishes affected the choice of a new minister and his benefactions were quite important. At the purely local level the lairds of each parish had considerable direct or indirect influence on decisions.

The Sproules of Coldoun lived within the parish of Neilston and the village of Neilston was the site of the parish church. The old Presbyterian church of Neilston is situated a few hundred yards to the east of



the site of Cowdon Hall. Although the age of this church is uncertain, a portion of it may date to 1621, the year when Coldoun passed from Sproule hands. Prior to the Reformation whatever structure stood on the site would have been used by an exclusively Roman Catholic congregation.

The graveyard around the Presbyterian Church is said to have been the only burial ground in the parish prior to 1796 but this seems questionable*. As there were from eleven to fourteen lairds of Coldoun, it is likely that at least some of them were buried in Neilston. If so, any tombstones that may have been erected in their memory are not to be seen as they would all lie beneath the present surface of the ground.

Paisley in the neighbouring parish of the same name could also have been a burial spot for the Sproule lairds. Paisley was a somewhat important religious centre and it may have been more fitting or prestigious to have been buried there. There do not, however, seem to be any tombstones of the Sproule lairds in Paisley and the extant parish records of both Paisley and Neilston do not go back far enough to provide any information. There is a chance that the earliest of the Sproule lairds were buried in the vicinity of Dalquhurn. The chance that some of the lairds of Coldoun may have been buried in Glasgow has not been properly explored.

* Addendum: A source states that before the Reformation that there was a chapel a mile above and a chapel a mile below Neilston. No traces of the chapels remain. See: Sir John Sinclair, ed., The Statistical Account of Scotland 1791- 1799, Vol. VII, Lanarkshire and Renfrewshire, p. 806.



The MacFarlane Connection  The MacFarlane clan is an ancient one and they can trace their origins to the 12th century and the great castle in the southern highlands at Loch Sloy, Dumbarton, just north of the Clyde river estuary.  While the Spreulls were schenscals of the Earl of Lennox, they were also a sept of the wider MacFarlane clan.

Any account from that era tends to be hazy, but it seems the clan takes descent from a hero who arrived in Ireland with the first colonists from Spain, and whose descendants afterwards settled in Scotland. MacIan, who mentions this tradition, wisely concludes that it “must be classed among the Milesian Fables”. This tradition was amplified in a paper read by the Rev. J. MacFarlane Barrow at a meeting of the London branch of the Clan Society, and printed in the Clan MacFarlane Journal for January, 1914. Quoting from a MS. of the monks of Glenmassan, it was declared that in the veins of the MacFarlane’s ran “the blood of Earls, and not Earls only, if it came to that, but of Kings, for was not Alwyn Mor, 1st Earl of Lennox, the great-grandson of Mainey Leamna, the son of Corc, King of Munster, who was fifth in descent from Con of the Hundred Battles, King of Ireland?”

Moving from vague tradition, to more sustainable fact. It is recorded by the greatest of Scottish archaeologists, Chalmers, in his Caledonia, quoting from the twelfth-century Simeon of Durham, that the ancestor of the family was the Saxon Arkil, son of Egfrith. This Arkil, a Northumbrian chief who fled to Scotland to escape the devastations of William the Conqueror, received from Malcolm Canmore the custody of the Levanax, or Lennox district. Arkil thus became first founder of the family bearing that title. Alwyn, son of Arkil, was a frequent witness to the charters of Kings David I and Malcolm IV, Alwyn being created Earl of Lennox by the latter King. The Earldom of Lennox was centred around Loch Lomond, which in those days was called Loch Leven (and out of which the River Leven still flows) and derived its name from Levenauchan, meaning “the vale of Leven”, from which it evolved into Levenachs eventually becoming softened to Levanax and ultimately to Lennox.

The stronghold of the Lennox had been established at Balloch, on the south shore of Loch Lomond where the 1st Earl had built his formidable castle and from where Alwyn, his son, now controlled a vast area comprising the original sheriffdom of Dumbarton which consisted of the whole of the present day county plus a large portion of Stirlingshire and sizable parts of Perth and Renfrew.

The 1st Earl of Lennox’s son, Alwyn, was a minor at his father’s death. William the Lion therefore gave the earldom in ward to his brother David, Earl of Huntingdon, but the young Earl recovered possession before the year 1199. He certainly wasted no time in having a family himself and when Alwyn died in 1224, he left no fewer than eight sons. Of these, Malduin, the eldest, became 3rd Earl of Lennox, and Gilchrist, the fourth son, obtained from the latter in 1225 a charter of the lands of Arrochar, and became ancestor of the MacFarlanes. Along with Clan Donachy, the MacFarlane’s are said to have been the earliest of the clans to hold their lands by feudal charter. Like other vassals of the Earls of Lennox, the MacFarlane chiefs exercised their rights under the stipulation that all criminals condemned by them should be executed on the Earl’s gallows at Catter.

While the Lennox’s had established themselves in a major castle on the shores of Loch Lomond, there were times when even great castles could not save the clan from the onslaught of their adversaries.  The kingdom of Súðreyjar (“Southern Islands”), comprising the Inner and Outer Hebrides and Kintyre, and the kingdom of Man had been under the suzerainty of Norway since about 1100, its King’s being vassals of the King of Norway. Since the 1240s, the Scottish King Alexander II had been attempting to buy the islands from the Norwegian King Håkon Håkonsson, but he consistently refused. Alexander’s successor Alexander III continued this policy, but again King Håkon refused. In the summer of 1262 Scottish



forces under the Earl of Ross launched raids against the Isle of Skye. News of this reached the Norwegian King together with reports that the Scottish King was planning to conquer all the islands. Håkon responded by equipping a large conscripted landing fleet. According to Icelandic annals Håkon led “the biggest fleet ever to leave Norway”, which left Bergen for Scotland in July 1263. In the Hebrides, Håkon’s fleet linked up with the forces of King Magnus III of Man and King Dougal of the Hebrides. Historians estimate that the size of his fleet after this was probably over 120 ships, with a force of between 12,000 and 20,000 men. After establishing control of the Hebrides, King Håkon anchored his fleet by the Isle of Arran in the Firth of Clyde, where he was approached by envoys from the Scottish King, opening peace talks. The talks dragged on without producing results, and in the end Håkon broke off the talks, and sent the kings Magnus and Dougal with 40 ships up Loch Long and into Loch Lomond with a part of the fleet to loot. The main body of the fleet moved closer to the mainland, between the islands of Cumbrae and Largs.

During this campaign, a Norse fleet of some sixty vessels under the command of Olaf, King of Man, appeared without warning through the mist at the head of Loch Long. Led by Gilchrist himself undoubtedly with at least some of his knights which could have well included Walter Spreull, the men of Arrochar fought the invaders fiercely and bravely but suffered severe losses. Many clansmen, their womenfolk and children were killed in the battle that followed before most of the survivors retreated to the safety of Loch Sloy, though Gilchrist and his family remained within his fortified mansion.

Flushed with victory the Vikings ran their vessels ashore at the head of Loch Long and unshipped smaller boats which they then proceeded to drag across the narrow isthmus to the village of Tarbet where they launched them onto the calm waters of Loch Lomond. At the time of the attack, Walter Spreull (I), would probably have been in his mid sixties, and given his position as a knight with the Earl of Lennox was undoubtedly was permanently resident with the retinue of Malcolm the 4th Earl, at Balloch.

Many of the local inhabitants, both around the shore of Loch Lomond and on its many islands, imagining themselves immune from such raids were taken completely by surprise and suffered dire losses. Eventually the Earl’s men overcame their attackers and Walter Sproule must have proven sufficiently prominent to put him in the Earl’s good books and cemented once and for all the relationship between the Spreulls of Arrochar and the Earls of Lennox and it is indeed he who, in a deed dated 1294 is designed “Seneschal’s de Dumbarton” undoubtedly a reward for services rendered.

Many died in the raid on Arrochar, and the countryside around Loch Lomond which had so recently been a prosperous and populous district, studded with hamlets and farms, was reduced to smouldering ruins strewn with the bodies of dead and dying men, women and children the victims of the surprise attack. A Norwegian chronicler reported the dash and initiative of their men in glowing terms.

“The persevering shielded warriors of the throwers of the whizzing spear drew their boats across the broad isthmus. Our fearless troops, exactors of contributions, with flaming brands, wasted the populous islands in the lake, and the mansions around its winding bays.”

But retribution was at hand; or, as the Scots saw it, divine intervention, for even as the Vikings were loading their plunder onto the ships in Loch Long a sudden storm struck the area with hurricane force winds blowing up the Loch from the south-west. The Norsemen were fine and experienced seamen and no strangers to the perils and tempestuous conditions frequently to be experienced in the North Sea and around the treacherous northern and western coasts of the British Isles. But this was no ordinary storm. The hurricane raged without respite for three days and when eventually it subsided their fleet had been decimated. Ten ships had either sunk or been reduced to complete wrecks. Of the remainder none had



escaped serious damage and few, if any, were seaworthy. All had dragged their moorings and lay like beached and wounded whales on the steep sided shores of the Loch.

Exhausted by the ferocity of the storm and the excesses of the rape and pillage that had preceded it; harassed and harried by the guerrilla tactics of the surviving clansmen, the only wish of Olaf and his men was to get away from that wretched place as soon as possible. Emergency repairs were carried out with all haste and the surviving ships re-floated onto the by now calm waters of the Loch. From their vantage points in the hills above Arrochar the defeated MacFarlane’s watched as the once proud fleet limped down the loch towards the open sea, never to return.

In no fit state either to return to the sanctuary of the Isle of Man or to pursue further their aggressive intentions in the Clyde, the Viking fleet first sailed south to the Mull of Kintyre then slowly northwards through the sound of Jura eventually to find a safe haven both from the weather and the natives in the sheltered waters of Horseshoe Bay on the east side of the almost uninhabited island of Kerrera. There for several weeks they made good their repairs with timber and supplies looted either from the island or from the heavily wooded area of the mainland just south of Oban. Then, with confidence born of many years of complete dominance of the area, the Norsemen, their ships now seaworthy once more, returned to the prosperous region of the Clyde estuary there to continue the raiding activities which the Scottish weather had so violently and rudely interrupted.

Meanwhile the Scottish King Alexander III had not been idle. Soldiery had been mustered and lookouts posted all along the west coast from Oban to the Clyde. Though reduced in numbers, the still formidable Norse fleet had got no further than Largs when they were driven ashore by another “sou-wester” and there Alexander’s men were waiting for them. In the battle that ensued the Scots won a decisive victory which marked the end of the Vikings’ long domination of western Scotland and the Hebrides culminating in the treaty signed at Perth three years later between King Alexander and the aged King Hakon of Norway.





The First Spreulls  The first known reference to a Spreull is that of Walter, whose name first appears as a witness to a grant of land by Maldouen, 3rd Earl of Lennox in about the year 1245, suggesting that Walter was born in approximately 1220.  (Walter I, hereafter the Walters will be given numbers to lessen confusion).  A brief overview of the first generations of the Spreulls is as follows:

Walter (I) (1230? – 1306) obtained charters for Dalquhurn and Dalmuir; seneschal of Malcolm, 5th Earl of Lennox. He signed the Ragman Rolls of 1296. Was granted first Spreul Coat of Arms by King Robert I (1274-1329): a hunting horn and three roses.

Walter (II) (1265 – 1330) possibly the first Spreule to acquire Coldoun, called to Parliament.

Walter (III) (1283-1358) Fought at Bannockburn in 1314


Walter (IV) lived in Cowden, he also may have had a brother or cousin Thomas who was a man at arms and archer to Sir Thomas Raclin in 1366 and Governor of Edinburgh Castle in 1368.


Walter (V) (1310 – 1370) his efforts to collect to pay the ransom in order to free the kidnapped King David II from the English resulted in his being granted a new coat of arms (three purses and a chequered fesse).

Walter (VI) (1380s d. 1448-49), first mentioned in 1421

Thomas (1411 – 1503), earliest extant record is 1440

Robert (1430s – 1488-89), wife Margaret Bruis (Bruce) – he may have been married twice – possibly killed in battle, he predeceased his father.

  1. John (1459 – 1513) – killed at battle of Flodden, wife Elizabeth Blair

1.1. John (1490 – 1528), wife Elizabeth Semple.

1.1.1. Thomas (1522 – 1580s), a convert to Presbyterianism, frequently in difficulty. John (1540s – 1618), MP, Provost of Renfrew in 1590. 1st wife, Margaret Colquhoun; 2nd wife a Denniston? Or a Margaret Wilson? James (1560s – 1628 or after), sold Coldoun in 1621, wife Agnes Kelso James (1590s – ?) Margaret (1590s died after 1667), her second husband was John Denniston of Colgrain – they acquired Dalquhurn and had a son Archibald Denniston, (1619 – 1679), he was the Minister of Campsie. John (1560s? alive in 1622) Member of Parliament, Town Clerk of Glasgow, married in 1662 Agnes Allison in Glasgow High Church Walter, a writer (e.g. lawyer)

The following branch of the family was not in the work produced by Fred Sproule, however seems to be oft enough repeated in various family trees to warrant being included.

25 Thomas, received new charter of lands of Dalmure and Dalquherne in 1559 John (1607 – 1685), Bailey of Paisley, married in 1642 Janet Alexander (-1690) James (1643-), surgeon “Bass” John (1646 – 1732), married Margaret Wingate Alexander Thomas (-1676) Lilas (-1683) married Thomas Reid Catherine, married John Buchanan

  1. Mr. John Spreule, Canon of Glasgow
  2. Robert, had issue
  3. Jonet married Lord Gabriel Semple



Walter Spreull I (1230? – 1306?) The name Walter which means “mighty warrior” seems to have been borne by all the Spreull lairds of Coldoun from the time of the first extant records of the last part of the 1200s to the early 1400s. The continual use of the name suggests that the Scottish custom of naming the eldest son after his paternal grandfather was being followed. One problem that has arisen is that the information that has survived does not always make it clear as to which Walter Spreull is the subject of the record. Nor are younger sons or daughters recorded.

The few early Spreull land charters which have survived are lacking in dates, as are the early Lennox land charters to which a Spreull is a witness. Early documents which involved either the 4th Earl of Lennox or the 5th Earl of Lennox are difficult to distinguish as both earls bore the name of Malcolm and without dates mistakes can be made. If one could learn more about the witnesses to such transactions, some of the dating problems would be narrowed down or possibly resolved.

In trying to distinguish between the first two Walter Spreul’s and to suggest their life spans and that of their successors, dates that are estimated have been reached on the basis-of a reasonable lifespan, the age of majority, internal evidence in certain documents, and the opinions presented in some secondary accounts prepared by some writers of the 1700s and after.

Unfortunately certain charters referred to by earlier writers seem to have suffered destruction or their present whereabouts are unknown. The contents of many charters now survive only in highly summarized form and one must hope that such summaries accurately portray the essential points of the originals.

A book that carries many reproductions of Lennox charters clearly states that Walter Spreull* was among the witnesses to a land charter granted by Maldouen, the 3rd Earl of Lennox, to one William Galbraith20. The charter was undated but it is generally held that Maldouen succeeded to the earldom in 1249 and died in 1270. Thus is seems sensible to assume that Maldouen granted the charter about the midway point in his earldom, i.e., 1260. If Walter Spreull witnessed the document as a young man, he could have been born about 1230. On the premise that the above Walter Spreull was gradually rising in the favour of the Lennox earls, it is suggested that it was the same Walter Spreull who received two grants of land around 1280 from Maldouens’s successor and grandson, Malcolm, the 4th Earl of Lennox. One charter was for the Dalquhurn property and the other was for the Dalmuir property. Both charters were written in Latin but were put into print form in the early 1800s.

The first part of the Dalquhurn (Dalchorne) charter reads as follows:

“Carta terre de Dalchorne Waltero Sprewl.

Omnibus hanc cartam vifuris vel audituris Malcolmus comes de Levenax falutem in Domino. Noverit univerfitas veftra, me dediffe conceffiffe et hac prefenti carte mea confirmaffe, Waltero Sprewl dilecto meo, totam terram meam de Dalchorne cum omnibus rectis divifis fuis, per quas a tempore impetrationis noftre illam terram ufque nunc tenuit, pro homagio et fervitio fuo: Tenendam et habendam eidem Waltero at heredibus fuis de me et heredibus meis, in feodo et hereditate, libere quiete plenarie et honorifice…”21

* The spelling in the secondary source is “Sprewl.”



As the witnesses to the charter may eventually help determine a more precise date for the charter, their names were as follows:

“Hiis teftibus, domino Duncano filio Amelech, domino Willielmo Olifarde, domino Willielmo Flandrenfe do Barruchane, militibus, domino Ricardo Setone rectore ecclefie de Kynherine, domino Ada Setone capellano fratre fuo, Duncano filio Patricia Maledolf, Willielmo Flandrenfe burgenfe de Dunbretane, Willielmo de Galwidia ferviente meo, Johanna de Arret clerico, et multis aliis”.22

It should be pointed out that Walter Spreull received Dalquhurn directly from Earl Malcolm and not as the heir of a Spreull, e.g., his father. Lacking evidence to the contrary the above charter was the original grant of Dalquhurn to a Spreull.

It would seem that the Walter Spreull who received Dalquhurn was the same man who received Dalmuir, possibly on the very same day and recorded on the same piece of sheepskin. The introduction to the Dalmuir charter reads, “Carta terre Dalmore eidem Waltero”. The word “eidem” means “the same”. The next few lines of the charter read as follows:

“Sciant prefentes et futuri, quod ego Malcolmus comes de Levenax dedi et conceffii et hac prefenti carta mea confirmavi, Waltero Sprewl et heredibus fuis, totam terram mean de Dalmore pro homagio et fervito fuo, quam terram Rogerus de Dundener mihi per fuftum et baculum refignavit”23

A significant feature of the above extract is that Dalmuir was previously held by Roger of Dundener (Dundottar?), the son and heir of Richard of Dundener. Roger’s resignation of the Dalmuir property cleared the way for Earl Malcolm to convey it to Walter Spreull. In consequence, one would conclude that the above charter was the original grant of Dalmuir to a Spreull.

In the printed reproduction of the Dalmuir charter, the names of the witnesses are not given. This is taken to mean that the witnesses were the same as in the Dalquhurn charter and that the editor of the printed version felt it was not essential to provide their names again.

George Black, the author of “The Surnames of Scotland”, states that a Dalmuir charter was granted about 128024. Alexander Nisbet, author of “A System of Heraldry”, states that Dalmuir was granted to a Spreull during the reign of Alexander III, the King of Scotland from 1239 to 128625. These writers are not presented as experts on dates, but if they reached their conclusions independently, Black’s date of about 1280 for Dalmuir seems acceptable, and would also apply to Dalquhurn.

A “Waltero Sprawl”, again presumably the Walter of the previous paragraphs, witnessed a Lennox charter granted to Arthuro Galbraith which Black dates as about 1290.26 If the date of 1290 is quite accurate, the Galbraith charter would have been issued by Malcolm, the 4th Earl of Lennox who died in 1292. Another Lennox charter granted to Galbraith seems to have been issued at the same time as six of the listed27 witnesses are the very same. One additional witness is listed in the second charter. If more information could be found about the witnesses, the dating of the Dalquhurn and Dalmuir charters could possibly be more accurately established.

Malcolm, the 4th Earl of Lennox, who died in 1292 was of the group of “Seven Earls” who favoured the claim of the elderly Robert de Bruce. In this matter Walter Spreull by feudal custom would have supported his overlord, the Earl of Lennox. Malcolm, the 5th Earl of Lennox eventually emerged as perhaps the most steadfast supporter of the Bruce cause. He succeeded to the earldom in 1292.



Malcolm, the 5th Earl of Lennox, succeeded to his father of the same name in 1292. He became involved in a property quarrel with the monks of the Abbey of Paisley in Renfrewshire. In a church document dated 22 August 1294, Robert, the Bishop of Glasgow, threatened the 5th Earl and his seneschal, “Walterum Spruul”, with excommunication unless the quarrel was terminated28. Elsewhere in the same document Walter Spreull is referred to as the Earl’s “bailivi” (bailie). Perhaps the person who drew up the document regarded the post of seneschal and bailie as synonymous or perhaps for a time Spreull was performing the functions of both offices. The title “seneschal”, however, is regarded as being the correct identification of Spreulls position as he is so identified in other documents.

A seneschal’s duties included representing his lord in court cases, administering justice and managing the economic affairs of his lord’s estate. To carry out such duties, the seneschal would tour his lord’s properties at least three times a year. As at this time the earls of Lennox held practically all of Dunbartonshire, much of Stirlingshire, lands in Lanarkshire, and all, or practically all, of what later became Renfrewshire, Walter Spreull had a time-consuming position. To carry out his duties, Spreull must have been able to read and write in Latin, had ability in arithmetic, knowledge of the law, and in general had personal qualities that satisfied the 5th Earl. It is possible that Spreull became seneschal at the beginning of the 5th Earl’s coming into the earldom in 1292. If so, it is suggested that Spreull was in his early 50s when he became seneschal and at the time the 5th Earl was aged around 29.

One could surmise that this Walter Spreull had a command of Norman French as in this period of time the nobility of the lowlands and the royal court used that language. Knowledge of the language would have been very useful if not essential for Spreull to fulfil his duties as seneschal. If Spreull was fluent in Norman French, it raises the possibility that he could have been wholly or partially of Norman descent.

Walter Spreull and the Ragman Rolls

Duncan, the second MacFarlane Chief, further strengthened the bonds between his family and the Earls of Lennox by marrying Matilda, the daughter of his cousin Malcolm, the 4th Earl, to whom he remained a loyal ally and, indeed, a gallant and indomitable defender of his nation’s independence. However, along with most of the nobles of his country he was eventually compelled to submit to King Edward I of England and his name is to be found on the infamous Bond of Submission known as the “Ragman Roll”, designated as “Duncanus filius Gilchrise de Levenax, anno 1296”. His cousin, Earl Malcolm, had also bowed to the irresistible pressure from the English King and put his name to the same document. With his name also appears that of two Spreull signatures, once as Senescalli del counte de Lanark and once as Senescalli del counte de Dunbretan. More about all of this later.

These were particularly turbulent and traumatic years for Scotland and, no less so for Walter Spreull, the seneschal for Malcolm the 4th Earl, was actively involved in the public and political affairs of the time. He was present in the parliament of 1284 which gave its consent to the right of Princess Margaret of Norway, the grand-daughter of Alexander III to succeed to the crown of Scotland, and again in 1290 at Birgham when consent was given to her marriage to Prince Edward of England. How might the course of history have been changed and what bloodshed spared had this union of the crowns taken place? But it was not to be, for in that same year Queen Margaret, as she now was, after suffering chronic sea-sickness during the voyage through the treacherous waters of the North Sea, eventually succumbed soon after setting foot on Orkney. For the next two years following Queen Margaret’s death Scotland was without a monarch and the Lennox was one of the nobles who, fearing conflict between the thirteen claimants to the throne, petitioned King Edward to nominate a successor to the young queen. In 1292 King Edward I of England awarded the throne of Scotland to John de Balliol. For a time King John was subservient to Edward I but when Edward ordered him to assist England in a war with France in 1295, a group of Scottish nobles



persuaded King John to break with the English King and to enter an alliance with France. King Edward’s initial response was to seize certain lands which the Scottish King held in England. King John reacted by expelling certain individuals from Scotland who held lands in England, among them being the son and grandson of his former rival Robert de Bruce who had died in 1295. Both the Bruce’s now offered their services to Edward I, confident that he would restore their Scottish lands which King John had turned over to his nephew, John Comyn. By this time Walter Spreul had become seneschal and would have no doubt accompanied his Earl to the coronation at Scone.

However, Balliol proved to be no English puppet and following a humiliating visit to London in 1294, when Edward had demanded that he, and many Scottish Earls, should do military service for England against the French, he instead proceeded to negotiate a treaty with King Philip of France against the English. Returning immediately from his campaign in France, Edward marched his army northwards once more. Having first sacked Berwick, an obligatory gesture by whichever side did not at that time occupy that most unfortunate town, he marched on Dunbar and there defeated the Scottish army and took John Balliol prisoner. The “Ragman Roll” of 1296 was the inevitable consequence of this latest manifestation of Scottish insubordination.

Given the importance of these documents, and the fact that they were signed by twice by a Spreull, it is worth going into the history of the Ragman Rolls.  The Ragman Rolls is the name given to two documents that Scottish nobles pledging allegiance to Edward I, the shorter was signed in 1291, and the longer in 1296, the later document having the Spreuls as signatories.

When King Alexander III died in 1286 while crossing the river Forth to Fife at Queensferry, he was succeeded by Queen Margaret, the “Maid of Norway” (Alexander’s granddaughter and daughter of King Erik II of Norway), but with Margaret’s death there emerged by 1291, a number of claimants to the Scottish throne and King Edward I of England “volunteered” to hear their case and decide who had the most valid claim. Those involved met Edward at Norham on Tweed in 1291. Edward insisted on all the nobles signing an oath of loyalty to him.  Some declined but many signed what was the first (and smaller) of the “Ragman Rolls”.

When Balliol began to resist the demands of Edward in 1296, the English King over-ran Berwick-uponTweed and defeated the Scots at the Battle of Dunbar. He then marched across Scotland as far as the Moray Firth, capturing castles and removing such precious items as the Stone of Destiny29, the Scottish crown, the Black Rood of St. Margaret (believed at the time to be remnants of the true Cross) and huge archives of Scotland’s national records.

On 28 August 1296, Edward held a “parliament” at Berwick. Over 2000 prominent Scottish landowners, churchmen and burgesses were summoned to swear allegiance to Edward and sign the parchments and affix their seals, many of which had ribbons attached. In addition to such prominent people as Robert Bruce, 6th Lord of Annandale, his son, the 2nd Earl of Carrick and William Wallace’s uncle, Sir Reginald de Crauford, 2,000 signatures were inscribed, making it the most complete set records for Scottish nobility.

It is suggested that the term “Ragman Rolls” derived from the ribbons attached to the seals on the parchments but the name may also have been derived from an earlier record compiled for the purposes of Papal taxation by a man called Ragimunde, whose name was corrupted to Ragman.  In any case the name survives today in the word ‘rigmarole’, a rambling incoherent statement.

The list of names is based on those published by the “Bannatyne Club” in Edinburgh in 1834 and includes Walter Spreull who was obliged to take the pledge twice, once as a landholder in



Dunbartonshire30 and once as a landholder in Lanarkshire31. The Dunbartonshire entry would have covered Spreulls lands of Daiquhurn and Dalmuir. The Lanarkshire entry could very well have covered the lands of Coldoun adjacent to Neilston which at this time was in Lanarkshire. Renfrewshire did not come into existence until the late 1300s. The Lanarkshire entry reads “Walter Sproul” whereas the Dunbartonshire entry reads “Wautier Sproule”. The latter entry is the first time the S-p-r-o-u-l-e spelling appears in an extant record. Those whose names were entered in the Ragman Rolls had wax impressions made of their seals. The wax impressions were pressed on ribbons and then attached at the appropriate places on the parchments. Walter Spreull’s seal is described as follows:

“Shield shape, a shield with a hunting horn stringed between 3 roses; S “Walteri Sprevl”32

The letter “s” before his name may mean that Spreull signed his own name which would bear out the previous assumption that a person holding the post of seneschal would be literate. The letter “v” in the spelling of his surname is the Latin equivalent of our letter “u”. The seal described above is the earliest Spreull seal that can be authenticated.

It would appear; however, that quite apart from the unwanted attentions and demands of the English King, the job of seneschal to the Lennox could be onerous.  In 1294 Walter Spreull was threatened with excommunication on the Earl’s account and in the same year he was further inhibited by Robert, Bishop of Glasgow, from making any new claims to lands belonging to the monks of Paisley, his erstwhile mentors, and from attempting to extend his jurisdiction over their lands in the civil courts. But there were rewards too. From Earl Malcolm, the 5th Earl, he received, in 1306, a charter of the lands of Dalquhern in Dumbarton “pro homagio et suo servitio” and in this charter Walter Spreull is designed, for the first time, as “of Cowden”, the estate in Renfrew which was to remain the family seat until 1622.  Walter Spreull was also granted Armorial Bearings (registered with the Lord Lyon in Scotland) by King Robert I.

As we have seen, Earl Malcolm and Walter Spreull put their signatures to the Bond of Submission, as had almost all of the nobles and landowners in Scotland, and having done so soon found themselves ordered by King Edward to take up arms against a growing army of pro-Balliol insurgents under the inspired leadership of the charismatic William Wallace.

The Wallace property, near Elderslie, lies about four miles north-north-west of the Coldoun property beside Neilston. One can speculate that Walter Spreull the seneschal of Malcolm, the 5th Earl of Lennox knew Wallace prior to the revolt. After an initial hesitation, the 5th Earl of Lennox was among the first of the nobility to resort to arms. He and some other Scottish nobles gathered their vassals together and invaded and plundered “Northumberland and Cumberland and laid siege to Carlisle” in 129733. Walter Spreull as a vassal and as the seneschal of the 5th Earl was probably among the raiders.

Taking up arms against Wallace was stretching fealty to breaking point and on the battlefield of Stirling Bridge on 11th September 1297, the Earl of Lennox, with many others of his countrymen, including Robert the Bruce, deserted to Wallace and the day was won for Scotland. Wallace, who had courageously refused to put his name to the “Ragman Roll”, had, in the spring of that year taken it upon himself to organise the supporters of King John Balliol and raise an army to free his country from English domination once and for all. Success followed success and he soon controlled much of the country. The following year he was knighted and was elected by the nobles, including the Lennox, to be the guardian or governor of Scotland. But Earl Malcolm was beginning to feel his age, and having done his stuff at Stirling he returned to Balloch, there to receive frequent reports of Wallace’s progress, and inevitably, his subsequent defeat at Falkirk. By the time of his death in 1303, most of Scotland was once again under English domination, and Wallace himself, having unsuccessfully sought help from France, Norway, and



even the Pope, was back in Scotland with a price on his head. As the hunt for him intensified he decided to seek sanctuary in the wilds of MacFarlane country where he knew he would be with loyal friends but on the 3rd August 1305 he was apprehended at Robroyston near Glasgow and taken prisoner to London, there to be tried for treason. When charged, Wallace replied “I cannot be a traitor since I never swore fealty to the English King” a logical enough defence, but one which failed to save his life.

Most of the Scottish nobility hesitated to rally to Wallace, one reason being that they would not serve under a person whose status was just a minor laird. Wallace, soon officially styled the “Guardian of Scotland”, stood for the return of John de Balliol to the throne*, something that many Scots opposed. The Bruce family faced the problem that it stood to lose its Scottish lands if Balliol was restored. By the time of the Battle of Stirling in September, 1297, the Earl of Lennox had withdrawn his support of Wallace and prior to the battle tried to act as a mediator on behalf of the English. At a later date Lennox again supported Wallace.

In 1298, Edward I of England, freed from his war with France, invaded Scotland and won a victory at Falkirk. In December of 1298 a triumvirate that included the young Robert Bruce and John Comyn, Balliol’s nephew took over the guardian role of Wallace and entered a period of uneasy cooperation with the English. In 1302 Bruce again swore fealty to Edward I, supposedly on the insistence of his dying father. The young Bruce must have also feared that at this time a Scottish victory would have favoured John Comyn’s ambition of becoming King. In 1304 Bruce’s father finally died and from then on the young Bruce was freed of family restraints in dealing with the English and with his rival, Comyn.

In 1304 the supporters of William Wallace were obliged to submit and Wallace went into hiding. In the summer of 1305 he was betrayed and captured. He was taken to London and put to death in August of that year. His betrayer, John do Monteith, the sheriff of Dumbarton, was rewarded by Edward I by being made sheriff for life and by being given the earldom of Lennox. Obviously, Malcolm, the 5th Earl of Lennox was being punished for his support of Wallace and in addition to losing his title would have lost his lands as well. It may be assumed that Walter Spreull as a loyal vassal to Lennox would also have had to forfeit his three properties. It would be certain that when Lennox lost his lands that Spreull’s post as seneschal ceased to exist.

It would seem that Walter Spreull lost his post of seneschal and probably his lands at a date in the latter half of 1305. He could, of course, have ended his service at a different time because of advancing age or injuries received in battle. In two undated Lennox charters he is one of several witnesses. In the one charter he is identified as “Waltero Sprewl tune temporis fenefchallo noftro” and in the other document as “Waltero Sprewl tune fenefchallo noftro”34. Strictly speaking the Latin word “tune” means “then” but in this case the word may more properly mean “former”. A particularly good reason for identifying Spreull as the former seneschal could be to avoid confusing him with his son of the same name who may have been the current seneschal. The issuance of the above two charters could have taken place following the interesting developments of early 1306.

In February 1306, Robert Bruce met his rival John Comyn for a conference. The meeting, held in a church, ended in a violent quarrel and Bruce killed Comyn. The sacrilege of killing a person in a church really meant that if Bruce wished to survive, he must do so by force of arms, and what better way than as King of Scotland!

* John Balliol had been set free by King Edward and he retired to Normandy where he died in 1315.



Bruce was crowned King at Scone on 27 March 1306. Among those present for the coronation was Malcolm, the recently ousted 5th Earl of Lennox. Perhaps Walter Spreull was also in attendance. It may be assumed that one of the first acts of Robert I (Robert the Bruce) would have been to reinstate Malcolm as the rightful earl of Lennox and to declare his lands restored. If Walter Spreull had also lost his properties, one of the first acts of Lennox could have been to restore him his lands. If by this time Walter had died, a straight forward action would have been to grant the lands to Walter’s heir, a son of the same name.

In the same year, 1306, a fateful meeting took place between Malcolm, the 5th Earl, and the newly crowned King Robert the Bruce. Following his defeat at the battle of Methren, the King and his followers had taken to the hills meaning to take refuge with friends in Kintyre. Their subsequent adventures are documented by John Barbour, the Scottish poet and historian, writing some sixty years after the event.

“While hunting on the hills of Arrochar they were joined by Malcolm, Earl of Lennox, who, under every reverse, remained true to Bruce, and who, to protect himself from the English, had been compelled to seek shelter in the fortress of his earldom. The Earl had not seen the King since his defeat at Methren, and having learned nothing concerning him, had been apprehensive that, exposed as he was to so many dangers, he had probably gone the way of all the earth. At the very time that Bruce and his companions were engaged in the chase, Lennox happened to be similarly occupied in the neighbourhood. Having heard the sound of the King’s hunting horn, he was struck with surprise, and on making enquiries, discovered who the illustrious strangers were, upon which, along with his attendants, he hastened to the spot where the sound proceeded, and found his beloved sovereign. The joy of the monarch and of his faithful subject, who had not seen each other for a protracted period, at this unexpected meeting may be imagined. Lennox fell upon his royal master’s arms and, big with emotion, burst into tears, while Bruce not less deeply moved, tenderly clasped his arms around the Earl, and spoke to him in encouraging and hopeful words. All the lords of Bruce’s party present, gladdened at meeting with Lennox and his friends, gave demonstration of their warm affection towards them, the more so that friends now met, who not only had not seen each other for many a day, but who even ignorant of each other’s safety. This natural burst of joy, mingled with sadness having subsided the Earl did not fail to observe the wretched plight to which his sovereign and his followers were reduced; and delighted that he had now an opportunity of giving substantial proof of his loyalty, he quickly conducted them to a secure retreat where they were provided with an abundant repast, such as they had not for a long time enjoyed. All having partaken heartily of the repast, the King rose up and, with all the fervour of his heart, thanked the Earl for his generous hospitality, and expressed the joy which this unexpected meeting had, under the circumstances, caused to them all. At the request of Bruce, Lennox and his friends related their perilous adventures and hardships in their efforts to escape capture by the English. This relation touched the chords of sympathy in Bruce’s heart and, in his turn he rehearsed the dangers, toils and troubles through which he himself had passed since he had last seen them. The tempest tossed warriors, having thus recounted their respective adventures, behoved now to part; for Arrochar, though the territories of the Earl of Lennox and his cousins the MacFarlanes, could not at that time have afforded a secure asylum for Bruce. To have prolonged his stay in a district adjoining that of Argyll, where were powerful families, all friends of the Comyns, and all at the service of the Lord of Lom, who had complete control of the roads and passes, would have been dangerous and, besides, many of the Earl’s vassals, in the hope of reward, were ready, should the opportunity offer, to violate their allegiance by arresting the King and delivering him up to the English. Accordingly, Bruce having reminded the Earl that time being urgent, he must hasten to Kintyre; and having entreated Lennox to follow speedily, with such a number of men as he could collect in his earldom on the spur of the moment, bade



him farewell, and passed forward to Kintyre. The magnanimous Earl made haste to join his royal master, but in passing down the Firth of Clyde with his men he was pursued by some galley manned by a hostile party of the district, from which he escaped only by lightening the galley in which he was conducted to enable it to sail the faster.”

Although by some inexplicable oversight, Barbour makes no mention in his narrative of Walter Spreull, there can be no doubt that he would have been at his Earl’s side on that day in the hills above Arrochar. Moreover he obviously created a good impression upon the King, for two years later his name is to be found as a witness to a charter by Robert the Bruce himself dated 28th September 1308.





Walter Spreull II (1265? – 1330s?)  Three secondary sources make the point that one Walter Spreull received a charter or charters for his lands near the beginning of the reign of Robert Bruce (1306). The question is whether the issuance of a charter or charters was required to reaffirm that the “first” Walter Spreull was again legally in possession of lost lands or was it his heir, the “second” Walter Spreull who was the recipient of the grant(s)? Three secondary accounts provide varying information as to what happened. These sources may be quoted and reviewed as follows:

Source 1: “In the reign of Robert Bruce, another Walter Sprewel., seneschals de Dumbarton, obtained a charter of the same lands”.35

The above quotation states that another Spreull was involved and the passage apparently refers to Dalquhurn and Dalmuir in Dunbartonshire. It is not understood on what grounds the writer described this Spreull as the seneschal of “Dumbarton”. Possibly the word “Dumbarton” was then regarded as synonymous with all the lands of the earls of Lennox. One can also wonder if the actual original document stated that this Spreull held the post of seneschal, or if this was an assumption made by the writer. No other source supports this point that the “second” Walter Spreull also held the position although it is not illogical that he may have done so.

Source 2: “Walter Spreull, in 1306, obtained a charter of the lands of Dalquherne and Dalmure from Malcolm, Earl of Lennox, and is described therein as of Coldoun”.36

The above source speaks rather authoritatively by giving the date, naming the two Dunbartonshire properties, and stating that Coldoun was the Spreull residence or seat. It should be emphasized that this is the only reference found so far which states that the Coldoun property was in Spreull hands in 1306 if not earlier. It is unfortunate that the writer of the above did not provide further details that would have added authenticity to his remarks. Coldoun will be covered more fully in the next chapter.

Source 3: “For his homage and service he obtained in the beginning of the reign of Robert I another charter for Dalquhen”.37

The above secondary source has a somewhat independent ring to it in that it just mentions the Dalquhurn property. One would think that if this writer’s source of information had mentioned Dalmuir and Coldoun that such information would have been included.

The discrepancies in the three accounts could mean that at one time there were about four 1306 charters in existence. One or two of them may have dealt with the return of the Spreull properties to the “first” Walter and the others with the granting of the lands to his heir, the “second” Walter Spreull. Whatever the answer may be, it appears that the original charter of 1306 is no longer in existence or that its’ whereabouts is unknown. It seems likely that a “second” Walter Spreull obtained the three properties at a date in 1306.

On 19 June 1306, Bruce suffered defeat at the hands of a force of Edward I of England. Bruce sought refuge in south-west Scotland and then went into hiding on the island of Rathlin off the north-east coast of Ireland. One author states:

“Only toward the south-west was there any gleam of hope. The earl of Lennox was loyal and the men of Lennox were loyal to their earl”.38



On 28 September 1308, in the third year of his reign, King Robert I granted Malcolm, the 5th Earl of Lennox, the right to confer certain privileges unto Sir John Colquhoun of Luss. “Walter Spreuil” was a witness to this charter which was signed on the island of “Sancti Colmoci”39. Sancti Colmoci was the name then used for Iona, a small island off the south-west shore of Mull. Historians seem to have failed to notice this charter, but its information makes a small contribution as to the whereabouts of Bruce when his fortunes were very low. He was likely on Iona to be closer in making a comeback attempt. The island would have provided security and his presence there may have been for religious purposes. This charter proves that Walter Spreull, presumably the “second” one, was sharing the fortunes of his King.

Edward I, the “Hammer of the Scots” was preparing to invade Scotland in force when he fell ill and died in July 1307. His son, Edward II (r.1307 – l327), was not the equal of his father and after a breathing spell, Robert the Bruce was able to one by one to capture the English strongholds in Scotland.

In 1309, Robert the Bruce captured the castle of Dumbarton Rock through “stratagem”. Walter Spreull would have been quite knowledgeable about Dumbarton Rock as his Dalquhurn property lay close at hand. Perhaps he made a contribution to its capture. In the same year an English force made an incursion into Renfrewshire and one could wonder if Spreull’s Coldoun property was pillaged.

The Battle of Bannockburn 1314

Walter the seneschal was succeeded at Cowden by his elder son, yet another Walter, who is said to have held the property for many years. Indeed he is noted, in 1366, as having paid a contribution to the Barony of Glasgow. So he would have been still a young man in 1314 when he fought under the banner of the Lennox at Bannockburn, as did a sizable contingent of MacFarlanes. Walter being amongst those Lennox knights praised for their valour by Robert the Bruce after the victorious battle.

Possible he also attended Bruce’s first parliament at Ayr in the following year, for the Spreulls, though no longer in the immediate retinue of the Earls of Lennox nevertheless remained their feudal vassals. Their fortunes reflected those of their lords and masters provided they toed the party line.

Following Robert Bruce’s victory at Bannockburn, Scotland enjoyed a period of relative stability, almost tranquillity, though technically still at war with England. But Edward II no longer had any stomach for the fight and for the most part remained discretely south of the border. In April 1320 Earl Malcolm was one of those who affixed their seals to a letter to Pope John XXII claiming and affirming the independence of Scotland and pleading with him that he should recognise Robert Bruce as King. This he subsequently did, but England nevertheless maintained her claim as overlord of the country.

But England soon had its own problems and in 1327, in a plot hatched by Edward’s queen Isabella and her lover, Roger Mortimer, the King was brutally done to death in Berkeley Castle. No tears were shed in Scotland, but when Prince Edward, a youth of fourteen, was crowned at Westminster seated upon Scotland’s own stone of destiny, her people were increasingly enraged and resentful.

In the same year Walter, the High Stewart of Scotland died. The husband of Marjorie, Robert Bruce’s daughter, he had been a staunch ally and firm friend of the King and his death was a cruel blow to Bruce who was himself already ailing, exhausted by the burden he had taken upon himself. In April 1329, though in considerable pain and distress he went on a pilgrimage to the shrine of St. Ninian in Galloway and within two months he was dead.

The death of Robert Bruce immediately precipitated a new power struggle in Scotland. With the support of most Scots, including the Lennox and therefore, perforce, the Spreulls, his five year old son David was proclaimed King with Archibald Douglas appointed as regent. But Edward Balliol, John’s son, with



considerable backing and encouragement from the young King Edward III, plus a number of disaffected barons who had been displaced by Bruce, now claimed the Scottish crown for himself. The dispute eventually came to a head at Halidon Hill, near Berwick in July 1333 when an English army with Balliol himself at its head defeated the Scots. Fighting under the Lennox banner on that day was Thomas Spreull of Cowden, a younger son of Walter the Seneschal. In the battle both Archibald Douglas and Earl Malcolm lost their lives but the Spreulls were lucky and Thomas not only survived Halidon but two years later is recorded as being among the garrison holding Edinburgh Castle for the English, being described as “an esquire”. Possibly because he could read and write he was put to work by the invaders, but he must have found the work reasonably congenial for he was still there some 40 years later being mentioned in the Exchequer Rolls for 1369 and 1372 as “receiver of stores for the castle of Edinburgh” which in 1341 had been regained for the Scots under Robert Stewart.

Earl Malcolm was succeeded by his son Duncan, the 6th Earl. He continued to support King David who, after Halidon, was taken first to Dumbarton, thence to France, where he remained the guest of the French King for the next eight years. With him during his exile was his child bride, Joanna, the sister of Edward III. In 1341 David returned to Scotland to take into his own hands the administration of his realm. Balliol, driven from his homeland by his own people, had become increasingly dependent upon and subservient to the English King, and eventually surrendered his kingdom to Edward in return for a pension of £2000. But by 1339 Edward had turned his attention to France and the 100 years war had begun.

At Cowden Hall life continued relatively peacefully. But under increasing pressure from the English, King Philip of France urged his Scottish Ally to open a second front against the common enemy and in 1346, the year of Crecy, David lead his army into England. The campaign proved to be disastrous and eventually extremely expensive. At Nevilles Cross, near Durham, the Scots were defeated and King David taken prisoner to London where he remained for the next eleven years being eventually released on crippling terms – a ransom to be paid to Edward of 100,000 merks over 10 years. It was indeed to fund this enormous debt that Walter Spreull paid his contribution to the Barony of Glasgow. The following year, at the age of 75, he died.

At about the same time as an anonymous and unrecorded son (probably called Walter given the proclivity of naming sons after fathers) inherited Cowden, their overlords The Earls of Lennox were in a state of flux.  Donald the 6th Earl of Lennox died leaving no sons. With him ended the male line of the three elder sons of Alwyn, the 2nd Earl, so that Malcolm MacFarlane, the 5th chief of that clan being the great-greatgrandson of Gilchrist (Alwyn’s 4th son) became heir male to the Earldom. However Donald, contrary to the ancient feudal system of that time, had bequeathed his entire estate to his daughter Margaret. Malcolm MacFarlane, himself an old man, declined the title claiming that he had not sufficient estate to support such a dignity. He died soon after to be succeeded by his son Donald MacFarlane, the 6th Chief.

Countess Margaret had been married in about 1344 to Walter of Faslane who was himself also a direct descendant of Alwyn though he never claimed the Earldom in his own right being usually styled as Lord of Lennox, or occasionally, Lord of the Earldom of Lennox. After Donald’s death he took an active part in public affairs and was present at Scone on 16th March 1371 when King Robert II was crowned, and swore fealty to that King on the following day.

Robert II, the son of Walter the High Steward and Marjorie Bruce, had been regent during the periods of exile of King David and had been declared heir presumptive many years earlier. But David, seeking relief from the crippling ransom demands of King Edward had entered into negotiations with him for remission of the ransom in return for bequeathing his crown to the son of the English King. Needless to



say, Robert was not amused and expressed his vehement opposition to the plan in no uncertain terms. Fearing a rebellion David had Robert imprisoned, together with his three sons, on the grounds of national security, but in 1370 the prisoners were released and on the death of David the following year Robert succeeded peacefully to the throne.

What part, if any, the Spreulls of Cowden played in these events will never be known – probably none. Their links with their MacFarlane cousins and Lennox overlords were already becoming more tenuous and it made good sense to keep one’s head down and settle for the quiet life. Politics was a dangerous pursuit in those days both north and south of the border.

In 1377 the English King Edward III died to be succeeded by his eleven year old grandson Richard II, son of Edward the Black Prince who had died the previous year. Meanwhile the war with Scotland rumbled on though Robert II himself took no personal part in the conflict seemingly content to leave such unsavoury matters to his second son, the young and ambitious Robert, Duke of Albany who quickly acquired a lasting taste for power.

Most of the action between the two countries took place along the eastern borders so the Spreulls were relatively unaffected by the ongoing conflict, though Walter of Lennox himself continued to play an active part in his country’s affairs. In 1385 he was partly instrumental in promoting an abortive invasion of England by a Scottish army which resulted in its humiliating defeat following which Edinburgh was once again occupied by the English. Deeming it prudent to take early retirement, Walter and his countess forthwith resigned the Earldom in favour of their son so that it was from Duncan, the 8th Earl of Lennox, that the charters of Cowden, Dalmure and Dalquherne were renewed to Walter Spreull on the death of his anonymous father some two years later.

Unlike his father, Earl Duncan played little or no part in his country’s affairs. However, in 1391 his daughter Isabella married Murdach, the Earl of Fife and Menteith, and son and heir of Robert, Duke of Albany, and this family connection with the royal family and the future regent of Scotland made the Lennox for a time one of the most potent and influential noblemen in the kingdom. The Spreulls of Cowden, still feudal vassals of the Lennox basked in reflected glory and made hay while the sun shone.

In 1390 Robert II died to be succeeded by his eldest son, John. However this was a name thought to have so many unfortunate and defeatist connotations, that it was as King Robert III that he was crowned. Disabled in his youth by a kick from a horse, and by now totally dominated by his ruthless younger brother, the poor man confessed to his queen that he was “the worst of kings and the most miserable of men.”

In 1405, fearing for the life of his second son, (his first-born, David, having died some three years earlier in suspicious circumstances, almost certainly at the hands of Albany) the King made arrangements for the boy to go to France where he would be safe. But the ship carrying him was intercepted by an English privateer whilst still within the waters of the Firth of Forth and the future King James I was taken prisoner to England where he was to remain for the next 18 years. Within twelve months King Robert III had died of a broken heart and though his son was recognised as King by the Scottish parliament, his uncle Albany lost no time in appointing himself Regent of Scotland. The English King Henry Bolinbroke, who had successfully deposed Richard II six years earlier, demanded a massive ransom for the release of James, but Albany was in no hurry to comply, his new role suiting him very well, and so it was that James remained a prisoner in the Tower of London. He had already been there for nearly seven years when in 1413 Henry IV died of a fit whilst saying his prayers in Westminster Abbey. His 25 year old son, Henry V took over but was soon off to the war in France, a campaign which culminated with his triumph at Agincourt. With no money forthcoming from north of the border, James’ frustration and anger increased



with each passing month. Then, in 1420 Albany died and was succeeded as Governor of Scotland by his incompetent son Murdach, the son-in-law of the ageing Earl Duncan. But Henry V was still more preoccupied with the continuing hostilities in France than with the goings on in Scotland and by the following year was back in Brittany, this time accompanied by the sixteen year old King James. The expedition was to be an education in the martial arts for James but proved to be the death of Henry who, like many of his army, succumbed to dysentery and died at Vincennes on his way home.

So, on the 31 August 1422 the infant Henry VI succeeded to the English throne with his uncles, the Dukes of Gloucester and Bedford functioning as regents. Short of funds with which to continue the war with France they once more put pressure on the Scots to cough up the cash in return for the release of their King. For James, however, life in London had taken an unexpected turn for the better for he had fallen in love with Lady Joan Beaufort, the pretty daughter of the Earl of Somerset, and they were married the following year when, at long last, he was released on payment of a ransom of 60,000 mercs.

With his bride at his side, King James returned in triumph to his homeland vowing vengeance upon those whom he considered to have been responsible for his long captivity in England. He was met at Durham by Earl Duncan and crowned at Scone on 21 May 1424 when Murdach himself, now Duke of Albany, placed him on the throne.

But James was not to be appeased by such belated declarations of loyalty and within a year wreaked vengeance on the house of Albany. Murdach and all his sons were arrested, tried for treason, and beheaded at Stirling as was the unfortunate octogenarian Earl of Lennox, though contemporary records show him to have been totally blameless of any crime. Seemingly it was a case of guilt by association, but it is significant that, though the estates of Albany were forfeited to the crown, those of Lennox were not and his daughter Isabella eventually succeeded as Countess of Lennox. In fact, when her father, husband and sons were all arrested, she herself was for sometime imprisoned in Tantallon Castle but was later released and permitted to assume and enjoy the honour and earldom of Lennox, albeit under a cloud.

At Arrochar the MacFarlanes under Duncan, their 6th chief, also enjoyed a period of prosperity during Earl Duncan’s time, receiving a new charter of their lands from Albany albeit under the great seal of King James I. But of John, 7th chief of the Clan practically nothing is chronicled, having been unfortunate enough to succeed his father at about the time of the King’s return from exile and the subsequent and abrupt decline of the Lennox influence and fortunes.

Meanwhile in England the reign of the learned but schizophrenic Henry VI was coming to an end and the Wars of the Roses had got off to a good start with the first battle of St. Albans on 23 May 1455 at which the Duke of Somerset, brother of James I’s widow, was killed. Unwisely his son, James II allowed himself to become embroiled in this domestic squabble south of the border giving his support to Henry and the Lancastrians. Whilst supervising a cannon at the siege of Roxburgh Castle in 1460, he was killed when it suddenly exploded. A holly tree, visible from Floors Castle, now marks the spot.

In 1314 Edward II organized a major invasion of Scotland which resulted in victory for Bruce at Bannockburn on 23 June 1314. Bannockburn was near Stirling which had been held by the English. One can readily assume that the second Walter Spreull and probably members of his family and the men of his estates were part of the Lennox contingent in this battle. Although it was several years before a peace treaty was signed, the Battle of Bannockburn secured Scotland from English rule.

The name “Waltero Sprewl” appears as a witness to a document witnessed at Edinburgh on the 6 March in the 10th year of the reign of Robert the Bruce40. As Bruce’s coronation was on the 27March in 1306, the document was witnessed on 6 March 1316. The document involved John of Luss. When studied



closely this charter could very well have been a replacement of a charter granted to John Colquhoun of Luse in 130841. There is some variation in spelling but otherwise much of the wording in the two documents is word for word the same. The witnesses, too, are identical and they are listed in the same order.

It is reasonable to suggest that the “second” Walter Spreull lived until the final years of the life of Robert the Bruce or even into the first years of the reign of Bruce’s son, David II. King Robert I died at his favourite royal residence, Cardross Castle in Dunbartonshire, on 27 June 1329. Cardross Castle, long since disappeared, lay about 1.25 miles to the south-west of the Dalquhurn property of the Spreulls and about one mile from Dumbarton Rock. If Spreull lived into the reign of King David II, he would have been in his 60s, assuming the year of his birth was 1265.

The Ransom of King David II

In England, King Edward II was deposed and his fifteen year old son was proclaimed King Edward III in 1327. He took power into his own hands in 1330. The young English King secretly encouraged and helped Edward Balliol, the son of the unfortunate King John de Balliol of the 1290s, to make a bid for the throne of Scotland.  In 1332 Edward Balliol invaded Scotland with a small army, won a battle in a surprise attack, and was crowned Edward I of Scotland on 24 September 1332. Balliol recognized Edward III of England as his overlord. Balliol’s triumph was short-lived; he was soon defeated by Scottish patriots and was obliged to take refuge in England. Edward III now openly intervened and marched on Scotland and won a solid victory at Halidon Hill on 19 July 1333. Malcolm, the 5th Earl of Lennox, described as being of “hoary locks”42 and aged eighty, was killed fighting for the Scottish cause. It seems extremely likely given the structure of armed forces at the time that among his supporting vassals would have been some Spreulls. Edward Balliol was restored by Edward III and David II took refuge in France. Balliol, even with the English King’s support, could not manage Scotland. In 1341 conditions in Scotland enabled King David II to return home and resume his rule. In 1346 David got involved in a war with England and lost a battle in Durham where he was taken prisoner.

David II was held prisoner in England until 3 October 1357, after several protracted negotiations, a treaty was signed at Berwick-upon-Tweed under which Scotland’s nobility agreed to pay, over several years, 100,000 marks as a ransom for their King. This was ratified by the Scottish Parliament at Scone on 6 November 1357. Donald, the 6th Earl of Lennox, the son of Malcolm, the 5th Earl, was one of the magnates of Scotland who undertook to raise the portion of the ransom money due each year.

The Lennox Earls played a strong role in the affairs of Glasgow and it was probably Earl Donald who selected and charged Walter Spreull with the task of collecting the ransom in the Glasgow area. An item in an Exchequer Roll of Scotland shows that for the year 1366 “Walterum Sprovl” collected and turned offer the “contribucione do baronie de Glasgu”43 Metcalfe in his “History of the Shire of Renfrew” clarifies the matter by stating that the payment mentioned above was “toward the King’s ransom”.44 The lack of records for the period makes it impossible to say for how long this Walter Spreull had collected or continued to collect the contribution of the barony of Glasgow.

As the above Spreull bore the first name of Walter, he may well have been the eldest son and heir of the “second” Walter Spreull but if speculation is to prevail, it is more likely that he may have been a grandson of the “second” Walter. Assuming he was a grandson is more in keeping with the life spans suggested for the previous Spreulls.. If this Walter Spreull was the laird of Coldoun, or the son of the incumbent laird, he may well have been selected to collect ransom money because he was literate, able to keep accounts, had a certain social status, and came from a family that had supported the Bruce cause.



This episode supplies a convincing explanation when looking for the probable origin of the Spreull Coat of Arms, and why it was changed from a hunting horn and three roses to three palmer scripts and a chequered fesse. Changing a coat of arms is not something undertaken lightly and required Royal approval. The events surrounding the King’s ransom and release and the part played in this by Walter Spreull certainly would have warranted recognition by King David II. The symbolism also fits perfectly, not just the palmer scripts, which often as not were used to carry money, but the chequered fesse was a sign of allegiance to the Stuart cause.  No better explanation seems to have emerged as to the origins of the Sproule Coat of Arms over the intervening centuries.




Walter Spreull VI (1380s – 1448/49)  If the Walter Spreull who collected money for the ransom of King David II in 1366 was indeed a laird of Coldoun, the Walter Spreull now under discussion could have been his grandson. This Walter Spreull was probably born in the 1380s as it can be determined that his heir, who may not have been his first born son, was born in 1411.

Walter Spreull was the laird of Coldoun no later than 1421 as the following abstract for Dalquhurn indicates:

“Charter from Duncan, Earl of Lennox, to Walter Spreull, dom. de Coldoun, and the heirs male of his body, of the lands of Dalchurne, on his own resignation, dated at Bellach, 12 February 1421”.45

The abbreviation “dom” in the above abstract stands for “domini” which was a Latin word the equivalent to “laird”. Bellach (Belloch) was a Lennox residence on the southern shore of Loch Lomond. It seems significant that Walter Spreull received Dalquhurn on the “resignation” of Earl Duncan, rather than it being confirmed upon him by his father. This can be interpreted to mean that Walter’s father died prior to 12 February 1421, and that at least from a legal standpoint the property had reverted to the Earl of Lennox. A document of 22 December 1430, speaks of a property in Glasgow on the west side of High Street held by the “heirs of Walter Sprewl”46. As the Walter Spreull now under discussion lived well beyond 1430, there is the possibility that the 1430 document refers to Walter’s father of the same name who may have died some years before. Another reason for the charter being granted by Duncan, Earl of Lennox, could be that for some reason Dalquhurn had been forfeited prior to 12 February 1421. It is regrettable that the 1421 charter has survived in only abstract form. The original charter could well have been much more helpful.

No document dated around the 1420s has been located which might state if the Dalmuir property was also transferred to Walter Spreull at that time. There is, however, an abstract of a charter of 1449 which shows that it had been held by Walter Spreull in the preceding years47.

If Walter Spreull was born in the 1380s, he was a child during the latter half of the reign of Robert II who was King from 1371-1390. The next King, Robert III, died in 1406. He was followed by his son who after a long regency was crowned as James I in 1424. It was James I, who on charges that were never justified executed the eighty year old Duncan, the 8th Earl of Lennox, his son-in-law, and grandson in 1425. One can wonder how the execution of Duncan affected the lands held by his vassals. Certainly the lands could have reverted to the crown for redistribution. In this case it would seem that there was no redistribution. James I died in 1437 and was succeeded by his seven year old son James II. Walter Spreull died during the reign of James II, probably in the latter part of 1448 or early 144948. The name of Walter’s wife does not appear in any extant document. Other than his son and heir, he may well have had a son, David, however the names of any other of his children cannot be established. About seven years before his death, Walter transferred Coldoun to his son, Thomas.



Thomas Spreull (1411 – 1503) A document, if accurate, permits one to say that Thomas Spreull was born in 141149. One can speculate that Thomas was predeceased by an older brother named Walter, assuming the old Scottish custom of naming the eldest son after his paternal grandfather was being observed.

The earliest mention of Thomas Spreull that has been encountered is in a document dated 16 August 1440, wherein “Thomas Sprewill of Coldon” was witness to a charter.

In 1441 when Thomas would have been aged thirty, and possibly as a consequence of his marriage, Coldoun and another property were transferred to him by his father, Walter. The abstract of the original document reads:

“Anne Instrument of Resignation by Walter Spreule of Cowdone and John Pollock of that Ilk, of the land of Coldoune and Uplaws in favour of Thomas Spreule; dated 30th March 1441”50.

The wording “John Pollock of that Ilk” means “John Pollock of Pollock,” Pollock being a property south-west of Glasgow. The role of John Pollock as a participant in the resignation of the properties is puzzling as having two men of different surnames involved seems quite peculiar. The problem may lie in the wording of the abstract when it was prepared in 1672 rather than in the original Latin document. Perhaps John Pollock was involved because he had an interest in the “Ulplays” property, the spelling of which is now Uplaw. Perhaps Uplaw was involved because of a marriage agreement between the two families.

Detailed modern maps of Renfrewshire indicate that Uplaw lies south-west of Cowdon Hall and a portion of its boundary may have been coterminous with the south-west boundary of Coldoun. Modern maps show Uplaw Moor, Uplaw, Uplaw West and Uplaw South all within 2 to 3 miles south-west of Neilston. The “law” portion of Uplaw means “hill”.

Two records dealing with the transfer of the two Dunbartonshire properties to Thomas Spreull in 1449 are helpful. A letter written by the Duchess of Albany, the widowed daughter and heiress of the Lennox properties after the execution of Earl Duncan and his son-in-law, the Duke of Albany in 1425, reads as follows:

“till Jon Lyndsay, mare of the Levenax greeting … to infeft Thomas Spreule in the lands of Dalchorne and Dalmure”… “giffe him sessing, ‘etc.’ in our name haldane that latters for your warrant, witness myself under my signet at Inchymonyin, the 19 day of February, 144951.

Dated one day later, the follow-up to the preceding letter reads:

“Instrument of sasine, on a precept of clare constat, from Isabella, Duchess of Albany, Countess of Lennox in favour of Thomas Spreull, son and heir of umq’ Walter Spreull, in the lands of Dalchurne and Dalmair, 20th February 1449. Dated from Inchmurrin”.52

“Sessing” in the first document is synonymous with “instrument of sasine” in the modern English abstract that follows relates to the feudal ceremony wherein a token passing of a piece of earth from the overlord to the vassal signified the transfer of property. The words “clare constat” in the second quotation means that it was “clear beyond doubt” that Thomas was the rightful heir of his father, Walter. The abbreviation “umq” stands for “umquhil” which may be translated as “the late” or “the deceased”, and informs us that Walter Spreull is dead. “Inchymonyin” in the first document is Inchmurrin, an island in Loch Lomond where a Lennox residence was located.



Isabella, Duchess of Albany and Countess of Lennox, was held prisoner for a time following the execution of her father, husband, and son in 1425. Although it has been asserted that Isabella was never formally declared to be in possession of the Lennox lands, the preceding two documents dealing with Thomas Spreull in 1449 and certain charters she issued to others certainly show that she fully acted as the heiress of the Lennox estates.

On 28 September 1460, “Thomas Sprewl of Coldoun” was a witness to a letter regarding the fair of St. Michaels in the town of Ayr53 and on 29 September 1460, he was a witness to another document regarding the fair and is identified as “Thomas Spreull domini de Coldoun”.54 “Thomas Sprawl of Coldoun” was a witness to another transaction in 146055 and in 1466 “Tho. Spreull domini de Coldane” appears to have drawn up and certainly witnessed a document involving “Gilchristi Leith, domini de Kilmavane”56. “Kilmavane” could be Kilmalcolm, a centre about 10.5 miles north-west of Cowdon Hall.

In 1466 his name appears as witness to various charters, one of which dated 1466, is recorded in the Register of the Great Seal. The name of David Spreull is mentioned in connection with the naming of a chapel in Glasgow in the year 1450. He had previously acquired some land in the Dovehill district north of the Gallowgate in the city and is the first of many Spreulls to be associated with Glasgow where for centuries the Earls of Lennox had exercised almost sovereign sway. It is thought that this David Spreull was a younger brother of Thomas.

Thomas Spreull is the first Spreull of whom we have a record of longevity. His age was recorded as being ninety in 1501.57 Considering the state of medicine in the 1400s and the life expectancy of that time, he must have been regarded as a phenomenon by those who knew him. The name of Thomas Spreull’s wife has not been determined. Thomas was succeeded as far as his lands were concerned by his son Robert whom he outlived. Thomas may have had another son named Walter.



Robert Spreull (1430s? – 1488/89) In 1461 Robert Spreull took over the lands of Coldoun and Uplaw from his fifty year old father, Thomas. The abstract of the original document of transfer reads as follows:

“Charter of Confirmation by King James III to Robert Spreull, as son and heir to Thomas Spreull of Coldoun of the lands of Coldoune and Uplays on a resignation by the said Thomas; dated 18 September 1461”.58

One day later a charter for Dalquhurn in Dunbartonshire was issued. The abstract of the original document reads:

“Charter under the Great Seal from James V [sic]* to Robert Spreull (son and heir apparent of Thomas Spreull), and Margaret Bruis, his spouse, of Dalquhryne, on the resignation of Patrick de Colquhoune, 19th September 1461”.59

Both of the proceeding quotations raise the question as to why King James III issued the charters covering Coldoun, Uplaw, and Dalquhurn to Robert Spreull. To answer this question, one must return to Isabella, the Countess of Lennox. She died about 1458 having out-lived the enemy of her family, James I, who died in 1437. When the countess died there was no direct male heir and disputes over the succession to the earldom arose. In such a case the crown was entitled to take control of the Lennox lands and that action appears to have been taken by James II. On the death of James II in 1460, just two years after the death of the countess, the matter of the succession to the earldom was still not settled. The problem then carried over into the reign of James III who was just age nine at the time of his father’s death. In 1461, the young Kingmay have been advised by his counsellors that even if the succession to the earldom had not been settled, that Coldoun, Uplaw, and Dalquhurn be transferred to Robert Spreull. The transfer of Coldoun and Uplaw just required the consent of Robert’s father which indicates the father had never been deprived of these lands.

The second of the preceding quotations raises the question as to why Patrick de Colquhoune had to give his resignation to the Dalquhurn property in order to have it transferred to Robert Spreull. It is likely that after the death of the Countess of Lennox in 1458, and the ensuing quarrel over the succession to the earldom that James II used his royal prerogative to assign Dalquhurn to Colquhoun. When James III was counselled to transfer Dalquhurn to Robert Spreull, the resignation by Colquhoun was required.

No record has been found to show what course of action was followed regarding Dalmuir. It would seem that a number of charters dealing with Dalmuir covering a long period of time have disappeared. Perhaps when Dalmuir was finally disposed of in the 1600s some of the charters were turned over to the new proprietor.

The charter abstract of 19 September 1461, which has been previously provided, is interesting in that Robert Spreull’s wife is identified as Margaret Bruis. “Bruis” is an old alternative spelling of “Bruce,” the surname of King Robert I, the great hero of the early 1300s. The surname of Bruce seems to have been rather rare in Renfrewshire and it possible Margaret’s home was in another shire, possibly Stirlingshire. Whether Margaret Bruis could have had some distant relationship with the royal family of Bruce is not known. The Spreull-Bruce marriage probably took place in 1460 or early 1461.

* The item should read James III rather than James V



There is the possibility that Robert Spreull was married twice and that he had children by both marriages. A second marriage does much to explain how it came about that that two of his sons both bore the name of John. The first John, his heir would have been the eldest surviving son of his marriage to Margaret Bruce. As Robert and Margaret were married no later than 1461 but possibly earlier, it is likely that the first John, the heir, was born around 1459-1461.

The second John could have been of a second marriage, as Robert Alexander Nisbet, author of “A System of Heraldry”, refers to a “Mr. John Spreul, a younger son of the family of Cowdon, in the reign of James IV, being bred to learning…”60 James IV reigned from 1488 to 1513 and the education of the younger John at the higher level can be fitted in to the early reign of James IV. Nisbet also states that the “younger son” had a brother named Robert and a sister named Jonet. The existence of a John, Robert, and Jonet Spreull can be substantiated from other records and all three of them will be discussed at a later time.

A quick review about the children of Robert Spreull presents the following names, some of which cannot be validated properly. By Robert’s marriage to Margaret Bruce:

  1. John Spreull (1459-1461? d. 1513 at Flodden) – the heir of Robert.
  2. William Spreull (1473? – 1508/09) vicar of Kilbarchan – more evidence of his relationship needed.

The children of Robert’s assumed second marriage. (The names may not be in their correct order.)

  1. John Spreull (1478/80 – April 24, 1555) – a scholar and a churchman – to be fully dealt with in another chapter.
  2. Robert Spreull (early 1480s – late 1560s) – dealt with in another chapter.
  3. Jonet Spreull (early 1480s? – 1550) – relationship needs more proof – married Gabriel Semple of Cathcart.
  4. Walter Spreull (1480s alive in 1550) relationship needs more proof.
  5. Mathew Spreull (1480s – ?) – relationship evidence lacking – married well – some involvement with some of the others.
  6. There is also mention of a Jean Spreull, daughter of Robert. She married George Stewart of Barscube whose father Thomas Stewart had received a charter of his lands from Matthew, Earl of Lennox in which he is described as “consangineus” of the grantor. This would suggest that the Spreulls, though still technically vassals of the Lennox had, by this time, got to know them socially, so to speak, whether Barscube was also forfeited in 1545 with the other Lennox lands cannot be determined.

Robert Spreull, laird of Coldoun predeceased his long lived father Thomas. Robert seems to have died in 1488 or 1489 without naming his heir in an appropriate document. In such a case a small group of men familiar with the family would be appointed to review the situation and to submit a document called a “brieve” which named the true heir of the deceased. Such a brieve was acknowledged in the latter part of 1489.61



It may be that Robert had no reason to anticipate his death and had taken no steps to carry out the procedures required to transfer his lands to his son John. Considering the circumstances of Scottish history in 1488 and 1489, Robert may have been killed in battle.

In the 1480s opposition developed against the rule of James III which ended with rebellious nobles taking up arms in 1488. The King’s son was in sympathy with the rebels. On 11 June 1488, the rebels defeated the King’s forces at Sauchieburn near Stirling and James III was murdered the same day. There is the chance that Robert Spreull was killed in the battle or soon died of wounds.

Alternatively, Robert Spreull may have been killed in 1489. The previous year the succession to the earldom of Lennox was finally settled. The title and much of lands of Lennox went to Sir John Stuart of Darnley, a grandson of the previously discussed Isobella, Countess of Lennox. The chief residence of the Stuart Earls of Lennox was Crookston Castle which was located a few miles north-east of Neilston.

In 1489, Sir John, the 1st Earl of Lennox of the Stuart line and his son Mathew took up arms against the new King, James IV. They were defeated and forfeited the Lennox lands and title from June 1489 until 5 February 1490. Perhaps Robert Spreull was caught up in this quarrel and was killed.



John Spreull – fought at Flodden (1459-61? – 1513) – wife Elizabeth Blair

The first mention of the new heir to Coldoun is in an abstract of an original document dated 23 September 1489. As mentioned earlier, it was by means of a brieve that John Spreull was recognized as the heir to his father, Robert. The abstract reads as follows:

“Sasine, John Spreull, son and heir to Robert Spreull, of the lands of brief*; dated Coldoune by virtue of 23 September 1489”.62

A book by William Fraser preserves the original record of a dispute between “the laird of Coldoun” and Sir John Stuart, the new Earl of Lennox, and of a feud between Spreull and one Thomas Maxwell. The decisions handed down by the spokesman of a board of arbitrators are in the speech of the Lowland Scots of the late 1400s.  A few words have been inserted in parentheses in an attempt to clarify the original accounts. The findings of the arbitrators were delivered on 16 March 1491.

The Spreull-Lennox Dispute

“… as for the corn and hay tane out of Dalmur to the iustis (just) costis, gar condall and ordanys the said master Mathew to gaff to the lard of Coldoun fourty bollis† of attis (oats) betwixt and nixt Martymes (Martinmas), and for the hay to gaff as it was pryst be sworn in tyme…”63

The Spreull-Maxwell Feud

“… and as to the trobill don zung Thomas of Maxwell, and his brodyr and frendis, be the lard of Coldoun, Wat Spreull‡, John of Stirling, and thur folkis, and in lyk wyse the inuire don to lard of Coldoun and his folkis be the said Thomas of Maxwell and his brodyr and frendis, thai sall cum befor Master Mathow and lord Simpill at the kirk of Nelstoun, betwix and Pasach (Easter) quhen thai think it spedfull, and thar to gar (give) reforme (redress) as thai fynd cause and the partis to be put in friendship.

And as twyching the cow and ox claimyt be Thorne of Maxwell, and the twa ky (pigs) at the lard of Coldoun clemys, at was slayn in his fold be Thome of Maxwell, we counsall, ordanys at that be reformyt at the foresaid kyrk the said day effter the wale (will?) of ane (all?) be the awys (advice) of the said Master Mathew and Lord Sympill…

Alswa we ordane at Wat Spreull and John Stirling to cum to the kyrk forsaid thar lous gownys and bar hed (bare head) befor master Mathow and the lord Simpill and ask Thome of Maxwellis forgeffness, to and be put in hartly frenschip…”64

The above passage shows that Wat Spreule and John Stirling were held at greater fault than Tom Maxwell and his friends. The original scribe made a marginal note at the side of the above passage. It reads, “And auld Thome de Maxwell was ay onkynd zhet herderlyllys”. Old Tom Maxwell may have been the father of young Tom Maxwell. Old Tom was either quite unhappy with the judgement or he was overly gleeful at

* The word “brief” should read “brieve”.

† At this time a boll was probably equal to eight gallons.

‡ The text could be interpreted that the laird of Coldoun was Wat (Walter) Sproule. Actually the text is speaking of John Sproule who was assuredly the laird of Coldoun and of Walter Sproule. It is realized, however, that as a matter of courtesy that a brother or an uncle of a laird was sometimes styled laird.



the outcome. Just what the word “herderlyllys” could mean is a complete mystery, but it is evident that the scribe felt strongly about Maxwell’s behaviour.

The Spreull-Maxwell feud may have simmered for a few years and then was rekindled in 1500. One “Robert Sprewell” whose address is not given and whose relationship to the Coldoun family is not known, received a pardon for the theft of two horses and for other offences against John Maxwell of Nether Pollock and his servants.65

Another record which is (undated?) strikes a positive note. It states that “the laird of Cowdon” who would have been John Spreull, along with several others, acted on the behalf of the Earl of Eglinton to secure the release of John Maxwell of Nether Pollock and his servant, both of whom were being held captive by John Mure of Caldwell.66

Rather surprisingly, a Latin record of 1501 states that Coldoun had been in the hands of the Crown for the previous nine years.67 The document poses some difficulty in translation but it would seem Thomas Spreull, the grandfather of John Spreull had never paid certain fees owing the Crown. Happily the document noted that as Thomas was a man burdened with 90 years, thus he was being excused the deficiency. The document raises several points that should be considered.

Firstly, in saying Coldoun had been in the hands of the Crown for nine years could really have been just in the technical sense. It seems possible that the Spreull family may have continued to live in Cowdon Hall and that the administration of the properties was not stopped.

Secondly, it is difficult to understand why old Thomas Spreull was responsible for the debt. His deceased son, Robert, acquired Coldoun back in 1461, forty years before. Then his grandson, John, received the brieve granting him Coldoun in 1489. Perhaps it was John who incurred the debt but it was Thomas who was held responsible.

Thirdly, could the reversion of Coldoun have been the outcome of the short 1489-1490 forfeiture of the lands of Lennox by Sir John Stuart? Perhaps John had supported or allegedly supported Earl John’s revolt and had failed to pay or fully pay a fine imposed by the Crown.

Fourthly, the Latin document states that the amount owing was 45 pound which should not have been an onerous debt to pay. The purchasing power of a Scots pound in the 1490s would have been considerably less than an equivalent number of English pounds.

The answer could be that the amount owing was only one of many charges levied because of deaths, marriages, and a forfeiture. When Sir John Stuart (Stewart) became the Earl of Lennox in 1488, his vassals would have been subject to a fee. Another fee would have been payable when John succeeded his father in 1489. John Spreull, as suggested earlier, may have been fined if he was involved in the revolt of the Earl of Lennox in 1489.When Mathew Stuart succeeded his father either on Sir John’s resignation in 1490 or on his death in 1495 another feudal fee could have been collected. Marriages of the heirs in either family would have incurred further levies and expenses. The processing of new documents of conveyance for the Spreull properties would have incurred further costs. If there were poor crops in the late 1480s and in the 1490s, the financial position of the Spreull family would have been further impaired. In conclusion, there were various developments during that time that could have brought about unexpected and heavy expenses.

The abstract of a document of 1502 shows that the two Dunbartonshire properties were also involved, the abstract reads as follows:



“On 22nd May, 1502, Mathew, Earl of Lennox grants a discharge of the relief and the fore father of Dalquhurne and Dalmure, in favour of John Spreull of Colden, and Elizabeth Blair, his wife.”68

It may be noted that the above concessions were granted by Mathew, the 2nd Earl of Lennox of the Stuart line, whereas the forgiveness of the debt owing on Coldoun was made by the Crown. The abstract does not make it clear whether the two Dunbartonshire properties had been under forfeiture for some time or whether they had just recently become subject to forfeiture. As the term “relief” refers to the payment made to the lord when the vassal succeeds to a property, it would seem that John Spreull had owed the payment to Earl Mathew for about thirteen years. Perhaps Earl Mathew had not pressed for the payment and Spreull had continued to hold the properties.

It should be pointed out that the brieve granted to John Spreull in 1489 makes no mention of his having a wife. Such information may well have been irrelevant to the brieve. The discharge granted in 1502 identifies his wife as Elizabeth Blair. As it will be shown later that John Spreull’s heir was married in 1515, if not somewhat earlier, it can be concluded that John’s marriage to Elizabeth could have taken place in the late 1480s or the very early 1490s.

We know that John Spreull married Elizabeth Blair and it seems likely that Elizabeth was of the family of Blair in Renfrewshire and neighbouring Ayrshire; the Blair’s would have thus been of a similar social standing to the Spreulls. The “Notes on the Family Spreull” tell us that John Spreull had at least three children, and a rather garbled article entitled “The Spreulls of Cowden and their successors” printed in the Paisley Herald & Renfrewshire Advertiser on 27th July 1867 suggests that there may have been several more besides. They had sons named was Robert and John and there are vague references to a Thomas, a Walter and a William Spreull as being other brothers, but nothing is known of them. Certainly John Spreull was succeeded at Cowden by Robert in about 1515 though it is not absolutely certain that he was, in fact, the eldest son.

One secondary source states that many references about John Spreull of Coldoun may be found in the Diocesan Register of Glasgow for 1508-1511. There is the possibility that the John now under discussion could have been confused with his much younger brother or half-brother who also bore the same name.

In May 1508, “Johanna Sprawls” of “Cowton” took part in a church court in Glasgow.69 The following year John Spreull entered an agreement about a small portion of Dalmuir with a church official. The source reads:

“John Sprewle, laird of Coldoun, of the lands of Dalmure, to Sir Dionydius Auchinleck, chaplain, of those south 22 marks worth of Dalmure, lying next the water of the Clyde, in the Earldom of Lennox and shire of Dumbarton. 12 July 1509”.70

On 10 November 1512, a record again refers to Sir Diodydius Auchinleck and the Dalmuir property.71 The transactions with Auchinleck may have constituted putting up part of Dalmuir as security for a loan. If so, John Spreull’s financial problems may have still been with him.

In 1513 James IV of Scotland joined France in a war with England which at this time was under the rule of the Tudor monarch, Henry VIII. Ironically enough, James was married to Henry’s sister. A Scottish army crossed into Northumberland in England and on 9 September 1513, suffered a disastrous defeat at Flodden Field. Upwards to 10,000 Scots were killed, including King James IV, eleven earls, fifteen lords and several church dignitaries. Among the earls killed was Mathew, Earl of Lennox, who had held a



command on the right wing of the Scottish army. The Scottish dead were buried in two mass graves near the battle site. One source, quoting a document which this writer has been unable to check, states:

“John Spreul took part in the Battle of Flodden, and died there, as his name occurs in the Flodden Death-Roll (Acta Dominorum Concilli); although an asterisk (*) is attached to his name indicating there is no ‘direct proof of death’.”72

The point that there was no direct proof of death suggests that his wounds prevented identification or that he escaped the battlefield and died elsewhere. What should also be noted is that before the army left Scotland, James IV was persuaded to proclaim that the heirs of those killed, or the heirs of those who died of wounds or disease during the campaign, would be exempted from the customary feudal fees of wardship, relief, or marriage.



John Spreull, Jr. (1490? – 1528/29) – wife, Elizabeth Semple

John Spreull of Coldoun was succeeded by a son of the same name. In order to avoid confusion, the heir will be referred to as John Spreull, Jr. John Jr. is associated with Coldoun and two other properties in a Latin entry in a volume of the Exchequer Rolls of Scotland. The date of the entry is attributed to 1514 and reads as follows:

“Vicecomes respondebit pro 10 de fermis terrarum de Coldon, Woplaw, et Knockglas termi s. Martini ultimo preteriti, existentum in manibus regis sasina non recuperata, et pro 20 de relevio earundem, regi tanquam senescallo Scotie debitus per sasinam datam Johanni Spreule de eisdem die anno predicta.”73

The correct translation of the above Latin document evades this writer but other points of clarification can be made. “Coldon”, of course, is just one more variation of Coldoun, the chief Spreull holding beside Neilston in Renfrewshire. “Woplaw” is what was called “Ulplays” in documents of 1441 and 1461. In modern times the name has become “Uplaw”. The property lies no more than two miles south-west of Neilston. The property called “Knoglass” has not been mentioned in any previous Spreull document and the date of its acquisition is not known; the name is said to mean “green hill”. “S. Martini” is Saint Martin’s Day which falls on November 11.

An abstract of a Lennox-Spreull charter of 1515 deals with Dalquhurn in Dunbartonshire and reads as follows:

“Charter from John, Earl of Lennox, in favour of dilecto consanguineo at servitors nostre John Sprawls of Coldoun, and Elizabeth Semple, his spouse, on his own resignation of the 5 Lib. land of Dalquhyrne, 16th April, 1515”.74

A “notorial copy” of the above charter is also mentioned and it is given the date of 10 May 1515.75 The elapse of time between the death of John Spreull Jr.’s father at Flodden and the issuance of the above charter by Earl John may be attributable to the fact that Earl John’s father and some ten thousand others were killed at Flodden. In consequence hundreds of new charters would have needed processing.

The Latin words “dilecto sanguineo at servitors nostre” in the above abstract proves very interesting. “Consanguineo” means “related by blood” or “kinsman”. “Servitore” has many meanings, among them being “preserver”, “rescuer” or “deliverer”. If these Latin words had the meanings suggested, John, the 3rd Earl of Lennox of the Stuart line, is really calling John Spreull, Jr., his “kinsman and rescuer”. Could it be that John Spreull, Jr., was also at Flodden and saved the life of the Lennox heir?*

Another military action in which John Spreull, Jr. may have distinguished himself could be in Earl John’s attack and capture of Dumbarton Castle in 1514. It is understood that Earl John took the action when to his dismay, Queen Margaret, the widow of James IV, married the Earl of Angus. Seeing that Dalquhurn lay about two miles from Dumbarton Castle, Spreull is likely to have been very familiar with its defences.

Finally, this 1515 charter identifies John Spreull Jr.’s wife as Elizabeth Semple. She could have been of the Semple family of Renfrewshire which had grown to some prominence by the 1500s. Lord John Semple was raised to the peerage in 1488 and was head of the family until he was killed at Flodden in 1513. One

* The Scots Peerage, edited by Paul, it states that Marion, the sister of John, Lord Semple, married John, a son of John, Earl of Lennox, first of the Stewart line.



Jonet Spreull, probably an aunt of John Jr., had married into the Semple family. Her husband was Gabriel Semple of Cathcart, a son of Lord John Semple.

An abstract of another 1515 document is also informative. The abstract reads:

“Saline, John Spreule, son and heir retoured of John Spreule of Coldoune of the lands of Coldoune, by virtue of a precept from Chancellery dated 31 May, 1515”.76

The word “retoured” in the above abstract refers to an investigation which proved that John Jr. was indeed the true heir of his father, John Spreull, Sr., who was killed at Flodden. The investigators’ report was “retoured” (returned) to the appropriate body, i.e., the Chancellery.

John Spreull, Jr., died prior to 20 April 1529, as on that date, possibly after some delay, his son and heir was placed in wardship.77 John Jr. may have still been in his late thirties at the time of his death; it could be that he was killed. The Battle of Linlithgow took place on 4 September 1526, and John should have been in it. John, the 3rd Earl of Lennox was leading a force of 10,000 men on Edinburgh to free the young King James V from the control of the Douglas family. At Linlithgow Earl John was wounded and taken prisoner. While captive, one of his enemies murdered him in cold blood. As for John Spreull, he could have been killed in the battle or died later of wounds.

John Spreull Jr.’s heir was his young son, Thomas78, who is judged to have been born in 1522 several years after the marriage of his parents. It is possible that Thomas was predeceased by one or more older brothers. He may have had younger brothers and both older and younger sisters. As yet, there is insufficient evidence to advance their names.



Thomas Spreull (1522? -1580s)  Thomas Spreull, orphaned around 1527-28, was the heir to Coldoun as well as Dalwain and Daquhrern, the Dunbartonshire properties.

This was the age of the Reformation. Martin Luther nailed his ninety-five theses to a church door in Wittenberg in 1517. Within the next decade his teachings were reaching Scotland, while the teachings of John Calvin reached Scotland some years later. In the end the theology of Calvin won out. John Knox, a Calvinist, entered the scene toward the end of the 1550s and was the impetus that helped to establish Protestantism of the Presbyterian variety in the lowlands and in north-east Scotland. In the central and north-west Highlands the Roman Catholic faith remained predominant while in the lowlands, Renfrewshire, Ayrshire, and the Glasgow area of Lanarkshire, Presbyterianism held sway. Thomas is judged to have become a Presbyterian in his late youth or early manhood. It would seem that most of the Spreulls of Renfrewshire and the Glasgow area were converted to Presbyterianism.

In Scotland, an underage heir to property was customarily made the ward of his overlord or the overlord could appoint a guardian. In a document dated 20 April 1529, one John Maxwell of Stanlie was given:

“the gift of ward of Coldoune quilkis pertinent to umquhile Johnne Spreul of Coldoune and now throw his decis being in our soverane lordis handis be resoun of warde.”79

The reason why the Spreull wardship rested “in our soverane lardis handis”, King James V, rather than in the hands of the Earl of Lennox can be explained.

On the murder of John, the 3rd Earl of Lennox at Linlithgow in 1526, his heir was his son Mathew who was just short of the age of ten. Mathew, being a minor, meant that the Lennox lands reverted to the control of the young King James V. Although James V had just turned seventeen in 1529, he began to govern in his own right in 1528. The King, therefore, had the right to appoint the guardians of all the minors whose deceased fathers had held lands by charter in the earldom of Lennox. King James V, no doubt acting on the advice of some counsellor, appointed John Maxwell as the guardian of young Thomas Spreull.

John Maxwell’s wardship of Thomas and of the Spreull properties lasted just short of thirteen months. In a document dated 17 May 1530, at Edinburgh, a new wardship was issued in the King’s name. Portions of the document read as follows:

“Ane lettre to Schir (members of the clergy could be addressed Sir) John Sympill vicar of Erskine … the gift of the ward, nonentres and relief of the V lib. worth of the land of auld extent of Coldoun … quhilkis pertanit to umquhill [the deceased] Johnne Spreule of Coldoun and now throw his decis being or sall happin to be in our soverane lordis handes be resoun of ward … and als the gift of marriage of Thomas Spreule, sone and are [heirs] of the umquhill Johne…”80

That a Semple was now awarded the guardianship of Thomas Spreull seems obviously linked to the fact that Thomas’s mother was a Semple and that Jonet Spreull, whom may have been a great-aunt of Thomas, was the wife of Gabriel Semple, a son of the first Lord Semple. The aforementioned people probably used their influence to get the wardship changed. It may be remembered that there were previous bad feelings between the Spreulls and a Maxwell family. Alternatively the explanation for the switch in wardship could simply be that John Maxwell had died.

Difficulty has been experienced in ascertaining at what age a minor was released from wardship in Scotland in the 1500s. One source states fourteen and another says fifteen.



A Latin document dated October 1537, states that the lands of “Coldoun, Woyplawis, at Knoglas” which had been in ward “per spatium novem annorum” were being released to “Thome Spreule”.81 A wardship of nine years shows that the wardship of the crown began in 1528 but the wardship was not given to Maxwell until the spring of 1529. If Thomas was fifteen when the Semple wardship was ended in 1537, he would have been born in 1522.

A difficulty arises when the author Metcalfe states that in 1531 “the laird of Cowdon” was engaged in a feud with the laird of Colgraine.82 (The Coigraine in question is believed to have been situated to the west of Neilston.) Metcalfe’s reference to the laird of Coldoun can scarcely be to Thomas Spreull who in 1531 was under wardship and of the age of nine. It is suggested that the Walter Spreull involved in the feud could have been an uncle of young Thomas. During the wardship of John Semple, the vicar of Erskine, this Walter may have been given the task of the day-to-day administration of the Spreull estates. As pointed out in a previous footnote, a close relative of a laird was sometimes given the courtesy of being called a laird. One would think that such a person would have had some stature in his own right.

On 16 August 1540, “Thoma Sprewill de Coldane” was a witness to a document of John Porterfield and his wife83. The incident is not significant in itself but it tends to support the fact that Thomas’s wardship in regard to Coldoun had ended. In 1541, four years after Spreull’s wardship ended, Dalquhurn in Dunbartonshire was put under his control.

The abstract of the original document of 1541 reads:

“Instrument of saline of Thomas Spreul of Coldoune, in Dalchorne, on a precept of Clare constat from Mathew, Earl of Lennox, as heir to his father, John Spreule of Coldoun, 4th June 1541.”84

The reason for the delay in turning over Dalquhurn to Thomas can only be guessed. Mathew, the 4th Earl of Lennox of the Stuart line lived in France from 1532 until 1542, being in the service of the French King. His absence for all or most of the ten year period may have delayed the formal return of the property. It is possible that Spreull may have been in actual possession of Dalquhurn since 1537 when his wardship ended.

No record has been found to indicate the status of Dalmuir during the minority of Thomas Spreull or in the immediate years that followed. It is likely that Dalmuir was returned about the same time as Dalquhurn. As mentioned earlier, the dearth of Dalmuir documents may mean that when it left Spreull hands the pertinent documents were given to the new proprietor and subsequently disappeared.

To further comment on the lives of the Spreulls, one must review certain political and religious developments in Scotland and England and provide information about Mathew, the 4th Earl of Lennox.

In England, Henry VIII, desiring a male heir to the throne, was able to get the English parliament to pass a series of acts which by the 1530s led to a complete break with Rome. Although Henry VIII never countenanced Protestantism in his own kingdom, he developed a policy of supporting Protestant leaders in Scotland as a means of furthering his ambitions there. Scottish Presbyterians resented the hold Roman Catholics had on the government and many, rightly or wrongly, sought support from Henry VIII to further their interests.

In 1538, James V of Scotland, a nephew of Henry VIII, married a lady of the French nobility, Mary of Guise. In 1540 hostilities broke out between England and France, and allied to France, James V entered the war in 1542. The Scots were badly defeated at Solway Moss and King James V died shortly afterwards. He left an infant daughter, Mary, as his heir. In 1545 the Scots enjoyed a victory at Ancrum



Moor but soon saw Edinburgh sacked by the English. Henry VIII died early in 1547 and England, like Scotland, had a monarch who was a minor. In the case of the young English King, Edward VI, the power was in the hands of others. On 10 September 1547, the Scots suffered a defeat at Pinkie and the war drew to a close the following year.

In 1542, Mathew, Earl of Lennox, finally returned to Scotland after his long stay in France. One of his reasons for returning was to oppose the regent Arran who acted on behalf of the child queen, Mary. Mathew wished to secure the regency for himself. It is of significance that at this time Mathew was third in line to the throne and had hopes of marrying the widow of James V.

Mathew and others led a force, presumably with some Spreulls among it, toward Edinburgh. Arran surrendered the infant Mary and on her coronation in September, 1543, Lennox bore the sceptre. Shortly afterwards Earl Mathew was outmanoeuvred in the power struggle. He and others, and in particular, William Cunningham, the 3rd Earl of Glencairn made various efforts to recover the upper hand. Glencairn was a strong supporter of Protestantism where as Lennox was an opportunist.

In the spring of 1544, Earl Mathew decided his ambitions would be better served if he collaborated with another opportunist, Henry VIII of England. To further his own policies for Scotland, Henry promised Lennox financial support marriage to his niece, Lady Margaret Douglass and a big role in the affairs of Scotland. Lady Margaret was a daughter of Henry’s sister, Margaret, by her second marriage. (The mother’s first marriage was to James IV of Scotland who was killed at Flodden in 1513.) After failing in military efforts, Earl Mathew went to England where he married Lady Margaret in June 1544. Further armed efforts and his dealings with Henry VIII resulted in him being found guilty of treason and he incurred formal forfeiture of his lands in Scotland on 1 October 1545.85 Even before the formal forfeiture of lands, one James Stewart was assigned some Lennox properties in July 1545. On 15 August 1546, other Lennox properties were granted to the 4th Earl of Argyll and to James Stewart of Cardonald.

As Presbyterianism won followers in Scotland, young Thomas Spreull must have become a convert. After the Earl of Lennox joined the English, Thomas became a supporter of the Earl of Glencairn who had also received money from the English but who was fully committed to the Protestant cause. Glencairn, whose holdings were in Ayrshire which borders on Renfrewshire, was in easy striking distance of Glasgow which at this time had a population of approximately 4,500.

In the spring of 1544, George Wishart, a forerunner of John Knox, was in Glasgow to preach. The Roman Catholic bishop of Glasgow was determined to stop him from speaking. Glencairn and his supporters, Thomas Spreull apparently among them, hastened to Glasgow to protect Wishart. Wishart was able to deliver a “notable” address.

The above Glasgow affair is judged to be linked to a document in Latin dated 7 April 1544, which relates that “Thome Spreull de Coldoun” was granted a pardon for his support of “Willielmo, cite de Glencairne” and “pro omnibus aliis actionubus”.*86

Despite his pardon of 7 April 1544, Thomas Spreull, laird of Coldoun, must have become involved again in some action that was regarded as treasonable. Perhaps he was in the force led by the Earl of Glencairn which was defeated near Glasgow on 24 May 1544. A document in Latin, dated 27 July 1545, and issued in the name of the infant Queen Mary, shows that properties including “Dalchorne et Dalmore” were transferred to the overlord-ship of James Stewart of Cardonald.87 Cardonald can be located on the south

* The translation of the Latin words would be “for many other actions.”



side of the Clyde about 11 miles from the heart of Glasgow. Background information about this James Stewart of Cardonald has not been uncovered.

To confound the point that Dalquhurn and Dalmuir had been put under the control of James Stewart in July of 1545, is another document of 4 October 1545, which, issued in the name of the infant Queen, states that William Lord Semple has acquired the “10 libratus terrarum antiqui extendus de Dalmwyr and Dalquhirne…”.88 Another document dated 18 October 1545, basically repeats the above but includes these words in parentheses: “que furent Thome Spreull de Coldsune in proptuate et dicta Math. in superunitate”.89 “Math” refers to Mathew, Earl of Lennox who had been deprived of his properties. The answer to the conflicting documents may be that there was a great deal of confusion and lack of coordination in the government offices at Edinburgh at this time. The situation must have been sorted out, for at a later date James Stewart is identified as the proprietor of the properties. If Lord Semple held the properties for a time, it may have been the result of an attempt to keep the Dumbarton properties in friendly hands. As related earlier, Thomas Spreull’s mother was a Semple and William Lord Semple’s brother Gabriel was married to a Jonet Spreull.

Local legend holds that Mary Queen of Scots was alleged to have once stayed at Cowden Hall. Perhaps the restoration of the old Lennox lands was in gratitude for the generous hospitality provided by Thomas Spreull on that occasion. Thomas survived to witness the overthrow of the Queen following her disastrous marriage to the Earl of Bothwell in 1567, but his loyalty to her did not go unnoticed by the authorities for nine years later his name is to be found in the Register of the Priory Council as a party to a Bond of Caution. His allegiance to Mary would suggest that he remained a Catholic, but, as mentioned above, his son John embraced the protestant faith of the Covenanters as did subsequent generations of that branch of the family.

Other Spreulls were involved in the troubles of the time. As previously mentioned, the Earl of Glencairn led a force that was defeated near Glasgow on 24 May 1544. On May 27 one “Robert Sproul” and one Bartilmo Symer were deprived of all their goods for their treasonable support of

“William Earl of Glencarne and his complices Cummand with thame in plane battel with displait banner againis our tutour and governour upon the Burrowmure of Glasiw…”90

In Scotland, a tutor was a guardian. In this case it was James Hamilton, the 4th Earl of Arran, who was regent for a time during the minority of the infant Queen Mary. The relationship of the above Robert Sproul to the laird of Coldoun has not been established.

On 21 January 1546?, one “Johannis Spreull” was pardoned for partaking in some show of force against the government.91

In a Latin document dated 22 April 1547, “William Sprewle” and two Hamilton brothers were pardoned for some anti-government behaviour.

On 12 January 1547? “Johns Sprewell”, perhaps not the above mentioned John, was granted a 19 year “respitt” (pardon).92 His offence was that on the preceding 3 of September he had not reported as ordered to Gladismure for the purpose of serving in a Scots force being assembled to drive the English out of the town of Haddington. One may note that the Scots defeat at Pinkie took place on 7 September 1547.





Mary Queen of Scots

At this point, readers of this account may benefit from another review of the affairs of state in Scotland. Mary, the child queen, better known in history as Mary, Queen of Scots, was the object of marriage proposals from England and France. Henry VIII of England sought to have his little son, Edward, betrothed to Mary. The plan was mishandled and failed. Mary’s mother, Mary of Guise, was of French birth and with the support of the court circle secured the betrothal of Mary to Francis, the dauphin of France. For greater security the little queen was sent to France. Her mother remained in Scotland and from 1554 to 1559 served as regent. In 1558 young Mary and Francis were married. In 1559 Francis succeeded to the French throne with Mary as his consort.  In 1558 Henry VIII’s daughter Elizabeth had become queen of England. She had succeeded her sister Mary (“Bloody Mary”), who in turn had succeeded young King Edward VI.

Queen Elizabeth of England regarded Mary as a threat to her throne. Elizabeth was the daughter of Anne Boleyn whom Henry VIII had married without his divorce from Catherine of Aragon being approved or recognized by the Pope. Sincere Roman Catholics had reason to regard Elizabeth as illegitimate and as having no right to the throne. For such people the rightful queen of England was Mary Queen of Scots, a Roman Catholic who had a solid claim to the English throne. She was the great-great-granddaughter of Henry VII of England.

Returning to more mundane events, a Latin document dated 24 February 1550 or 1551, relates that “Thome Spreulle de Coldane” along with one John Pollock of Eoden were granted pardons for some rebellious act in the past.93

It would seem reasonable to believe that many other Spreulls participated in anti-government actions prior to 1550 but had succeeded in escaping identification and prosecution.

On 12 January 1550, Thomas Spreull of Coldoun and Walter Spreull “in Arthurlie” are listed as witnesses to land transactions involving the Semple family.”94 Oddly in the transaction witnessed by the two Spreulls, Coldoun is put down as “Colding” and Spreull as “Sprew”. In this era a double “l” and the letter “w” were written in the same way. This practice must account for the most unusual spelling of Spreull ever encountered by this writer. The person who set the name in type for printing at a much later date would have been responsible. As mentioned previously, this writer suspects that the above mentioned Walter was an uncle of Thomas of Coldoun. On a modern map a place called West Arthurlie can be located just over a mile north-east of Neilston.

On 31 October 1555, “Thorne Spreule de Codoun” acquired one-seventh part of the “terrarum de Auchinbothy-Langmere “and one-seventh part of “Watterland” upon the resignation of one “John Spreule de Auchinbothie-Langmure”.95 A brief entry in a different primary source, but of the same date, may also deal with this property transfer. The entry merely reads, “Preceptum Carta Thorne Spreul de Cowdon”.96

Auchenbothie-Langmure was two distinct and separate properties. There is more than one Auchinbothie in Renfrewshire but the Auchinbothie in question is judged to have been about 3/4 of a mile northnorth-west of the town of Kilmacolm. The Langmure property was located in Ayrshire. On a modern map a South Waterland can be located in Ayrshire about five miles south-west of Neilston. It is likely that the John Spreull in the above transaction was a reasonably close relative of the laird of Coldoun, perhaps a cousin. John may have regained the property at a later date as in 1590 a John Spreull is again associated with the property.



In a reference dated 16 February 1558, “Thomas Sprewle of Coudoune and several other men were “amerciated” (fined) for being absent from the assize.97 An Assize was a court session. It is likely Spreull and the others were to have reported for what today would be considered jury duty, although it must be remembered that only a limited number of people would have been considered fit to sit in judgement.

In the summer of 1560 the Presbyterians were able to have the Scottish parliament abolish the Mass and to break ties with Rome. England too, had moved toward Protestantism under the boy King, Edward VI (r.1547-1553). A reversal of the trend occurred during the reign of Queen Mary (r. 1553-1558). England again turned toward Protestantism under Queen Elizabeth (r. 1558-1603). The situation in England, however, did not end English intrigue in Scottish affairs.

Prior to the events of 1560, the power of the Roman Catholic Church and its supporters was steadily eroding. In a way the weakening of the Roman Catholic position was evident in the extensive use of fines, the posting of bonds and the confiscation of properties. Although at times the Presbyterians were in open revolt, harsh measures such as capital punishment were not feasible. Thomas Spreull of Coldoun illustrates this point. He was twice pardoned for his rebellious activities, lost two of his properties, and was fined, but he survived.

In 1559, approximately a year before the triumph of the Presbyterians, Thomas Spreull recovered his Dunbartonshire properties from which he had been deprived for fourteen years. A Latin entry in “The Register of the Great Seal of Scotland” dated 29 August 1559, speaks of the grant to “Thome Spreule de Coldoune” of the “terrarum de Dalquharne” and of “Dalmure” which had been lost because of the treasonable behaviour of Mathew, the ousted Earl of Lennox.98 As a document that will be introduced later will show, the properties were returned to Spreull by James Stewart of Cardonald.

Little more has been uncovered about Thomas Spreull of Coldoun. He was still alive in 1581 as records from 7 December 1580 and 15 January 1581 show that he was one of the arbitrators of a long standing dispute between Sir Robert Mure of Caldwell and Sir Patrick Houston, regarding a Mure killed by a Houston in 1550.99

If Thomas was born in 1522 as earlier suggested, he would have been in his 59th year in 1581 and could well have lived several more years. The name of Thomas Spreull’s wife does not appear in any of the records checked by this writer. It is suggested that she died prior to Thomas’s grant of Coldoun to his son in 1562. If she had been then alive, it is very likely that her name would have appeared in the document. Thomas and his wife had a number of children of whom the following may be mentioned:

  1. John Spreull (early 1540s? -1618) as heir to his father, his story will be given shortly.
  2. Janet Spreull. From a source dated 18 July 1572: “Thomas Spreule of Coldoun and Janet Spreul his daughter…”100 From a source dated 6 May 1596, Jonet is referred to as the “lawful daughter of umquhil Thomas Spreule of Cowdon” and her spouse is identified as “Adam Mure of Carenduff”.101 She and her husband were appearing before William Stirling of Law in Dunbartonshire to resign a property called “Edinbaren” (Edinburgh) which at a previous time was held by one Stephen Spreull, deceased.
  3. Margaret Spreull. A source dated 18 July 1572 states: “Margaret Spreul daughter of Thomas Spreul of Cowdon, resigned in favour of her father an annual rent of land called Palice of Cathcart…Renfrewshire.”102
  4. Thomas Spreull. A source of the date 18 July 1576, states: “Gift to Thomas Spreull, son lawful to Thomas Sprewle of Coldoun. (Thomas Jr.’s wife was Elizabeth Logan)103



  1. Gabriel Spreull In a source dated 1580 one Gabriel Spreull is identified as the brother of one Thomas Spreule104 No address is given. Is the reference to Thomas Sr. or Thomas Jr.?
  2. James Spreull. An item identifies him as “James Spreull, the Elder”. Perhaps this was how he was distinguished from his brother John’s son who bore the name of James.

Attention will now be paid to Thomas Spreull’s son and heir, John.



John Spreull (1540s – 1618)  The first reference found about John Spreull is in the records of the University of Glasgow. In an item dated 22 October 1555, he is referred to as “Joannis Spreull fil i us d ini de Coldane” which means “son of the laird of Coldoun”.105 No record had been found that shows he graduated but the records may not be complete.

An undated item among the Smollett abstracts of Spreull property transactions reads:

“Instrument of Sasine of John Spreull and Margaret Colquhoun, his wife, heir apparent of his father, Thomas Spreull of Coldoun, in Dalchurne and Dalmure, on a precept from James Stewart of Cardonald.”106

The above transfer could not predate 29 August 1559, for on that date the two properties were returned to John’s father, Thomas. Indeed it is puzzling why James Stewart was involved in the transfer of the two properties to John Spreull. The above document should not postdate May 1565, for on that date James Stewart resigned his overlord-ship of all the remaining lands he had acquired as the result of Mathew, Earl of Lennox being found guilty of treason in 1545. Stewart must have remained the overlord after Thomas Spreull recovered the properties. The date of the transfer to John Spreull must fall between August 1559, and 25 May 1565.

It is interesting to note that James Stewart’s resignation on 25 May 1565, of whatever Lennox lands he held, was to Henry, Earl of Rosse. The Earl of Rosse was Henry, Lord Darnley, the eldest son of Mathew, Earl of Lennox. Mary, Queen of Scots, bestowed the earldom of Rosse on Darnley in May, 1565, and married him on 29 July 1565. Mary had allowed Mathew Stuart to return to Scotland in 1564. On 1 October 1665, Mathew was restored his title and recovered whatever Lennox lands were still his right. The date of their restoration seems rather belated considering his son’s acquisition of Lennox lands earlier. Mathew, for his part, shortly resigned the Lennox lands to his son whom Queen Mary allowed to be styled “King”. The chronological order of some of the above events is rather bewildering but perhaps a little tidying up and face-saving measures were needed.

In the spring of 1562 Thomas Spreull turned Coldoune, which he had never been required to forfeit, over to his son John. The pertinent Dundonald abstract reads:

“Sasine of John Spreule, son and heir apparent of Thomas Spreule, of the five pound land of Coldoune by a resignation made by the said Thomas in the queen’s hands, and her precept granted thereupon; dated 13th March, 1562.”107

The above abstract suggests that during the period of Mathew Stuart’s forfeiture of the Lennox properties that Coldoun had been kept in the hands of the Crown which meant that Queen Mary was the direct overlord of Thomas Spreull for about twenty years.

Queen Mary’s marriage to Henry, Lord Darnley, soon turned sour, although for a time reconciliation occurred following the birth of their son James on 19 June 1566. On 9 February 1567, the residence in which Darnley was staying in near Edinburgh was blown up and he was found strangled in the yard. James Hepburn, the 4th Earl of Boswell was tried for the crime but was acquitted. On 24 April, Bothwell seized the queen and, following his divorce from his wife, married the queen on 15 May 1567.

Darnley’s death meant that Queen Mary was again the direct overlord of the Spreulls of Coldoun. On 1 April 1567, a little over three weeks before Queen Mary was seized by Bothwell, a puzzling transaction took place.



The queen approved a charter giving Thomas Spreull, Jr., a brother of John Spreull the laird of Coldoun, possession of the two Dunbartonshire properties. The document is in Lowland Scots and reads as follows:

“Ane lettir maid to our soverane ladyis dailie servitoure, Thomas Spreull, son lauchful to Thomas Spreull of Coldoun, his aires and asignais of the gift of ward of all and haill the fyve pund land of Dalquhurn and all and haill the fyve pund land of Dalmure with their pertinentis, liand within the erldom of Levinax and scherrefdome of Dumbertane, now being and becum in ours soverane ladyis handis be resoun of ward throuw deceis of ours soverane ladyis derrest spoiss of gude memorie, superior of the saidis landis, togidder with the mailis (etc.) of all yeiris and termes to cum during the nonentres of the samis landis, and aiy and quhill (etc) with the relieff thairof quhen it sal happen. With power, etc”.108

On the death of her husband, Queen Mary acquired the wardship of the lands of Lennox on behalf of her infant son James. It is not clear, however, why she saw fit to bestow the wardship of Dalquhurn and Dalmuir on Thomas Spreull, Jr. For one thing, Thomas Jr.’s brother, John, laird of Coldoun, was very much alive and no wardship was needed for an infant son. Could Thomas Jr. have been given the wardship because of John’s physical or mental condition? This cannot be answered because of lack of evidence and not knowing whether Scottish law permitted wardships under such conditions. If John was guilty of some offence sufficient to deprive him of the two properties, the extant records do not say so. Even if John had been guilty of some act requiring severe punishment, the wardship route seems an unlikely way to meet the situation. Perhaps the documents that would give the necessary background information were not registered or were lost. This would not be surprising considering the turmoil of Mary’s reign.

The reference in the document to Thomas Spreull being the queen’s “dailie servitour” bears consideration. The words could be substituted by the expression “constant attendant” or “constant secretary”.  As a capable member of the Queen’s household staff, Spreull may have been given the wardship as a mark of appreciation. One could wonder, however, how Thomas Jr.’s brother, his father, and other members of his family reacted.

How did Spreull manage to get a position in the Queen’s household staff? One could speculate that it may have been Mathew Stuart, the sometime Earl of Lennox who had a part in securing him his position. It would have been in Lennox’s interests to have one of his own people in the royal household. When Lennox was regent for the infant James VI in 1570-71, he may have had a hand in getting Thomas Spreull, Jr. a share of the escheat of the goods of one John Stevinson.109

Finally one might smile at the passage in the document which refers to Henry, the Queen’s deceased husband, as her “derrist spouse of gude memorie”. Undoubtedly the person who drew up the document was observing proper protocol but the reality of the Queen’s marriage was not so wonderful!

The highlights of the remainder of Mary Queen of Scots, deserves some attention. The circumstances of her husband’s death and of her marriage to the Bothwell brought about her downfall. Whatever support Bothwell had soon melted away and in June 1567, he fled the country. Mary’s opponents took her prisoner and held her in a castle on an island in Loch Leven which is located north-north-west of Edinburgh. In July 1567, Mary was obliged to abdicate the throne in favour of her infant son. He was crowned as James VI and placed under the regency of the Earl of Moray, Mary’s Protestant bastard halfbrother.



On 2 May 1568, Mary escaped and made her way to the Glasgow area gathering some support on the way. Her force was defeated on 13 May at Langside located about 2 miles the south of the heart of Glasgow. As Langside was only about five miles from the village of Neilston, one would expect that some Spreulls participated in the battle. If so, it is likely they fought Mary’s supporters. Mathew of Lennox held Mary responsible for the murder of his son, the husband of the Queen. If Mathew had his way, none of the men of Lennox would have supported Mary. A large force of men from the MacFarlane clan greatly contributed to Mary’s defeat.

After her defeat, Mary made her way to England where her cousin, Queen Elizabeth, kept her under detention. Some twenty-one years later, in 1587, Elizabeth agreed to the execution of Mary on the charge that she was involved in plots to seize the English throne.

Scotland remained rather turbulent during the infancy and youth of James VI as different factions jockeyed for power. James’s grandfather, Mathew of Lennox succeeded in being elected regent in July 1570. In September,1571, he fell prisoner to a group of supporters of Mary. While his captors were being routed, one of them stabbed the regent and he died a few hours later.

Returning to John Spreull, laird of Coldoun, there is the likelihood that his brother Thomas’s wardship of Dalquhurn and Dalmuir which was granted on 1 April 1567, did not last very long. If indeed it was put into effect, it is likely that it ended shortly after the coronation of Mary’s infant son as James VI on 29 July 1567. If so, it only lasted about four months or somewhat longer depending on the time it took to do the paperwork. In his later years John Spreull of Coldoun led a relatively quiet life if extant records are a guide. In an item dated 14 May 1588, he and a few others are on a list of names which dealt with an assize.110 Spreull was probably listed for jury duty. Another document, dated 15 December 1590, shows that he posted bonds stating that William Graham of Paisley and several others would not harm John Semple of Middletown and several other Semples.111

Margaret Colquhoun is identified as John Spreull’s wife in two documents relating to property transfers.112 A will dated 23 January 1564, shows that she was of the Colquhoun family of Luss, the lands of Luss being located on the west side of Loch Lomond in Dunbartonshire. The will proves that John Spreull and Margaret Colquhoun were married at some date prior to 23 January 1564. It is likely that they were married one or two years previously.

The will is that of Christine Erskine, the first wife of Sir John Colghoun of Luss. She lists some debts owing to Thomas Spreull of Coldoun and to his son, John, as well as some bequests to John’s wife, Margaret Colquhoun. The following entries appear in the will.

“Item, to Thomas Spreule of Coldoun of his sonnes tocher gude, twa hyndreth XXX markis; summa sevn score fourteen punds XIII s. IIII d”.

The word “tocher” in the above extract means “marriage settlement”. The references to the sums of money are not clear. Perhaps a balance of 230 marks was owing on the original settlement of 154 pounds, 14 shillings, four pence.

“Item, to Johnne Sprewle appare and of Cowdoun fiftie marker, summa, threthe three punds VI s[hillings] VII d[pence].”.113

The word “apperand” in the above extract means “heir apparent”. The money information may mean that John is owed 50 marks out of an original sum of 33 pounds, 6 shillings, 7 pence.



“Item, to Margaret Colquhoune, Lady Coldoun, ant goune of Pareis blak, with one skirt of black sating”.114

The above reference is to a black Paris gown and to a black satin skirt.

“Item, to Margaret Colquhoune, Lady Coldoun, ane chalder of attis for hir first sawing”.115

The above refers to a chalder of oats for her first sowing. At this time a chalder of oats was probably the equivalent of 106 bushels. The reference to “first sowing” is not clear. It may refer to Lady Coldoun’s first crop of oats following her marriage or it may refer to the first sowing of oats the following spring.

It would seem that John Spreull of Coldoun had at least four children, three of them presumably by his marriage to Margaret Colquhoun and one by a second marriage. The three children of the first marriage are offered as follows:

  1. James Spreull (1564 d. after 1628) He was his father’s heir and will be discussed shortly.
  2. John Spreull An abstract of a charter of 1622 speaks of John as “son to umquhile John Spreule of Coldoune.”116
  3. Walter Spreull (1568 – ?) In a document dated 31 July 1606, Walter is identified as a writer (lawyer) and as a son of John Spreule.117 A witness to the document was Gabriel Spreull, a “servitour” to “James, Earle of Glencairne”. Gabriel may have been an uncle of the above.

A secondary source states that John Spreull of Coldoun was married secondly to Catherine Denniston. She is identified as a daughter of Robert Denniston and the widow of Dugald Campbell118. Although the account is not as clear as one might wish, it appears John Spreull and Catherine Denniston had a daughter named:

  1. Margaret Spreull (early 1580s? d. ?) In 1599 Margaret married John Weir.119

Unfortunately no primary source has been encountered to substantiate the second marriage of John Spreull. John Spreull, laird of Coldoun, is judged to have died between 1616 and 1622. A 1616 document speaks of “John Sprewell, elder of Coldoun”.120 The use of the term “elder” would have distinguished him from a son of the same name. An abstract of a document of 18 June 1622, speaks of the “umquhile John Spreule of Coldoune”. Many years before his death John turned over his properties to his son James. Although Margaret bore the surname of Spreull, it may be that she was John Spreull’s stepdaughter. Margaret’s name does not appear anywhere else in documents relating to Coldoun. One is tempted to question the veracity of the information about John Spreull’s second marriage.



James Spreull (1564 – d. after 1628) – last of Cowden

It may be that James Spreule the heir of his father, John, was named after James VI of Scotland who in 1603 became James I of England. James’s inheritance of Coldoun was related to his marriage agreement. An abstract of the original document reads:

“Charter by John Spreule of Coldoune of the lands of Coldoune in im vliment of his son’s contract of marriage, dated 2nd May, 1589, containing a Precept of Sasine.”121

Two years later other paper work must have been completed as an abstract of an original document reads:

“Instrument of Sasine in favour of the above charter and precept: dated 13 June 1591”.122

The two Dunbartonshire properties were also transferred to James in 1589. The abstract of the original document reads:

“Charter from Ludovick, Duke of Lennox, to James Spreule, younger of Coldoun, and Agnes Kelso, his wife, of Dalquhirne and Dalmure, in fee, on resignation of his father, John Spreule of Coldoun, 24th July, 1589.”123

It may be pointed out that as the above James is identified as the “younger” it supports the idea that he had an uncle who was identified as the “Elder”. At the time of the issuance of the above charter, Ludovic, the 2nd Duke of Lennox was just approaching his fifteenth birthday, a rather young age to have had control over extensive tracts of land. The Lennox succession after the death of Mathew, (the sometime 4th Earl in 1571) is rather complex and has been omitted as it adds nothing significant to the Spreull story.

In 1597, James Spreule, laird of Coldoun, entered into a new landholding arrangement. As a result, the appellation of “friar” could be applied to James. The process he went through is called “feuing” one’s property.

The new arrangement required an initial large payment to the overlord but this gave the friar a perpetual lease of his lands. A fixed annual payment to the lord was an attraction of the new arrangement. The feuing of land also gave the friar some security from bankruptcy which could result when there was a rapid succession of heirs in the overlord’s family and/or in his own family. A friar had the great advantage of being relieved of the old feudal obligations owing to an overlord such as military service and marriage payments. The friar, of course, was not exempt from duties owing to his monarch. To clear the way for the feuing of the Spreull lands, a number of agreements were needed. The following abstracts of original documents trace the story:

“Charter by the said John Spreull of Coldouns, of vendition and alienation of the said five pound land of Coldoune to James Spreull and Agnes Kelso, his spouse, holding of the King; dated 31st of January 1597.”124

“Charter of Confirmation by King James VI of the above charter in favour of the said James Spreull; dated 3rd March 1597.” 125

“A Procuatory of Resignation by John of his five pound land of Coldoune in the King’s hands in favour of James Spreull of Coldoune; dated 23rd of March 1597”.126

“Sasine, James Spreull of the five pound land of Coldoune on the above charter of alienation from John Spreull of Coldoune; dated 6th July 1601”.127



It is suggested that the dates associated with each of the above agreements may reflect when each document was registered at Edinburgh and not necessarily on the dates upon which they were originally agreed. If a clerk faced a backlog of documents to register, he may have undertaken his task when time permitted.

No satisfactory explanation of the term “five pound land” has been found. It is suspected that it was the value placed on an acre of land by the lord for revenue purposes.

One would think that Ludovic, the 2nd Duke of Lennox, would have been involved in the feuing of Coldoun rather than King James VI, for Ludovic was the signatory of the charter for Dalquhurn and Dalmuir in 1589.128 Perhaps Coldoun was under royal ownership because James VI was the heir of his parents or if it had been transferred to Ludovic that the King may have found grounds to repossess it.

It cannot be established if James Spreule also feued Dalquhurn and Dalmuir, although one would think that he would have done so. There is also no mention of what approach was taken with Uplaw and Knockglass. Perhaps the documents concerning these properties were lost or discarded by later owners. An abstract of a document of 1631 suggests Uplaw and Knockglass passed out of Spreule hands in the 1620s.129

James Spreule married Agnes Kelso either early in 1589 or possibly 1588. No information has been located on the background of Agnes although her family may have been associated with Kelsoland which is located in Renfrewshire. As far as can be established James and Agnes had two children, James and Margaret.

The earliest known reference to James Spreule as “Fear of Cowdon” appears in an entry in Pitcairn’s Trials dated 17 February 1604. Spreull’s name appears under the “Assisa” of a court on a list of fifteen men subject to jury duty.130

Queen Elizabeth of England died in 1603 and James VI of Scotland, a great-great-grandson of Henry VII of England, became James I of England. In 1604 James began to encounter discontent in England and he decided to strengthen his military position. The following document of an unknown date in 1604 reads:

“James Spreull, friar of Coldoun, for James Earl of Glencairne, to buy from Sir Michael Balfour, or James Lowrie, his factor, 20 stands off Horsemen’s armour, in case he ought to do the same, under pain of 100 pounds for each stand”.131

The above statement is interpreted to mean that John Spreule was being forewarned that if the need arose he would be obliged to pay 2,000 pounds for twenty stands of armour. The demand upon Spreule probably reflects what the authorities regarded as his ability to pay which in turn would have reflected his status. One might infer that Spreule was also expected to field the twenty horsemen who would wear the armour. It is not known if Spreule faced additional demands based on the properties he held in Dunbartonshire.

In a Latin document witnessed at Edinburgh on 7 July 1611, “Jacabo Spreull, feodatarri de Coldoun” and “Agneti Kelso” his wife seemed to have entered an agreement to sell or take a mortgage out on Coldoun.132 The agreement involved “Andrew Law” and his wife “Barbara Mure”. An Andrew Law was the minister of the Parish of Neilston at this time. One might wonder if he would have had the funds to buy or assume a mortgage on Coldoun but perhaps his brother, James Law, Archbishop of Glasgow was also in the picture.



There is a possibility that Andrew Law’s wife was a daughter of Adam Muir and Jonet Spreull of Glasgow.133 If so, Jonet may have been James Spreule’s aunt, she being a daughter of Thomas Spreule deceased, laird of Coldoun. James Spreull, therefore, would have been entering an agreement with his cousin and her husband. For unknown reasons the transaction must have fallen through or have gone its course if a mortgage was involved. When James Spreule started procedures to sell Coldoun in 1620, Andrew Law and his wife were not involved.

In July 1615 James Sprewle ‘last of Cowdon’ and others served on a jury of which James was chancellor (foreman). The jury found six men guilty of treason. Their sentence was “to be tane to the Mercat-croce of Ed[inburgh] and thair to be hangit upone a gibett, quhill they be deid”.134

In 1612 or perhaps a bit earlier, James Spreule’s daughter Margaret was married. An abstract of an original document reads:

“An instrument of sasine of one-fourth of Dalchurne in favour of Adam Colquhoun, of Hiltoun of Napierstoun, and Margaret Spreull his wife, 26th May, 1612”.135

The above abstract, although it does not say so, may have reflected a marriage contract involving land to be transferred to the groom. A land transfer rather than a money settlement may have meant that James Spreule was short of ready cash. James Spreul’s mother was a Colquhoun and now his daughter was married to a Colquhoun. Perhaps James’s mother and his son-in-law were reasonably close relatives. Adam Colquhoun died within the next year or so and there is no information that indicates that there were any children by his marriage to Margaret Spreule.

Margaret Spreule married secondly in 1617 to a Dunbartonshire widower. Her second husband was John “Dennistoun” (later spelled Denniston) of Kirkmichael.136 It may be recalled that a secondary source claimed that Margaret’s grandfather, John Spreull had a second wife, she being Catherine Denniston. John Denniston was related to the Dennistons of Colgraine in Dunbartonshire, a family which traced its ancestry to the 1200s.

In 1620 James Spreule dealt rather generously with his son-in-law. An abstract of the original document reads:

“Instrument of sasine on a precept from Ludovick, Duke of Lennox, on a resignation from James Spreull, fiar of Coldoun, of Dalchurne, in favour of John Dennestoun in Kirkmichael, 1st December, 1620.”137

Oddly enough some six weeks later on 17 January 1621, an abstract of an original document reads:

“Instrument of sasine of Dalchurne and Dalmuir, in favour of James Spreull of Coldoun…”.138

At first glance, the January 1621 document seems to contradict that of December 1620. An explanation could be that the January document was tardily processed by some clerk and should have predated the 1620 document. Just why Spreull needed an Instrument of Saline for Dalquhurn at this time is not known.

The Sale of Coldoun

James took his first documented step to sell Coldoun to Sir George Elphistoun of Glasgow on 4 December 1620,139 just three days after he transferred Dalquhurn to his son-in-law, John Denniston.



On 1 February 1621, James Spreule was party to three documents regarding the sale of Coldoun to Elphistoun, namely an “Instrument of Resignation, a “Charter of Confirmation” issued by James VI) and a “Precept of Sasine”.140 On 13 February 1621, Spreule was party to an “Instrument of Sasine” in favour of Sir George Elphistoun.141

On 10 March 1621, Spreule and Elphistoun signed a contract ratifying the original agreement of 4 December 1620, and apparently “diverse” other clauses were added.142 It could be that the additional “diverse” other clauses became the cause of a dispute, for three days later on 13 March 1621, Elphistoun arranged for “Letters of Inhibition” to be issued against Spreule.143 Letters of Inhibition were court documents ordering Spreull to stop or suspend an action he had taken against Elphistoun. The same abstract notes that the letters were “intimated” on 24 March 1621.

A reference to the quarrel that had arisen between the two men may be found in a Privy Council document. Unfortunately the document is only identified as being of 1621. The document reads as follows:

James Spreull, some time of Cowdon, having been charged by open proclamation at the Market Cross of Edinburgh to appear this day at two o’clock to answer for contempt of the laws, ‘to the prejudice and disgrace of Sir George Elphistoun of Blyethiswoode, knight’ in so far as he [Spreule] directed John Gillespie, messenger, to charge the bailies of Edinburgh to apprehend Sir George and ward him in the Tollbooth [jail] of Edinburgh in terms of a caption [arrest warrant] although the said James knew the caption was suspended…and the said Spreull not now appearing, A the Lords order him to be denounced rebel”.144

It is suggested that being “denounced rebel” was not quite as serious as it sounds. The procedure took place when a person ignored a court order. The guilty person ordinarily got off with a fine. Today one would equate being denounced rebel as being similar to being declared in contempt of court. Spreule was trying to have Elphinstoun arrested with a warrant that had been suspended. Just with what Spreule intended to charge Elphistoun has not been discovered.

By 18 May 1621 the dispute must have been temporarily patched up. An abstract of a document of that date reads: “Bond of Alienation by the said James Spreule, fiar of Coldoune, to Sir George Elphistoun…”145 This bond of alienation is judged to be an agreement by Spreule to transfer Coldoun to Elphistoun.

It would seem that the quarrel broke out again or that bad feelings lingered on. In July, 1621, Elphistoun struck at Spreule in an indirect way. The abstract of the pertinent document reads:

“Decreet of Removing against the tenants of Coldoune in favour of Sir George Elphistoun; dated 18th July 1621.”146

It seems a certainty that many of the tenants of the Coldoun property would have had a blood relationship to James Spreule. Other tenants would have held their holdings from the Spreule family for generations and would have had feelings of loyalty to Spreule in his quarrel with Elphistoun. Such being the case, both categories of tenants may have been finding ways to show their support for Spreule. If Elphistoun was now in actual possession of Coldoun, he may have been faced by surly and uncooperative tenants. It is not known if Elphistoun evicted any or all of the tenants or if the threat of eviction caused them to fall in line. Certainly there were Spreulls among the tenants of Coldoun some sixty years later.147

In November 1621, Elphistoun’s hand was strengthened by another court order. Certain words in parentheses have been inserted in the following quotation for the purpose of clarification.



“Decreet of Improbation against sundry who (whose) pretended rights to the lands of Coldoune (in the) past (are rejected) in favour of Sir George Elphistoun (for) his right to the said five pound land of Coldoune; dated 13 November 1621”.148

The “sundrey” who had “pretended” rights to Coldoun are not identified. Future evidence suggests the sundry people were James Spreule’s son, also named James, his brother John, and his son-in-law John Denniston. It is possible that Sir George was already making a move to dispose of Coldoun which is what he did the following year. The “Decreet of Improation” could have been designed to assure any buyer that Sir George had a clear title to Coldoune. The decision to sell Coldoun may have arisen from the difficulties that had arisen with Spreule and possibly with Spreule’s old tenants.

In the spring of 1622 Elphistoun signed an agreement with Alexander Cochrane of Cochrane to sell him Coldoun. The abstract of the agreement follows:

“Heritable Disposition of the five pound land of Coldoune to Alexander Cochrane of that Ilk by Sir George Elphistoun of Bleithswood, heritable proprietor thereof with the consent of James Spreule, sometime fiar of Coldoune, and Mr. Adam Boyd for his interest; dated 2nd April 1622”.149

Why at this time did Elphistoun need the consent of Spreule to make the transaction? Perhaps he had not fully paid Spreule for the property or he was taking the opportunity to protect himself and Cochrane from some legal challenge. The above document mentions one Adam Boyd as having an “interest” in Coldoun. It is concluded that Elphistoun may have borrowed money from Boyd to purchase Coldoun.

On the same day as the sale to Cochrane, and no doubt earlier on that day, another possible obstacle to the deal was removed by another agreement. An abstract of the document reads:

“Ratification by James Spreull, son and apparent heir of James Spreule, fiar of Coldoune, of his father’s disposition and alienation of the said five pound land of Coldoune to Sir George Elphistoun; dated 2nd April 1622”.150

The above document is quite important as it should put to rest the claim of some secondary sources that James Spreull, Sr., was the last male of the Spreull family of Coldoun. It is possible, of course, that the father may have outlived the son and that the son never married and had children.

Alexander Cochrane must have also wanted assurance that James Spreull, Sr., and his wife Agnes Kelso, were not going to challenge the transaction. The abstract of the document they signed reads:

“Ratification and Approbriation of the above Disposition to Alexander Cochrane of that Ilk by James Spreull, sometime fiar of Coldoune, and Agnes Kelso, his spouse; dated 2nd and 13th April 1622”.151

The fact that two dates are given in the above abstract may mean that James Spreule signed the document, possibly in Edinburgh, and a few days later his wife signed it at another location.

John Spreule, the brother of James Spreull, Sr., must have tried at one time to prevent the sale of Coldoun, possibly at the prompting of James during his quarrel with Elphistoun. At any rate whatever obstacle that John may have raised was also taken care of by a document. The abstract of the document reads:



“Discharge by John Spreule, son to umquhile John Spreull of Coldoune, of his inhibition raised against James Spreull, fiar of Coldoune, in favour of Alexander Cochrane of that Ilk for the five pound land of Coldoune; dated 18th June 1622”.152

The preceding abstract is important in that it proves that James Spreule, Sr., of Coldoun had a brother John who may well have had descendants that perpetuated the Coldoun family. It also confirms that the brothers’ father was deceased.

James Spreule’s son-in-law, John Denniston of Dalquhurn, was also involved in the Spreule-Elphistoun dispute. As it is difficult to see how Denniston could have stopped the sale, his involvement may have been prompted by his father-in-law as a tactic to use against Elphistoun. Alexander Cochrane probably wanted Denniston’s declaration to prevent any challenge from that quarter. The Denniston abstract reads:

“Discharge by John Dennistout of Dallwhirne of Inhibition raised at his instance against the said James Spreule that it affected not the five pound land in favour of Alexander Cochrane”.153

The above abstract is not dated but as it was placed directly after the document agreed to by John Spreule it may also have borne the date of 18 June 1622.

In 1623 the signing of five more documents completed the sale of Coldoun by Elphistoun to Cochrane. Two of the abstracts are of some interest. The first one reads:

“Instrument of Resignation of the five pound land of Coldoune by Sir George Elphistoun with consent of James Spreule, sometime fiar of Coldoune, in the hands of the Prince; dated 23 April 1623.”154

The Prince referred to in the above abstract was Charles, Prince of Wales, the heir of King James I. The words “in the hands” could mean that Prince Charles was the overlord of Coldoune or it may mean that as Steward of Scotland that he was acting on behalf of the King. The abstract supports the point made earlier that in the 1590s King James must have removed Coldoun from the possession of Ludovic, the 2nd Duke of Lennox. The abstract of the second document reads as follows:

“Charter by Charles, Prince and Stewart of Scotland, of the five pound land of Coldoune in favour of Alexander Cochrane of that Ilk, on the above resignation of Sir George Elphistoun; dated 13th April 1623.”155

The preceding abstract may be compared with an entry in a volume of “The Great Seal of Scotland”. In addition to Coldoun, the latter source mentions the lands of “Wolplas” (Uplaw) and “Knockglas”. The difference in content serves to point out that the abstracts of the documents in the Dundonald collection may have often deleted useful information.

A Precept of Sasine of 23 April 1623, and a Sasine dated 2 May 1623, completed the transfer of Coldoun from Elphistoun to Cochrane.156

Alexander Cochrane, the purchaser of Coldoun from Elphistoun, originally bore the name of Blair. In 1593 he married Elizabeth Cochrane, the only daughter and heiress of William Cochrane of Cochrane and his wife Margaret Montgomery. Cochrane stipulated in his daughter’s marriage agreement that Blair must assume the surname of Cochrane. Blair complied. Alexander Blair may have been a distant relative of the Spreulls of Coldoun for the John Spreull who was killed at Flodden in 1513 was married to one Elizabeth Blair. Another possible but distant relationship was that Alexander (Blair) Cochrane’s mother was a Semple. The John Spreull who succeeded to Coldoun following the Battle of Flodden was married



to a Semple. In addition, Jonet Spreule who died in 1550 was married to Gabriel Semple, a son of the first Lord Semple.

Alexander (Blair) Cochrane’s second son, William, succeeded to the Coldoun estate. He styled himself as “of Coldoun” or “of Cowdon”. In May 1669, William was created Earl of Dundonald. The earls of Dundonald seem to have held Coldoun until 1725 when it came into the possession of the Marquis of Clydesdale whose mother was a daughter of an earl of Dundonald. (Another source says that Coldoun was sold by the 8th Earl of Dundonald about 1760.) At any rate when a Marquis of Clydesdale became the Duke of Hamilton in 1776, Coldoun was sold to Baron Mure of Caldwell. It has not been established when Coldoun passed out of Mure hands but it is stated in a book published in 1882 that “the greater part of it now belongs to Houston of Johnston”.157 By the twentieth century it seems to have become the property, at least for a time, of The English Sewing Cotton/Machine Company.

It would appear that an inventory of the documents of the charter chest of the Dundonalds was made in 1672 and turned over to the Lyon Office. Presumably this inventory was the basis of the abstracts of the various Spreull charters that have helped much of this account.

The abstracts were printed in a book in 1910. The long delay in getting the abstracts of the charters printed would largely account for the genealogical errors that appear in other writings about the Spreull family of Coldoun.

It is judged that James Spreule was in his late 50s when he sold Coldoun in 1621 and he was apparently still alive in 1628.158 If James was still alive in 1634 and still felt that Elphistoun did him an injustice in the Coldoun transaction, he may have found some satisfaction in the circumstances of Elphistoun’s death. A secondary source states that Sir George “died in 1634, and so poor that his body was arrested by his creditors”.159 The practice of seizing a corpse for debt could prevent or delay the funeral until the creditors were satisfied their claims would be recognized and hopefully settled.

The final question that must be asked is, why did James Spreule sell Cowdon? Seeing that Coldoun had been a Spreull possession from the 1200s, one can wonder what prompted James Spreule to sell his ancestral home and land. Did he sell because of debts, by indifference to his heritage, or because his interests lay beyond the land? Perhaps he saw qualities in his son James that led to his decision.

Could James, Sr. have arranged for his brother John to take over Coldoun? Probably not, for John may have lacked the money required. Another brother, Walter, a lawyer, appears to have died relatively young. Perhaps the death of James’s father between 1618 and 1620 removed the restraint that had kept James from selling Coldoun earlier.

The fact that Spreule quarrelled with Elphistoun over some aspect of the sale could mean that he had second thoughts. Had Elphistoun misrepresented a key feature of the sales agreement, or did Spreule fear that Elphistoun could not meet the terms of the sale? No records seem to have survived, but given that numerous cousins would have been living on surrounding lands and that many of them will have had to move as a result of the sale, it can hardly have been a popular decision with large parts of the extended family.

James Sproule’s sale of Cowden started the exodus of the family from Scotland. Undoubtably some Sproule’s did remain, probably those who over the generations had established themselves away from Cowden. For those members of the family who had been tied to Cowden, the sale of the estate left them with no choice but to move. And in seventeenth Scotland, the obvious place to move to was Ireland.



Margaret Spreule and John Denniston  Some information other than what has already been given is available about the descendants of Margaret Spreule, a daughter of the last Sproule laird of Coldoun.

Margaret’s husband, John Denniston* is identified as one of the Justices of the Peace of Dunbartonshire in the year 1634.160 In 1643 he was one of those charged with collecting money and improving the defences of Scotland.161 His responsibility was probably for his own shire. In 1644 he served on a Committee of War for his shire.162 There is no record of his involvement in 1645 and 1646 but in 1647 and 1648 Denniston was again identified as serving on the Committee of War.163

The background of his involvement in the Committee of War may be helpful. In 1639 and again in 1640 Scottish forces made incursions into northern England to show that the Presbyterians of Scotland would not put up with the use of the English Prayer Book in Scotland and the promotion of the power of bishops. These policies had been promoted by Charles I, the successor to James VI of Scotland (I of England). Late in 1643 the Scots agreed to send help to the rebels in England who were also in arms in opposing the religious and other policies of Charles I. The English rebels promised that the English parliament would approve the adoption of Presbyterianism in England. In the summer of 1644 forces under Cromwell won the Battle of Marston Moor near York. Later the Scots switched their support to Charles I. Suffice it to say that Cromwell was the final victor and that Charles I was executed in January 1649.

There is evidence in a document of 1667 that John Denniston and his wife Margaret Spreule were alive at that time. Both of them were then probably well into their 70s. As far as can be ascertained, the couple appear to have had but one child, Archibald.

Archibald Denniston Sr., of Dalquhurn, Minister of Campsie (1619 – Oct. 1679); married first Jean Noble and secondly Catherine Stirling.

Archibald Denniston, Sr., was born in 1619. He received a M.A. degree from the University of Glasgow on 26 July 1637. Archibald acquired Dalquhurn in 1645 upon the resignation of his father. Archibald was ordained as a Presbyterian minister in 1649, some twelve years after he earned his M.A. degree. Perhaps if he was involved in the work and administration of Dalquhurn he had to delay his entry into the ministry. He became a minister of the Parish of Campsie in neighbouring Stirlingshire.164

In 1655 Archibald lost his ministry on the grounds that he was a “Resolutionist”.165 A Resolutionist was one who was more moderate in the religious differences which had arisen among Presbyterians. In 1661 he was financially compensated for the loss of his post and was restored as minister of Campsie in 1662.166 As royal rule had been restored in 1660, it is concluded that Archibald, at least at that time, was amenable to Charles II’s religion.

Archibald Denniston, Sr., was married twice. His first wife was Jean Noble. According to one source she was the daughter of William Noble, fiar of Ardaran.167 It is judged that their marriage took place in the late 1630s. The couple had two sons. The eldest was named William and the younger was named Archibald.168 Both of them were probably born in the late 1630s. Comments about the two sons follow:

The Sons of the First Marriage of Archibald Denniston, Sr.

  1. William Denniston of Coigraine. * John Denniston, a widower, had two daughters by his first marriage. (See p. 330 of 1879 ed. of Jos. Irving’s book)



William married a relative, Margaret Denniston, the heiress of Colgraine in Dunbartonshire.169 She was the daughter of Colonel John Denniston of Coigraine whose wife may have been Jean Semple. Colgraine had long been in the possession of the Denniston family and the Colonel wished that situation to continue. He made a legal provision that if his eldest daughter, Margaret, married her nearest Denniston relative then she and her husband would inherit Colgraine.170 Margaret complied with the condition and married William Denniston of Dalquhurn, the eldest son of Archibald Denniston, Sr.. William’s acquisition of Coigraine may be the reason why he did not inherit Dalquhurn.

William and Margaret are said to have had sixteen children but only one son named John lived to adulthood. John is credited with freeing Colgrain from a heavy load of debt.171 Descendants of John continued to hold Colgraine until at least the 1830s, if not beyond. For a person wishing to pursue the genealogy of this Denniston family, a wide variety of records should be available.

  1. Archibald Denniston, Jr.

Archibald, Jr., was probably entrusted with the care of the Dalquhurn property after his brother married and acquired Colgraine. As Dalquhurn was eighteen or more miles from Campsie, it is doubtful if his minister father was able to give much help in the farm operations.

On 3 July 1660, both Archibald and William were declared, without cost, to be burgesses and guild brothers of the town of Dumbarton. In the record Archibald Jr. is designated as “fiar of Dalquhurn”.172 The designation may have been a matter of courtesy as there seems to be no record that his father ever put Dalquhurn in the legal control of Archibald. As yet, no evidence has been found that Archibald Jr. ever married.

Children of the Second Marriage of Archibald Denniston, Sr.

Archibald Sr.’s first wife, Jean Noble, died at some date after 1645 and he married again on 11 April 1657.173 His second wife was Catherine Stirling, the eldest daughter of James Stirling of Achyle (Auchyle).174 She was born about 1628. As a widow she lived in Edinburgh with her son George.175 On the day of her marriage to Archibald Sr., an agreement was signed whereby she would have the life rent of part of Dalquhurn.176 Such marriage contracts gave the wife some security in case her husband predeceased her. In the case of Catherine, security may have been a good idea as her husband had two sons by his first marriage. Archibald Sr. and Catherine are known to have had seven children. Their names, some of them not necessarily in their correct order of birth follow with a few details.177

  1. Anna Denniston – Anna married James Gillespie, M.A. who graduated from the University of Glasgow on 4 July 1670. He became the Presbyterian minister of Tarbolton in Ayrshire. Further information has not been pursued. 2. Margaret Denniston – Margaret married James Gordon, a son of Hugh Gordon, minister of Row. James received a M.A. degree from the University of Glasgow on 15 July 1673. He became the Presbyterian minister of Rosnoath. He died about the age of 40 in 1694. Margaret and James had two children about whom information is lacking:178
  2. Alexander Gordon
  3. William Gordon
  4. Jean Denniston (1661 – 8 Sept 1712), died in Castlederg, Tyrone, Ireland 4. John Denniston (15 March 1665 – ?) 5. George Denniston (24 October 1667 – ?)



  1. Mary Denniston. (17 November 1673 – ?) 7. Walter Denniston

Anna, Margaret and John were probably the oldest of the children as on 20 October 1665, their father, Archibald Sr., entered into an agreement whereby they would receive an annual income out of Dalquhurn.179 In 1686 he entered into an agreement with all of his children except Mary. Perhaps she had died earlier.

It has not been possible as yet to check the nature of the contents of the agreement and no attempt to further trace the children or other descendants of Archibald Denniston Sr. by his second marriage has been made. The task would be difficult as Dalquhurn was sold in 1669 and the land records of Dalquhurn following that date would be of no assistance. In addition, the children probably left Campsie when they reached adulthood.

The Disposal of Dalquhurn

On 30 July 1669, Archibald Denniston., Sr., minister of Campsie disposed of Dalquhurn.180 He resigned the property to Thomas Fleming* a merchant of Dumbarton and his son Charles. Two other properties named Over and Nether Cordells are also mentioned in the transaction.181 It has not been established when the latter properties came into the possession of the Sproule or Denniston families.

In 1692 Charles Fleming, the son of Thomas Fleming, sold Dalquhurn to James Smollet of Bonhill†, Dunbartonshire.182 Dalquhurn was where Sir James’s grandson, Tobias Smollet, the author, was raised. As related much earlier in this account, the old Sproule residence on the Daiquhurn property seems to have survived well into the 1800s when it was demolished. It is said a church was erected on the site of the home.

The Disposal of Dalmuir

As yet, no primary source has been found which tells when or to whom the Sproule property of Dalmuir was sold. One secondary source says it was acquired by the Cochrane family that acquired Coldoun from Sir George Elphistoun, but there are doubts as to the sources validity.

Concluding Remarks about the Sproules of Coldoun

James Sproule was the last Sproule to hold Coldoun but secondary sources have been mistaken in inferring that he was the last male of this particular family. It is quite possible that his son James may have survived him and married and had children. If not, James’s brother John or his brother Walter may have married and had children. Certainly as this account is carried further, other Sproule families claimed descent from the Sproules of Coldoun. Attention will now be turned to those families about which there is information.

* Almost certainly part of the family of the Earl of Wigtown

† The sale brought many Sproule Charters into the possession of the Smollett family. Their present location is unknown.



Jonet Spreule of Ladymure and Cathcart  The family now under discussion usually had its surname spelled Spraull or Spreule. As these spellings predominate, other spellings may be changed for the sake of more uniformity.

It was suggested that Robert Sproule, the laird of Coldoun from 1461 to 1488/99, may have been married twice. The John attributed to his first marriage became the heir of Coldoun and the John attributed to his second marriage became a scholar and Roman Catholic churchman. As yet, no primary sources have been found to support the proposition that the two Johns were half-brothers but all the available records have not been checked. Even if it could be proven that the two were full brothers, such a fact would not affect the story of the younger brother’s life.

The affairs of John Spreule the scholar and churchman are intertwined on occasion with that of his proven brother, Robert. Secondary sources suggest that John had a sister called Jonet but as yet it has not been verified.

Jonet was probably born in the early 1480s. According to one source she was first married to John Pollock of that Ilk. Her marriage to Pollock could well have taken place in the late 1490s. By this marriage Jonet had two children:

  1. John Pollock who died in infancy
  2. Jonet Pollock who was a spinster at the time of her mother’s death in 1550.

Following the death of her first husband, Jonet married Gabriel Semple183. The marriage probably took place between 1500 and 1505. The Semple’s were an old family being traceable through Burke’s Peerage to the 1200s. Gabriel was the third son of Sir John Semple who was created a peer in 1488. Gabriel’s mother was Margaret Colville, his father’s first wife. John Lord Semple was killed in the Battle of Flodden in 1513 and was succeeded by William his eldest son. Gabriel Semple and his wife Jonet Spreule were styled as “of Ladymure” in 1531 and for some years thereafter184. On a detailed map of Renfrewshire a place named Ladymure may be located about 15 miles west of the core of Glasgow or about 2.5 miles to the south-west of a town called Bridge of Weir.

A secondary source states that the Semple’s had a running feud with the Cunningham’s and that in 1534 Gabriel Semple killed one William Cunningham of Craigend185. It is not know if Gabriel Semple was punished for the killing but he remained active for several more years.

A document dated January 1531 shows that Gabriel and Jonet secured a portion, probably one-seventh, of Auchenbothie-Langmure, known as Boghouse, from one John Semple and his wife Alisone Langmure. At this point readers should be warned that Langmure186 must not be confused with Ladymure that will enter this account later. The hyphenated name Auchenbothie-Langmure refers to two separate properties. Auchenbothie lies in the Parish of Kilmacolm in Renfrewshire and Langmure lies in the Lordship of Kilmaurs in neighbouring Ayrshire. An Auchenbothie House and an Auchenbothie Mains may be located on a large-scale modern map about 3/4 mile north-west of the town of Kilmacolm or nearly four miles north-west of the Bridge of Weir.

At an undetermined date Gabriel Semple and his wife Jonet Spreule came into possession of other lands in the Parish of Kilmacolm, Renfrewshire, for in January 1540, they entered an agreement to transfer the properties of Craigbait, Tor and Thriply to their eldest son and heir, William and William’s wife, Mariote Kircaldy.187 On a large modern map a Thriply, a Tor Hall, and a Craigbait may all be located within a mile to 1.5 miles north-west of the Bridge of Weir.



Other lands acquired at an unestablished date or dates were Ker’s Meadow, King’s Meadow, King’s Orchard, and Castlshill. The location of Ker’s Meadow has not been determined, but the other three properties lay on the western outskirts of the town of Renfrew in Renfrewshire. On 1 August  1540, Gabriel and Jonet entered into an agreement with their eldest son William, that, following their decease, William would acquire Ladymure, Ker’s Meadow, King’s Orchard, Boghouse and AuchenbothieLangmure.188 The agreement must have been altered shortly after as the properties of King’s Meadow, King’s Orchard and Castlehill were sold to Mr. John Sproule, Canon of Glasgow in 1541.189 The transfer to Sproule will be returned to later.

A document signed on 5 November 1543, shows that Allan Lord Cathcart and Sundrum sold Gabriel Semple and his wife properties in the vicinity of Cathcart, a village that lies on the south side of the Clyde about three miles south of Glasgow. The properties involved were the Fortalice of Cathcart, the castle lands, the lands of Langside, Nether Brigholm, the mains of Cathcart with a third part of the mill, mill lands, etc.190 This transaction, involving a feudal Barony will have allowed Gabriel Semple to be styled as “of Cathcart”.

The Langside property is of historical interest as it was there that Mary, Queen of Scots, lost the Battle of Langside in 1568 and was obliged to flee to England. The battlefield was about 1/2 mile north of Cathcart and Mary is said to have watched it from a hill near Cathcart.

In an agreement signed on 23 March 1544, Gabriel, with the consent of his wife, Jonet, transferred to their second son John, and his wife, the lands of Castlel, Langside and Brigholm.191

Gabriel Semple is said to have been killed in the Battle of Pinkie in 1547. Jonet made her will on 22 October 1550,192 and presumably died that day or shortly after. At the time of her death she may have been about 70.

Among the witnesses to Jonet’s will were Walter Spreul and John Spreul. Walter is designated as “D’no de Coldoun” (laird of Coldoun) which must have been a matter of courtesy rather than fact, as there is no doubt that the laird of Coldoun at this time was Thomas Sproule. It could be that Walter may have been a younger brother of Jonet and a great-uncle of Thomas Sproule. The identity of the witness John Spreule is purely speculative but he could have been the son of Robert Sproule, the supposed brother of Jonet, or the son of Mathew Sproule who may have been a younger brother of Jonet. Mathew Sproule by his marriage to Marion-Langmure held one-seventh of the lands of Auchenbothie-Langmure.193 There were seven Langmure sisters who were all equal heiresses of the lands of Auchenbothy-Langmure.

Jonet Sproule and her second husband Gabriel Semple had four sons and three daughters as follows:194

  1. William Semple. He married first, Marion Kirkaldy, secondly, Janet Montgomery, a widow, and thirdly, Margaret Noble. His eldest son and heir, Gabriel, married one Margaret Spreule*. They had two sons, Robert and Gabriel.
  2. John Semple. John was married but had no issue.
  3. Gabriel Semple. He married Margaret Lindsay and had issue.
  4. Robert Semple. He may have entered the Church.

* It has not been established if or how Margaret Spreule was related to the Spreule family of Coldoun. It is likely that she had some social and family status to marry into the Semple family.



  1. Maldel? Semple. Information lacking.
  2. Bessy (Bissete) (Elizabeth?) Semple. She was a spinster at the time of her mother’s death in October 1550.
  3. Margaret Semple. She is said to have married John Pollock of that Ilk. He was a nephew of Margaret’s mother’s first husband. The Pollock lands devolved to this John Pollock. Margaret is not mentioned in her mother’s will of 1550, so it is presumed she predeceased her mother. One John Pollock, presumably Margaret’s husband, is mentioned in the will.

The descendants of Jonet Spreule and Gabriel Semple can be traced through Burke’s Peerage. It should be mentioned that the Semple family settled the various spellings of its surname as “Sempill”. One would think, however, that her background was somewhat compatible with marrying into the Semple family. In all there appear to have been three Spreule-Semple marriages.

Having some background information about Jonet Spreule and her husband Gabriel Semple, attention can now be paid to the probable brother of Jonet, Mr. John Spreule, the scholar and churchman.



Canon John Spreule, Scholar and Churchman As has been earlier stated, Alexander Nisbet, an author who was born just over 100 years after the death of Mr. John Spreule, asserted that John was “a younger son of the family of Cowdon” and that he was “bred to learning”.195 John was probably born around 1478-1480, perhaps twenty years after his brother or half-brother John who became the laird of Coldoun in 1488 or 1489. John died on 24 April 1555.

The younger John attended the University of Glasgow and obtained his bachelor’s degree in 1494196 and his Masters degree two years later.197 In records he is very often identified as “Mr. John Spreule”, the use of “Mr” being the Scottish way of recognizing a university graduate with a Masters degree.

If a reader thinks that the suggested birth date of John makes him too young to have received his degrees at the dates mentioned, it may be said that some students earned their Bachelors degree at the ages of 14, 15, or 16. Although Nisbet says John Spreule was of the Coldoun family, none of the primary records can definitively support such identification.

It would seem that shortly after his graduation that Mr. John Spreule became a professor on the staff of the University of Glasgow. Even prior to 1500 he was an examiner of candidates for a Bachelors or Masters degree.198 In 1501 John is identified as the Bursar of the university199 and in 1506 as a Regent.200 Indeed, he maintained connections with the University of Glasgow for the rest of his life.

Spreule’s career is further traced by a writer who did not document his sources but who obviously had sources unknown to this writer. The writer states:

“John is noted as chaplain in 1503, a notary public, commissary of the archbishop of Glasgow, and one of the judges of the Consistory of the Metropolitan Church in 1505. In 1505 he was possessor of the perpetual Chaplaincy of St. John the Baptist in the Metropolitan Church of Glasgow. In 1507 he was vicar of Dundonald and Professor of Philosophy in the College of Glasgow, and was subsequently appointed Rector of the Cathedral. In 1509 he was the possessor of the perpetual Vicarage of Carmunok”. 201

Another secondary source adds the following information:

“Subsequently he was advanced by Bishop Dunbar to be one of the prebends of his Cathedral Church and in virtue of his prebendry became vicar of Ancrum. In 1541 he was canon of Glasgow”.202

Spreule’s advancement in the University of Glasgow and in the Roman Catholic Church must have to some degree reflected his energy and ability. On a negative note, his holding of several church offices and their incomes would not have sat well with the Presbyterians of the 1530s and after.

Mr. John Spreule must have used some of his church income to purchase properties. The properties acquired by the canon were passed to his brother and to his brother’s descendants and must have done a great deal to advance their careers. Certain of the properties he acquired directly or indirectly involved Jonet Spreule, his supposed sister, and Jonet’s husband, Gabriel Semple.

On 25 August 1541, Mr. John Sproule, Canon of Glasgow, then about age 60, entered into an agreement whereby he acquired the properties called King’s Meadow, King’s Orchard, and Castlehill on the western side of the town of Renfrew from John, Lord Lyle.203 By 1540 those properties had been obtained by Gabriel Semple and Jonet Spreule.204 One may speculate that the Canon wished to deal directly with Lord



Lisle rather than become a tenant of Gabriel and Jonet. If such was the case, a satisfactory agreement must have been worked out between all the parties but no record survives.

The names of King’s meadow and King’s Orchard are believed to have originated from the time when King Robert II (r.1371 -1390) held the properties. The King was a Fitz Allan being the son of the 6th Steward of Scotland and he was also a grandson of King Robert the Bruce. The Fitz Allan’s (Stewarts) were associated with the town of Renfrew for several generations. Castlehill is believed to have been the site of a Fitz Allan castle where Robert II lived from time to time. It may be noted that among the titles of the eldest sons of the kings of Scotland was “Baron Renfrew”. After the unification of Scotland and England in 1707, the title has been among those borne by each Prince of Wales.

An agreement signed on 25 April 1543, saw the conveyance by Gabriel Semple and his wife Jonet Spreule to Mr. John Spreule of the property of Ladymure in the Parish of Kilmalcolm in Renfrewshire.205 One of the witnesses to the transaction was John Semple, Vicar of Erskine, who but a few years earlier was the guardian of the minor, Thomas Spreule, who became laird of Coldoun in 1537.

Alexander Nisbet, without documentation, states that Mr. John Spreule, Canon of Glasgow, purchased a “fair lodging” within the city of Glasgow.206 The location and name of such lodging has not been determined. Nisbet also says that the Canon acquired a property called “Blachairn” within the “Lordship of Provan”.207 On a large-scale modern Map a property called Blachairn may be found about 6 1/2 miles from Glasgow in Stirlingshire. North Blachairn lies about 2 miles beyond Blachairn.

There is a dearth of records relating to the Spreule ownership of Blachairn. No other mention of it and the Spreule name has been found again until 1662. Possibly the property was sublet under long term arrangements to some party. Blachairn is judged to have been or to have become an estate of some size.

Mr. John Spreule, Canon of Glasgow, died on 24 April 1555, and was interred within the Cathedral Church of Glasgow “wherein his heirs have prescribed a right of burying at his sepulchre to this day”.208 The Canon, who was born and died a Roman Catholic, was spared the assumption of religious and political power by the Presbyterians in 1560. It is ironic that the descendants of his brother Robert, who inherited the Canon’s properties, were amongst the staunchest Presbyterians of their time.



Robert Spreule, Burgess of Glasgow (1480s ? – late 1560s?)  Robert Spreule, a brother of Mr. John Spreule, Canon of Glasgow, was probably born in the early 1480s. Robert, like his brother the Canon, may have attended the University of Glasgow, as one Robert Spreull is listed as a scholar there in 1601 and as being in his laureate year in 1603.209 If so, he was the third brother of the Coldoun family to either attend or graduate from the University of Glasgow. It is likely that Robert lived in Glasgow for much of his adult life. In much later records Robert is identified as a burgess of Glasgow,210 a burgess being a full citizen having the right to participate in city government. Robert’s occupation or profession has not been established. Robert’s wife was Jonete Ameyr211 and the couple had perhaps four children, one of them being a son named John.

Nisbet states that John, the Canon, assigned his three properties of King’s Meadow, King’s Orchard, and Castlehill to his brother Robert and Robert’s son, John, “in the fee, by his disposition dated 1541, and by a charter of confirmation under the Great Seal, 1542”.212 The disposition and the charter mentioned by Nisbet no longer seem to exist. The Canon must have just been in possession of the three properties but a few weeks or months before he entered the transaction with his brother and his nephew. The use of the word “fee” mentioned above is understood to be an interest in land capable of being inherited.

On 19 September 1547, an agreement was signed whereby John Spreule, second vicar and Canon of Glasgow, turned over the three properties at Renfrew and the property of Ladymure in the Parish of Kilmer over to his brother Robert.213 The Latin document indicates that Robert was then a resident of Renfrew and that the Canon was reserving a residence in Renfrew for his own use.

Robert Spreule turned over his properties to his son John by agreements of 1556 and 1564.214 It is judged that in 1564 Robert would have been about age 80. Robert could have married Jonete Ameyr in the first decade of the 1500s. It would seem, however, that he married later in life. Robert and his wife may have had four children, three daughters and a son. The information about the daughters is rather meagre. Their children were as follows but not necessarily in the order indicated.

  1. Jonet Spreule
  2. Isabella Spreule. She married one Nicholas Jacksoune (Jackson)
  3. Agnes Spreule. She married one John Schaw (Shaw)
  4. John Spreule (1520? – late 1680s?) John married Elizabeth Symple (Semple) He was heir of his parents.

Information follows.

John Sproule, M.P. for Renfrew (1520? – late 1580s) – wife Elizabeth Semple

John Sproule, the son of Robert Sproule and Jonete Ameyr, is tentatively judged to have been born about 1520. Nisbet’s previously presented references to John in transactions of 1541 and 1542 gives one the impression that he was an adult by that time.

A University of Glasgow record that falls between the beginning of 1549 and of March 1551, sheds some light on when John was in control of the lands acquired from his uncle, the Canon. The item deals with the fees payable on the “lands of Castlehill and Kings Meidow” toward the parsonage of Renfrew by “John Sprewell Heritor”.215 In Scotland a “heritor” was one who held inheritable land. Heritor’s had privileges and responsibilities which exceeded that of tenants. The text shows that Sproule could pay his church tax in kind, i.e., in “meill” and “beir”. “Meill” may refer to oat meal. “Beir” was a form of barley.



On 26 February 1556, John secured the properties of Castlehill, King’s Orchard, and King’s Meadow at Renfrew, and Ladymure in the Parish of Kilmacolm from his parents.216 The document makes no mention of Blachairn in Stirlingshire. Perhaps Blachairn was transferred at another time and the record was lost.

Gustav Anjou, an at times unreliable genealogist, cites a document of 7 June 1564, as follows:

“Robert Sproul, citizen of Glasgow and Jonet Ame his spouse resigned in favour of John Sproul, their son, and Elizabeth Symple his spouse, a tenement in Glasgow.”217

The above tenement may have been the “fair lodging” which Nisbet says was purchased by Mr. Sproule, the Canon, some years earlier.

“Johane Spreull de Ladyemure” appears in a record dated 1 December 1576. The record seems to deal with the posting of bonds for several people facing trial. At the time of the record one could conclude that John was living at Ladymure.

Jos. Foster, author of Members of Parliament Scotland, lists John Spreull as a Member of Parliament for Renfrew in 1579. Quoting Nisbet as his source, Foster states that John was probably “the son of Robert Sprewell, of Glasgow and of Cowden, 1555, made rector of Cambuslang upon the reformation, and was so designated in 1588.”218

This may well be speculation as Foster borrowed from Nisbet. If he means that John Sproule was made rector of Cambuslang in 1555, it must be remembered that the Reformation did not triumph in Scotland until 1560. Documents of 1556 and of 1564 mentioned in a previous paragraph do not identify Sproule as a minister. If he was, certainly the 1564 document which was drawn up after the triumph of the Reformation in 1560 would surely designate him as a minister. Not to do so would have been quite inconsistent with the customs of the time when, if one held a position of some dignity, the appropriate identification was included in the document.

Nisbet’s own account on which Foster drew, states that John Sproule was designated as rector of Cambuslang “in his investment of the foresaid lands, in the year 1588”.219 At this point it is absolutely clear that John obtained the transfer of King’s Meadow, King’s Orchard, Castlehill, and Ladymure in 1556. If that fact is accepted, why would John again be invested with the lands in 1588 which was 32 years later? It is possible that the investment just concerned Blachairn, the property north of Glasgow.

Perhaps Nisbet made a mistake in his dates but his identification of John Sproule as rector of Cambuslang is questionable. One might wonder if the 1588 investment could have referred to John Spreule’s son who bore the same first name. If that was so, the investment makes some sense. The elder John Sproule would have likely been of about age 70 at that time and a transfer of his property to his son would be a sound and even overdue action. Finally, it should be pointed out that Fasti Eccleasie Scotticane which attempts to provide information about all Presbyterian ministers makes no mention of any John Sproule being rector of Cambuslang. Sproule, of course, could have been a minister of the Episcopal church.

It can be accepted that John Sproule represented Renfrew in the Scottish parliament in 1579 as this is confirmed in “The Acts of the Parliament of Scotland”, Vol. 12.220

As mentioned earlier, one researcher quotes a document which identifies John Spreule’s wife as Elizabeth Semple. The original documents have yet to be checked, but a Sproule- Semple marriage would not be surprising seeing that there were three Sproule-Semple marriages at earlier dates. The verification of the



children of John Sproule and Elizabeth Semple is unsatisfactory but it is suggested that they had at least four children as follows:

  1. John Sproule (1560? – ?) His wife was Elizabeth Hall. He was heir of his father. Comments to follow.
  2. Jean Sproule, she married Patrick Alexander c. 1584.
  3. James Sproule (?)
  4. William Sproule (?)

John Sproule of Renfrew and Ladymure (1560? – ?) – wife, Elizabeth Hall (? -1605)

The John Sproule now under discussion was probably raised in the town of Renfrew but there is little doubt that he lived at Ladymure in his adult life*. It is assumed that during his residence at Ladymure he was engaged in agricultural pursuits. There are a number of references to this John Sproule which eventually give a brief glimpse of the man.

The genealogist Gustav Anjou has gathered information about various Sproule families including the branch now under discussion. Many of Anjou’s sources remain unchecked, while the sources of other assertions are not made clear. In some cases one is not sure whether he is making a direct quotation or paraphrasing. At times he does not distinguish his assumptions from facts. Anjou is frequently cited as being inaccurate and a number of his assertions make fundamental errors in tracing the genealogy of the Sproules of Coldoun and that his comments about an Irish branch of the Sproule family contains serious errors. Despite these criticisms, Anjou seems to have gathered some useful information about the Sproule family now under discussion.

Anjou relates a property transaction of 24 March 1584,221 wherein one John Sproule of Ladymure acted as the agent. It would seem that the reference is to the John Sproule now under discussion, not of his father of the same first name.

Anjou refers to a document dated 15 December 1584, which relates that one Patrick Alexander transferred to Jean Sproule, the daughter of John Sproule of Ladymure, some property in consideration of his marriage to her.222 Jean is judged to have been the sister of the John Sproule now under discussion.

A particularly useful document quoted by Anjou states that one William Allasoun and his wife sold a one acre property to “John Spreull, son of John Spreull of Ladymere and Elizabeth Hall, his spouse”.223 The preceding quotation is taken to mean that Elizabeth Hall was the wife of the son rather than the father. (This type of wording has carried a parallel meaning in other documents.)

A one acre property would have had little value for agricultural use but it may have had a home on it where John Jr. and his wife lived for a time. Perhaps the couple had recently been married.

The above reference to John Sproule, Sr., proves that he was alive at the time of the sale (28 Feb. 1586/87) and it should be particularly noted that neither John Sr. nor John Jr. is identified as the minister of Cambuslang. Including mention of one’s station in life was the usual courtesy of the time. A witness to the document was “James Spreull of Ladymere”, possibly a brother of John Jr.

* The Ladymure in this account may well be the Ladymuir that can be found on a large scale map of Renfrewshire, lying about nine miles northwest of Neilston.



In a document dated 2 May 1592, Sir Mathew Stewart of Minto posted a bond for “John Spreull of Ladymure that he will not hurt Robert Lindsay of Ballhall”.224 On 20 April 1592, one William Ogilvy posted a bond that Robert Lindsay would not hurt John Sproule, a burgess of Glasgow and William Sproule, a burgess of Glasgow.225 Seeing that Robert Lindsay was a common link in the posting of the two bonds, one is tempted to conclude that there was a close relationship between the three Spreulls.

On 1 September 1592, “John Spreull of Ladymere” posted a bond of 500 marks that one “Stevin Glasgu, burgess of Glasgu” would not “intercommune” with one Mathew Heriot.226 On 1 February 1596, John Spreull of Ladymure and James Montgomery of Glasgow became cautioners of John Montgomery of Scotistoun.227 On 29 September 1599, at Glasgow, John Spreull of Ladymure posted bonds of 500 pounds each for several people that they would not hurt Arthour Allan, merchant and burgess of Glasgow.228

On 23 September 1599, John Spreull of Ladymure “as bailie in hac parts” gave sasine to “Gabriel Symple of the 26.5 mark land of Cathcart and Liangside”.229 It seems likely that Spreull approved the sasine as a function of his office as bailie, not as a landowner. The fact that a Semple was involved could be meaningful.

The preceding items, although not particularly valuable in themselves, certainly establish that there was a John Sproule living at Ladymure in the 1580s and 1590s. Several of the items could indicate that Sproule must have been a man of some substance who could be turned to when someone needed a bond posted.

In the very first years of the 1600s John Sproule and his wife Elizabeth Hall must have left their rural home of Ladymure and moved to their Castlehill property on the out-skirts of Renfrew. The move may have resulted from the disposal of the Ladymure property as no further mention of it as a Sproule possession has been encountered.

The Castlehill address of John and his wife Elizabeth Hall first appears in an entry in the “Commissariat Record of Glasgow”. The entry indicates that the will of Elizabeth was either entered or probated on 28 May 1605.230 As Elizabeth’s name does not appear in two important documents of 1607 and 1609, it is taken that she died in 1605.

John Sproule may have outlived his wife Elizabeth for many years. As he and his heir bore the same first name, one cannot be certain which John Sproule is being referred to in an item of 1625. The probable ages of either the father or the son in 1625 does not rule either one out of the picture.

The reference to be considered is that one John Spreull of Ramfrow (Renfrew) was Renfrew’s representative to the General Convention of the Royal Burghs that met in Glasgow on 5 July 1625.231 Was Renfrew’s representative the John Sproule whose wife was Elizabeth Hall or was he their son? It is tempting to think that he was the father. Records of Scotland suggest a delegate to the General Convention of the Royal Burghs may have been roughly the equivalent of a Member of Parliament in England.

On 21 August 1626, one Johnne Spreull again represented “Ramfrow” at a meeting of a Particular Convention of the Royal Burghs held at Edinburgh.232 This meeting may have been related to the fact that Charles I succeeded to the throne in 1625. Charles quickly tired of the issues that emanated from representative bodies, and, in the case of England, governed without calling meetings of Parliament in the period from 1629 to 1640. Until this matter has been checked out in regard to Scotland, it cannot be stated for certain if the same policy was followed there during such the same interval of time.



The death dates of John Sproule and his wife, Elizabeth Hall, have not been established. That John and Elizabeth had at least three or four children seems to be a genealogical necessity judging that kinship was claimed by other Spreulls. At this point, however, it is only certain that they had one child, another John Sproule.



John Sproule, of Castlehill; Provost of Renfrew; M. P. (1585 – 1662?)  On 8 July 1607, John Sproule, the son and heir of John Sproule and Elizabeth Hall, married Agneti Somervell (Agnes Somerville 1590? – 1630?), a daughter of John Somervel, a burgess of the town of Renfrew.233 The marriage contract, however, was not implemented until 9 February 1609.234 It is possible that the delay in their marriage was due to the young ages of the couple.

In the implementation of the marriage contract in 1609, John Sproule and his wife Agnes took over the properties of Castlehill, King’s Meadow, and King’s Orchard at Renfrew and properties called Hillborne and Bornested in the lordship of “lyill” (Lyle).235 This suggests the Ladymure property must have been disposed of several years earlier. Although Blachairn is again mentioned as a possession of the Sproule family in 1662, it is not mentioned at this time.

As stated earlier, it is difficult to prove whether it was the John Sproule now under discussion or if it was his father who was a representative of Renfrew to meetings of the Royal Burghs in 1625 and 1626.

In entries in the “Register of Testaments” of the “Commissariat Record of Hamilton and Campsie” the name of John Sproule and his wife Agnes Somerville appear in 1630. John is identified as the Provost of Renfrew.236 And the entry seems to suggest that Agnes had died, whether her husband also died the same year is not clear. It is assumed that he did not and that he is the John Sproule who was deeply involved in political affairs from 1639 through 1659. His involvement was so great that it seems best to not doubt his offices by means of an incomplete record237.

A Period of Intermittent Civil War (1640 – 49)

1639 – M.P. for Renfrew*

1640 – M.P. for Renfrew

1641 – M.P. for Renfrew

1642 – no involvement – perhaps a matter of lost records

1643 – Provost of Renfrew – Commissioner for Renfrew (M.P.?)† – Committee of War

1644 – Committee of War

1645 – Commissioner for war

1646 – Commissioner for War – Provost of Renfrew – Committee of War

1647 – M.P. for Renfrew

1648 – Provost of Renfrew – Committee of War

Cromwellian Period (1649 – 1660)

1649 – represented Renfew in General Convention of Burghs (M.P.?) – Provost of Renfrew – Committee of War

* The Scottish Parliament was a single chamber legislature at the time, with Bishops, Peers and Commoners sitting alongside one another.

† It has not been determined if being a commissioner for the town was the equivalent of being a Member of Parliament.



1650 – represented Renfrew on Particular Convention of Burghs (M.P.?) – Provost of Renfrew – appointed to a body to examine witches

1651 -1654 – no involvement? – perhaps a matter of lost records

1655 – Commissioner for Renfrew (M.P.?) – a Commissioner of Supply – Provost of Renfrew “for the time being” – a bailie of Renfrew

1656 – a Commissioner for Renfrew (M.P.?)

1657- 58 – no involvement?- perhaps a matter of lost records

1659 – a Commissioner of Supply

The preceding table shows that John Sproule had practically a continuous involvement in public affairs from 1639-1650 and then a reduced involvement for the rest of the 1650s. It could be that he held some of his posts more continuously than the extant records show.

The table also notes that Sproule was appointed to examine people for practising witchcraft in 1650. King James was very interested in witchcraft and must bear some of the blame for arousing concern in others. This was the time of the hysteria over witches and the famous Salem, Massachusetts, witches trials occurred in the 1690s.

Following the restoration of royal rule in 1660 under Charles II, many royalists were keen to punish those who held public office in the Cromwellian period. Hundreds of people in Scotland had to pay fines and secure pardons. In 1662 John Sproule “in Renfrew,” presumably the former Provost, Member of Parliament,, was fined 400 pounds.238

In 1647 John Sproule of Castlehill turned over certain properties to his son Mr. John Sproule who was married to Catherine Marshall.239 The details will be supplied later.

The index of the “General Register of Sasinses” has an entry dated 18 June 1662, which lists John Sproule of Blaquhairne (Blachairn) as the son of John Sproule of Castlehill.240 This is the first mention of Blachairn since the 1540s but the property may have been in Sproule hands in the intervening period*.

No document dealing with John Sproule of Castlehill, Renfrew, has been uncovered after 1662. As it is calculated that he could have been in his late 70s in 1662, that year may mark his death.

John Sproule and Agnes Somerville had at least two children and possibly a third. Their names were as follows:

  1. Jean Sproule (1609 – ?) She was still a spinster in 1647.
  2. John Sproule (1616 – 1690?) He was his father’s heir and became the controversial Town Clerk of Glasgow. (See the following chapter.)
  3. George Sproule (?) His identification as a son may have been a clerical error

* Blachairn about six miles north of Glasgow in Sterlingshire, will resurface as a Sproule possession in the early 1700’s.



John Spreull, (1616 – 1690?) Town Clerk of Glasgow  A difficulty in presenting the story of Mr. John Spreull, Town Clerk of Glasgow, is that for a portion of his life there is the danger of confusing him with his “cousin”*, another John Spreull, an apothecary of Paisley and then an apothecary and merchant of Glasgow. The latter became known as “Bass John”. The fact that the town clerk had a son also named John and that there was another John Spreull† who was a merchant of Glasgow adds further complications.

When original documents speak of “Mr. John Spreull”, it is as good as certain that the records refer to the town clerk. Again if the records speak of John Spreull “Senior” or John Spreull “the Elder”, and additionally state that he was a “writer” (lawyer), there is little doubt that the references are about the town clerk. His son, John, who was also a writer, can be distinguished from his father when he is designated as “Junior” or “the Younger”. “Bass John” is readily identifiable when he is identified as an apothecary or a merchant of Glasgow. The other John Spreull who was a merchant of Glasgow seems to have led a very quiet life, so he is naturally named less frequency in any records.

In putting together an account of the life of the Town Clerk, considerable assistance has been gleaned from what one might call his memoirs. His recollections bear the clumsy title of “Some Remarkable Passages of the Lord’s Providence toward Mr. John Sproul, Town Clerk of Glasgow”.241 In print, his memoirs run to but 21 small-sized pages which mean that many events of interest receive scant treatment. Spreull’s coverage of the period before 1650 is quite helpful. He seems to conclude his account about 1672, some eighteen years before his death. Spreull seems to have written his memoirs later than 1672 but as he was still in trouble with the authorities, he may have felt it would be judicious not to carry his account further. In a few cases Spreull was not too sure of his dates and occasionally he could have made an error.

Spreull’s memoirs disclose a lot about the man. For him, as for many people of Scotland, religion and politics were closely intertwined. He was often in a mental and emotional turmoil as he was afraid his stand in politics could be in conflict with God’s will. Throughout his memoirs he speaks of having dreams which he believed revealed the will of God. He was not alone in the matter of prophetic dreams; there was considerable interest in interpreting dreams in this period.

Born in 1616, he attended the University of Glasgow. In his memoirs he says he was in his baccalaureate year in 1635.242 He must have also earned a Masters degree as he was usually referred to as “Mr”. John Spreull, a courtesy extended to those holding a Master’s degree.

Spreull states that he considered entering the ministry but decided not to do so as he felt he could not obey the Five Articles of Perth which James I had been able to get approved in 1618.243 The Articles of Perth as perceived by the Presbyterians were designed to move them to “high church” practises under bishops. One gets the impression that Spreull “took the Covenant” in 1638 at the age of 22.244 People who took the Covenant swore a solemn oath to defend the beliefs and practices of the Presbyterian Church.

It would seem that John Spreull did not take part in the First and Second Bishops War in 1639 and 1640 when the Scots invaded England to challenge the policies of Charles I. Little benefit came out of these incursions but they did show how seriously many were taking the policies of the King.

* The term cousin seems to have had a broad meaning. The term “relative” may have been more appropriate.

† The relationship of this Sproule to the others is not known.



Spreull probably studied law during his university years and afterwards. In 1640 and in records of 16421646 he is identified as a notary public.245 At that time a notary could perform the duties of a chaplain, a schoolmaster, and of a commissary of the church. Spreull states that he began to plead before the commissaries as a procurator in 1640.246

He was married on 17 November 1640 to Catherine Merchel (Marshall), the eldest daughter of John Marshall, a merchant burgess and guild brother of Glasgow.247 The couple had twelve or more children.

At this time in his life Spreull says he realized there were some Puritans in Glasgow, but that he had never made their acquaintance.248 The Puritans of England had emerged as the solid core of the opposition to Charles I. The First Civil war broke out in 1642. Presbyterians and Puritans had much in common as both their faiths stemmed from the teachings of John Calvin. Spreull says that his first contact with a Puritan was when a “Mr. R.R” visited his home after hearing he held regular family prayer.249 Spreull says that salvation came to him in 1644 as a consequence of the preaching’s of a Mr. D. Dixon who was apparently a Presbyterian minister.250

In 1644 John Spreull was persuaded by his “near kinsman”, John Graham, whom Spreull says he scarcely knew, to be a procurator before Presbytery.251 He agreed but said he could accept no pay.

Spreull and Graham worked closely together for many years. Graham was a writer (lawyer) and Spruell was also soon designated as such. Both men served together in the army and in the civic administration of Glasgow. Graham was provost for a time when Spreull had the office of town clerk. Both men represented Glasgow in negotiations with England in the early period of Oliver Cromwell’s rule. They got into trouble for their religious and political views after royal rule was restored in 1660 and both served prison terms. Both men had sons who became writers.

When the First Civil War broke out in England in the autumn of 1642, the Scots at first stood aside but by the end of 1643 were persuaded by the parliamentarians, a general name for those who opposed the policies of Charles I, to enter the war. The Scots did this on the promise that England would adopt the Presbyterian form of church government. In 1644 a Scottish force, basically consisting of Covenanters of the lowlands, helped Cromwell win a victory on 2 July at Marston Moor in Yorkshire. In Scotland, a royalist, the Marquis of Montrose, became a threat when he proceeded to raise the predominantly Roman Catholic clans of the Highlands for the King. In southern England Charles I won some victories.

John Spreull records that he became unpopular with certain Glasgow magistrates in the early months of 1645 when he was procurator for the Consistory, a church court. His opposition to “H.B.” (Hugh Binning), presumably a “high church” supporter, was such that Commissary Fleming had Spreull forcibly ejected from the bar at the end of the summer session.252

Spreull recounts that in 1645 the Glasgow magistrates wanted him to go out as an ensign or a lieutenant with a force that was being sent to oppose the royalist forces under Montrose. He states he felt the magistrates efforts were designed to get rid of him. Spreull states that instead he chose to join a Covenanter force under the Earl of Glencairn where he would be serving as the representative of his father, one of the heritors of Renfrewshire.253

In time of war, heritors, a term for those who possessed inherited lands, were traditionally required to raise and command a force that was in proportion to their wealth and landholdings. Spreull’s father, at the time provost of the town of Renfrew, may have been unable to serve personally.

Equipping himself with a horse and arms, Spreull joined Glencairn and went to Perth. Spreull and his kinsman, John Graham, were probably officers in the Covenanter force that was defeated at Kileyth on



15 August 1645.254 Kilsyth lies about 12 miles north-east of Glasgow. Montrose was able to enter Glasgow in triumph and temporarily occupied it. The Town Council apologized for its previous attitude toward Montrose and congratulated him.

The defeat at Kilsyth obliged Spreull, Graham, and other “west country” gentlemen to flee to England where the Covenanter, David Leslie, headed an armed force.255 In passing, it may be said that they “west country” was a term covering the western lowlands, an area where support for the Covenanter cause was very strong.

On 14 June 1645, Charles I suffered a severe defeat at Naseby in Northamptonshire. On 13 September 1645, David Leslie and his Covenanters won a victory over Montrose and his royalists at Philiphaugh located nearly 60 miles south-east of Glasgow. Shortly afterwards Glasgow was occupied by forces of Leslie. The First Civil War drew to a close in 1646 and Charles I surrendered to the Scots.

Spreull and Graham appear to have been participants in the victory at Philiphaugh.256 They returned to Glasgow in a much stronger position than when they left it. Spreull and Graham pressed their leaders for reforms in the civic government of Glasgow and in this were supported by the Earl of Lanark. Spreull recounts attending a meeting of the “Estates” at Duns to support the reforms and a favourable act was passed.257 At this time George Porterfield was named provost of Glasgow even though he was still with an army in England and knew nothing about his appointment.258 Porterfield and Spreull were, or became, good friends and worked together with Graham in representing Glasgow’s position in Scottish affairs.

Spreull Becomes Town Clerk of Glasgow

Spreull’s record and sweeping changes in the composition of the magistrates and council of Glasgow obviously had a strong bearing on the next development. On 21 October 1645, John Spreull was nominated and elected to the position of town clerk of Glasgow for a period of one year.259 On 15 November it was approved that his salary would be one-half of the fees accumulated by his office.260 In his new position Spreull became deeply involved in the affairs of Glasgow. His intense interest in religion and politics promised him a turbulent career.

Spreull, Graham, and possibly Porterfield, attended another meeting of the Scottish parliament held at St. Andrew’s in November of 1645.261 Spreull notes that at this meeting they fell out of favour with the Earl of Lanark and “were very near to being thrown out.”262 The problem must have been resolved for when the town clerk returned to his duties in Glasgow in the late autumn of 1645, the situation continued to favour him. His previous opponent, Fleming, who had him ejected from the Consistory court was now in prison and George Lockhart was presiding.263 Lockhart asked Spreull to be his deputy and in the winter of 1645-46 he presided over the court from which he had previously been ejected.264 Lockhart, later knighted, became one of the foremost legal minds in Scotland.

At this time the central authority removed the incumbent people from civic office with the exception of Porterfield. In November 1645, three regiments of soldiers were stationed in Glasgow and stayed there for upwards of eighteen months.265 These actions were probably an outcome of Glasgow’s quick acceptance of the royalist Montrose in August.

The citizens of Glasgow had to bear the expense of maintaining the soldiers which was quite burdensome. On 11 March 1646, the council authorized Spreull to go to Edinburgh to discuss the problem but apparently he met with little success. Spreull recounts that by exercising great financial care the situation was met but adds that “it was a wonder the people did not stone us out…”266



On 12 September 1646, the Glasgow authorities authorized George Porterfield and the town clerk to go to Edinburgh to petition the “estates” (parliament) about the manner of electing the magistrates and council.267 It is assumed that a more equitable method of choosing officials was in mind. On 26 September 1646, the town clerk was admitted as a burgess of Glasgow without charge for “services done and to be done”.268 Spreull must have had his position as town clerk extended for a second year in the fall of 1646 presumably before the “Malignants” (high church royalists) gained control of the Glasgow council “by place and violence in October.269

Spreull, his kinsman, John Graham, and George Porterfield attended the winter parliament of 1646-47 at Edinburgh to get support to oust the royalists from control of Glasgow.270 On 26 January 1647, George Porterfield was renewed in his office of provost until new elections were held.271 By February 1647, the situation had changed in favour of the trio as their arguments in parliament assisted by support from Glasgow prevailed.272 The three men returned to Glasgow which then was experiencing a severe pestilence. It had started in 1646 and went on until 1648.273

On 20 March 1647, the Glasgow authorities empowered the town clerk and John Graham to “go wast” and speak to Mr. David [Dickson] and Mr. Robert Bailyie and to report “on ther mynds”.274 It is likely that the “Bailyie” in question was Robert Baillie who for a time was principal of the University of Glasgow. His letters and journals were published in 1842. His writings contain several very negative comments about Spreull but eventually Spreull seemed to find some favour with him.

The town clerk also performed what one could term religious functions. On 23 April 1647, Spreull was empowered

“to ryde to Strairawer to geive ane call, in the name of the towns, for Mr. Johns Livingetoune to trunepirt him selfe to the Blackfrier Kirk of this burgh to serve cuire theral as minister…”.275

It is of interest that certain churches still use the expression of sending a “call” when they invite a minister to come to take office in a church.

The town clerk’s job entailed tasks relating to education. On 5 June 1647, he was authorized to “ryd east” on a financial mission involving the “Colleges of Edinburgh and Glasgow.”276 It is likely the term “to ryd east” was a euphemism, meaning to go to Edinburgh.

Turning to Spreull’s personal affairs, a document of 30 July 1647 reveals that the town clerk’s father, John Spreull of Castlehill, Renfrew, who was a Member of Parliament in that year, made a settlement on his son. The town clerk acquired Castlehill, King’s Meadow, King’s Orchard and a small island in the Clyde called Newsandis (Newsands?).277 Altogether the properties seem to have totalled 25 acres. The Latin document refers to John Jr. as “filio maximo” which is taken to mean “eldest son” which seems to indicate there was at least one other son. John Jr.’s wife is again identified as Catherine Merchell (Marshall). Provision was made for Elizabeth, John Jr.’s sister, then aged 38 and apparently a spinster. John Spreull Sr. retained the “life rent” of the properties. One definition is that it was a measure which prevented the heir from disposing of the properties during a father’s lifetime. One could wonder if “life rent” included an annual rent which a father had for his maintenance for the balance of his life.

The town clerk had another property transaction on 14 September 1647.278 The document is too brief to be clear but appears to be a settlement regarding the tithes of properties called Langevell and Langcroft in the burgh of Renfrew. The agreement was made with John Hay, the parson of Renfrew.

A slight shadow was cast over Mr. John Spreull as town clerk by a decision made by the bailies and council of Glasgow on 10 July 1647. Their statement reads:



“taking to thair consideratioune that Mr. Johns Spreule, their ordinar [customary] clerk, is now employeit abroad be them in the sessioune and other matters, and hau that sundre inhabitants of this burgh ar disaponted therby in maters concerning the clerkschipe of this burghe they do therfor hearby grant full power and coumissione to Williams Yair, notar to exerce the said office as clerk this burgh duering the clerks absence….”279

The record or minutes of the meeting shows some unhappiness with Spreull’s absences from his office. His employment by the “session” may refer to the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church. It would seem that the Glasgow authorities had not been consulted about this employment.

On 4 September 1647, Spreull’s contract as town clerk was renegotiated and renewed. It was agreed that his remuneration be 3,000 marks a year for a period of 15 years following Michelmas (29 September).280 The minutes of the meeting say the purpose of the agreement was to encourage Spreull to be “diligent”. On 20 November 1647, Spreull was given permission to enlarge his office by leasing a shop next door and installing a connecting door.281 This decision linked with the previous agreement about salary suggests that the majority of the Glasgow administration did not want to lose Spreull’s services.

Town Council minutes during the first half of 1648 show that Spreull absences from Glasgow were often at the direction of the council. In January he accompanied George Porterfield, the provost of Glasgow, on a mission to Edinburgh.282 In mid-April he was absent on another mission and in late April he was a member of a delegation sent to Hamilton.283 His frequent missions to meetings involving church and state probably whetted his appetite for participation in the larger scene.

The Town Council minutes of 6 June 1648, show that Spreull, John Graham, and certain magistrates and councillors had been sent to Edinburgh to make a representation to the “estates” of Parliament. For reasons that will be suggested later, the group was imprisoned, presumably at the direction of parliament.284 The Glasgow council agreed on its 6 June meeting to request the liberation of the prisoners; this was granted one week later.

The above incident would seem related to the broader political scene in England and Scotland. In 1646 the First Civil War drew to a close. Charles I, who still held Oxford, decided to surrender to the Scots. He was able to evade the surrounding enemy and make his way to Newark where he surrendered on 5 May 1646. Oxford fell in June.

The Scots showed a willingness to come to terms with the King but he rejected their proposals. On 30 January 1647, the Scots surrendered the King to the English parliamentarians on the payment of 400,000 pounds. The English enemies of the King began to disagree among themselves and when terms were offered to the King, he would not accept them. His policy seemed to be to exploit the disunity of his enemies.

On 11 November 1647, the King “escaped”* and made his way to the Isle of Wight on the south coast. From there he contacted the Covenanters in Scotland to reach terms with them. An agreement called “The Engagement with the Scots” was reached in December 1647. The Covenanters agreed to restore Charles, an overconfident hope, and the King agreed to accept Presbyterianism for a three year trial period in England. An obvious weakness of the agreement was differences of opinion among the Covenanters.

* It is held that the whole situation was becoming an embarrassment to the King’s enemies and that his captors were not loath to let him escape.



In early 1648 the Second Civil War broke out. At the end of May the town council of Glasgow passed a motion showing its reluctance to support the war. The Scots under the Duke of Hamilton invaded England in early July. In encounters dating 17-19 August 1648, the Scots were defeated in and around Preston in Lancashire. Preston lies about 28 miles north-east of Liverpool. In the south a royalist uprising was put down in Essex.

Charles I, who had remained on the Isle of Wight, was still able to negotiate with the English parliament but the parliamentary army exerted its power by having nothing to do with him. Charles was brought to London, tried for treason and found guilty. He was executed on 30 January 1649.

The reluctance of the Glasgow council to support the King in May 1648 and the imprisonment of Spreull and others at Edinburgh in June, seem to be related events. Spreull in particular, considering his feelings about past royalist religious policies, must have been quite disturbed by an alliance between Covenanters and Roman Catholics to support the King.

Spreull’s friend, George Porterfield, was named provost for another year on 3 October 1648.285 On 27 November, some nine weeks after the defeat at Preston, the Glasgow administration appointed “Niniane Anderwe and Maister John Sproule to go to Hamiltone to the colittee of the shyre.”286 One may suggest that this appointment and perhaps even some earlier ones would qualify Spreull to be called a Member of Parliament for Scotland. The meeting of the representatives of the shires was probably to consider the predicament Scotland was in because of the defeat at Preston and what course of action might be followed.

The Scots had no voice in the decision of the English to execute Charles I in January 1649. Many Covenanters, as well as Roman Catholic royalists, felt that the English had gone too far in executing the Scottish born Stuart King to whom they had become allied in December 1647. In Ireland the Roman Catholics felt their interests would be better served by royalist rule. In 1648 and 1650 Oliver Cromwell savagely put down rebellions there. In England, where a great many people had tried to stay neutral in the civil strife or had straddled the fence, the execution of the King raised the possibility of further royalist support.

In 1649 Scottish Covenanters and royalists invited the executed King’s son, also named Charles, to be their new King. In June 1650, Charles, who had been in exile in Holland, made his way to Scotland to rally his supporters. Charles II “took the Covenant” and made the familiar promise to support the Presbyterian Church in Scotland and England.

Spreull’s memoirs give the impression that he was unsure as to what position he should take in the oncoming struggle between Cromwell and Charles II.287 Perhaps he did not voice his feelings publicly for he was appointed to serve on a Committee of War, presumably for Lanarkshire, in 1649.288 If the town clerk really believed that the King had a chance to win and that he would remain true to his promises, it is understandable with his inflexible beliefs that the emergence of Cromwell’s policy of trying to heal religious animosity would be regarded by Spreull as the “evil of toleration”.289 Spreull, probably with very little enthusiasm, decided to support the royalist cause.

On 27 July 1650, the town council of Glasgow appointed William Yair, Spreull’s assistant, to exercise the office of town clerk during “the absence of Mr. John Sproule, clerk, now at the airmie”.290 Spreull states that he joined a Scottish force at Leith which lies just north of Edinburgh.291 In  August he participated in an encounter, probably as an officer, wherein his commander of 1645, David Leslie, inflicted a check on a force commanded by Oliver Cromwell. Spreull states that after the battle he took the first opportunity to return to Glasgow and was there when the Battle of Dunbar was fought on 3 September 1650.292 The



Battle of Dunbar was another encounter between David Leslie and an English army commanded by Cromwell. It took place on the coast east of Edinburgh where Cromwell’s force prevailed after a desperate struggle. In October 1650, Cromwell was in the western lowlands and spent a few days in Glasgow, arriving there on 24 October.

Spreull may have been involved in another act of war in 1650. Many years later, after the Restoration (1660), he and others were charged with invading the lands of the Earl of Queensberry and of Lord Drumlanerig, his son, and that the gates of Drumlanerig Castle were burned in that action.293 In the trial of 1662 Spreull never admitted that he had taken part in the foray Drumlanerig Castle which is located about 45 miles south of Glasgow in the shire of Dumfries. It is likely that after the defeat at Dunbar that the uneasy alliance between the Covenanters and the royalists was difficult to maintain. Perhaps some of the Covenanters felt they had a score to settle with the Earl of Queensberry and his son.

The hopes of the Scots and of Charles II were not ended in the defeat at Dunbar. Remnants of the defeated army and others began to reorganize to continue the struggle. In an oblique way Spreull seems to hint in his memoirs that he was involved in a levy made in the western shires of the lowlands which resulted in many taking a fresh vow or “remonstrance” on behalf of the Covenanter cause.294 Spreull states that he was in some confusion as to what course to follow. He decided to support the “remonstrance” but believed the Covenanters should not support the King.295 Spreull was not satisfied with his decision and says that shortly after he was under some temptation to join the “English”, i.e. support Cromwell.296 His dilemma was finally resolved by a dream in which he believed it was God’s message that he should avoid aligning himself with either group.297

Although Spreull was apparently still officially on leave from his office in 1651 to serve in the army, there is some evidence that he was in Glasgow from time to time and on such occasions undertook duties for the Glasgow administration. That he still held his office may be related to the fact that his friend and kinsman, John Graham, held the office of provost at that time. Just when Spreull officially resumed his duties as town clerk has not been determined but he was certainly exercising his office by the spring of 1650.

Oliver Cromwell, who still had some royalist areas to subdue in Scotland, visited Glasgow again in late April 1651. It is not known if the town clerk met or conversed with Cromwell but it is said a good many Presbyterians were impressed by his church attendance and his long prayers. At the time Cromwell was departing from Glasgow an unpleasant development took place in local politics. Although there is insufficient evidence to say it was related to Cromwell’s visit, the event is given some coverage in the journals of Robert Baillie and can be presented as follows:298

John Graham, (the provost), Spreull, and their supporters got into a quarrel with a committee whose president was one John Wylie. On Tuesday, April 30th, preceding a church service, Graham and Spreull sent for Wylie and warned him that he and his committee had no business “medleing in that Excise” as it was beyond their jurisdiction. It is possible that the “Excise” was a tax that was a source of income for the churches of Glasgow. “Hot words” were exchanged and Graham called Wylie a “knave” and a “villains” and ordered him jailed. It may be significant that Cromwell’s guard was in the nearby tollbooth.

Following the church service, the provost and the town clerk called the “ministers” (clergy?) together and related the “great affront” they had suffered and asked for their advice on the matter. Discussions took place during the day and it was decided Wylie and John Wodrow would have to appear before the town council the next morning. As the meeting was breaking up, Spreull became annoyed by the men and presence of four young men, obviously supporters of Wylie. He ordered them to be seized and taken to jail. A crowd gathered and a scuffle broke out which was quieted by the arrival of some of Cromwell’s



soldiers with “their swords and pistolls”. The outcome of the meeting of the town council the following morning is not presented.

Baillie closes his account of the affair by saying the trouble arose because of the actions of Spreull and one Patrick Gillespie. Various remarks in Baillie’s writings show that for a time he was very critical of Spreull. For example, one of the positions Spreull attained was factor of the University of Glasgow. Baillie states that Spreull “gripped our purses, that no man gett any stipend bot he thought expedient…”299 Baillie also states that Spreull worked “in the English interest”.300 This charge was certainly not borne out by an event of the following year.

On 26 June 1651, the Glasgow council again gave William Yair authority to serve as town clerk in the absence of Spreull.301 At this time Spreull does not seem to have been in the army for which he had been given a leave of office in July 1650. Why was Spreull absent from his position? In his memoirs Spreull says that he and two other men retired to Kintyre in the summer of 1651 where they spent 40 days in prayer.302 Kintyre is the most southerly peninsula of the shire of Argyle located on the west coast of Scotland. The town clerk was still trying to determine what role God wanted him to serve in the religious and political life of Scotland.

On 30 September 1651, the Glasgow council approved that Spreull’s friend, George Porterfield, would be provost for the forthcoming year, Porterfield being the replacement for John Graham.303 On 13 December, Graham and Spreull were appointed to go to Edinburgh to discuss the town’s affairs and the affairs of the burghs with Sir Robert Douglas.304

The year 1562 began with Mr. John Spreull and John Graham being given a very important responsibility. At a meeting of the burgesses and the people of Glasgow on 10 February under the chairmanship of Spreull, it was decided to meet an English request or order to send two representatives to a meeting to be held at Dalkeith, a small centre a few miles south-east of Edinburgh. At Dalkeith representatives of the burghs were to hear proposals for a well-grounded peace that would be advanced by members of the English parliament. The Glasgow meeting decided that Spreull and Graham should go to Dalkeith and that William Yair was to accompany them as their secretary.305

At Dalkeith the English representatives sounded out the Scots for a parliamentary union of Scotland and England. In his memoirs Spreull says that the English were “driving on the Tender” (Tender of Union).306 When Graham and Spreull returned to Glasgow, a meeting was held on 21 February to receive their report.307 The minutes of the meeting are sketchy but the two men presented two proposals the English had advanced. After questions and discussion, it was unanimously decided that the English proposals were unsatisfactory.308 A written reply for the English was prepared. It cantered on four chief points of objection and was signed by Graham and Sprull and several others. The answer was apparently delivered on 24 February 1652. In this affair Spreull certainly does not strike one as “working in the English interest”.

As a result of Glasgow’s refusal to accept the “Tender”, nine companies of horse and foot were sent there and the magistrates of Glasgow were suspended from office.309 The town was required to appoint two replacements for Graham and Spreull, and to continue negotiations.

The two new delegates accepted the English proposals on 13 March 1652, and Glasgow was allowed to elect new magistrates to office.310 On 21 April 1653, two weeks before the arrival in Scotland of judges to administer justice in Scotland, a “voluntary” union of the two countries was proclaimed at Edinburgh.



Within days of Glasgow’s reply to the Dalkeith meeting, Spreull had once again fallen out of favour in Glasgow. On 3 April 1652, two men were appointed by the town council, probably a revamped one, to secure the keys to the cupboards containing town documents held in the office of the town clerk.311 Previously Spreull had refused to surrender them. The council also recognized William Yair as clerk.312 It is possible that his position as acting town clerk had never been formally rescinded since Spreull was granted absence for military service back in 1650. A town record of 27 April 1652 shows that Sproull, the “late clerk” had released the town records.313 He and three others were directed to prepare an accounting of the monies from a tax on the manufacture and sale of cloth in the burgh.314

On 1 June 1652, the town council must have felt that Yair’s appointment as town clerk in April needed further emphasis. The town minutes relate that Spreull had for a long time left and deserted his charge and that his office was declared vacant. William Yair was again named town clerk.315 Considering the several significant missions that Spreull had been sent on by the Glasgow administration between July 1650 and April 1652, and of some minor tasks not recounted here, the charge that he had “deserted” his position seems exaggerated and hardly the real reason for his dismissal. On 11 September, William Yair was declared to be the town clerk until 1 September 1653.316

Nothing worthy of mention about the activities of Mr. John Spreull for the year 1653 has been uncovered. One can conclude that he was making his living from practising law and from the revenue of his lands.

On 3 September 1653, William Yair was again appointed town clerk for the coming year.317 The entry in the town minutes notes that Spreull had previously “slighted” his charge and again declared that all promises made to him were rescinded. The repeated claims that Spreull’s agreement with the Glasgow administration had been terminated hints that the administration was nervous about its legal position and also preparing a counter-attack.

In the following year, in the town minutes of 24 August 1654, it is noted that Mr. John Sproule “now one of the ordinare clerk’s of the Hie Court of Justice” appeared to the magistrates and council to inform them that he had before obtained a decree from the High Court which upheld his contract as town clerk and his right to have a deputy if he so wished.318 In all of this, Spreull was refuting the charge he had neglected his office when William Yair was in charge.

The decree was read and the magistrates and council agreed to obey it. Sproule removed himself from the meeting and it was approved that Yair would be the deputy Town Clerk during the remainder of Spreull’s contract.319 This action was probably necessary to avoid the complication of Glasgow having two town clerks. It was requested that Yair leave the meeting and consult Spreull as to his salary. Yair did so and returned to say that an agreement had been reached. After approximately two years and four months Spreull was back in office.

The decision of the High Court makes one curious. If the members of the court had been approved by Cromwell, one would not think it would have been making completely unbiased decisions. Perhaps it was “leaning” on the Glasgow authorities because it was regarded as being royalist in sympathy. Spreull, of course, was no royalist but neither was he a supporter of Cromwell.

It is also interesting that John Graham’s name appears on burgh records of 1654, 1655, and 1658. Spruell’s reinstatement as town clerk may have had something to do with this or perhaps the political climate of Glasgow was changing.



In 1655 of Commissioner Spreull is identified as holding the position of Commissioner of Supply.320 No definition of this job has been encountered but it may have involved raising revenues in the Glasgow area and/or purchasing supplies for the government. He is again identified as holding the post in 1656 and l659.321 The 1655 appointment may have been related to the fact that Cromwell was on the verge of going to war with Spain, a war which lasted until 1658. Following the death of Cromwell on 3 September 1658, England was on the brink of a civil war. The appointment of Commissioners of Supply always seemed to accompany war or the threat of it.

From 1656 Mr. John Spreull is identified from time to time as a “writer” (lawyer) which suggests that although he had regained his post of town clerk he was also spending time on his law practice. Another item shows that one John Graham was a “servitour” to Spreull.322 It is possible that he was the son of Spreull’s kinsman and that he was learning law in Spreull’s office.

In 1657 Sproule acquired a property called Denfield which seems to have been located in Renfrew.323 It has not been determined as to what use he put the property.

In a document of 1659 a reference is made about Thomas Henderson and “Mr. John Sprawls Towne Clerk of Glasgow” as being “both honest and able men.”324

Royal rule in the person of Charles II returned to the British Isles at the end of May 1660. Despite Charles’s personal wishes, people such as Covenanters were soon in trouble. One secondary source says that on 14 September 1660, Spreull and John Graham were held in the Edinburgh tollbooth (jail) for having favoured the Western Remonstrance.325 This is taken to refer to the oath many Covenanters took in 1650 some ten years before. The imprisonment of the two men appears to have been a short one.

By 1661 measures were passed in England and Scotland that made life difficult for those outside the established church – the Church of England or its equivalent. Ministers who would not uphold the Episcopal Church were called Dissenters or Nonconformists. They were deprived of their ministries and placed under other restrictions. Those citizens who had held office under Cromwell lost their positions and were fined if they had subscribed to Covenanter principles and had shown themselves opposed to royal rule.

On 7 September 1661, the minutes of the Glasgow town council stated that seeing

“Mr. John Spreull clerk thereof, is notourlie knowne to have bein and of that rank and number has been incarcerant and keeped in waird for the same”.326

It was also recorded that Spreull’s office was declared vacant and that William Yair would take the position of town clerk.

Spreull and John Graham were held in the Edinburgh tollbooth for two months in 1661 for failing to take an oath to renounce their religious position and to recognize the power of the Episcopal church. Baille writes:

“Our folks, Mr. John Graham and Mr. John Sprawl, lay long in the tollbooth of Edinburgh for refusing but at last they, John Johnson, and Thomas Paterson subscribed to it.”327

In calling Graham and Spreull “our folks” there may be a hint that the ill-feeling that had existed between Baillie and Spreull in earlier years had been overcome.



Although Spreull’s memoirs may not be accurate as to the date, he relates that he was held in prison for nine weeks and how he wrestled with his conscience about taking an oath to renounce the Remonstrance.328 Finally he took the oath but says he lived to regret it.329

Soon after he was released from jail in Edinburgh, Spreull faced further problems in Glasgow. Evidently he was still refusing to give up his right to his office town clerk. The Glasgow burgh minutes of 5 October 1661, show that he was summoned before the town council and ordered to produce certain financial records pertaining to his period in office.330 This demand may have been another route to acquire evidence that Spreull was not entitled to his office. The outcome of this demand is not known but Spreull was jailed. In his memoirs he says, “I was held in the Glasgow tollbooth till I agreed to renounce my office of clerkship”.331

On 12 October 1661, Spreull’s original fifteen year contract of office was discussed by the town council. It was argued that Spreull had conspired with the late usurpers and had fomented unhappy divisions”. It was concluded he would have to pay back the revenues that had constituted his salary as town clerk.332 (It may be pointed out that Spreull was first appointed town clerk in the fall of 1645 but that on 4 September 1647, he had negotiated a 15 year contract.) If Spreull had been compensated for his illegal removal from office in 1652 to 1654, it was likely that he was now expected to pay back approximately 14 years of salary. The records do not indicate how much, if any, of his salary was ever paid back.

In 1662, as mentioned in a few pages back, Mr. John Sprewell of Glasgow and others were to be tried for making a foray into the lands belonging to the Earl of Queensberry and Lord Drumlanerig his son. It is not known if the trial was ever carried out but it is significant that Spreull and many others had to pay fines for their activities in past years. “Mr. Johns Sprewell…late Clerk of Glasgow” was fined the considerable sum of 1200 pounds.333

Despite his difficulties, there is evidence that Spreull resumed his law practice at some date in 1662 and was able to continue it until 1664. In April 1663, he is identified as a “writer” in a document witnessed by a John Spreull, his scribe. The scribe could have been Spruill’s own son, although at this date his son would have been very young. The document was also witnessed by a James Spreull of Castlehill, Renfrew*. Castlehill, it may be recalled was Spreull’s property in Renfrew. As it has been ascertained that John Spreull had a son named James, the witness may have been his son. Another document of early 1664 was witnessed by “John Spreul, servitor to Mr. John Spreull writer in Glasgow.334

At some time in the first few months of 1664, Spreull went into voluntary exile in Holland.335 In late 1664 he was in the tollbooth in Edinburgh.336 This time the charges against him included banishment. Portions of a record dated 15 December 1664, relate the circumstances

“that Mr. John Spreull, late clerk of Glasgow, having been cited before the commission for Church affaires to answer for his disobedience to the laws and disaffection to the government thereby established, he, for evicting of the sentence of the said judiciary, did for some tyme withdraw himself furth of the countrey, and having privately returned, did carry himself most suspitiously by travelling secretly being apprehended and brought before the said Lords of the Privy Council, and the oath of allegiance being by them tendered unto him, he refused same, alleging that he had not the freedom to signs the same for reason the ty that lay upon him by the oath of the covenant, whereupon the raids be Lords have therefore ordained the said Jon Sprewull to enact himself, upon pains of death, to remove out of the kingdoms betwixt and the                                                       * In an unchecked Sasine Register, Vol. 4 1641-1654. Vol. 3. Folio 432, Blachairn re-emerges in a Spreull transaction. (June 18, 1662.) John S. of Castlehill dead or dying?



first day of February nixtocom, and ordaines him to find caution under the pains of two thousand lib., to live peaceably in the mean tyme until his removal, and not to come within six myles of Glasggow and the said caution being found, ordaines the keeper of the tolbuith of Edinburgh to sett him to liberty”.337

It will be noted in the above document that Spreull was charged with evading an earlier sentence by withdrawing from the county. His memoirs state that he spent his absence in Holland. According to one reference Spreull was twice sentenced to banishment in 1664. If so, the above order of 15 December 15 of banishment must have been the second order, the first possibly being pronounced in absentia.

Spreull lost no time securing the bond for 2,000 pounds. On the following day, John Miller, a merchant burgess of Glasgow, provided the bond.338 One secondary source says that Spreull “lurked” around Berwick and Newcastle in England for part of his exile and spent the rest of the time in Holland.339 It is likely that his stay in England violated his sentence of exile.

During the time Spreull was in Holland it is concluded that he lived in Rotterdam. Letters written by people to George Porterfield, the former provost of Glasgow, who was also in exile in Holland, were evidently intercepted by government agents for abstracts of their contents appear in the records of the Privy Council of Scotland. After noting their contents, the letters may have been forwarded to Porterfield. A letter sent on 2 November 1668, from Belfast to Porterfield included this comment. “I dearlie remember all our friends with you, Mr. Sprewl particularlie”.340 Another letter to Porterfield dated 16 September 1669 includes this statement, “Present my respects to Mr. Sprewel, whom with his numerous familie I wish evrie well”.341 Other sources infer that Spreull may have been joined in Holland by his eldest son James or that his wife and family remained in Scotland.

In November 1672, after spending nearly eight years in exile, Spreull broke his terms of exile and secretly returned to Scotland.342 He was in due time apprehended and imprisoned in the tollbooth in Edinburgh. While in prison and before the end of 1672, Spreull presented a petition to the Privy Council asking for his liberty. A Portion of his petition as written up by a scribe of the Privy Council reads as follows:

“… Showing that in the year 1664 there being ane act of banishment past upon the supplicant, he did depart and remain furth of the countrey be the space of eight years or thereby, and the petitioners wyfe in his absence being sorely prest with the burdens of a numerous family did make several addresses to the Council for the petitioners freedome to return home which receave no answer, and the petitioner, haveing in his exyle fallin in great sick-ness, upon hope of recovery he did return home in November last privately”.343

The scribe goes on to record that Spreull claimed he had not attended any “conventicles” since his return. Conventicles were unlawful open air services that Covenanters held in the countryside. Conventicles were necessary to Covenanters as they had been denied the use of their churches in the populated centres. The document concludes by stating that the Privy Council:

“ordaines the magistratte of Edinburg to sett the supplicant at liberties in reguard he hath found caution under the paine of 2,000 marks to appear before the Council when ever he shall be called.”344

It is concluded that Spreull was able to post the bond and obtain his liberty. In 1672 he was aged 56 and judging from the extant records stayed out of trouble for the next seven years. In 1679, however, the relationships with the Covenanters had greatly deteriorated. Troops were often quartered in nonconforming area to break up conventicles and to assist in the collecting of fines levied on those who



would not attend Episcopal churches. The rough treatment by the soldiers led to the “Pentland Rising” in 1666. This small rising which took its name from the Pentland Hills to the south-west of Edinburgh was crushed. Those Covenanters taken prisoner were subjected to torture.

In early 1679, prior to the encounters at Drumclog and Bothwell Bridge, “Mr. John Sprewell”, writer in Glasgow and his son were jailed in Edinburgh for associating with “intercommoned” people. On 15 May, they were both released when John Graham and William Sterling posted a bond of 200 marks for each and promised that the Spreulls would appear before the Privy Council when summoned.345 Far more unrest and trouble was to ensue over the course of the summer.

On 3 May 1679, Archbishop of St. Andrew,s James Sharp, who was regarded as one of the most severe persecutors of the Covenanters was encountered on Magnus Moor near St. Andrews in Fifeshire by a group of twelve Covenanters led by John Balfour. Just what transpired is not known but Sharp was brutally murdered. Sharp’s murder precipitated a round-up of many Covenanters and armed clashes soon followed. The Earl of Lauderdale, Charles II’s Commissioner for Scotland, ordered 8,000 Highlanders into south-west Scotland. James Graham of Claverhouse*, often simply referred to as Claverhouse, was their commander. Many of the Highlanders were stationed in Glasgow and billeted in private homes. The presence of these Roman Catholics created further friction.

On 1 June 1679, a group of Covenanters were holding a field conventicle on the slope of Loudon Hill in Ayrshire, a short distance from the border of Lanarkshire. A force of royal troops commanded by Claverhouse was spotted approaching the site. The Covenanter men chose to face the troops in a position on the farm of Drumclog about 2 miles to the east in Lanarkshire.

In a letter to the Earl of Linlithgow, Claverhouse wrote – “I thought that wee might make a little tour to see if wee could fall upon a conventicle” The place of the meeting was Drumclog, a boggy area on the slope of Loudoun Hill and a great crowd had gathered there from far and wide to hear the word of God on that Sunday morning, 1 June. Hardly had the service begun when a watchman on a nearby vantage point fired his signal gun to announce the imminent arrival of Claverhouse and his men approaching from the east. Whilst those with arms took up defensive positions, the women and children were separated from the rest and counselled to secure their own safety as best they could. With the armed men on that day were John Spreull and his son, also named John, and also his cousin John Spreull, later to become known as “Bass” John Spreull.

Claverhouse found himself faced by a force of some forty armed horsemen with another fifty or so on foot armed with guns, plus a further 150 men equipped with antiquated halberds or pitchforks. The King’s troop were roughly equal in number but enjoyed the considerable advantage of arms, ammunition, equipment and training.

After a preliminary exchange of fire, Claverhouse ordered his men to engage the covenanters at close quarters. His horses quickly became bogged down in the marshy ground and further vollies from the                                                       * John Graham of Claverhouse, 1st Viscount Dundee (c. 21 July 1648 – 27 July 1689) was a Scottish soldier and nobleman, a Tory and an Episcopalian. Claverhouse is remembered by history in two distinct characters. Unfavourable records of his persecution of the Covenanters, when he was responsible for policing south-west Scotland during and after the religious unrest and rebellion of the 1670s and 80s, led to Presbyterian historians dubbing him “Bluidy Clavers”. However, Claverhouse recommended lenient treatment of the Covenanters and in fact married into a prominent Covenanter family. Later, as a general in the Scottish army, Claverhouse remained loyal to King James II and VII after the so-called Glorious Revolution of 1688. He rallied the loyal Highland clans and, although he lost his life in the battle, led them to victory at Killiecrankie. This first Jacobite rising was unsuccessful, but Claverhouse became a Jacobite hero, acquiring his second soubriquet “Bonnie Dundee”.




covenanters emptied many government saddles. Knowing their way through the bogs and swamps better than their adversaries the covenanters fell upon the struggling Royalists with devastating effect and within a few minutes Claverhouse saw his men reel then turn and flee. Against all the odds the day had been won for the Covenanters.

Claverhouse escaped with his life, though his gallant charger was fatally wounded by a covenanter’s pitchfork. “They pursued us so hotly” he later reported, “that we got no tym to ragly. I saved the standarts, but lost on the place about aight ord ten men, besides wounded; but the dragoons lost many more.” Seven covenanters were mortally wounded at Drumclog, including one William Daniel who had been in the party that had murdered the archbishop, but it would seem that all the Spreulls present came out of the battle unscathed for three weeks later they were again under arms, this time at Bothwell Bridge.

The consequences of the skirmish at Drumclog were entirely predictable. Their morale boosted by the unexpected outcome, many Presbyterian sympathisers from throughout the country now rallied to the covenanter’s cause so that the handful of dedicated activists that had routed Claverhouse soon swelled to an army of between five and six thousand men. Though still no real threat to the overwhelming resources of the Crown, theirs was nevertheless a force probably powerful enough to have exacted reasonably acceptable terms from their persecutors had they been content to embark upon a guerrilla campaign from the impenetrable hills and mountains of their native land. But the covenanters were commanded by a fanatic in the person of Sir Robert Hamilton, a young and ardent diehard for the covenanting cause who was profoundly intolerant of the slightest deviation from the ideals of the movement of which he espoused, and who now favoured direct confrontation with the enemy. After all, as Drumclog clearly demonstrated, God was on his side and there was no time to waste. Hamilton’s intransigence inevitably led to bitter dissent and recriminations within his own ranks, the principle cause of which being the so called Indulgencies. Many of his new found supporters had taken advantage of these two government inspired measures which had, over the years, opened the way for the return of many expelled Presbyterian ministers to their pulpits and their congregations to their pews. In the blinkered eyes of Sir Robert such men were traitors to the cause and should not be tolerated under any circumstances. It was not surprising therefore that such a disunited army was ill prepared for the battle that was to come.

Equally predictable was the government’s response to its ignominious performance at Drumclog. The impertinent insurrection must be nipped in the bud once and for all and without delay. From London a large force was hastily despatched north which, when added to the existing Scottish contingents provided the Royalists with a formidable army of some 15,000 men including artillery and cavalry. In overall command was the young Duke of Monmouth, Charles’ son and, for the time being, his favourite. This should have been an encouraging omen for the covenanters for Monmouth enjoyed a reputation for fair and courteous dealing with minority groups. Indeed had their arch-enemy General Tam Dalziel been in command things would have looked very much blacker for the rebels. Many of the covenanters were prepared to negotiate terms with Monmouth and despite Hamilton’s misgivings and strongest objections, two envoys set out at first light to parley with the Duke.

It was 22 June 1679, again a Sunday, the third since Drumclog and the two armies faced each other from opposite banks of the river Clyde at the small village of Bothwell about 8 miles south-east of Glasgow. Monmouth received the emissaries not ungraciously and listened patiently while they read out their prepared declaration and demands. He had no intention, he assured them, of dealing harshly, but first the rebels must lay down their arms. “Yes, and hang next!” was Robert Hamilton’s brusque reposte on being told the terms. He was in no mood to compromise, let alone surrender his arms.



Crossing the river Clyde at Bothwell was a narrow bridge no more than 12 feet in width with at its centre a gatehouse, and this, their terms having been rejected, immediately came under fierce attack from the Royalists. For several hours the bridge was held for the covenanters by a gallant force of some 300 men, but their urgent requests for reinforcements and ammunition fell on deaf ears and eventually and “with sore hearts” they were forced back upon the main body allowing the enemy’s artillery and cavalry unrestricted access to the covenanters bank.

In sharp contrast to the incompetent general ship of the covenanters, Monmouth’s force was well officered. The cavalry was led by the Duke of Montrose, the infantry by the Earl of Linlithgow, while Claverhouse once again rode at the head of his dragoons. Other units were under the command of the Earls of Home and Airlie and Lord Mar. Much to his annoyance, Tam Dalziel did not receive his orders in time for him to reach the scene of the action until too late to enjoy the Government’s inevitable victory.

Once across the river, the Duke’s cannon brought death and mayhem to the ill-disciplined ranks of the Covenanters, who, seized with panic and sensing that all was lost, fled the battlefield in total disarray. By ten o’clock it was all over. No fewer than 400 covenanters perished and a further 1200 were taken prisoner, surely to have been massacred had not Monmouth intervened, much to the disgust of Tam Dalziel who was for showing no mercy. Before long the wretched prisoners were envying the dead. Bound together in twos they were driven off to Edinburgh there to be taunted by the waiting mob.  “Where’s your God now?” they cried.  Some, no doubt an example to the others, were summarily executed at the Mercat Cross; five others were hanged on Magnus Moor by way of retribution for the archbishop’s murder, though in fact, none of them had been involved in that episode, and the rest were incarcerated in the church yard of Greyfriars, penned like sheep without shelter from wind and weather.  By November only 257 prisoners remained out of the original 1200.  A few had been freed on pledging allegiance to the crown; some had made their escape with the connivance of the guards, but most had perished from the prolonged effects of exposure and malnutrition.  For the few survivors worse was to follow.  They were herded onto a ship at Leith under a decree of the Privy Council that they should be banished to the West Indies there to be sold as slaves.  But most of them had not very long to endure their inhumane treatment and the atrocious conditions below decks, for in a violent storm the ship was driven ashore off the coast of Orkney there to be dashed to pieces against the treacherous rocks.  Some of the crew and a handful of the prisoners scrambled ashore to safety but more than 200 of the covenanters were drowned.  A monument at Deerness in Orkney commemorates the tragedy.

Although the two Spreulls were probably in prison at the time of the murder of Archbishop Sharp in May, they were free at the time of the encounters at Drumclog and Bothwell Bridge in June. As time passed the authorities had evidence, or believed they did, that the two Sproulls were involved in the Battle of Bothwell Bridge. On July 1679, or perhaps earlier, the Privy Council ordered John Graham and William Sterling to produce “Mr. John Sprewell, writer” and his son John for trial.346 As the two bondsmen could not do so, John Graham asked that they be given to the first of September to produce the two men. The request was granted and the bondsmen were given until the first Thursday in September to comply.

A document dated 18 September 1679, shows that Graham and Stirling had produced the son but that the father had not been located. The document also states that both father and son were going to be charged with plotting with and joining “the rebels lately in arms,” Sterling and Graham were given another extension of fourteen days to find the senior Spreull and his son was ordered to be held in the tollbooth of Edinburgh until it was decided what action would be taken against him. 347



An undated document which is judged to have been issued in late September, 1679, relates that “John Sprewell, younger, writer in Glasgow”, the ex-town clerk’s son, had asked to be released from prison.348 In his request, Spreull stated that on 18 September, the day of his court appearance, he had signed a bond “not to take arms against his Majesty and craves liberation”. The authorities acted on Spreull’s bond and the information they had gathered about him, and ordered his release. Further information about John Spreull, Jr., will be presented later.

No information pertaining to the activities of Mr. John Spreull, the former Town Clerk of Glasgow, has been located from the time of his release on bond in the spring of 1679 until February 1683. Lacking evidence to the contrary, one may suggest that the senior Spreull managed to successfully remain in hiding for a period of just over 32 years. As Spreull’s memoirs end in the early 1670s, no aid can be found from that source. Undoubtedly he had friends and relatives in the Glasgow area who would have concealed him, but it is also quite likely that he took refuge in Holland.

On 15 February 1683, one Lieutenant Dalziel requested a reward for his services in suppressing the conventors. In his submission he noted that

“in prosecution of his duty [he] apprehended and delivered to a party of the forces at Glasgow the person of Mr. John Sprewell, now presently in the tollbooth at Edinburgh, ‘ane old notorious fugitive, rebel and traitor’”349

Dalziel asked for an award for injuries as well as his services. If it was Spreull who had caused Dalziel’s injuries, the former town clerk would have been age 67 at the time.

John Spreull must have undergone a trial and sentencing in the summer of 1683 for on 21 July he and two others were ordered to be taken from the tollbooth in Edinburgh to the prison on the island called Bass Rock on the southern side of the entrance to the Firth of Forth.350 Bass Rock was comparable to a modern maximum security jail and it may be that Spreull and the others were taken there for greater security. The Privy Council ordered General Dalziel “to order a party immediately to receave and transport them to the said place”.351

It is suggested that during his imprisonment on Bass Rock that the former Town Clerk may have found some way to communicate with “his cousin”, another John Spreull. The latter, another Covenanter, had already been imprisoned on Bass Rock for two years and as it turned out had nearly another four years to serve. His long imprisonment on the island gave him the name of “Bass John”. A description of Bass Rock can await an account of the life of “Bass John”.

A lack of records does not permit one to say how long Mr. John Spreull was held on Bass Rock*. He may have been kept there until late 1684 and then returned to Glasgow for trial.

A document dated 24 December 1684, lists a number of people who had been tried and sentenced for “religious disaffection”. Among the names are Mr. John Spreull, “late of Glasgow”, George Spreull his son, and James Spreull in Paisley.352 (This is the only time a George Spreull has been identified as a son of Mr. John Spreull and it may be that a scribe made an error.) The James Spreull mentioned was an apothecary in Paisley, he being the elder brother of “Bass John” Spreull†. The sentence mentioned above has no follow-up information as to its length or if Mr. John Spreull was returned to Bass Rock.

* A record of December 2, 1684, cannot be relied on as it is certain it is an outdated list of people wanted by the authorities. It may date back to 1679.

† The apothecary was also the son-in-law of the Town Clerk.



Spreull would not compromise his principles to secure a release from prison. At a date which is judged to have been 29 January 1685, a document shows that

“Mr. John Sprewell, late of Glasgow, Mr. John Sprewell, his son” and “James Sproule, apothecary in Paisley” are listed as refusing to take an oath of allegiance and to renounce the Solemn League and Covenant.”353

No further information has been found about the activities of Mr. John Spreull, the former town clerk of Glasgow for the period from January 1685, until his death in 1690. His age and health may have earned him an early release from whatever prison he was held. At the very latest his release would have taken place in November 1688, when the three year reign of the Roman Catholic King James II, ended with his “abdication”. William of Orange, a Protestant, and Mary, a Protestant daughter of James II, became rulers and measures of relief were soon extended to the Presbyterians of Scotland.

The will of “Mr. John Spreul, writer in Glasgow” was either registered or processed in July 1690.354 He would have been age 74 in the year of his death, a ripe age, considering the stresses he had faced for upwards of forty years.

In summing up Spreull’s character and career the following observations may be made. His memoirs reveal him as a man of deep religious feelings. Despite certain meanderings in his political path, he was always searching for God’s will in his life. Once his course was chosen, he could be resolute and stubborn to a fault. He seems to have been quick to make enemies but he also had loyal friends and supporters. His disappearance from mid-1679 to early 1683 may mean he had good reason to believe he would be found guilty of participating in the Battle of Bothwell Bridge on 22 June 1679. His memoirs show that he tried not to become embittered by misfortunes but accepted life as part of a greater plan. By today’s standards he would be called a religious zealot, but one must remember the age in which he lived. He championed justice as he saw it and bore up under treatment difficult to withstand. In the end the town clerk emerges as a man, who despite his faults, stood for reform in government and who was a Scottish patriot.

Mr. John Spreull and his wife, Catherine Marshall, whom he married on 17 November 1640355 had a large family. Information about their children is largely taken from the records of the High Church of Glasgow. Unfortunately the entries in the records of the church have become so difficult to read that names could be wrongly read or missed entirely. Although the dates to be provided represent baptisms, it is suggested that under normal circumstances baptisms took place within a few days after birth. The names of their children were as follows:

  1. Agnes – baptized 29 August 1642 – married James Spreull, an apothecary of Paisley. Remarks about her husband and their children appear later.
  2. George (?) – no baptismal information found or mentioned in another record which may be in errorpossibly born in the 1642-1646 interval.
  3. Elizabeth – baptized 17 December 1646 – information lacking.
  4. Anne – baptized 21 August 1551 – information lacking.
  5. [ ? ] – baptized 9 June 1651 entry could read “Jas” for James – other evidence of a son James who was a surgeon and who died abroad – married – had issue – remarks to follow.
  6. John – baptized 9 November 1652 – assumed he died as an infant as the next child seems to be another John – witness to baptism was John Graham.



  1. [ ? ] baptized 4 July 1654 – name seems to be John – would have been the son who became a writer and who got into difficulties with the law – witnesses to baptism were John Graham and George Porterfield – information about John, his wife, and children will follow shortly.
  2. Marie – baptized 12 June 1655 – assumed she died in infancy as another daughter was named Marie.
  3. Sarah- baptized 30 November 1656- John Graham a witness – further information lacking.
  4. Margaret — baptized 22 December 1657 – further information lacking.
  5. Robert – baptized 16 August 1659 – further information lacking.
  6. Marie – baptized 22 October 1660 a John Spreull was the witness – perhaps the grandfather who was still alive at this time.

Attention will now be given to the descendants of John Spreul, the Town Clerk.



Descendants of the Town Clerk

James Spreull – Surgeon (bap. 9 June 1651 – 1700/02?)

James, the eldest son of Mr. John Spreull, the town clerk of Glasgow, was born about the beginning of June 1651.356 He is recorded as having died abroad.357 The term “abroad” is interpreted to mean continental Europe. Perhaps James went to join his ailing father in his exile in Holland. Perhaps when his father returned to Scotland in 1672, young James decided to stay in Rotterdam and establish a practice there. To begin with, his patients could have been drawn from the many Scottish and English living there in self-imposed or forced exile. If he decided to stay in Holland, that could explain why he was recorded as dying “abroad”. James seems to have predeceased his younger brother, John. As a result, John could have inherited most of their father’s properties. James married, but the name of his wife has not been established. The couple had at least two children, both of them daughters.358 A little bit of information has been found about their daughter Jonet.

  1. Jonet Spreull (early 1690s? – ?). Glasgow parish records show that in 1710 that there were two Spreull – Shortridge marriages. In each case the bride’s name was Jonet and the groom’s name was James.359 One or the other of these brides was the daughter of surgeon James Spreull, deceased. Jonet’s identity was found in a roundabout way. On 15 October 1717, one James Shortridge was granted his deceased father-in-law’s right to be a burgess and guild brother of Glasgow.360 The burgess record identifies Shortridge’s father-in-law as James Spreull, a surgeon. The record says that James Spreull had died abroad and had never succeeded his father as a burgess and guild brother and that his father was Mr. John Spreull. As yet it is difficult to be certain about the descendants of the Jonet Spreull and James Shortridge in question.
  2. ? Spreull. The name of the other daughter of James Spreull and his wife has not been ascertained.361

John Spreull, Jr., writer, Glasgow (bap. 4 July 1654362 – 1702?) – married Agnes Spreull of Milton, Dunbartonshire

John Spreull was a son of Mr. John Spreull, the town clerk of Glasgow, and his wife, Catherine Marshall. John Jr. has already been encountered in the story of his father. The son may have been a scribe in his father’s law office and he too became a writer (lawyer). As mentioned earlier, he and his father were imprisoned in the spring of 1679 for associating with “intercommuned” people. Both were released on bond but only the son appeared for trial in September 1679,363 when they were to be charged with being in arms at Bothwell Bridge. In mid September the younger Spreull was released on bond on the promise not to again take arms.364

John Jr. was called as a witness on 13 June 1681, in the trial of a relative who became known as “Bass John” Spreull. In his testimony young John as good as admitted that he was at Bothwell Bridge but said nothing that incriminated Bass John who was being charged with being there.365 Young John, unlike his father, seems to have stayed out of trouble until some date in late 1684 believed to be of 29 January or early 1685. In a record of 1685, he and his father, and his brother-in-law, James Spreull, an apothecary of Paisley, were identified as among those who refused to take an oath of allegiance and to renounce the Solemn League and Covenant.366

Within three days of the above refusal, John Jr. changed his mind and took the oath and presented a written statement to the authorities. Now of the age of 31, the younger Spreull must have decided to take a position independent of his 69 year old father. His submission reads as follows:



“John Spreull, writer in Glasgow, depones conform to the [said] Robert Burens as to his principelles with the addition that he cannote frie himselfe of converse that he wase at Bothwell bridge and took benefits of the Kings indemety; and to his estate declairis he hose no heretage and that he has no debts owing to him and hoe no plenishing be unmarried, and this he declared to be vearities as he shall answers to God.

Sub Subscripitur Jo. Spreull”367

John Sproul Jr.’s remarks are informative. Some of his statements seem to suggest a distraught man who wishes to make a fresh start in life. His conscience may have been bothering him in-as-much as he was pardoned on a previous occasion by taking an oath to the King and now he was in trouble again. He declares he has no heritage which was true as his older brother, James the surgeon, was then his father’s heir. His statement that he had no “plenishing” (children) or a wife may have been intended to show that he was not being pressured to clear himself. Similarly, his claims about his financial position may have been to prove he had no ulterior motives in swearing his loyalty.

No further information about the younger Spreull has been found for the next five years which is a good indication that he stayed clear of the law. Then in a petition submitted to the magistrates and the town council of Glasgow and noted in the council minutes of 1 February 1690, he made a claim on the behalf of his father.368 The wording of the entry is such that it indicates his father was still alive. The minutes make no mention of the amount of compensation claimed but does state the claim was related to the abuse done to his father by the former magistrates and council. The town officials ordered that the provost take up the matter with Edinburgh.

The Glasgow authorities probably dragged their feet in handling Spreull’s position for in July 1690, John Jr. submitted a petition to the High Commission.369 (The petition may have been precipitated by Mr. John Spreull Sr.’s death, his will being registered or probated on 1 July 1690.) The new petition bears the date 10 of July, and a portion of it reads as follows:

“And your petitioners father haveing by most arbitrary and illegal violence suffered a very considerable damage”. 370

The son states that his father acquired the office of town clerk of Glasgow for the sum of three thousand marks yearly in an agreement signed 1 August 1654. The agreement was to run for fifteen years. The son goes on to say that in 1661 “his father was most arbitrarie thrust out the space of three years and four moneths”. The son made a claim of 350 pounds sterling; the figure arrived at by valuing his father’s loss at 100 pounds a year. Spreull’s petition was approved by the High Commission but the matter was still not over*.371

A document dated 11 August 1690, states that the Glasgow administration had empowered their provost

“to repair to Edinburgh for defending the toune in the persute to be persued be John Spreull against the toune before parlment and committies whilk is to be sett the morrow”372

The tactics of the Glasgow authorities took up several months but without success. On 25 April 1691, the Glasgow administration authorized a committee of three to meet with John Spreull, writer, regarding “what pretence he hes against the toune…”373 Finally, just over a year later, on 12 May 1692, the Glasgow

* One must remember that the Glorious Revolution of 1688 changed the political situation in favour of Spreull.



committee was authorized to offer Spreull the sum of 500 pounds Scots* for the “alleged wrong” done by a previous Glasgow administration to “umquhill Mr. John Spreull, his father.”374

The final disposition of the Spreull claim has not been found but the previously quoted record suggests a settlement was in the offing.

The parish records of Glasgow show that one John Sproule, writer, was elected session clerk on 12 November 1691.375 It is very likely that he was the John Spreull under discussion. One of the tasks of a session clerk was to record marriages and baptisms. (Death records were seldom kept until the 1700s.) John Spreull was replaced as session clerk in 1695.

A secondary source states that John Spreull Jr. married Agnes, Spreull of Milton whose father may have been named Andrew.376 In this regard, a Glasgow parish record shows that one John Sproule married one Agnes Sproule on 14 November 1687. At an unspecified date between 1703 and 1707, a record refers to Agnes Spreull of Blachairn as the widow of John Spreull of Blachhairn†.377 She could, of course, have been widowed at an earlier date.

At some time after the death of his father in 1690, John Sproul must have moved to Blachairn in Stirlingshire, for he came to be styled as “of Blachairn”. Much earlier in this account it was pointed out that Blachairn was a property acquired by Mr. John Spreule, Canon of Glasgow, at a date believed to have been in the 1540s. Blachairn disappears from the extant records for a great length of time but it may have been in the hands of this Sproule family or a related family all of the time.

John and his wife Agnes had at least four children as follows:378

  1. John Spreull (bap. 28 August 1688 d. 22 July 1734) It is assumed that John would have been the heir of Blachairn when he reached the age of majority. He was age 46 when he died.379 He seems to have been unmarried but if he was, there was no issue.
  2. Andrew Spreull (bap. 18 December 1690 d. ?) See information below.
  3. Margrate Spreull (bap. 10 January 1692 d. ?) Further information lacking
  4. Agnes Spreull (bap. 11 May 1693 d. ?) Further information lacking

Andrew Spreull of Blachairn and writer of Edinburgh (bap. 18 December 1690 – 1754 ?) – wife Catherine Innes

Nisbet identifies Andrew as the son and heir of his father, John Spreull of Glasgow but he makes no mention of the older brother, John.380 On 15 February 1741, a marriage bond was recorded for Andrew Spreull of Blachairn and Catherine Innes daughter of John Innes of the Parish of New (East) Kilpatrick.381 As Andrew was aged 51 at the time, this may have been his second marriage.

A record of the Town Council of Glasgow shows that on 28 April 1741, that Andrew Spreull of Blachairn offered to donate a piece of land for the construction of a dam to serve millers.382

Andrew Spreull seems to have played some kind of role in the Battle of Culloden in 1745. It was there that “Bonnie Prince Charlie” was badly defeated in his efforts to win back the throne for his father,                                                       * The Scottish pound was worth very much less than the English pound sterling.

† John seems to have lived at Milton for a time.



James, the “Old Pretender”, the son of the James II who lost the throne in 1688. Andrew Spreull, identified as a writer and as a captain in Prince Charlie’s army, was taken prisoner at Culloden and taken to London for trial.383 There he was quitted by the consent of the Attorney General without entering any of the evidence that had been prepared for his case.384 One source suggests that Spreull may have bribed his way to freedom.

It would seem a bit peculiar that Andrew Spreull would have espoused the restoration of a Roman Catholic monarch considering the record of his grandfather the Town Clerk of Glasgow and various Spreull relatives. Perhaps he was really innocent of any participation in the battle, simply being guilty of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Alexander Nisbet states that Andrew Sproul of Blachairn carried the principal arms of Coldoun (Cowdon).385 As this account shows, this would seem quite in order. Nisbet also says that Andrew out of gratitude to the memory of Mr. John Sproule, the Roman Catholic Canon of Glasgow who died in 1555, added to the Sproule arms a crest depicting an open book and the motto “Manet in aeternum”. The open book no doubt represented the Bible and the Latin motto may be translated as meaning “It remains forever”.

Nisbet, who apparently personally knew Andrew Spreull, probably should not be challenged, but the addition of the Bible and the motto could well have been a gesture to the memory of Andrew Spreull’s grandfather, the Town Clerk of Glasgow. If, however, Andrew had become a Roman Catholic, as his alleged presence at the Battle of Culloden would seem to support, he could have very well being honouring Mr. John Sproule, the Canon of Glasgow.

Only the name of one child of Andrew Spreull and Catherine Innes has been uncovered, that being of a daughter named Margaret.386 No real effort has been made to trace the Blachairn family beyond the mid1700s. It may be of interest, however, that an inventory of land owners made in 1872-1873, lists one Andrew Spreull of North Blachairn, Milnagavie, as the owner of 250 acres of land.387 It would seem that anyone wishing to trace the Blachairn family beyond the 1750s could do so with considerable success. Such a project would be of special interest as the Blachairn family has been proven in this account to have been of direct descent from the Robert Sproule, laird of Coldoun, who died in 1488 or 1489.

Andrew Spreull of Blachairn had a coat of arms, the crest being an open bible, while the area below the Bible has been left blank as it is not known what variation of the arms of the Sproules of Coldoun may have been in use in the early 1700s but it was probably contained some variation of three purses.

The following is a skeleton chart of the Sproule family that has been under discussion.

Robert Sproule (1430s – 1489) Laird of Coldoun

First marriage

  1. John Sprouel (1459 – 1513) Laird of Coldoun, See chart of Coldoun family for descendants
  2. William?

Second marriage

  1. Mr. John S. (1478 – 1555) Cannon of Glasgow (RC)
  2. Jonet S. (1482 – 1550) married secondly Gabriel Semple of Cathcart – had issue



  1. Robert S. of Glasgow (1480 – 1460s) Heir of Cowden from his half brother John

5.1. John S. of Ladymure M.P. (1520 -1580s)

5.1.1. John S. of Ladymure and Castlehill (Renfrew) (1560 d. after 1609) John S. of Castlehill (Renfrew) M.P., Provost of Renfrew, etc. (1585 -1662) Mr. John S. lawyer, Town Clerk of Glasgow, M.P. (1616-1690) Agnes (Anne) Spreull (1642 – 1686?) married in 1694 James Spreull (1643 – ?) apothecary of Paisley Janet S. (1674 – ?) married in 1710 James Shortridge – had issue James S surgeon (1651 -1702?) Jonet (1690s – ?) married Jas. Shortridge? – according to the portrait of the family, issue of a daughter and a baby. John S. lawyer of Glasgow & Blachairn married Agnes Spreull of Milton John S. of Blachairn (1688 – 1734) – no issue Andrew S. lawyer of Blachairn & Edinburgh – issue –




John Spreull (1607 – 1685) Baillie of Paisley

Bailie John Spreull was probably the son of Thomas Spreull, a younger son of John, the Rector of Cambuslang. He was born in 1607 and married in 1642 Janet Alexander, the daughter of James Alexander a merchant in Paisley and himself also a Bailie of that town. John Spreull, the oft time bailie of Paisley died in 1685 at the age of 78. He and his wife Janet Alexander had six children as follows:388

  1. James Spreull, apothecary (1643 – 1686?) He married Agnes (Anna), a daughter of John Spreull, Town Clerk of Glasgow. A few details about him will follow.
  2. “Bass John” Spreull (1646 – 1722) His interesting career and his descendants will be dealt with later.
  3. Alexander Spreull
  4. Thomas Spreull (? – 1676) A secondary source states that he was a student of Divinity.389
  5. Lilian Spreull (? – 1683) Lilian married one Thomas Reid. Further information lacking.
  6. Catherine Spreull; She married one John Buchanan.390 (Further information lacking)

Much of the information about John Spreull, the Bailey of Paisley, comes from a secondary source which in turn quotes another secondary source that is not identified. If it were not for the loss of some of the records of Paisley, more information about him would be available.

It is claimed that John Spreull was born in 1607 and that in 1642 he married Janet Alexander, a daughter of James Alexander, a burgess and bailie of Paisley. James Alexander claimed to be a descendant of the first Earl of Stirling. Alexander’s wife was Janet Maxwell of Pollock.391

John Spreull is said to have been the senior magistrate (bailie) of Paisley between 1648 and 1658 and was elected to office six times during that period. He resided at No. 26 High Street.392 In the year 1649, the year in which Charles I was executed, he served on a Committee of War.393 Service on such a committee at this time would seem to indicate that although he was a Covenanter, John supported “The Agreement of the Scots” whereby Covenanters and Scots royalists entered into an uneasy agreement to fight for the King. Spreull is alleged to have suffered from “refusing the Tender”, Cromwell’s plan for a union of Scotland and England.394

In the 1650s a dispute broke out between the burgh of Paisley and William Cochrane of Coldoun.395 He was the second son of Alexander (Blair) Cochrane who had acquired Coldoun from Sir George Elphistoun in 1622, he in turn having acquired it from James Sproule in 1621. William Cochrane was created the Earl of Dundonald in 1669.

Over the years Cochrane had been buying properties in Renfrewshire and in 1553 he purchased lands and rights that aroused concern in Paisley. The purchase was from the Earl of Abercorn. The document signed with Abercorn was purported to give Cochrane sweeping control over the administration and affairs of Paisley.396

On acquiring the barony of Paisley, Lord Cochrane made application to the exchequer to complete his titles which included the superiority of the borough of Paisley. Bailie Spreull took it upon himself to alert the council to the dangers that such an application would present to the people of the town whose freedoms would undoubtedly be infringed and eroded if the acquisitive Cochrane was to achieve his aims. Consequently he was commissioned by the council to attend the proceedings in Edinburgh with a



mandate to do all that was necessary to protect the rights and liberties of the good people of Paisley to the best of his ability. This he did, first in February 1656 and again the following July and indeed the councillors of Paisley could not have entrusted such important business into better hands than those of Bailie Spreull.

With the help of legal counsel, Spreull was able to challenge the validity of the Cochrane – Abercorn agreement and took the matter to the Judges of the Exchequer and to the Commonwealth’s advocates. (Scotland was now under Cromwellian rule.) When Spreull returned to Paisley and reported to the Town Council he was congratulated for his efforts. On 1 July 1556, the Town Council sent Spreull back to Edinburgh to continue the struggle. The dispute ended up going to arbitration and the arbitrators’ decision was in favour of Paisley. On 3 May 1658, William Cochrane and his son signed an agreement with the town of Paisley which secured all the rights the town had claimed. Bailie John Spreull’s signature appears on the agreement.397

This was not the first occasion that Bailie Spreull had acted as the spokesman of the council. Following the coronation of Charles II at Scone in January 1651, the people of Paisley, though mostly Remonstrants, had sided with the King against Cromwell.  This was despite the serious misgivings and dire warnings of Bailie Spreull, who, like all of his family was no admirer of the Stuarts, doubting that the King’s pledges made to the Kirk at the coronation would be honoured. The council very soon found itself faced with mounting demands for ever increasing levies towards the upkeep of the Kings large and devoted, but woefully unprofessional, army. Eventually Bailie Spreull was sent by the council to Stirling to plead for some abatement of their crippling assessments, but on this occasion his mission ended in failure, as indeed did the King’s campaign when Cromwell caught up with him and his army at Worcester on 3rd September.

Heavy as the burden of the town’s assessments had been under Charles they were even more arduous for the wretched rate payers of Paisley under Cromwell. Not only was the town fined for its support of the King, but contributions were demanded towards the maintenance of the considerable number of commonwealth troops now stationed in the town. Again Bailie Spreull was despatched to plead for some abatement but, as before, he met with little success other than to achieve a reduction in the towns’ fine to a relatively modest £150. It is on record, however, that at his insistence, the council plucked up courage to refuse a demand for three feather beds to be despatched to Castle Semple where a certain Captain Robson had billeted himself. But again perhaps John Spreull was influenced by family considerations for his grandfather’s Aunt Janet had married Gabriel, a younger son of the first Lord Semple and the two families had maintained a cordial relationship ever since. The presence of an English roundhead in Semple Castle was clearly an intolerable affront and certainly not to be condoned with feather beds!

One could speculate that the bailie received a few legal pointers from Mr. John Spreull, the Town Clerk of Glasgow. Paisley lies about six miles from Glasgow and family ties and/or civic duties should have brought the two men together from time to time. One could also wonder if the bailies strong defence of the rights of Paisley may have been influenced by some lingering resentment over the complications of the early 1620s which led to the acquisition of the Sproule estate of Coldoun by William Cochrane’s father.

The whole family suffered grievously for the religious principles of Bailie Spreull.  These principles included not just the civil liberties of his native town, but also the rights of the Presbyterian Church and of the Covenanters in particular, of whom he was a faithful and ardent adherent.  In 1660 the commonwealth experiment came to an end with Charles II coming to the throne and with the Restoration, John Spreull of Paisley began to encounter the usual consequences of being a Covenanter. In



1662, John Middleton, then Lord High Commissioner of Scotland, drew up a plan whereby a secret committee would prepare lists of names of people who were disaffected toward the Episcopal Church which had regained power with the return of royal rule. People whose names appeared on a list were to be fined without the procedures of charges and court appearances.398 Within two years Bailie John Spreull, like his cousin John, the Town Clerk, had his profound mistrust of the Stuarts confirmed when he found himself targeted by the new government solely on account of his religious beliefs. Without any charges having been preferred against him he was summarily fined the not inconsiderable sum of £600399 on the orders of the Earl of Middleton, the then Lord High Commissioner and by all accounts a thoroughly despicable and tyrannical man. On principle John Spreull refused to pay all of the fine; defiance that would render him liable to cruel and inhumane treatment if he had remained at home and awaited arrest. Like so many others of his persuasion, therefore, he found himself forced into exile. Whether, like his cousin, he too “lurked” just over the border in Berwick or went further a field is not known, nor when he eventually returned home, but by 1667 the authorities must have had reason to believe that he was back in the country for in that year General Dalziel, on coming to Kilmarnock, despatched a troop of his dragoons to Paisley to search for him. They halted at the Bailie’s house in the High Street and not finding him there took hold of one of his sons, a lad of ten years of age, and threatened to roast or shoot him if he did not divulge his father’s whereabouts. In the event the boy refused400, standing firm in his resolution not to disclose it, but this well documented incident seems to suggest that John Spreull was indeed probably back in the country401 by that time and quite likely in Paisley.

There are several independent accounts of the above episode in histories of the period and in all the name of the stout-hearted ten year old is given as the Bailie’s second son, John, later to suffer torture and imprisonment on the Bass rock for his religious beliefs. But not for the first time in the research into Sproule the family, there is an apparent discrepancy. For, if the date of the encounter with Dalziel’s dragoons, 1667, is correct, this would make John’s date of birth 1657, whereas all the records, including “Bass” John’s own writings, give his birth date as 1646, making him 21 in 1667. So there is clearly something wrong somewhere and it may well be that the brave lad who defied the soldiers on that day was one of Bailie Spreull’s other two sons, either Alexander (of whom nothing much is known) or perhaps more likely Thomas, who later became a student of Divinity and who died in 1676.

From the “History of the sufferings of the Church of Scotland” by Reverend Robert Woodrow of Eastwood, printed in 1722, comes this account of the incident with Dalziel’s troopers, “In 1667, when General Dalziel came to Kilmarnock he sent a party of soldiers to Paisley to apprehend John Spreull, merchant there, who had been fined by Middleton, and had, with many other worthy persons, been forced to abscond. The soldiers not finding Mr. Spreull, they took his son, a lad of twenty one years of age, a prisoner, because he would not discover where his father was. After many terrible threatenings of being shot to death, roasted, at a fire etc., and some short imprisonment, he was dismissed.” The Reverend Woodrow goes on to explain that the 21 year old was indeed “Bass” John, so it would seem the alternative source (David Semple, 1872) got his dates right, but John’s age wrong.

The years from the restoration of Charles II until the abdication and exile of his brother James II (and VII) in 1687 were ones of great hardship for the Kirk in general and the covenanters in particular and none in Renfrewshire suffered more for his beliefs than Bailie Spreull and his family.

But there must also have been times when the pressure was off, for the records show that in 1672 a charter was granted to John Spreull, Burgess of Paisley, in which he acquired more property in that town and when, two years later, his son James married he conveyed to the young couple a parcel of land in the town which included a tenement and other houses. Furthermore in 1679, the year of Drumclog and



Bothwell Bridge, the Bailie made further grants of land and property to various members of his family, all apparently without let or hindrance from the authorities. Perhaps he had, in fact, bought some peace for himself by the payment of that unjust fine. However, he was by this time seventy two years of age and presumably no longer considered to be a threat to the Governments authority. Due to his advanced years he would not have been present at either Drumclog or Bothwell Bridge, but his two sons James and John fought with the covenanters on both occasions alongside their cousin, the ex-town clerk and his son. James was proclaimed for rebellion and treasonable activities but his sufferings were apparently not so severe as those of his brother, “Bass” John.

Sadly, Bailie John Spreull did not live to see the “Glorious Revolution” which brought to an end the years of religious persecution in Scotland, nor indeed the release from the Bass of his son John, but at least he died peacefully in his own bed at the respectable age of 78. His wife Janet survived him by five years, dying in 1690.

James Spreull, apothecary of Paisley (1643 – 1686?) – wife Anna Spreull

James Spreull was the eldest son of bailie John Spreull and Janet Alexander. James is identified as an apothecary in various records. In one record he is identified as a surgeon but this may be attributable to a misinformed scribe or perhaps he was confused with his brother-in-law, the eldest son of Mr. John Spreull, the Town Clerk of Glasgow.

James was a covenanter and like so many of his relatives and immediate family, he got into trouble with the authorities. When he was aged 41, a document of the spring of 1684 identifies him as having been “ans notoriowse rebell actually in armes at Bothwell bridge”.402 This battle took place on 22 June 1679. At the time of the battle he would have been aged 36. A document dated 5 May 1684, states that he was among those judged “fugitives from rebellion and treasonable crimes since November 1683”.

In the spring of 1684 it was learned that one Ezekial Montgomery had been enriching himself by conducting tricks on the authorities. Montgomery was one of those in charge of collecting fines levied on Covenanters and for administering, for a fee, oaths of allegiance. Montgomery would collect the fees for administering oaths but he did not actually administer them if the Covenanters paid him bribes. His records, however, showed that the oaths had been taken.403

The authorities discovered that James Spreull, apothecary in Paisley had obtained a false clearance from Montgomery for a bribe of 500 marks.404 The apothecary, armed with a clearance from Montgomery safely returned to his business in Paisley. James’s father, the oft time bailie of Paisley, obtained a similar clearance for 50 pounds.405 Just how James Spreull fared with the authorities when the scheme was discovered cannot be stated as no records have been found that tell the outcome. As James is believed to have died in 1686, he may have spent the last two years of his life in hiding.

James Spreull married his cousin Anne Spreull on 21 January 1674.406 She was a daughter of Mr. John Spreull, the Town Clerk of Glasgow, and his wife Catherine Marshall. It can be established that James and Anne had eight children as follows:

  1. Elizabeth Spreull (1674 – ?) Further information lacking.
  2. Janet Spreull (1675 – ?) Janet’s marriage to James Shortridge of Glasgow may have taken place in 1710. The couple had two sons and three daughters. Their second son, John Shortridge will be discussed later.



  1. [James?]* Spreull (22 Dec.? 1676 – ?)
  2. John Spreull (15 Dec. 1677 – ? ) Information lacking.
  3. [Anna?] Spreull (24 May 1679 – ?) Information lacking.
  4. [Lilliah?] (27 June 1680 – ?) Information lacking.
  5. Sarah Spreull (12 June 1682 – ?)
  6. Katherine Spreull (5 June 1683 – ?) Information lacking.


* The birth dates of the six younger children may be found in the records of Abbey Parish (1670 – 1707), Renfrewshire, This writer had access to a microfilm copy of the records which in places was very difficult to read. S. & S. Notes, p. 20, supplies the names of the two eldest, Elizabeth and Janet.



Bass John Spreul (1646 – 1722) John Spreul, the second son of bailie John Spreul of Paisley, was, like his older brother James, an apothecary, first at Paisley and then at Glasgow; in time he was identified as a merchant of Glasgow. He earned the nickname “Bass John” because of the approximately six years he was held as a religious and political prisoner on the Isle of Bass, in the Firth of Forth, outside Edinburgh.

Around 1670 Bass John married Isobel Clarke (1650 – 1683), the daughter of Andrew Clarke, merchant of Glasgow and his wife, Margaret King.407 Isobel died in 1683 while John was imprisoned on Bass Rock. The couple had at least two children as follows:

  1. Margaret Spreul (1676 – 1691)408
  2. (daughter) Spreul

There may have been other children by this marriage but if there was, they must have died at young ages.

On 2 August 1692, Bass John married again. His second wife was Margaret Wingate.409 The names of her parents have not been established. She was probably born about 1672 and died in 1756. John and Margaret had seven children as follows:410

  1. John Sproul (bap. 3 March 1695 -1697) almost certainly died young as his next brother was also named John.
  2. John Sproul (bap. 24 November 1697 – 30 July 1716) He drowned in a boating accident while crossing the Clyde from either Greenock or Craufurdsdyke on his way to Cardross.411
  3. James Spreul (bap. 13 October 1698 – August, 1769) His baptism was witnessed by one John Sproul of Milnetoune (Milton.) James was his father’s heir. More information about him will follow.
  4. Margaret Sproul (bap. 8 Oct. 1700 – 6 Feb. 1784) She outlived her brother and all her sisters. She will appear in this account later. There was an oil painting of her illustrated in “Notes on the Family of Spreull” opposite p. 56. (Picture now lost).
  5. Isobel Janetta (Janet) Sproul (bap. 15 November 1705) She is identified as a widow in 1772. She married, probably in the 1720s one Captain Thomas Maxwell (b. 1696 d. 1749). They had one daughter who died young.
  6. Gruel (Grissel) (bap. 16 March 1708 – 1777) There is no evidence that Grizel ever married.
  7. Jane (Jean) Spreul (bap. 13 June 1714 – 1719?) There seems to be some confusion about Jean. One secondary source has her dying in 1719 at or near the age of five. Another secondary source has her marrying one John Buchanan whose birth and death dates are not given.412 The latter secondary source has Jane and her husband John Buchanan having four children as follows:
  8. Janet Buchanan. She is said to have married one Charles Hunter whose birth and death dates are not supplied. They are said to have had two children as follows:

1.1. Helen Hunter. She is reputed to have married one John Kingman. They are said to have had three sons but there is no further information.

1.2. Catherine Hunter. She is said to have married one John McCaul and purportedly had one son and five daughters about whom no information is given.



  1. James Buchanan
  2. George Buchanan
  3. John Buchanan

No other information about the sons provided.

Until further evidence is uncovered, it seems likely that Bass John Spreul’s youngest daughter died in 1719 at about the age of five. If she did not die at that time, but lived on and married one John Buchanan, it is peculiar that none of their children, or their children’s children, enter the picture when James Spreul, the son and heir of Bass John died unmarried. It should be pointed out that Bass John Spreul had a sister named Catherine who married one John Buchanan. Perhaps the second secondary source was attempting to provide information about a Spreul-Buchanan marriage that had really taken place but was of one generation earlier. If such an error was made it would explain why none of the descendants of the SpreulBuchanan marriage received any part of the estate of James Spreul, the son and heir of Bass John.

Bass John Spreul died in 1722 at the age of 76.413 He and his family were buried near the great entry of the churchyard of the High Church of Glasgow. The burial spot was inherited from the estate of John’s first wife, Isobel Clarke.414

This account about Bass John relies heavily on the “History of the Suffering of the Church of Scotland” by Robert Wodrow. Wodrow’s work was published in Edinburgh in 1722-23 but Wodrow obviously began compiling much of his information long before that. He speaks of talks he had with Bass John and he had access to documents yet unknown to this writer. The basic aspects of Wodrow’s account are supported by entries in the printed volumes of “The Records of the Privy Council of Scotland” which Wodrow must have had access to in manuscript form.

Wodrow states that Bass John’s troubles began soon after “Pentland”, an unsuccessful uprising of Covenanters* that took place in the Pentland Hills near Edinburgh in 1666. The uprising led to renewed efforts to identify and to fine or imprison those opposed to the government. Bass John’s father, the oft time bailie of Paisley, was fined 660 pounds in 1662 but paid only one-half of the amount. The father would not take the prescribed oath and went into hiding.415

In 1667 John’s name appears on a list of people cited before a court in Glasgow. Fearing their fate before the court, John and others did not appear. They were then pronounced rebels although the charge was for non-conformity. John quit his home and took refuge in Holland, France, and Ireland where he engaged in trade.416

Bass John must have resolved his difficulties as on 16 May 1670, he was registered as a burgess and guild brother of Glasgow.417 His admittance to the guild seems to have been linked to his marriage to Isabel Clarke, the daughter of Andrew Clarke.

* The Covenanters formed an important movement in the religion and politics of Scotland in the 17th century. In religion the movement is most associated with the promotion and development of Presbyterianism as a form of church government favoured by the people, as opposed to Episcopacy, favoured by the Crown. In politics the movement saw important developments in the character and operation of the Scottish Parliament, which began a steady shift away from its medieval origins. The movement as a whole was essentially conservative in tone, but it began a revolution that engulfed Scotland, England and Ireland, the Wars of the Three Kingdoms. The name derives from biblical bonds or covenants. The National Covenant of 1638 takes as its point of departure earlier documents of the same kind and is chiefly concerned with preserving the Reformation settlement free from crown innovations. Its sister document, the 1643 Solemn League and Covenant, is also concerned with religion, but its chief importance is as a treaty of alliance between the Covenanters in Scotland and the Parliament of England, anxious for help in the increasingly bitter civil war with Charles I.



In May 1679 Sproul was in Ireland with his maternal uncle, James Alexander. He returned to Scotland after the clash at Drumclog on 1 June. John was apparently in disagreement with the objectives of those Covenanters who composed the “West Country Army” and he did not join it. Wodrow states that Bass John’s older brother, James, his “cousin”, John Sproul, a writer, (presumably the Town Clerk) and another John Sproul, a Glasgow merchant, were at arms at Bothwell Bridge on 22 June 1679.418

After the Covenanter defeat at Bothwell Bridge, Bass John decided it was in his best interests to avoid the authorities. He went into hiding in Scotland for a time and then went to Holland (it should be said that by this time John was conducting his business in Glasgow which although involving an apothecary business seems to have broadened into other fields). After John went to Holland, his wife and children were forced out of their home and his apothecary shop and all his merchandise were seized.419

In 1680 John Sproul returned to Scotland with the intention of bringing his wife and children to the safety of Rotterdam. While he was hiding in Edinburgh, one Major Johnston apprehended him in his bed on the night of 12 November 1680. Merchandise which he had brought over from Holland was confiscated. Spreul’s capture seems to have been the result of a wider search for Mr. Cargill who was then the chief leader of the disaffected Covenanters. Sproul was taken before General Dalziel and then jailed in the “Abbay” where a Mr. Skene and a Mr. Stewart were being held prisoner.420 The latter two men were later executed.

On the morning of 13 November, the three men were taken to the Edinburgh tollbooth (prison) where a meeting of the Privy Council was convened at 9:00 a.m. James, Duke of York, presided over the meeting. James was a staunch Roman Catholic and was the heir of his brother, Charles II.421

Using available documents and information gained in talks with John Sproul, Wodrow sets out a very comprehensive account of Spreul’s court appearances. He notes that Sproul told the Council that he was in Ireland at the time of Archbishop Sharp’s murder on 3 May 1679, and that he would neither condemn nor approve of the murder. When he was asked if he was at the clash at Drumclog on 1 June 1679, Spreul answered that he was in Dublin at that time and first heard of the encounter while he was on his way from Dublin to Belfast en route home to Scotland. Upon being questioned, he stated that he thought the Covenanters at Drumelog acted in self-defence.422

When asked if he was at the battle at Bothwell Bridge on 22 June 1679, Sproul replied that he was not there but that he had passed through part of the Covenanter force prior to the battle, he being on his way to Hamilton to settle accounts with some customers. Sproul observed that he had spoken to some of the armed men but that he had as much right as they to be on the “King’s Highway”. When asked if the Bothwell Bridge battle was rebellion, he replied that the Covenanters had no choice. Sproul was then asked to sign a statement recounting the questions and answers, but he refused to do so.423

The apothecary appeared again before the Privy Council on the following day, 15 November. The Duke of York was again in attendance. In this session Sproul admitted that he had been in the company of Mr. Cargill, the Covenanter leader, while he, Sproul, was hiding in Edinburgh, but he would not disclose in what house and said there was nothing said between them but salutations.424

The Privy Council decided that Sproul was not disclosing everything about the meeting with Cargill and ordered him to be tortured to reveal the truth. The Council declared that Sproul should be asked three questions under torture. Cut to their essence, the questions were as follows:425

  1. Was any new rebellion intended?
  2. Who were behind the rebellion at Bothwell Bridge?



  1. Who were the rebels’ supporters abroad and at home, and particularly in London?

The Privy Council concluded its business with Sproul by listing eleven members who should be present during the torture and invited others to attend.

The torture of Sproul took place the “next Monday” which may have been the meeting of 22 November at which the Duke of York was again in attendance. Sproul protested that the use of torture was against the law and that he would repudiate anything he said under torture.426

The devise used to torture Sproul was called “the Boot”. It consisted of four or five connected slats of wood that encircled the leg from ankle to knee. The accused was tied to a stout chair and had his leg stretched out and placed on a box. Torture was inflicted by driving wedges down the inside of the “Boot” with a small mallet. One writer states that the device caused “excruciating pain, often bursting the flesh, and even causing the marrow to flow from the bone”.

One of Spreul’s legs was placed in the device and when he failed to answer or gave an unsatisfactory answer, the wedges were driven in further. Presumably the three questions mentioned previously were asked but Wodrow does not mention them. Three additional questions were asked. They were basically as follows:427

  1. Did he know of a plot to blow up the Abbey and the Duke of York?
  2. Who was in the plot and where was Donald Cargill hiding?
  3. Would Sproul subscribe his answers to the Council?

In the last question to “subscribe” meant to sign a document covering all that Sproul said before the Council. The apothecary insisted that he was ignorant of the questions posed and that he would not subscribe to anything he said. The torture apparently proceeded and Sproul gave no answers that satisfied the Council.

A member of the Privy Council complained that the Boot being used was a new one and that it was not as good as the old one. The old boot was substituted and the torture began again. General Dalziel next complained that the hangman was not striking hard enough. The hangman retorted that he was striking with all his might and offered the general to use the mallet for himself. After the second round of torture was over, Sproul was carried to prison on a soldier’s back. He was refused the attention of a surgeon and his wife who had come to Edinburgh that day was not allowed to see him.428

Elsewhere in his works, Wodrow quotes Burnet’s History of Our Times regarding the use of the Boots.

“When any one to be struck in the Boots it is done in the presence of the Council, and upon that occasion almost all offer to run away. The sight is so dreadful that, without an order restraining such a number to stay, the Board would be forsaken. But the Duke of York, while he was in Scotland, was so far from withdrawing that he looked on all the while with unmoved difference, and with an attention as if he had been looking upon some curious experiment. This gave the terrible idea of him to all that observed it, as of a man that has no bowels or humanity in him”.429

Seeing that the Duke of York was to become the next King, such behaviour played into the hands of his opponents.

When Spreul recovered from the torture, he was given an “Indictment” but for unknown reasons was not again summoned before the Judiciary until March 1681. A further short delay took place as the



prosecution did not have its witnesses ready. When Spreul’s trial got underway, the witnesses were either unsatisfactory or were discredited and it appeared as if the charges against Spreul would not succeed. Wodrow relates:

“but the Duke of York very much pressed their going on, alleging that they were at such Pains about poor Country People, Spreull was more dangerous than five hundred of them”.430

The Duke’s remarks are very interesting in that they show that he believed that John Spreul was one of the key leaders of the rebelling Covenanters.

Prior to his March trial, Spreul was encouraged by an official of the court to use his talents to draw up a petition designed to save one John Murray, his cell mate. Murray was a sailor who was under sentence of death, he having been found guilty of attending a Conventicle in arms. Spreul hesitated to get involved as he felt his participation could be misrepresented. He finally agreed to help Murray and drew up a petition that was presented to the Privy Council.431

The petition included remarks that Jesus Christ was the head of the Church and stated that Murray did not hold, to “King-killing Principles”. It ended by having Murray say, “I am no Papist, and hate and abhor all those Jesuitical bloody, and murdering Principles”.432 Obviously Murray’s petition was not his own creation for he was probably illiterate. That the prosecution had deliberately planned to entrap Sproul by encouraging him to write the petition is not known, but Murray was quickly pressed to admit that Spreul had drawn it up.

Spreul was brought before the Council and admitted to drawing up the petition. He asked that the petition might be read so that he could hear what was considered objectionable. Presumably he was prepared to say that referring to King Charles II as head of the Church of England or of the Pope as the head of the Roman Catholic Church usurped the role of Jesus Christ. The petition was not read but

“…the Duke of York rose up and said with a frown ‘sir, would you kill the King?’ After a pause, Mr. Spreul, directing himself to the Chancellor said, ‘My Lord, I bless God I am no Papist, I lothe and abhor all these Jesuitical bloody and murdering Principles’. A great Silence followed, and many expected that Mr. Spreul would have been sent to the irons immediately”.433

Spreul’s remarks about Papists and Jesuits was a bold affront to the Duke of York who was a Roman Catholic. Spreul’s trenchant views must be considered against the history of that era.

One might begin with the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, an attempt to blow up James I and the House of Parliament. The plot was organized by some Roman Catholics, including a few priests. Guy Fawkes leader of the plot is still dammed each October in Great Britain. In 1677, one Titus Oates presented a story that there was a “Popish Plot” to murder King Charles II. The story was later largely discredited but it set off a wave of suspicion about Roman Catholics and Jesuits that was still very much alive at the time of Spreul’s trial in 1681. Major incidents such as the two mentioned, augmented by some minor plots, real or imaginary, would have been the topics of much discussion and embellishment among the Covenanters.

On 2 March 1681, the hearing ended with Spreul being indicted for treason and rebellion. Just what influence the hurray affair had on the charges cannot be ascertained. Spreul’s trial was set over until 6 June.434

On 6 June Sproule was put in the witness box but little of significance took place. On 10 June he was again in court. Another indictment dated the previous day was presented. As well as the previous charges of treason and rebellion, Spreul was specifically charged with being with the rebels at Bothwell Bridge in



1679 and he was also accused, falsely, according to Wodrow, of being in the company of the men who had participated in the murder of Archbishop Sharp in 1679.435

Spreul had five lawyers for his defence including the keen-minded George Lockhart. It may be recalled that Bass John’s relative, Mr. John Spreull, the Town Clerk of Glasgow, was Lockhart’s deputy in 16451646. Lockhart was later the recipient of a knighthood.

After some legal arguments the Court held its indictment valid and recessed for an Assize slated for 13 June 1681. There were some more legal arguments and the calling of the witnesses for the Crown began. Wodrow recounts that the statements made by seven of the witnesses and states that many other witnesses called by the Crown had nothing worthwhile to say. On the whole the evidence given by the seven witnesses was not damaging to Spreul and one senses that if any of them really knew that Spreul had participated in the Battle of Bothwell Bridge that they were not going to say so.436

It is interesting that the sixth witness was one John Spreul, writer in Glasgow. One may conclude that he was the son of Mr. John Spreul, the former Town Clerk of Glasgow. The young man’s testimony was recorded as follows:

“John Spreul, Writer in Glasgow, depones that he being in Company with the Rebels, met the Pannel (e.g. accused) and another in his Company upon the Road, half a Bile from the Haggs some Days before Bothwel; that he did not see the Pannel in Company with the Rebels in Hamiltoun-muir, nor any where else”.437

After the witnesses were heard, legal arguments followed. They are set out fully in Wodrow’s account. Spreul’s defence appears to have been quite ably handled by George Lochart. He argued that the document that purported to recount Spreul’s remarks at the previous hearings had not been signed by Spreul and that when he was asked to sign it, Spreul had disowned the document and refused to sign it. In the course of his remarks Lochart cited several legal precedents that applied to Spreul’s case.

The prosecution responded with legal arguments supporting an unsigned “confession” and claimed it was proven that Spreul was at Bothwell Bridge. At one point the advocate for the Crown stated that in regard to Bothwell Bridge that Spreul was the “great Ringleader there”. Lockhart replied with further arguments in Spreul’s defence and then the case was laid over until the next day for a verdict.”438

The next day, 14 June, the verdict was delivered as follows:

“The Assize having considered the Depositions of haill Witnesses led against John Sproul, unca voca find nothing proven of the Crimes contained in the Libel, which may make him guilty.” Neil Stevenson Chanc.439

In the above quotation “haill” means “all of the” “una voca” means “with one voice” and “Libel” means “charge”.

One would conclude that Sproul had won his case but that was not the result. Apparently anticipating the judgement, the advocate for the Crown produced an Act of Council dated that very day which read:

“The Council give Order and Warrant to the Justices, notwithstanding of any Verdict or Sentence, upon the criminal Dittay lately pursued against John Sproul, to detain him in Prison until he be examined upon several other Points they have to lay to his Charge”. Pat. Menzies440

Sproul was taken back to prison to await another appearance.



On 14 July 1681, with the Duke of York present, John Sproul, the apothecary and merchant, and one William Lin appeared before the Privy Council. They were charged with being present at field conventicles, of hearing Presbyterian ministers preach when hearers were out-of-doors, and for conversing with “intercommuned” persons. Sproul and Lin were challenged to take the usual oath demanded of Covenanters but they refused. Each man was then fined 500 pounds sterling* and sentenced to prison on the Isle of Bass Rock, where he was taken the next day.441

A Short Description of the Bass Rock

The Bass Rock, lying at the entrance to the Firth of Forth about one and a quarter miles off the coast, north east of the town of North Berwick, was formed some 320 million years ago from the core of an extinct volcano. Today, apart from an unmanned automatic lighthouse and a foghorn on its eastern cliffs, the island is now deserted save for enormous numbers of many species of seabirds, most notably the gannet, otherwise known as the solan goose (Sula Bassanus)

On the west and north side the guano-whitened cliffs fall almost vertically to the water so that even quite a sizable vessel can approach to with a few feet of their faces where every available ledge, nook and cranny, is seen to be occupied by a protesting bird of one sort or another. The noise is deafening and the visitor is strongly advised either to wear a broad brimmed hat or carry an umbrella against the attentions of the wheeling and swooping members of the colony unable themselves to find a vacant landing place. Apart from its famous and ancient colony of gannets, of which there is mention in a Papal Bull in the mid 12th century, the island is also home to many other species of seabirds including Fulmars, Shags, Kittiwakes, Razorbills, Guillemots and even occasionally, the black browed albatross, not forgetting many varieties of gulls, and little puffins which shuffle about like old men in carpet slippers.

The first recorded settlement of the Bass was by St. Baldred in the early years of the 7th Century and for the next seven or eight hundred years it remained a retreat for various solitary hermits and assorted masochistic monks. A chapel built in 1542 was dedicated to St. Baldred and its remains are still visible today perched on the middle of the three small terraces carved out of the rock on the eastern side.

During the 11th century the Bass was granted to the Lauder family by the Scottish King Malcolm III. In those days its gannets were already a valuable and profitable source of food for the worthy citizens of Edinburgh and the surrounding district. Indeed, the Solan Goose was considered a delicacy and contemporary records show that it was frequently served to Scottish Royalty in the 15th Century. However, the birds were apparently not to everyone’s taste for after sampling Gannet for the first time Charles II was to declare that there were two things that he particularly disliked about Scotland – the Solan Goose and the “Solemn League & Covenant”.  No wonder therefore that he so readily agreed to the Bass Rock being converted into a prison for the wretched Covenanters.

By this time the island had passed into the possession of Sir Alexander Ramsay who, in 1671, was only too delighted to sell it for £4000, (a vast profit he having paid a mere £400 for it) to the Duke of Lauderdale, acting on behalf of the King, for the express purpose of using it for detaining the convicted Covenanters, Scotland’s prisons by that time being full to overflowing. During the following year the existing buildings on the rock were enlarged and made more secure and on 2nd April 1673 the fortress was ready to receive its first prisoner, one Robert Gillespie, a preacher imprisoned for his Presbyterian principles. During the following 14 years thirty nine “martyrs” were sent to the Bass most of whom were

* The Register of the Privy Council of Scotland, Vol. 7, 1681 – 1682, Third Series, p. 159, states that the fine was 9,000 marks and that Sproul and Lin were to be imprisoned until the fine was paid, or at the pleasure of the Council.



ministers or preachers. Several succumbed to the harsh conditions including John Blackadder, the minister of Traquair, and John Rae, Minister of Symington, both of whom died there.

Alexander Pedden speaks of “ill treatment by their keepers” and says it was a “bare, cold, unwholesome prison, all their rooms ordinarily full of smoke like to suffocate and choke them”.

“The history of this rock now presents, for a number of years, a series of acts, most cruel and oppressive. About forty individuals, chiefly clergymen, were confined here, for periods ranging from two months to six years, for no other accusation than that they followed their own conscientious convictions in matters of religion, rather than yield compliance to the will of the King. A great part of the time spent here was spent in solitary confinement. No one was permitted to see his neighbour, and seldom were they allowed to leave their cells”.442

A prisoner

“would thrust head and shoulders out of the windows to recover breath, obliged to drink two penny ale of the governor’s brewing, scarcely worth a halfpenny a pint, and several times were put to it for want of victuals for ten to twelve days together, the boats not daring to venture to them by reason of stormy weather”.

“Sometimes their whole fare was a scanty supply of dried fish. They suffered greatly too, from the want of water, there being no spring on the rock. The only way they could obtain the necessary of life was by collecting the rain in cavities, and in winter and spring they produced it by melting snow”.443

The prison cells were located at the base of an overhanging precipice and that there were perpetual drippings from above. The site was subject to the spray from the ocean and exposed to strong winds from the east.444

Bass Johns Imprisonment

About nine months after Spreul was sent to Bass Rock, one Helen Thones, a widow, made an appeal to the Privy Council. Her appeal, dated 20 April 1682, was in regard to a premise she had rented from one John Baird. The widow claimed that Baird had allowed Spreul to live there without her knowledge and that about one and one-half years earlier the authorities had locked up the building and that it was still locked up. Perhaps the building was the place where Sproul was arrested on 12 November 1680. The widow appealed for access to the premises and for the rent she had lost.445

The Council agreed that Mr. Alexander Hay, apothecary to the King, would be permitted to enter the building to “oppen the drugs belonging to the said John Sprewell and cause roup (auction) and sell the same to the best availl, the pryce wherof is to be paid to his Majesty’s Cash keeper as part of Sprewells fyne.”446

The Privy Council ordered that the house be released to the petitioner but it is interesting that no mention is made if she would a compensated for the loss of the use of the building! The reference to Spreul’s fine would be the fine of 500 pounds sterling he was ordered to pay on 14 July 1681.

Years later “Bass John”, still kept the letters from his father written to keep up his spirits while he was in prison.447 He also submitted either two or three petitions asking for his freedom. One of Spreul’s petitions may be found in a volume of the “Records of the Privy Council of Scotland” and was either



written to or presented to the Council on 4 March 1686. In this petition Sproule recounts that he has been in prison.

“in the Basso near thes six yeares, and by a great fyre of Glasgow where both his house and shopp were burned, great losses at sea, bad debitors, and the death of his wyfe since his imprisonment, is redactedfo to so great straits and extremitie of want that he is rendered altogither unable to maintoune himselfe and his poor familly: May it therefor please your Lordships to take your petitioners lade caice to serious considerations, and aither allow your petitioner ane aliment in prisone or thin ordaine that he may be sett at libertie for ordering his affairs and recovering some of his desperat debts, querby he may be some way capacitat to mentaine himselfe and poor familie, hee inacting himselfe to enter prisons to the Basse againe at quhat tyme your Lordships judge convenient”.448

The above petition, among other things, shows that Bass John must have had someone try to carry on his business while he was in prison. Perhaps his wife did her best but it seems that she died in 1683. His brother James, an apothecary in Paisley, may have given assistance but it is believed he died in 1686.

Spreull’s remark about his “poor family” infers that he had children. It can be established that he had two daughters but at the time of his petition he may have had other children who died at a young age.

Even if Bass John would have had some income while he was in prison, it should be pointed out that in those days prisoners had to pay for their food and necessities and also pay fees to their jailers.

In two brief entries in the records of the Privy Council which fall within December 1686, further information can be mentioned. The one entry which may date December 2 indicates that Spreul had submitted another petition,449 presumably for his release. The other brief entry which may date about 14 December 1686, suggests that he was on the agenda of the Privy Council but it is followed by the word “deleted.”450 Perhaps the Council decided to strike his name from the agenda as it did not want to consider another petition.

Woodrow quotes from a petition which covers much the same ground as the one prepared for the Privy Council and dated 4 March 1686. Woodrow does not date the petition but he states that “it follows from the Original” which may mean that it was based on the original and that it was submitted after the earlier petition failed. In the latter petition Spreul states that he has been in prison “Six years and Five months”. This must mean that he was counting his imprisonment from November 12, 1680, the date when he was captured and jailed in Edinburgh. Spreul says that his house and shop were taken from his wife during his imprisonment. He also obliquely refers to some right of law that he should have received at the end of his third year in prison. Spreul states that if he cannot be released to resume his business in Scotland that he should be allowed to go elsewhere to resume his life. He says that he needs money to maintain himself in prison and points out that he was never compensated for the goods seized by Major Johnson following his apprehension in Edinburgh.451

As we have seen, John Spreull was sent to the Bass under an order of the Privy Council dated 14th July 1681 and was, in fact, the last (and longest serving) prisoner to be released nearly six years later. During that time he was to be joined, in July 1683, by his cousin John Spreull, ex Town Clerk of Glasgow (q.v.) who, after some years there, succeeded in obtaining his release having successfully petitioned the Council on the grounds of his advanced age and frailty. But the cruel conditions during three bleak winters on the rock had taken their toll and within two years of his release he was dead.



“Bass” John, however, was made of sterner stuff and must, indeed, have been an extremely robust character both in body and in spirit. Not only had he twice suffered torture and endured six years of confinement in the harshest of conditions, during which time he had borne with great fortitude the tragic news of the deaths of first his wife and then his young daughter, but when, in response to his petition to the council, orders for his release were eventually received by the Governor of the Bass, he refused, on principle, to leave.

The order of the council, dated 13th May 1687 reads as follows:-

“The council grant the following Act of Liberation. “The Lords of His Majesty’s Privy Council having considered an address made on behalf of John Spreull, Apothecary in Glasgow, now prisoner in the Isle of the Bass, supplicating for liberty, in regard of his Majesty’s late gracious proclamation, do hereby give order and warrant to Charles Maitland, Lieutenant Governor of the Isle of the Bass, to set the said John Spreull at Liberty, he having found caution acted in the Books of Council, to appear before the council once in June next, under the penalty of one thousand pounds Scots money in case of failie.” 452

Robert Woodrow explained what happened next453.

“When this order comes to the Bass, Mr. Spreull was unwilling to take his liberty upon any terms that to him appeared inconsistent with the truths he was suffering for; and he apprehended this order involving him in an approbation of the proclamation specified, which he was far from approving. So much he signified to the Governor of the Bass and continued some time in prison, till a letter came over requiring the Governor to set open doors to him, and tell him he was at liberty to go or stay as he pleased, whereupon, after so long imprisonment, he chose to come out under a protestation against what he took to be wrong in the orders and proclamation, and went over to Edinburgh, and waited on the counsellors, thanked them for allowing him liberty, and verbally renewed his protest against the proclamation and orders. Thus ended the long tract of sufferings this good man was under.” 454

With the departure of its last prisoner, followed within a few months by that of King James to France, the Bass was, for a while, held by Governor Maitland for the exiled King, but by August 1689 he was persuaded to capitulate. However, two years later the garrison was again occupied by supporters of James and surprisingly they managed to hold out in defiance of the authorities until 1694, eventually giving up the struggle on, as it happened, exceedingly favourable terms. The government then ordered that the guns should be removed and the fortifications razed so that never again could they present a challenge to London’s authority. This having been done, the Bass Rock was sold to Sir Hew Dalrymple, in whose family it remains to this day.

King James II, who had succeeded his brother Charles II in February 1685, followed policies that rapidly alienated many of his subjects. He might have survived, however, had a son not been belatedly born to his second wife on 10 June 1688. The realisation that their Roman Catholic ruler would be succeeded by his Roman Catholic son, rather than one of his two Protestant daughters by his first marriage, proved too much for most of the populace of Scotland and England. In late 1688 James lost the throne to his son-inlaw William of Orange and his wife Mary. William’s big advantage was that he was a Protestant as was his wife, Mary, James’s eldest daughter by his first marriage. In addition William’s mother was a Stuart, she being a sister of Charles II and James II.

The toppling of James II from the throne came to be known as the “Glorious Revolution”. Under the new joint rulers, William III and Mary II, the restrictive measures against Presbyterians were relaxed and the Presbyterian Church was recognized as the national Church of Scotland. In Scotland, Episcopalians



now became the object of discrimination until a remedial law was passed in 1712. Bass John was present as a witness when King William and Queen Mary received the instrument of government and consented to the Claim of Rights which he himself had helped to draw up.

James II tried to make a comeback and concentrated his efforts largely in Roman Catholic Ireland. He was defeated in the Battle of the Boyne on 12 July 1690. William of Orange became the hero of Irish Protestants and the Loyal Orange Association came into being in 1795. July 12th became the annual day of celebration of the Orange Lodges.

In Scotland the supporters of James II never succeeded in launching a serious threat to the new rulers. Precautions were, of course, taken and it is interesting to note that among those appointed as lieutenants and captains in Glasgow by the new regime was one John Spreul, possibly the Bass John Spreul of this account.455 A secondary source speaks of an honour given to John Spreul in 1689:

“At the Convention held in Edinburgh in March 1689, the Claim of Rights* was drawn up and sent to King William. Bass John was present as a witness when King William and Queen Mary received the Instrument of Government and consented to the Claim of Rights”.456

Bass John’s long confinement on the Isle of Bass would explain his concern for others held in prison. A letter from William, the 18th Earl of Crauford, the President of the Privy Council of the new regime may be cited as proof.

Crauford’s letter, dated 14 June 1689, and addressed to “John Spreul Merchant, Glasgow” deals with Spreul’s request that several people in prison be released. An extract of Crauford’s letter reads:

“As for those prisoners you write for tho’ there was no petition given in by them or their friends and that several things by some Councellours were alleadged against them, yet wupon your recommendation, and desyre for them I procured and signed a warrand for their liberation, so that if they remaine in prison it can only bee the not payment of Jaylours fees, and omission to satisfie the Clerks dews.”457

In 1696 a campaign was launched to pay ransom’s to free Scot’s held by the Barbary pirates of North Africa. John Spreull, merchant, headed a country-wide drive to collect money to pay said ransoms.458

On 2nd and 3rd July 1689, elections were held in Glasgow. One “John Spreull, elder” was among those elected as a representative of the merchants.459 If the aforementioned was indeed Bass John, he quickly came to the fore following his release from prison some time in 1687. In the year of December 1689, to December, 1690, John Spreull and six other men guaranteed the collection of 65,000 pounds Scots which was to be raised by an inland excise tax in the six western shires and the town of Glasgow.460 It is likely that the tax was levied to secure additional money to support King William’s struggle in Ireland against the deposed James.

In matters of business, Bass John had his own distinct views. On a number of occasions he took issue with the Town Council of Glasgow either for its general policies or on issues that affected his business. Extant records show that between 1695 and 1715 that there were seven entries in the records of Glasgow that referred to his interests and that six of the entries involved disagreements with the Town Council.461

* It is assumed that the Claim of Rights was the equivalent of the Declaration of Right that was accepted by the new rulers in England on February 19, 1689.



Following his release from the Bass John Spreull became one of the leading merchants of Glasgow. In 1690, he purchased a property in the Trongate, where he resumed his business as an apothecary and merchant and began again to play a prominent part in public affairs. Much of his business involved an establishment at Crawfords-dyke downstream from Glasgow where red herring were processed.462 It is suspected that he had sea-going vessels to carry both imports and exports of various kinds. His trade within Scotland must have become quite extensive as he was accepted as a burgess in seventeen centres between 1691 and 1712.463 He was elected as Burgess of Dunbar in 1691, Lanark (1692), Dundee (1692), Linlithgow (1696), Paisley (1697), Jedburgh (1702), Selkirk (1704), Kinghorne (1705),  Montrose (1707), Haddington and Brechin (1708), Kirkcaldy and Ayr (1709), Stirling and Renfrew (1711) and Dumfries (1712).

It has not been established if the apothecary trade had a role in his success but one gets the impression that he may not have returned to that business following his release from prison.

Scottish pearls were his speciality and he himself was to write:-

“I have dealt in pearls these forty years and more and yet to this day I could never sell a necklace of fine Scots pearls in Scotland, nor yet fine pendants, the generality seeking for oriental pearl because farther fecht. Yet for commendation of our own pearl at this very day I can show some of our own Scots pearl as fine, lucid and more transparent than any oriental. It is true that the oriental can be easier matcht, because they are all of a yellow water, yet foreigners covet Scots pearl.” 464

A secondary source states that Bass John collected a number of fine Scotch pearls which he made into two necklaces. One of the necklaces was acquired for Queen Anne and the other was in the hands of a distant relative in approximately 1900.465

Legislation of the English Parliament such as the Navigation Acts hampered Scottish trade. In 1695 a number of Scots formed a company to establish a trading post and colony in the isthmus of Darien (Panama). Bass John invested 1000 pounds in this company which was known as The Company of Scotland Trading to Africa and the Indies. The endeavour ended in complete failure and the bankruptcy of so many prominent Scots that full union with England has to be accepted a few years later.466

John Spreul may have been one of the first to prove, at least to his own satisfaction, of the origin of ambergris, a substance which could be used in the making of perfumes. As ambergris was often found floating in the sea and there were many fanciful stories as to its origins. Witnessing the dissection of two whales in 1701, he noted that the gum-like ambergris was present in their intestinal tracts. It originated from cuttlefish which form part of the diet of sperm whales.

Bass John was something of an author. In 1705 he published “An Account Current betwixt Scotland and England”.467 This is an essay on the politics of trade and Sproul was critical of barriers England had placed and wished to place on Scottish imports. Sproul wanted access to the English markets and felt that with some effort Scotland could penetrate the markets of many other countries. He felt that a balance of trade was possible. Union with England took place in 1707 in Queen Anne’s reign. Free trade was instituted as part of the terms of Union. Perhaps Bass John’s views helped the Scottish cause.

Another of Spreul’s writings was a seven page tract entitled “Reasons against Imposing Prisedg Wines in Scotland”.468 This article but it seems to have been written to protest a tax merchants had to pay on wines.



Another product of Bass John’s quill may have been The Age of the World printed in l706. The writing is said to laud the uninterrupted succession of the Scots monarchy and claims its longevity outstrips all other kingdoms.

In or around 1706 Bass John wrote a seventeen page account of his lengthy attempt to get a permanent family pew in the churches he attended. The abbreviated title of the tract is “…the Case of John Sproul… in reference unto a Seat in his own Parish Church”.469 In Spreul’s time “heritors”, i.e., land owners, were entitled upon the payment of an annual fee to have a family pew in their church. Pews at the front were the most prestigious.

Sproul, as a property owner and a leading merchant of Glasgow, felt humiliated by his pillar-to-post treatment. The outcome of his cause is not known. The account does tell us that from 1686 to 1700 he lived in a house in “Provost Gibsons Land”. In 1700 he built a large home for himself on a street called the Trongate.

Although there is no evidence that Bass John ever attended university, he must have had a good education and an interest in literature. It has been observed that the greater part of his library consisted of “Greek, Latin and French works and English Divinity”.470 Although his library and silver plate have become dispersed, his Bible is said to have been in the possession of a distant relative in the early years of the 20th century.

Bass John had his portrait painted by Sir Godfrey Kneller.471 Sir Godfrey Kneller, 1st Baronet (8 August, 1646 – 19 October, 1723) was the leading portrait painter in England during the late 17th and early 18th centuries, and was court painter to British monarchs from Charles II to George I*. His major works include The Chinese Convert (1687); a series of four portraits of Isaac Newton painted at various junctures of the latter’s life; a series of ten reigning European monarchs, including King Louis XIV of France; over 40 “Kit-Cat portraits” of members of the Kit-Cat Club; and ten “beauties” of the court of William III, to match a similar series of ten beauties of the court of Charles II painted by his predecessor as court painter, Sir Peter Lely.

In 1904 Spreul’s portrait was in the possession of Captain John Wm. Burns of Kilmahew†, Cardross, Dunbartonshire. As we shall see, Burns was a distant relative of Spreul.

John Spreul’s coat of arms is clearly derived from earlier Spreull Coats of Arms. His motto, “Sub Pondere Cresco” appears above the shield*. The motto may be translated as “Under weight I grow” or more                                                       * Kneller was born Gottfried Kniller in Lübeck, Germany. Kneller studied in Leiden, but became a pupil of Ferdinand Bol and Rembrandt in Amsterdam. He worked in Rome and Venice in the early 1670s, painting historical subjects and portraits, and later moved to Hamburg. He came to England in 1674, at the invitation of the Duke of Monmouth, accompanied by his brother, John Zacharias Kneller, who was an ornamental painter. He was introduced to, and painted a portrait of, Charles II.

Despite the lack of attention to clients, he established himself as a leading portrait artist in England. When Sir Peter Lely died in 1680, Kneller was appointed Principal Painter to the Crown by Charles II. In the 1690s, Kneller painted the Hampton Court Beauties depicting the most glamorous ladies-in-waiting of the Royal Court for which he received his knighthood from William III. He produced a series of “Kit-Cat” portraits of 48 leading politicians and men of letters, members of the Kit-Cat Club. Created a baronet by King George I, he was also head of the Kneller Academy of Painting and Drawing 1711-1716 in Great Queen Street, London. His paintings were praised by Whig luminaries such as John Dryden, Joseph Addison, Richard Steele, and Alexander Pope.

Kneller achieved his portraits by overseeing a studio organized like an assembly line, with a significant number of assistants. He painted only the face of the subject and had assistants including “a periwig expert” who arranged curls around the cheeks, and others who did hats, costumes and lace handkerchiefs. Sometimes subjects, especially persons living in the New World, did not pose for these types of portraits but merely sent written descriptions of them selves to Kneller. His style of portrait was popular amongst many persons in England but offensive to Puritans.

† The Castle is now a ruin within the grounds of a School of Divinity.



pleasingly, “I thrive under burdens”. It reflects how Bass John persevered in his faith and in his commercial endeavours in the face of many reverses. Just below the motto and resting on traditional armorial embellishments is a palm tree the branches of which are weighted down by objects. It is likely that the palm tree has a spiritual and Biblical connotation and is intended to show how it continues to grow upwards even when its branches are loaded with weights. The shield depicts three purses, separated by a fesse chequy.472

Bass John’s fame was such that he was the subject of an ode by “AHB”, entitled “The Martyr’s Crest”. This was probably written sometime in the 1700s.

In commenting on Bass John’s career, it may be said that he emerges as a man steadfast in his beliefs and a possessor of many talents. Perhaps as the Duke of York insisted, Bass John was a key figure among the Covenanters, yet one senses that he was telling the truth when he maintained he was not involved in the fighting at Bothwell Bridge. If one can ignore Spreul’s harsh remarks about Jesuits and Roman Catholics, one cannot help but admire the forthright stance he took before the Duke. His steadfastness under torture and imprisonment must have meant a great deal to the Covenanters. Within his own family there were several tragedies but one senses Bass John spirit was always capable of renewal. When his prison ordeal was over he demonstrated his concern and compassion for others who were held in prison in his own country but also for the captives in far away Africa. His interests were wide and when he or his country faced problems or annoyances, he did not just complain, but put his thoughts on paper and offered remedies. Insufficient information is available about his successes in business but he emerges as the boy from Paisley who made good. Whereas his “cousin”, John Spreull, the Town Clerk of Glasgow, seems to have been somewhat devious in his anti-government actions and somewhat petty at the personal level, Bass John seems to have been free of such traits. Together, however, they were formidable figures in the face of adversities.

Bass John’s heir was his third and only surviving son, James. Compared to his father James had an extremely mild career. Attention will now be paid to a few remarks about James and other successive heirs of Bass John Spreul.

* As is always the case in Scotland, in England and Ireland the motto appears below the shield.



The Spreulls of Paisley  1. Bailie John Spreull of Paisley (1607 – 1685) married in 1642 Jonet Alexander

1.1. James Spreull (1643 – 1686?) was an apothecary in Paisley, in 1647 he married Ann Spreul, daughter of Mr John Spreul the Town Clerk of Glasgow

1.1.1. Janet Spreull (1675-?) married James Shortridge of Glasgow Bailie John Shortridge (1711 – 1778) married Hannah Park Janet Shortridge (1747 – 1834) married in 1788 John Smith (1739 – 1816) the fourth laird of Craigend in Stirlingshire James Smith (1790 – 1838) was fifth laird of Craigend, married Agnes M Graham (?-1875) on 27 April 1875.473 John Smith (?-1856) sixth laird, no issue, property sold Agnes Smith married David Stewart, 13th Earl of Buchan (see Burke’s Peerage for descent) Hannah Smith, married Andrew Rankin, had issue William Shortridge married first Elizabeth Yullie (details of subsequent wives not known). They had a daughter, Margaret: Margaret Shortridge married in 1835 to James Burns (1789 – 1871) of Kilmahew Cardross, Dunbartonshire474. James Burns (9 June 1789 – 1871), ship-owner, was born in Glasgow, the third son of the Revd Dr John Burns (1744 – 1839), minister of the Barony parish of Glasgow, and his wife, Elizabeth, née Stevenson. His eldest brother, Dr John Burns FRS, became the first professor of surgery in the University of Glasgow, and his second brother, Allan Burns, became physician to the empress of Russia at St. Petersburg. Unlike his older brothers, James Burns turned to commerce, and was joined by his younger brother, Sir George Burns, 1st Baronet (1795 – 1890), in 1818, setting up as J. & G. Burns, general merchants in Glasgow. After six years, the two brothers moved into shipping, joining with Hugh Mathie of Liverpool to establish a small shipping line of six sailing vessels plying between the two ports. The Clyde was then the leading waterway for steam navigation; within a year James and George Burns had ordered their first steamer, and they quickly replaced all their sail ships by steamboats. While George was mainly interested in the technical aspects of the ships, it was James who was the chief commercial influence in the business, supervising the day-to-day transactions, the negotiation of cargoes and contracts. The Mathie connection with Liverpool was replaced in 1830 by a new arrangement with two Liverpool-based Scots, David and Charles MacIver, to form the Glasgow Steam Packet Company. This arrangement allowed James and George Burns to extend their steamship business to Londonderry, Larne, and Belfast. As before, George concentrated on the shipping department,



while James was mainly responsible for the mercantile side of the business. While the Irish Sea trade was their first and main business, two other avenues opened up to James and George Burns. In 1839 the Liverpool connection was greatly strengthened when George Burns was introduced to Samuel Cunard and raised £270,000 in subscriptions to establish the British and North American Royal Mail Steam Packet Company. This company secured a seven year contract from the Admiralty to carry the American mails by steamship. James and George, with the MacIvers, were founding partners and shareholders with Cunard in the new venture. While this took George’s attention south to Liverpool, James concentrated on the Glasgow business, and in 1845 G. and J. Burns acquired an interest in the developing west highland steamer services by purchasing the Castle Line. This however was quickly re-sold to their nephew David Macbrayne, their shipping clerk David Hutcheson, and his brother Alexander. Burns was married twice: first, to Margaret Smith and, second, to Margaret Shortridge, who predeceased him. He retired from active business and developed an interest in estate improvement, acquiring the estates of Kilmahew, Cumbernauld, and Bloomhall in Dunbartonshire. He spent much time on improvements and was a liberal supporter of religious and philanthropic enterprises. He died on 6 September 1871 at Kilmahew Castle, Cardross, Dumbarton, and was succeeded in his estates by his only son, John William Burns475. John William Burns (1837 – 1900) married in 1861 Helen Sherer daughter of General Sir George Moyle Sherer James Burns-Harlopp (1862-?) married Florence Harlop John William Burns of Kilmahew married Anne Pilkington Alex Burns married Helen Hope James (Shortridge) Spreull (1760 – 1824) Chamberlain of Glasgow and Superintendent of the Clyde. Married to Margaret McCall Margaret, married? had issue? Helen John (1791 – 1845) Chamberlain and Superintendent of the Clyde) married but his children probably predeceased him and upon his death Spreull’s land went to the his brother Samuel Hannah James (1795 – 1876) Janet Son

130 Samuel (1801 – 1879) Upon Samuel’s death, Spreull’s land may have gone to the Burns family, although another source says it went to a grandson of the eldest sister Margaret William Sarah (1809 – 1902)

1.2. “Bass John” Spreull (1646 – 1722) was an apothecary and merchant in Glasgow, married secondly in 1692, Margaret Wingate (his full story is recounted elsewhere)

1.2.1. Bailie James Spreull (1698 – 1769) merchant and banker in Glasgow, he was a bachelor

1.2.2. Margaret Spreull (1700 – 1784) was a spinster. She made James Shortridge her heir on condition he take the name Spreull

James Spreull (bap. 13 October 1698 – August 1769) – merchant, banker, and bailie of Glasgow

James Spreull, the only surviving son and chief heir of Bass John Spreul, never married. He probably lived with his spinster sisters in the mansion his father built on the Trongate in 1700.476 James was admitted as a Burgess and Guild Brother of Glasgow on 26 May 1727.477 He also became a burgess of Stirling and Kirkcaldy.478 He seems to have carried on, with some adjustments, the business built up by his father.

James was a partner in the Glasgow Arms Bank which opened on 5 November 1750.479 He served as Treasurer of Glasgow in 1753 and as a bailie in 1755.480 He may not have has much taste for politics if he was the “James Spreull, Merchant” who was fined on 5 October 1761, for refusing to take office as a councillor after having being elected to that position the previous fall.481 There is portrait of Bailee James Sproule, painted in the 1760s.  The artist is unknown, but the picture is held by the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh.  In 2003 it was in their reserve collection and can be seen by appointment (see illustration).

As James, a bachelor, became elderly, the question of who would get or share in his estate must have arisen. It has not been determined how his estate was settled when he died in 1769 but it probably went to his two surviving spinster sisters, Margaret and Grizell. The sisters were both then in their sixties. Margaret outlived her sister Grizell and it was she who determined the disposition of whatever part of the Spreull estate that-had devolved to her. To understand Margaret Spreull’s decision, one must review the ancestry of her cousin, John Shortridge of Glasgow.



The Spreull-Shortridge Connection  The blood relationship of the two families starts with James Spreull, apothecary of Paisley (1643-1686?). James, it may be recalled, was the older brother of Bass John Spreull (1646-1722), their father being Bailie John Spreull of Paisley.

On 21 January 1674, James, the apothecary, married Ann (also known as Agnes) Spreul (1643-1684) a daughter of John Spreul, the Town Clerk of Glasgow.482 The marriage united two prominent Spreull families that were already related through some common ancestor.

James Spreull and Ann Spreul had several children. Only their daughter Janet, born in 1675, is significant to this account. She married James Shortridge (1675 – ?) of Glasgow in 1710.483 He was the son of Adam Shortridge and Janet Robinson.

Janet Spreull and James Shortridge had five children, John, Margaret, Janet, James, and Ann.484 Only their eldest child, John Shortridge, is significant to this account. A brief account about him follows.

Bailie John Shortridge (1711 – 1778) married in 1746 Hannah Park (1720s? – alive in 1792)485

Not much information has been found about John Shortridge of Glasgow. He is said to have been a member of the Glasgow Volunteers486 that fought at the Battle of Falkirk Moor on 17 January 1746. The encounter was won by “Bonnie Prince Charlie”, the son of James II who was deposed back in 1688. The prince was trying to restore Stuart rule in the person of his father, James Edward Stuart, known as the “Old Pretender”. Bonnie Prince Charlie’s hopes were dashed by his defeat at Culloden on 17 April 1746.

The range of John Shortridge’s business activities are not known, but today he would be best called a developer. In 1761 he built “Shortridge’s Land,” a tenement on the northwest of Dunlop Street and Argyle Street.487 He is also credited with other developments along Argyle Street.488 While the word tenement conjures up images of slums, this is unfair as he was a Glasgow pioneer in sanitation of his developments.489

He dabbed briefly in politics being a bailie of Glasgow in 1772.490 In this account it is helpful to identify him as Bailie John Shortridge in order to clarify certain remarks, although his single term as a bailie does not in itself merit frequent use of the title.

In 1746 John Shortridge married Hannah Park, a daughter of William Park of Paisley. John and Hannah seem to have had upwards of eight children* but only Janet, William, and James are of interest or significance to this account.491 They will be numbered 1, 2, and 7, as that seems to be the order of their births. An account about Janet Shortridge and some of her descendants follows:

  1. Janet Shortridge (1747 – 1834) Janet was the eldest child of her parents, John Shortridge and Hannah Park. In 1788 she married John Smith (1739 – 1816).492 Being age 41 at the time of her marriage, it is interesting that she bore four children in the next few years. Janet’s husband is identified as the 4th laird of Craigend which is located in Stirlingshire.493 The children were: James, Hannah, John, and Archibald.494 The latter two never married.

1.1. James Smith (bap. 24 May 1790 – 1838) James the eldest child of Janet Shortridge and John Smith became the 5th laird of Craigend upon his father’s death. James married Agnes, Maxwell

* The information found in two secondary accounts varies. An examination of appropriate parish records would likely solve the matter for an interested person.



Graham. They had seven children, their names being John, James Graham, Archibald, Charles, Andrew, Janet, and Agnes Graham.495 Information about their eldest child, John, and their youngest child, Agnes Graham is of interest.

1.1.1. John Smith (? – 2 June 1851) John was the 6th  and last Smith to be a laird of Craigend. On his death the Craigend property was sold to Sir Andrew Buchanan.496 The decision to sell was possibly taken by his surviving brothers and sisters.

1.1.2. Agnes Graham Smith (? – 2 Sept. 1875) Agnes, the seventh child of James Smith and Agnes Graham Maxwell was the first wife of David Stuart, 13th Earl of Buchan. The couple had two sons as follows:497 Shipley Gordon Stuart, 14th Earl of Buchan, see Burke’s Peerage for subsequent descent. Albany Mar Stuart

1.2. Hannah Smith (early 1790s – ?) Hannah married Andrew Ranken, a merchant of Glasgow, he being the son of the Reverend Alexander Ranken, D.D., of St. David’s Church, Glasgow.498 Hannah and Andrew had seven daughters and one son, their names being Euphemia, Janet, Hannah, Nary, Amelia, Catherine, Andrew, and Isabella. One scrap of information is known about Isabella.499 One of the pearl necklaces commissioned by Bass John Spreul was given to his spinster daughter, Margaret. Margaret gave the necklace to Janet Shortridge who married John Smith, the 4th laird of Craigend. Janet bequeathed the necklace to her daughter Hannah who married Andrew Ranken. Hannah in turn bequeathed the necklace to her youngest daughter Isabella. Isabella bequeathed the necklace to Charles Gairdner who obtained it in 1904.500 The relationship of the Gairdners to the Rankens has not been ascertained.

At this point the thread of this account must be picked up by returning to the second child and eldest son of Bailie John Shortridge and Hannah Park, William.

  1. William Shortridge (late 1740 – ?) The above became a partner in the firm of Todd, Shortridge Co. William was the heir of his father, Bailie John Shortridge (1711 – 1778) and he was the older brother of James Shortridge whom we shall see assumed the surname of Spreull. William Shortridge was twice married. At some date in the mid-1760s he married Elizabeth Yuille whose birth and death dates have not been ascertained. She was the daughter of George Yuille of Darleith, Dunbartonshire. They had six children, their names being Margaret, John, Amelia, Hannah, George, and William. William Shortridge married secondly, Mary Leitch in 1800. They had a daughter, Christina, who was born in 1802.501

2.1. Margaret Shortridge (? – 6 March 1860) On June 2, 1835, Margaret became the second wife of James Burns (25 June 1789 – 6 Sept. 1871) of Kilmahew, Cardros, Dumabartonshire. He was the third son of the Reverend John Burns of Glasgow.502 James Burns was a partner in the Cunard Steamship Company and of the shipping firm of G. & J. Burns.503 One of the secondary sources lists but one son being born to Margaret and James. Information about son follows.

2.1.1. John William Burns (18 March 1837 – 3 Aug 1900) On December 10, 1861, John married Helen Sherer (? – 9 Aug. 1926). She was she daughter of General Sir George Moyle Sherer. John Burns was an advocate (lawyer).504

133 John W. Burns took a strong interest in his ancestry and it was he who edited the writings of Bass John Spreull which were published in 1882. He and his wife lived at Kilmahew, Cardross, Dunbartonshire. They had three sons as follows: Captain James Burns-Harlopp (22 Oct 1862. – ?) Upon his marriage to Florence Honor Harlopp on 4 June 1894, he assumed the surname of Burns-Harlopp. His wife’s father was Captain William Wray Harlopp of Little Dalby Hall. It may be that the couple were childless. Captain John Wm. Burns, Jr. (17 Nov. 1863 – ?) He was of Kilmahew, Cardross, Dunbartonshire. On 3 Feb. 1903, he married Annie Douglas Pilkington of Sandside, Caithness. They had issue: Thos. Pilkington Burns (17 Nov. 1903 – ?) Elspeth Rosamund Burns — died in infancy Margaret Douglas Burns (13 April 1913 – ?) Alex Burns (28 Feb. 1868 – ?) He was an advocate. On 27 Nov. 1902, he married Helen Jacqueline Hope, daughter of Captain John Hope, R.N. of St. Mary’s Isle, Kirkcudbright. Helen died on 21 April 1923. She was the recipient of an M.B.E.

Attention now turns to James, the second son of John Shortridge and Hannah Park. He and his sister Janet and his brother William are the only children of the family of Bailie John Shortridge that are being discussed in this account.

James (Shortridge) Spreull (1760 – 1824) Chamberlain of Glasgow & Superintendent of the Clyde – wife Margaret McCall (1776 – 1836)

In order to present the fortunes of James (Shortridge) Spreull, one must return to the family of Bass John Spreull (1646 – 1722). James Spreull died a bachelor in 1769. He was the only surviving son and chief heir of Bass John. It is assumed that James’s estate went to his only surviving sisters, Margaret and Grizell, both of whom were spinsters. Margaret survived her sister and lived until 6 February 1784.

Margaret Spreull was proud of her father, Bass John Spreull and of the Spreull name. This feeling was no doubt shared by Bailie John Shortridge (1711 – 1778). He was a nephew of Bass John, his father being Bass John’s brother, James Spreull, an apothecary of Paisley. Bailie John Shortridge was also a grandson of Mr. John Spreul, the Town Clerk of Glasgow, his mother Janet being a daughter of the Town Clerk.

The elderly Margaret Spreull decided there was a way to carry on the Spreull name. She discussed her ideas with Bailie John Shortridge her cousin once removed, and a plan was agreed upon. John Shortridge would will his estate to his eldest son, William, and Margaret would will her estate to John’s second son, James. She reputedly said to Shortridge, “[You] take care of Will and leave Jamie to me”.505 She had, however, two important conditions. James would have to assume the name of Spreull and the Spreull property on the Trongate had to be put in entail.506 The entail stated that future heirs of James could not inherit the land unless they also took the name of Spreull.



James Shortridge* would have been of age 23 or 24 when his relative and benefactress, Margaret Spreull, died on 6 February 1784.507 The appropriate documents had been drawn up and James assumed the surname of Spreull.

Shortly after he came into his inheritance, James (Shortridge) Spreull pulled down the Spreull home on the Trongate.508 At the time the house was at least 85 years old. It was a two storey structure with gable ends and corby steps. There was a large garden at the back graced by a summer house. Bass John had built other accommodation next to the home and they commanded the best rents in the district.509 Apparently the structure or structures were known as Spreull’s Land, as was the new structure that replaced it.

In replacing the old Spreull’s Land, James must not have been in violation of the entail. The new structure, also called Spreull’s land, was a building which in design and construction was long regarded as the most pleasing building of its type in Glasgow.510 To accommodate the new building an arrangement had to be made to cover an encroachment on the property of Hutcheson’s Hospital.511 The new structure was a four storey stone building with a low attic.512 The ground floor had arched entrances leading to quality shops and one entrance opened to a throughway to a courtyard at the rear. The upper floors consisted of superior lodgings. A distinctive feature of the building was a spiral hanging well staircase.513 James (Shortridge) Spreull and his family may have lived in a portion of the structure. The street number in later times was 182, Trongate. Around 1978, despite its age and features, Spreull’s Court was demolished†.

In 1791 James acquired a property called Linthouse in Shieldhall on which there was a small villa.514 Perhaps he and his family took up residence there. James was a partner in the firm of Spreull, Somerville & McCaul.515 The company manufactured muslin and its establishment was on Bell Street.

A little information has survived about James (Shortridge) Spreull’s personal interests. It is known that he was a bowler and that in 1792 he was captain of the Glasgow Green Golf Club.516 In 1818 the Botanic Gardens of Glasgow was the recipient of a sapling yew tree. The commemorative plaque unearthed many years later had the following inscription:

“A rare and undoubted scion of the Celebrated Crukston Tree, the witness of the loves of Mary and Darnley. This Yew, the gift of James Spreull Esq. was planted in the Glasgow Botanic Gardens by Thomas Hopkirk 12 April 1818”.517

On 8 May 1798, at the age of 38, James (Shortridge) Spreull was elected Chamberlain of Glasgow which apparently included being Superintendent of the Clyde.518 It is difficult to define the position of a chamberlain in those times. In modern times the office of chamberlain is an honorary post. It now chiefly involves looking after the needs of visiting royalty and distinguished guests and presiding over civic functions. In the records of the Town Council of Glasgow in 1798 it took six pages to list the chamberlain’s duties and to give a breakdown of his salary. Spreull started out at a salary of 240 pounds a year.519 As Superintendent of the Clyde his chief duties were to supervise the collection of taxes from the boats using the Clyde and to take charge of improving the navigation of the river.

Glasgow was long handicapped as a port by the shallowness of the Clyde at low tides when it was a mere 15 to 18 inches deep in the vicinity of the city. Only at times of high water and high tides was the city

* He was a graduate of the University of Glasgow.

† Spreull ownership may have ended in 1902. Laws about entails were ended in the latter part of the 1800.



accessible to ships of quite modest size. Larger ships had to anchor well downstream and send their cargoes to Glasgow either by land or on small boats.

In 1789 (?) the Glasgow administration secured a parliamentary Act permitting the deepening of the Clyde, the objective being seven feet deep at neap tides.520 In the twenty-six years that James was the Superintendent of the Clyde the task was completed and further deepening undertaken. In 1819, five years before Spreull’s death, the British Parliament passed an act to make the Clyde nine feet deep between Glasgow and Dumbarton Rock.521 At the first meeting of the Glasgow administration after Spreull’s death in either late March or early April 1824, the Lord Provost of Glasgow used words such as “integrity,” “high mechanical talent,” “zest,” and “energy” in describing Spreull’s supervision of the deepening of the river.522

When James (Shortridge) Spreull died in 1824, his personal property included “twelve shares in the Glasgow Tontine of 1816, and two shares in the Glasgow Tontine Assembly Rooms”.523 Tontines were annuities shared by a number of people. As each beneficiary died, his or her shares were divided among the survivors. Finally the entire amount goes to the last survivor.

One secondary source states that when several of James Spreull’s children lived to ripe old ages that there was a proposal to divide up the capital “which amounted to some forty or fifty thousand pounds”.524 An agreement could not be reached as there were holdouts who gambled on being the last survivor. If the story is true, the winner would have been James’s youngest child, Sarah, who became the sole survivor in 1881 and who died in 1902 at the age of 93.

James (Shortridge) Spreull is judged to have married around 1785-86. His wife was Margaret McCall (1776-1836). She was the daughter of John McCall of Belvedere, merchant of Glasgow, and Helen Cross.525 James and Margaret had ten children. Until research proves otherwise, it would appear that only one of them married. A portrait of James (Shortridge) Spreull and his family, by David Allan is, in 2010, in the possession of the Hunterian Gallery, of the University of Glasgow. A contemporaneous copy is in the possession of the editor of this work, James Richard Sproule*. The names of the ten Spreull children are as follows:526

  1. Margaret Spreull (1787-1852) married? issue? Spreull’s Land may have descended to a grandson.
  2. Helen Spreull (1789-1877)
  3. John Spreull (1791-1845) He succeeded his father as Chamberlain of Glasgow and as Superintendent of the Clyde. Remarks about John will follow shortly.
  4. Hannah Spreull (1792-1881)
  5. James Spreull (1795-1876) On John’s death in 1845, James became heir to Spreull’s Land but not necessarily John’s other assets.
  6. Janet Spreull (1798-1811)
  7. Samuel Spreull (1800-1800)

* The work is of a lesser quality than the original and was almost certainly painted for one of the other children.



  1. Samuel Spreull (1801 – 17 Dec. 1879) He died in Toronto, Ont. Canada, where he had lived for many years. On James’s death in 1876, he inherited Spreull’s Land but perhaps none of his brother’s other assets.
  2. William Spreull (1804-1824)
  3. Sarah Spreull (1809-1902)

John Spreull (1791 – May/June 1845) Chamberlain of Glasgow & Superintendent of the Clyde – married Margaret Ann Buchanan

After the Lord Provost of Glasgow made his laudatory remarks on 6 April 1824, about the late James (Shortridge) Spreull, Chamberlain of Glasgow and Superintendent of the Clyde, he went on to recommend that James’s eldest son, John who had assisted his father for several years, be appointed the interim Chamberlain, the interim Superintendent of the Clyde, and the interim Treasurer of the Clyde Trust. The Glasgow Council approved the Lord Provost’s recommendation and it was agreed that the salary for the offices be reviewed in the following days.527

On 18 June 1824, John Spreull won out over a competitor and was confirmed in the offices mentioned above.528 The 33 year old James took over the posts and further deepening of the Clyde took place under his supervision until his death at the age of 54 in 1845. Together, John and his father held the office of Chamberlain of Glasgow and Superintendent of the Clyde for 47 years.

John Spreull married Margaret Ann Buchanan,529 possibly around 1826/27. They had at least two children as follows:530

  1. James Spreull (1 Sept. 1828 – ?) Further information lacking.
  2. Joan Spreull (15 November 1829 – ?) Further information lacking.

These children may well have died at a young age. This would explain why their names are never associated with the succession to Spreull’s Land. Although the succession to Spreull’s Land is touched will be touched upon later, a few more details can be provided about some of the heirs. The entail on the property appears to have called for succession by males only. The above John Spreull’s death without a son would explain why Spreull’s Land devolved to John’s brother, James.

James Spreull (1795 – 1876)

No information about James, although one would assume that he held Spreull’s court for 31 years. It is understood that he was a bachelor. On his death it is assumed Spreull’s Land was inherited by his brother Samuel. This is an assumption that requires proof.

Samuel Spreull of Toronto (1795 – 1879)

Samuel was a graduate of the University of Glasgow.531 He emigrated to Canada and settled in Toronto when the Province of Ontario was still known as Canada West. City directories started carrying his name in the year 1850-51 and he is successively listed as being one or more of the following an accountant, a notary public, an agent, a commission merchant, and a broker. When Samuel died on 17 December 1879, he would only have held whatever his brother willed him for upwards of three years. Presumably he acquired Spreull’s Land. On Samuel’s death he was survived by his spinster sisters, Hannah and Sarah. Hannah died in 1881 at the age of 89 and Sarah in 1902 at the age of 93. If their deceased brothers and



sisters remembered them in their wills, it is likely that they were financially well-off and had come to possess many family heirlooms.

The Final Successor to Spreull’s Land

From the Burns family of Canada, we find what finally happened to Spreull’s land.

Christina Neilson Spreull (granddaughter of James Spreull, Glasgow City Chamberlain, circa 1790, although it is unclear if Samuel, or one of his brothers, was her father), had married a Daniel Marks by whom she had a son John (or Jonathan). In 1883 John Marks received an unexpected inheritance through his mother.  This was an entailed Spreull estate of land (“Spreull’s Court” in the Trongate district and other property) and money in Glasgow, Scotland. The entail stipulated the claimant must be a descendant, the eldest son and carry the name of the estate.  So the family of John Marks of Richmond, Virginia became the Spreull family of Glasgow. The family sailed back to Glasgow in 1883 to inherit the property of Spreull’s Court and the monetary inheritance that went with it.

Jonathan Marks was born in 1842, his father, Daniel Marks, was a prison-keeper in the Shetland Islands and was one of eight children.  Sometime in the middle of the 19th century, Jonathans father died at which point his mother Christina Neilson Spreull, decided to emigrate to join her brother who was living in Richmond, Virginia.  As a result, John Marks was living in Richmond, Virginia during the American Civil War.  Because of his British nationality he was not required to serve in the Confederate Army, instead, he worked in a munitions factory in Richmond. The end of the Civil War found Jonathan working as a Blacksmith in Richmond. At this time, he met and married his wife, Maria Lula Ramos, whose family was originally from the Azores.  Maria’s father came to America, and thus to Virginia, fleeing the Portuguese authorities as a political prisoner.  There had been a failed revolt in the Azores and he had been taken prisoner. On the way to Lisbon for trial, the prisoners seized the ship and turned it to America, successfully securing their freedom.

John and Maria had three of his children who reached adulthood, Elizabeth Maria (aka Queen), born in 1875, James Manley, born in 1878, and George John, born in 1880 as well as two other brothers that did not survive childhood. At the time they came into their inheritance John and Maria were living in modest circumstances in Richmond. The Spreull fortune transformed their lives and was sufficient that they were able to set up home in a very upper middle class house on the west side of Glasgow – 9 Kelvinside Gardens North, off Great Western Road – complete with servants and carriages.  However, they were both outsiders – both by nationality and by social class – and it takes more than money to gain social acceptance.  The Spreull inheritance did however mean their children were sent to very good schools. George was sent to Glasgow Academy, which is still a premier private day school in Glasgow.

In 1907, John Spreull died, and the Spreull estate, which was still entailed, passed to James as the eldest son.  There had been a family agreement, that James would see that George and Queenie were provided for from the family money.  George, as a solicitor, understood and approved of this arrangement.  However it seems the arrangements for George and Queenie never were put in place. Worse, James was a gambler and, ultimately, the legacy was lost.

In 1910, the family again set sail for Virginia and bought a farm near Charlottesville. Elizabeth (Queen) had married an Irish minister, W.T. Currie, and settled in New Zealand.

George Spreull

George was educated at Glasgow Academy, read law at Glasgow University and became a member of the Middle Temple Law Courts, London, England. During his time at the University he took an active part in



student  life and politics, becoming Secretary and the President of the Student Union.   One of the students at that time was Margaret Barbour ( – 19 Oct 1934) of Darvel, Ayrshire, studying geology and botany for her B.Sc.  She was one of the first women to receive a degree from Glasgow University, which in 1889 had c1eared the way to allow women entry as full-time students.  Margaret was active as a suffragette and met George Spreull in the Debating Society.  Both graduated in 1903 and received her MA in Pure Science in 1904. During George Spreull’s final year at the University, at the age of 22, he was stricken with Parkinson’s disease, leaving both arms impaired and his right arm almost paralyzed.  He learned to use a typewriter and pecking away at it with two fingers was able to write his final exams.  After graduation he articled and practiced as a barrister in the Admiralty Court in London, England.  Sometime later he began to feel that a drier climate and physical labour would rectify or ease his disability.

However in 1914, George returned to England, hoping to find his university sweetheart still single.  He hadn’t written her for four years, Margaret (Meg) Barbour was teaching Science at Raines School in London. She was still waiting for him and was eager to take up the challenge of an unknown future when he asked her to marry him.  There was a large family wedding on 1 August 1914, at the Congregational Church in East Dulwhich. The newly married couple sailed for New York on the 4th of August aboard the S.S. Celtic, ironically the day Britain declared war on Germany, and the start of World War I.

George returned to Charlottesville, Virginia where they planned to continue farming. However, neither James, who was trained as an accountant, nor George understood farming. George’s mother, Mary, became very jealous and disliked her daughter-in-law, Margaret, intensely. So the farm was sold, James returned to England to look after his inherited estate.  George and his wife took his mother to New Zealand to live with her daughter and her family. Since it was wartime, passenger service from New Zealand to England was difficult and so George and Margaret chose to gamble on Canada and they went to Vancouver, British Columbia.

There they established a family, their first daughter Helen being born in Vancouver. In 1919, Margaret Barbour Spreull returned to visit her family in Darvel, Scotland, accompanied by their daughter Helen. While there, their second daughter Margaret Mary (Peggy) was born, on June 5. In 1921 their third child, Joan was born, but died shortly after. On July 26, 1923, Elizabeth Barbour was born, in Cranbrook.

In his memoirs, George Spreull speaks of working in the lumber camps so as to be able to put more cheese, bread and tea on the table.  But he established a small legal practice in Cranbrook. Despite poor health and much pain, roots were put down and gradually a legal practice was established. George Spreull was a marvellous raconteur with stories of Scottish, English or American history and places he had lived or visited as well as stories of the wild animals he had seen on his trips “up-country” in Invermere, Windermere, Columbia Lake, Canal Flats and the Banff-Kootenay National Park.  He told his children a story every night before they went to sleep. He was not a gregarious person but enjoyed the quiet company of fellow Rotarians and Masons. At one time he was President of the Rotarians and Master of the Masonic Lodge.

Though he was limited in taking an active part in outdoor activities, he was a founding member of the golf club and the local trout fish hatchery.  He encouraged sports of all kind, Sunday sports for those without homes and families, was something to do.  He always believed people should have something to do, not just receive. With the help of Mr. Rauch, he created the wild life conservation area, Lake Elizabeth, named after his youngest daughter. He was a great fly-fisherman, and like John Buchan (later Lord Tweedsmuir), whom he resembled in appearance, always wore a collar and tie on his fishing trips.

In 1937 he was appointed KC and in 1941 was offered a county court judgeship, which he felt obliged to refuse because of his health. In 1947 he sold the family home at 203 14th Avenue South (now recognized



as one of Cranbrooks Heritage Homes). George then went to live in Winnipeg near his middle daughter Peggy, then two years later moved to Victoria, B.C., where he lived until his death in 1956. His last years, married to Mary Paget, formerly of Cranbrook, were happy, fulfilled and rewarding.

George and Margaret Spreulls surviving children were:

  • Marion Helen married Robert Edward Burns on October 26, 1940 in Vancouver, B.C. • Margaret Mary married Donald Edmund McLeod on September 3, 1942 in Banff, Alberta. • Elizabeth Barbour married Charles David Hogg on October 24, 1952 in Glasgow, Scotland.




The Spreulls of Milton, Dunbartonshire  The task of piecing together information about the Spreulls of Milton has proven difficult. The earliest information is too spotty to piece together into a reliable story. Although there are a number of microfiche copies of various Scottish records, such microfilms are often impossible to read because of the condition of the documents and the style of the writing. Had one direct access to the original documents, it is likely the task of deciphering the materials would be easier. In addition many records remain to be microfilmed. In the late 1600s and after, a major problem is trying to distinguish between a plethora of Spreulls bearing the name of “John”. It would seem that there were four Spreull families living on the Milton property in the early 1600s and each family favoured the name “John”.

The location of the Milton also poses a problem as there are three Milton’s in Dunbartonshire and many others elsewhere in Scotland. Various clues establish that Spreull families lived on a property named Milton located in the Parish of West (Old) Kilpatrick, Dumabartonshire. The Milton in question is in the vicinity of Duntocher. The seat of the leading Spreull family was about one mile north of Dalmuir and close to Duntocher. (Dalmuir, long a property of the Sproul family of Coldoun, lay on the north side of the Clyde about six miles upstream from Dumbarton Rock.)

A Relationship to the Spreul’s of Coldoun

The Spreulls of Milton claimed to have a relationship to the Spreule family of Coldoun. It has already been established that the James Spreule who sold the Coldoun property in 1621 had two brothers, John and Walter, and a son named James. If any or all of these three Spreul’s were married and had children, it is possible the connecting link was a marriage of the 1600s. The relationship, of course, may have been established earlier than that.

The Early Spreulls of Milton

In 1580 one Thomas Spreull dwelling at “Mylland” is mentioned in a record.532 “Mylland” was a variant form of “Milton.”  1590 Thomas Sprewle “in” Milton; 1644 John Spreul “in” Milton; 1646 John Spreul “of” Milton; 1655 John Spreul “of” Milton. The word “of” indicated they were land owners. The reference suggests there could have been at least three generations of Spreulls living at Milton between 1580 and 1665. A fueing of the Milton property could have led to three of four closely related families living there in the late 1690s

In 1590 one David Dundass provided “caution” (bond) for several people, one of them being Andrew Sprewle “in” Milton.533 In the phraseology of the time the use of the word “in” meant that Sprewle lived on leased property. By a bond of 2,000 marks, Sprewle promised not to harm Sir James Edminston of Duntocher.

On 8 January 1644, one John Sproul “in” Milton was involved in a property transaction.534

On 8 December 1646, one John Spreull identified as “of” Milton.535 The use of the word “of” meant that Sproul was either a landowner or the equivalent of a landowner. In this transaction John Spreul’s wife is identified as Jean Stevin.

Just about nine years later in a property document dated 18 August 1655, one John Sproul “of” Milton is also involved.536 If this and the previous two documents could be examined, useful genealogical information could emerge.



Following the 1655 transaction, no other transaction involving a Spreull of Milton has been located for the next 40 years. The lack of records for such a long interval may make it impossible to ever sort out the Spreulls of Milton for a period starting in 1695 and continuing for several years thereafter.

Sorting out the Spreulls of Milton. There were in the late 1690s probably four Spreull families associated with Milton. An overview of the situation may help or discourage any individual who wishes to do further research.

Family A – Milton

There was an Andrew Spreull of Milton whose wife is identified as Isabella Crawford in a document of 25 May 1696.537 (The document has not been examined.) It is suspected that Andrew could have had a son named John as well as a son-in-law named John Spreull. The son-in-law was the husband of Andrew’s daughter Agnes.

Family B Milton and/or Blachairn?

As established earlier the John Spreull who married Agnes Spreull of Milton was a writer (lawyer) and was a son of Mr. John Sproule, the Town Clerk of Glasgow. It is possible, indeed likely that the writer’s marriage agreement gave him a portion of the lands of Milton. Were there times that this John Spreull was designated as “of” Milton and at other times as “of Blachairn”? How can one distinguish him from his brother-in-law if the brother-in-law was also a writer? A John Spreull of Milton, writer, Edinburgh, entered into a transaction involving property in Dunbartonshire on 28 November 1694538 and a transaction that involved property in Stirlingshire on 18 September 1697.539 On 23 April 1695, one John Spreull of Milton was admitted as a Burgess and Guild Brother of Glasgow.540 Unfortunately his occupation is not given and one is not sure which John was involved. On 13 May 1697, on 22 May 1697, and on 11 November 1697, one John Spreull of Milton was involved in property transactions.541 Was he John Spreull of Blachairn or one of the men named John Spreull who will be touched on later? Until the full texts of the various records can be studied, the identity problems remain. (It is interesting to note that on 13 October 1698, one John Sproule of Milton was a witness to the baptism of James, a son of Bass John Spreull of Glasgow.542 The witness could well have been the son of the Town Clerk as the Town Clerk and Bass John were cousins of some degree.) As it would appear that John Spreull, the writer who held Blachairn as well as possibly a portion of Milton as a result of his marriage, died between 1703 and 1707, the identity problem is somewhat eased. His eldest son, however was named John! His second son, Andrew, was a writer.

Family C – Milton and Cowdonhill

In 1695 a John Spreull of Milton married one Isabella Crawford543 and through her acquired an estate called Cloberhill. The property was renamed Cowdonhill some years later.544 This John Spreull presents a problem in that he seems to have alternated his residence between Milton and Cloberhill (Cowdonhill). When he was living at Milton there is some danger of confusing him with the John Spreull who was laird of Milton. During their lifetimes both of these men were referred to as lairds. At times difficulties arise when distinguishing between their descendants. Family C will be dealt with in later Chapters.

Family D – Milton

This family has already been touched on in the above remarks about John Spreull the laird of Milton. The laird and his descendants during the 1700s are the topic of discussion in the balance of this chapter. To reduce confusion, the Roman numerals I, II, and III will be used to distinguish between the successive lairds of Milton who bore the name of John.



  1. John Spreull I Laird of Lilton (1665?-1731)

1.1. John Spreull II (1700-1771), laird from 1731-1771 married Rebecca Hay

1.1.1. John Spreull III (1735?-1784) laird of Milton from 1771-1784

1.1.2. Andrew (1736-?) died young?

1.1.3. James Spreull (1739-?) laird of Milton 1784-?

1.1.4. Andrew (1742-?) possible he was the father of John

1.2. Son, died young?

1.3. Andrew Spreull (1710-1776) of Gosport Virginia, married twice no issue. Founded what was to become the Norfolk Navy Shipyard, see detailed entry later.

1.4. James Spreull (1714-?), married? issue?

1.5. Daughter

1.6. William Spreull (1717-?)

1.7. Daughter, married a Mr McAw, has a son, James McAw*

John Spreull I, Laird of Milton (1665? – 1731?)

Records show that one John Spreull of Milton was a Commissioner of Supply for Ayrshire in 1689, for Dunbartonshire in 1690 and 1696, for Stirlingshire in 1698, and again for Dunbartonshire in 1704.545 As laird of Milton John Spreull would have been more prestigious than the other Spreulls of the Milton property and in consequence he was the likely holder of the post of Commissioner of Supply. If the records are incomplete, it could well be that he was Commissioner of Supply in some of the intervening years.

An explanation of the duties of a Commissioner of Supply have not been encountered but it is suspected that the job centred on the collection of a special tax and possibly the procurement of supplies for the army when the country was at war or facing the threat of war. Spreull’s tenure in office covers the struggle between William III and the deposed King James II and then extends into the period when the country was at war with Louis XIV of France. One could guess that this John Spreull was as a Presbyterian as they came to the fore in Scotland with the fall of James II in 1688.

In a record of 1698 one John Spreull of “Myllton” is identified as the tutor (guardian) of [name?] Stirling of Law.546 The lands of the lairds of Law lay but a short distance from Milton. It is possible that the two families had come to be related, possibly through marriage into to Crawford family. In the succeeding generation the head of each family often witnessed baptisms of children of the other family.

Neither the name of John Spreull’s wife or the date of his marriage has been uncovered. It is suggested that John married around 1699 -1700. The names of some of his children and clues about his grandchildren emerge in the will of a son when it was registered in 1779.                                                        * In notes made in the will of Andrew Spreull of Gosport, there is mention of the following relatives: niece Isabel Spreull; niece married to William Alexander, merchant of Edinburgh (her mother is not identified); a niece married to William Gray, merchant of Glasgow (her mother is not identified); a nephew James McAw, (His mother has not been identified).



John Spreull, laird of Milton is believed to have been the father of the following:

  1. John Spreull II (1700? -1771) (Details about John, the heir of his father, will follow shortly.)
  2. (son) Spreull (early 1700s? – ?) This son or another son. William, had a daughter named Isabella.
  3. Andrew Spreull (1710 – 1776)547 Information found in some notes about Andrew’s will states he was the third son of his father. Andrew was a prosperous merchant of Gosport, Virginia. Details of his interesting life are covered later.
  4. Jane Spreull (bap. 30 March 1714 – ?) Jane’s baptismal record appears in the parish records of West Kilpatrick. It is possible that she married and had at least one child, a daughter. This point arises from the notes made about the will of her brother Andrew of Gosport, Virginia.
  5. daughter Spreull. This unidentified daughter arises from the notes made about the will of Andrew of Gosport. She may have married and had a daughter.
  6. William Spreull (?) (16 April 1717 – ?) He or his unidentified brother (# 2) had a daughter named Isabella.
  7. daughter Spreull. The notes made about Andrew of Gosport’s will indicates an unidentified sister as having married a man named McAw. They had a son, James McAw. It is quite possible that there were other children in this family, possibly one or two daughters.

It may be noticed that there are substantial intervals between the births of some of the children of the above family. It is quite possible that there were other children born in locations unknown to this writer. It is possible that there were other children who died at birth and were not baptized.

Various Indexes of Sasines do not list any property transactions involving a Spreull of Milton between 1697 and 1728. The absence of such records suggests that John I, Laird of Milton kept his title to his Milton lands until at least 1728 when he may have transferred them to his son, John II.548 John I’s will was registered on 17 August 1731 It is concluded that he died in the early months of 1731.549 Information about John I’s last years would undoubtedly emerge when the records above have been examined. Some information about John II and his family will now be presented.

John Spreull II, Laird of Milton (1700? – 1771) – wife Rebecca Hay

An entry in the records of the University of Glasgow dated 19 (March?) 1714, lists one “Joannes Spreul filius domini de Milton” as a student in one of the classes.550 The Latin entry translates “John Spruel son of the Laird of Milton”. The information serves to confirm that it is correct to designate John II’s father as being a laird and it also makes it reasonable to say that John II was born about 1700. As mentioned earlier, a check of a saline registered in 1728 might disclose that John II acquired his father’s lands at that time. Otherwise he may have obtained his father’s property in 1731 following the registration of his father’s will.

In view of the date of the baptism of his eldest son, John III, John II probably got married in 1733 or early 1734. His wife’s name was Rebecca Hay but that is all that has been learned about her. More information should be available about her if a sasine of 1740 could be checked. The Index of a “Particular Register of Sasines” notes that a property transaction involving Rebecca Hay was recorded on 12 June 1740. The records of the parish of West (Old) Kilpatrick carry baptismal information about four children of John Spreull II and his wife, Rebecca Hay. The children were as follows:



  1. John Spreull III (1735 – 1784?) The date of John III’s baptism cannot be made out but it seems to fall on a day between 12 December 1734, and 9 February 1735. The heir of his father, John II?
  2. Andrew Spreull (bap. 20 April 1736 or 1737 – ?) The year of birth cannot be made out with certainty. It is assumed that Andrew died in infancy as the fourth son was also called Andrew.
  3. James Spreull (bap. 16 Sept. 1739 – ?) Until further information is checked or found, there is the possibility that James was heir to Milton after his brother John III died in 1784. Comments to follow shortly.
  4. Andrew Spreull (bap. 19 July 1742 – ?) An Andrew Spreull of Milton had a son named John.551

The names of some of the witnesses to the baptism of the children of John II cannot be made out but it is of interest that one of the witnesses to son James and the younger Andrew reads John Spreull, laird of Cloberhill (Cowdonhill). This information clears up any suggestion that John Spreull I of Milton was the one and same John Spreull of Cloberhill (Cowdonhill). It is also that another witness was the laird of Law. of interest

The Commissariat Record of Glasgow shows that the will of John II was registered on 14 September 1771.552 It is likely that he died within the preceding months. The entry states that John II was a “residenter” of Glasgow. The information is important for it suggests that John II had to some degree become an absentee owner of his Milton property.

John Spreull III – Laird of Milton (1735 – 1784?)

Information about John Spreull III seems almost nonexistent. An item in the “Commissariat Records of Glasgow”553 may supply the answer but the index item is too difficult to read to be sure of the identities of those involved. The item is dated 1784, some thirteen years after the registration of the will of John Spreull II in 1771. Perhaps it was John Spreull III who died in or a bit before 1784.

James Spreull, Laird of Milton? (bap. 16 Sept. 1739 – ?)

The source identified in the previous paragraph may read that James Spreull, the brother of John Spreull III, became laird of Milton in 1784. (It could also read, if more decipherable, that James was the son of John Spreull III. A check of the original document could solve the problem.)

Andrew Spreull of Gosport, Virginia (1710 – July 1776) – twice married – no known issue

Andrew Spreull, the third son of John Spreull, Sr., laird of Milton, was born about 1710. Around 1727 at the age of 17 he emigrated to the Thirteen Colonies and about 1737 at the age of 27, he settled in what was or what became Gosport, Co. Norfolk, Virginia.554 Here by his own efforts he built up a thriving facility for trade by sea and land. Gosport was:

“situated on the south bank of the Elizabeth River and separated from the town of Portsmouth by a small creek, from which it extends in front, along the river, about half a mile, in all which space the river, near the shore, is deep, and being well sheltered from winds, forms on the whole a most excellent harbour for ships of great burthen, either for careening, sheathing, repairing, or loading.”555

On the shore Spreull built “a stone warehouse ninety feet long, forty-one feet wide, and five stories high”. Close by he had three other large warehouses, a smith’s shop, a large iron crane with brass sheaves; a



counting house, and a dwelling”. Spreull’s home was situated across Crab Creek in Portsmouth, was a three-storey “large, well-finished dwelling” facing the river.556

Ships of the Royal Navy provided some of Spreull’s business. They would stop at Gosport for supplies and stay there in the winter months, for the convenience of watering and other necessities, and occasionally careened, refitted, or repaired”. Spreull also had a tract of land where cattle were cared for by slaves.557

Over the years Spreull became one of the richest men in Virginia. During a visit of Lord Dunmore, the Governor of Virginia, Spreull styled himself “with a humour many Virginians would not have suspected he possessed, ‘Lieutenant-Governor of Gosport’”.558 At an unspecified date someone calculated Spreull’s assets as being worth 20,000 pounds sterling, a considerable amount considering the purchasing power of the pound in those times.559 Despite his wealth, Spreull, through “carelessness or frugality” wore stockings with holes in them and ignored custom by not wearing a wig on his balding head.560 Despite his unimposing presence, he served for thirty-six years as the chairman of the colonial Merchants Association.561

Andrew Spreull got caught up in the politics of the opposition of the Thirteen Colonies to English controls on trade. On 22 June 1770, while chairman of the Merchants Association, he joined a non importation association.562 It is also said that he sign a document as a supporter of the Continental Association formed on 20 October 1774, and promoted its endeavours.563 He, himself, claimed that he was a Committeeman” in the Continental Association.564 He also complied with and endorsed a call for merchants to most before the House of Burgesses of Virginia on 12 June 1775.565

Despite Spreull’s activities, the outbreak of violence in 1775 and the increasing call for independence from Britain seems to have been more than he bargained for. His links with his homeland were still strong. His will shows that he kept in touch with his relatives in Scotland. Perhaps the scope of his business led him to visit his homeland from time to time, for his will also shows that he had several business connections in Scotland and England. Events seem to have moved too quickly for Spreull and one concludes that his loyalties were divided.

Although the story is not as clear as one might wish, it would appear that many of Spreull’s fellow Virginians became suspicious of his attitude and actions. In the proceedings of the Accomack County Committee of 27 June 1775, there is said to an implication that Spreull gave a navigation chart to Lord Dunmore, the Governor of Virginia566. Just how serious such an act could have been is questionable for one would think that the ships of the Royal Navy would have had any navigation chart the Governor needed.

In July of 1775 tension was running high in Virginia and on 31 July British warships landed more soldiers to garrison Spreull’s Gosport facilities.567 One could wonder if the warships were sent to Gosport because of an appeal by Spreull or was the action a purely strategic decision to protect facilities of use to the Royal Navy. The Norfolk Committee of Safety ordered Spreull to appear before it and to explain how he came to admit troops to be landed.”568 Spreull answered by letter which included this comment, “What would ye have done under the guns of two Men of War and Sixty soldiers?”. Spreull knowing by a precedent of the harsh treatment he might receive if the Norfolk committee decided against him, declined to attend the meeting. He did, however, offer to meet the Committee on one of his ships or at his house “in daylight”. The Committee of Safety declined Spreull’s offer and apparently accepted his explanation as to the futility of him trying to resist the armed British force.



The situation deteriorated when Captain John McCartney of H.M.S. Mercury took up Spreull’s case. On 12 August he sent a letter to the mayor of Norfolk that the Norfolk Committee of Safety was not to interfere with Spreull.569 In another letter to the mayor dated 15 August 1775, Captain McCartney thanked the mayor for promising that no violence would be offered to Spreull. McCartney stated that he had asked Spreull to meet with the Norfolk Committee of Safety on the following day and that he would accompany him.570 If McCartney intended going to the meeting accompanied by soldiers, it would be certain his presence would hurt Spreull’s cause. It is not known if the meeting took place and if it did, what was the outcome.

For the above development and perhaps for other reasons Spreull’s position seems to have continued to deteriorate. Probably as a merchant he wished to keep a foot in both camps. Perhaps as a man with close ties to the land of his birth, he may not have been prepared to take part in any overt act of disloyalty to the Crown. At some time in the first half of 1776 Spreull took refuge with the British forces and thereafter he and others were taken by ship to the supposed safety of Gwynn’s Island.571 Gwynn’s Island lies just off the coast of Virginia about 85 miles almost due north of Gosport. On 4 July 1776, the Thirteen Colonies declared their independence. Gwynn’s Island was swept by small pox and fevers and at some date prior to 9 July 1776, Spreull died and was buried in a crude grave.572

The source that provides some features of Andrew Spreull’s will does not give it a date but it is evident that it was drawn up at least a few years before his death.573 In his will Spreull requested that he be buried beside his wife, Annabella McNeill, in the Portsmouth churchyard.574 As it is known that Spreull entered another marriage in the last year of his life,575 he must have prepared his will at some date after the death of his first wife but before his second marriage. His will does not mention any children but one cannot rule out that he may have had a child by his second wife.

The commentary on Spreull’s will indicates that he left the bulk of his estate to relatives in Scotland.576 One would, of course realise that if Spreull’s second wife survived him, that she would have had a claim to the estate. It is possible that she and any child of the marriage could also have died of sickness on Gwynn’s Island. One secondary source states that the State of Virginia bought Andrew Spreull’s holdings in 1780.577 If true, the details of such a purchase could prove to be very interesting.

It is possible that certain relatives of Spreull in Scotland received little or nothing from his estate. In applying to the State of Virginia for their inheritance, they may have faced a hostile reception as Andrew Spreull could have been regarded as remaining a loyal subject of King George III. Those who remained loyal to Britain and who left the newly independent United States came to be known as United Empire Loyalists. They received no compensation from the American government for the goods and properties they could not take with them.

The notes based on the will of Andrew Spreull do not make it clear which of the people mentioned were his chief beneficiaries or just why the names of certain people were included in the notes. The following blood relatives of Spreull are mentioned:578

– his nephew, James McAw

– an unidentified niece, the wife of Wm. Alexander, merchant of Edinburgh

– an unidentified niece, the wife of William Gray of Glasgow

– a niece identified as Isabel Spreull – her father is not identified.



At this point, it would seem to require a massive search of parish records in and around Glasgow if one had any hopes of securing any information about the people mentioned and their parents and in-laws.

Andrew Spreull’s contribution to the shipping industry was noteworthy. He was the proprietor and developer of the Gosport navy yard which eventually became the Norfolk Naval Shipyard, the home port of the United States Navy in the Atlantic.



The Spreull-Crawford’s of Cowdonhill  In speaking of the Spreulls of Cowdonhill*, it must be made clear that prior to Spreull possession the property was known as Cloberhill. The Spreulls of Cowdonhill claimed they were descended from the Spreulls of Coldoun (Cowdon) in Renfrewshire. Cloberhill was renamed Cowdonhill to commemorate the relationship.

The property of Cowdonhill was located in the Parish of East (New) Kilpatrick in Dunbartonshire. The Cowdonhill residence, referred to by some as a mansion, was located on a rise of land somewhat over a mile to the north-west of Anniesland, about 3.5 miles north-west of the centre of Glasgow. The residence lay on the east side of Knightswood Road and a few hundred feet from a crossing over the Firth and Clyde Canal†. It is calculated that Cowdonhill lay about 3.5 miles to the south-east of Milton.

  1. John Spreull, first of Milton then Cowdonhill, was married in 1695 to Isabella Crawford, the daughter of Hugh Crawford‡ of Cloberhill. Isabella was to be his heiress if he died without a son, as was the case. In 1716 the couple drew up a deed of entail that the future heirs must bear the surname of Crawford. The name Cloberhill was changed to Cowdonhill. John and Isabella has eleven children, not necessarily in the following order:

1.1. Christina (1696-1784) heiress of her nephew Hugh c. 1777, her heir was her great nephew

1.2. Agnes (16897?-1782), married first in 1724 John Hunter

1.2.1. John Hunter (1732-1770s?), heir to his aunt Christina. He succeeded to Cowdonhill and took the name John Hunter-Spreull-Crawford Andrew Hunter-Spreull-Crawford (1790s?-1837) Sir William Alexander Hunter-Spreull-Crawford; Chief Baron of the Exchequer

1.3. Daughter (1698-?)

1.4. John (1701-?)

1.5. Margaret (1730-?)

1.6. Hugh (1705?-1758), became heir to Cowdonhill, took the name Spreull-Crawford. Married Anne Buchanan

1.6.1. John (1736-?)

1.6.2. Hugh Spreull-Crawford (1738-1777), heir to Cowdonhill, married but no issue. Upon his death Cowdonhill went to his aunt Christina

* Not to be confused with Cowdenhill, East Lothian There are several sources encountered which attribute a Sproule family to Cowdonknowes, Haddingtonshire (East Lothian). No primary evidence has ever been encountered that links a Sproule family to such a location. The owners of the property (in 2002) had done extensive research on the house and there was no evidence of any connection to the Spreull/Sproule families. It would seem that researchers having known of Cowden have then found Cowdonknowes, which is located in Haddingtonshire (East Lothian) and assumed that the similar names of the houses meant there must be a family connection as well.

† Opened in 1770

‡ Hugh Crawford’s wife may have been Isobel Hamilton. They had a son baptized in 1689. This information may have been in the records of the parish of East Kilpatrick.



1.6.3. Archibald (1740-?)

1.6.4. Jean (1742-?)

1.6.5. Isobel (1745-?) married Peter Paterson, merchant of Glasgow.

1.7. Three other daughters

1.8. Bistria, forbearer of Robert Spreull of Chicago, eventual inheritor of Cowdonhill circa 1866.

1.9. William (1717-?)

John Spreull of Milton and Cowdonhill (1675? – 1731 ?) – wife Isabella Crawford*

In 1695, John Spreull, a member of one of the Spreull families of Milton married Isabella Crawford, the eldest daughter of Hugh Crawford of Cloberhill.579 As mentioned in Chapter XII, there is the danger of confusing this John Spreull with the John Spreull who was styled as laird of Milton. Extant records do not refer to John Spreull of Cowdonhill as a laird but his successor was so styled. The John Spreull under discussion seems to have alternated his residence between Milton and Cowdonhill but possibly favoured Milton for he continued to be referred to as “of Milton” for about twenty years.

The 1695 union of John Spreull and Isabella Crawford of Cloberhill involved a marriage agreement.580 Isabella’s father agreed that “failing his sons”, the Cloberhill property would go to his daughter Isabella.581 The expression “failing” in this situation means if his sons died without children. Whether or not Crawford had any sons has not been established.

One secondary source states that John Spreull paid off Hugh Crawford’s debts and it is also suggested that Hugh died in 1699.582 It is possible that Crawford also had the understanding that Spreull’s heir would make Crawford part of his/her surname. This decision, however, may have been an agreement Isabella and her husband made a number of years later†.

In 1716 John Spreull made his move to place the Spreull stamp on Cloberhill. In that year a deed of entail was drawn up.583 It was not registered until 1738.584 A deed of entail sets down conditions of inheritance when land is involved. Entails were legally binding on the signatories and their heirs. The following passage taken from a secondary source seems to include a direct quote taken from the entail drawn up in 1716.

“John Sproul of Miltown made and granted a bond of Tailzie containing a [?] of proven entail all and hail his lands of Cloberhill extending to 40 s[hilling] lands of old extent to be called & designed in all time coming Cowdonhill”.585

The secondary source goes on to say that John Spreull took the proceeding action in order:

“to restore the memories of Cowdon of whom he and his proceeding Sproulls of Miltown were descended”.586

Another secondary source states that the entail also covered a property known as Drumchapel,587 which lies a mile or so to the west of the Cowdonhill.                                                        * Andrew Spreull of Milton also married one Isabella Crawford.

† “The Index of a Particular Register of Sasines” has an entry dated 25 May 1696, which involved “Isabel, dau. of Hugh C. of Clobberhill and spouse of John Spreull of Mylton”. (Vol. 2, Folio 487).



The secondary sources do not specifically state that the entail included a provision that in the future that the heirs of John and Isabella were to bear the surname “Spreul-Crawford”. It is assumed that this provision was incorporated into the entail.588 It should be mentioned that only John’s son and heir assumed the new surname when John died. His other surviving children continued to use the surname of Spreull. The heir’s children, however, were all baptized Spreull-Crawford. In the earlier documents the new surname was not hyphenated and occasionally the surnames were reversed. Spelling was not standardized and Crawford was often spelled with a “u” rather than a “w” and at times Spreull was spelled with only one “l”.

A statement in a secondary source is interpreted to say that at this time John Spreull incorporated the arms of the Crawford family into the version of the arms of Coldoun (Cowdon) that he employed.589 A drawing of the modified arms or the respective arms before modification has unfortunately not been found.

John Spreull may have disposed of his Milton property around the time of the entail agreement of 1716. The extant records make no mention of a portion of Milton being held by his heirs. John Spreull is Judged to have died in providing his death marked the transfer of Cowdonhill and Drumchapel.590 A document of 7 August 1731, can be identified as declaring his son Hugh as his rightful heir.591 The 1731 item includes the word “tailee”, a form of the word “entail” and possibly repeats the surname provision that his heir had to follow.

It can be established that John Spreull and Isobella Crawford had at least three sons and a secondary source states that they had eight daughters.592 Although baptismal records were sometimes indifferently kept, one would think that information about most of his children should be available. The records of the parish of West Kilpatrick in which Milton was located and the records of East Kilpatrick in which Cowdonhill was located reveal nothing. The records that have been found are from Glasgow. This could well mean that John and Isabella attended church there. A complete check of all the Glasgow parish records could turn up, the missing information. The names of some of the children have not been established and assumptions have to be made about the order of their births. The incomplete picture is as follow:

  1. Christina Spreull (1696? – 1784-85?) It is concluded that she was a spinster. In her old age she was the heiress of Cowdonhill for a short time. More information will be provided later.
  2. Agnes Spreull (1697? – 20 Nov 1782) Agnes was married twice. Her grandson by her first marriage succeeded to Cowdonhill on the death of her sister Christina.
  3. daughter Spreull (1698? – ?)
  4. John Spreull (bap. 6 February 1701593 – ?) John is assumed to have been the first born son. As he did not succeed to Cowdonhill, it is assumed that he died young.
  5. Margaret Spreull (bap. 18 Nov 1703594 – ?) Further information lacking.
  6. Hugh Spreull (1705? – 1758?) As heir to his father he assumed the surname of Spreull-Crawford.
  7. daughter
  8. daughter
  9. daughter



  1. Bistria Spreull (1715? – ?) About 125 years after Bistria’s birth, in the year 1847, Cowdonhill was inherited by one of her descendants, Robert Spreull of Chicago. In order for Robert to have borne the name of Spreull, either Bistria or one of her descendants must have married a Spreull.
  2. William Spreull (bap. April 16, 1717595 – ?)

Hugh Spreull-Crawford, Sr., Laird of Cowdonhill (1705? – 1758) wife – Anna Buchanan

In this account Hugh Spreull-Crawford is arbitrarily designated as “Sr” in order to distinguish him from his son of the same name who will be designated as “Jr”. As stated earlier, Hugh seems to have been declared the heir of his father on 7 August 1731.596 Hugh was involved in a land transaction dated 29 November 1731.597 The transaction has not been checked.

Various records show that Hugh Sr. “complied with the provision that he added his mother’s surname of Crawford to that of Spreull. Between 1734 and 1743 Hugh Spreull-Crawford was a witness to the baptisms of four of the children of John Spreull Jr. of Milton and Rebecca Hay.598 In two of the baptismal records Hugh is identified as the laird of Cowdonhill.

Hugh Spreull-Crawford’s married one Anna Buchanan. The record of their marriage has not been found but it is judged to have taken place in 1735. Hugh’s wife’s surname is given in the baptismal entries of their children which are in the records of the parish of East (or New) Kilpatrick, Dunbartonshire. She is also identified as the wife of Hugh Spreull-Crawford in an index of sasines in which the entry is dated 5 January 1741.599

Hugh was involved in property transactions dated 12 January 1742 and 1 April 1742.600 None of the property transactions just mentioned have been checked as to their contents. As far as can be ascertained Hugh Spreull-Crawford, Sr., and his wife Anna Buchanan had five children. The records of the parish of East Kilpatrick provide the following information:

  1. John Spreull-Crawford (bap. 29 Dec 1736 – ?) As he did not succeed his father, he must have pre- deceased him and if he had issue, none survived him.
  2. Hew (Hugh) Spreull-Crawford Jr, (bap. 21 July 1738 – 1777) He was his father’s heir. In the brief account that will shortly follow, he will be identified as Hugh Sproul-Crawford, Jr.
  3. Archibald Spreull-Crawford (bap. 24 July 1740 – ?) He may have died young and unmarried.
  4. Jean Spreull-Crawford (bap. 23 Feb 1742 – ?) Information lacking.
  5. Isobel Spreull-Crawford (b. 8 Feb 1745 – ?) wife of Peter Paterson, merchant of Glasgow-

The will of Hugh Spreull-Crawford Sr. of East Kilpatrick was registered with the Commissariat of St. Andrews on September 22, 1758.601 It is assumed he died a few weeks earlier. This writer has been unable to check his will. Hugh Sr. was succeeded by his second son who bore the same first name. This son will be referred to as Hugh Jr.

Hugh Spreull-Crawford Jr., Laird of Cowdonhill (1738 – 1777) – wife Charlotte Felicity Conner Crawford

Hugh Jr. would have been but the age of 20 when he succeeded his father in 1758. It has not been established when he married Charlotte F. C. Crawford. She is identified as the wife of Hugh Jr. in an 29 April 1765 item in a saline index.602 The transaction has not been checked. Other property transactions



that have not been checked bear the dates of 29 April 1765, 27 December 1765, 12 April 1773, 7 February 1777, and 20 May 1777.603

If Hugh Jr. and Charlotte had children, the records of their names and births remain to be located. If there were any children, they must have predeceased their father for when Hugh Jr. died around 1777, he had no issue to succeed him. A researcher of the early 1900s refers to a 1777 saline as follows:

“Hew Spreull Crauford, late of C[owdonhill] lawful son of Hew Sproul Crauford of Coud[onhill] who was the eldest son of John Sproul of Milton and his wife I[sobella] Crauford.”604

Hugh Jr.’s successor proved to be his aunt Christina. She was an elderly daughter of John Spreull and Isabella Crawford.

Christina Spreull-Crawford of Cowdonhill (1696? d. in late 1784?)

At the time of her succession to Cowdonhill in 1777*, Christina may have been in her late 70s or even her early 80s. She was a spinster aunt of Hugh Spreull-Crawford, Jr. Her succession shows that either Hugh Jr. had no children or that he had no children that survived him. Christina held Cowdonhill for approximately seven years, her will being registered on 6 March 1785.605 She may have died in 1784 or early 1785 depending on the time it took to get her will registered. On her death without a direct heir, the succession went through her deceased sister Agnes who had a grandson by the first of her two marriages. (It should be mentioned that secondary sources make no mention that Christina held Cowdonhill for a few years.)

Agnes Spreull (1690s? – 20 November 1782)† married first John Hunter and secondly John Bowie

Agnes was one of the eight daughters of John Spreull and Isabella Crawford who were married in 1695. had Agnes outlived her sister Christina, she would have acquired Cowdonhill. Her first husband was one John Hunter, a merchant of Glasgow, whom she married on 28 October 1724.606 They seem to have had but one child, a son named John. In future references he will be identified as John Hunter, Sr.

After the death of her first husband, Agnes, on 15 February 1741,607 married John Bowie of Hill of Beith, a merchant of Glasgow. They had one child named Isobel.608 Isobel married one John Gray.609

John Hunter, Sr. (12 September 1732 – 1770s?)

John Sr., the son of Agnes Spreull and John Hunter, was born on 12 September 1732.610 At a date, probably in the 1750s, John married and had a son named John. The latter will be referred to as John Jr. At one time John Hunter Sr. must have appeared to be the future heir of Cowdonhill but that was not to be. One must conclude that John Sr. died before both his aunt Christina and his mother. When his mother died on 20 November 1782,611 it was John Sr.’s son, John Jr., who inherited Cowdonhill.

John Hunter-Spreull-Crawford, Laird of Cowdonhill (1755? – 1794?)

John Hunter Jr., the grandson of Agnes Spreull and John Hunter, succeeded to Cowdonhill on the death of his great aunt Christina. It is assumed that Christina died in late 1784 or early 1785 as her will was registered on 6 May 1785.612 In the registration synopsis John Hunter Jr. is identified as “Heir of Tail”                                                       * Christina is identified as a daughter of John Spreule of Milton in the “Index of the Particular Register of Sasines (1617 17[90])”, in an item dated 20 May 1777 in Vol. 11, Folio 323. This writer has not had the opportunity to check this item.

† Agnes’s will was registered with the Commissariat of Glasgow on 19 October 1784.



(tailzie) which shows that the entail placed on Cowdonhill in 1716 by his great-grand father, John Spreull, was being enforced. (The actual 1785 will has not been checked.)

John Hunter Jr. must have decided to retain the surname of Hunter upon his succession to Cowdonhill for he was referred to as John Hunter-Spreull-Crawford. John was married, probably in the 1770s but as yet the appropriate records have not been checked.

In addition to a son Andrew, a record shows he had a daughter named Catherine Leslie Hunter-SpreullCrawford.

The Commissariat of Glasgow Index 1801 – 1823 Register of Testaments, No. 4, 1801 – 1821, p. 108 has three entries about Catherine. The entries are dated 2 October 1821, 12 December 1821, and again 12 December 1821. The first December 12 entry seems to be denoted as a will. These documents when checked should provide interesting information.

A secondary source states that John Hunter-Spreull-Crawford was succeeded by his son, Andrew HunterSpreull-Crawford. John’s will was registered on 27 February 1795.613

Andrew Hunter-Spreull-Crawford, Laird of Cowdonhill (1780s? – 1837) – may not have married

Judging from the registration date of his father’s will, Andrew would have succeeded to Cowdonhill in 1795. Andrew either died unmarried or if he was married, he may have had no issue or surviving issue. It is likely that there are records of the 1800s that when checked will provide more information about him.

On Andrew’s death in 1837,614 it again appears that the succession to Cowdonhill was again acquired through a female line of descent. The heir was Sir William Alexander.

Sir William Alexander, Heir to Cowdonhill (b. ? – 1846?) married.? issue?

Sir William Alexander, the heir to Cowdonhill as of 1837, was chief baron of the Exchequer.615 The origin of his knighthood as well as his ancestry and birth and death dates remain to be researched. Obviously there must have been a Spreull somewhere in his background. If Sir William was married, he must have died without issue or surviving issue. It is doubtful if he ever took up residence at Cowdonhill. If he was still in office in 1837, he may have continued to use the surname of Alexander in the duties of his office. Adding further surnames to his own would have been extremely cumbersome!

The death of Sir William Alexander, probably around 1846,616 must have required a renewed study of the family tree of the Spreulls of Cowdonhill. Once again the succession went to a person of a female line of descent. Oddly enough, the succession went back to a person bearing the surname of Spreull.

Robert Spreull of Chicago, Heir to Cowdonhill, married? issue?

Dr. Leslie Buchanan gathered information about the Spreull family of Cowdonhill during the 1920s. The origin of his interest is not known but it is possible that he had some relationship to the Spreulls of Cowdonhill.

Notes of his that are in the possession of the Mitchell Library of Glasgow relate that in 1847 Cowdonhill and other lands went to one Robert Spreull of Chicago, U.S.A.

Buchanan states that Robert Spreull’s right of succession came through Bistria617 the youngest (?) daughter of the John Spreull who made the entail of Cowdonhill in 1716. One must conclude that Bistria or one of her descendants married into a Spreull family in order for this ultimate heir to be a Spreull. One



would think that there would be documents filed somewhere that would set out Robert Spreull’s right to succeed to Cowdonhill.

One can conclude that Robert Spreull, who may have been a second or third generation American was not prepared to take up the life of a laird and reside in Scotland. Dr. Leslie Buchanan refers to an Instrument of Disentail of 26 December 1865, which was registered on 4 January 1866. At some date in the 1800s the British parliament ended the perpetual legality of an entail. The disentail secured by Robert Spreull permitted him to sell Cowdonhill.

Other Owners of Cowdonhill

When and to whom Robert Spreull sold Cowdonhill is not very clear in Buchanan’s notes. It would seem that the first purchaser was one Alexander John Alexander. Perhaps he was a relative of Sir William Alexander. Alexander J. Alexander may have bought Cowdonhill for a quick resale. Buchanan states that Alexander sold part of the estate to one Henry Charles [Deedes ?] of London in 1867. [Deedes] appears to have acquired the rest of Cowdonhill in 1877. The very same year the property was sold to one Alexander Morrison Wadell. In 1880 Wadell sold one-half of Cowdonhill to J.A. Black and then sold the remaining one-half to Black in 1882.

From the notes of Dr. Buchanan, one can infer that J.A. Black sold Cowdonhill to the Corporation of Glasgow in 1924 or somewhat earlier. The property was to be used for a new housing development. The old Cowdonhill mansion was slated for demolition in 1924 but it was not pulled down until the spring of 1927. The housing development did not get under way until the bombings of Glasgow in World War II led to the construction of new accommodation for the homeless.

The Cowdonhill Residence

J.A. Black, the last private owner of the Cowdonhill property, appreciated Dr. Leslie Buchanan’s efforts to gather information about the mansion and its history. Black arranged for floor plans and comments about the features of the home to be prepared. He also arranged for Buchanan to examine deeds and documents associated with the property. In one of his letters to Buchanan, Black stated that he had written one Mr. Spreull of [Oxted?] for information but that his letter had been returned as undeliverable. Black must have known or believed that the Spreull in question was of the Cowdonhill family and that he could be helpful. Perhaps this Spreull was a relative or descendant of the Mr. Robert Spreull of Chicago.

It is guessed that at some date in the early 1800s that Cowdonhill began to experience absentee owners. Certainly the home fell into disrepair. At a date which seems to prior to 1850, coal was discovered near the old mansion and shafts were sunk to mine it. For decades the big home served as the living quarters of several coal miners and their families.618 A one-storey wing of the home was used as a stable, probably for the pit ponies used by the miners.

The information gathered by Dr. Leslie Buchanan in the form of correspondence, notes, floor plans, and a photo of the mansion, are in the possession of the Mitchell Library of Glasgow. Buchanan’s materials and a book entitled “Rambles Around Glasgow” published in 1856, permit one to grasp the features of the old home and to puzzle over the tales that grew up around it.

Macdonald, the author of “Rambles Around Glasgow”, prepared his account prior to 1856. He recounts that the eminence on which the Cowdonhill residence stood

“commands an extensive and beautiful prospect of the surrounding country. On the summit of this elevation, and overshadowed by a girdle of trees, stands the mansion of Cowdon[hill], a



dreary, desolate and woebegone edifice. This structure is two stories in height, and has at one period been of considerable extent from various dates, which are still legible on the walls, it would appear that the building has undergone extensive alterations at different periods.”619

The earliest date-stone of the structure bore the date of 1627 and was located on the wing of the home that was converted into a stable for the miners’ ponies. One person who was familiar with the home is recorded as saying that in one room there were four semicircles engraved on the stone floor. The semicircles were inscribed with Latin and Greek inscriptions with two of the inscriptions being dated 1629 and 1689 entrance was a Macdonald states that over the main

“… heraldic carving, much defaced by time but on which a bird and star are still observable. On one of the gables, which has lately been rebuilt with old material, there is a star, with the date 1666 .”620

The various inscriptions heretofore mentioned were all engraved well before the first John Spreull acquired the property.

In Macdonald’s time there was a sun-dial mounted over the main entrance with “the name of John Sprewl and Isabella Crawford inscribed on it, with the date 1707”.621 It is likely that the date 1707 on the sun-dial has to commemorate some addition or improvement to the home rather than the misconception that John Spreull and Isabella Crawford were married that year. The sundial is now Somerset in the possession of Robert Adams, a descendant of the Sproule’s through the female line.

From the information assembled by Dr. Buchanan, one learns that the mansion was basically oriented to the points of the compass with the main entrance facing south. The door of this entrance measured 8 feet in height and 3 feet 10 inches in width. The main part of the building was two stories in height and had a shallow attic under a peaked roof. West to east the residence measured 59 feet. On the north-east side of the main structure was a one-storey wing extending to the north. Including this wing, the eastern portion of the home was 51 feet in width but the main structure itself was about thirty feet wide.

The walls of the wing were of fortress width and strength. This would seem to mean that the wing was once the original house and was of a considerable age. In Macdonald’s time the ground floor windows were all heavily barred but Buchanan does not suggest how long this situation may have prevailed. The front of the home had six regularly spaced windows on each floor, two on the left side of the main entrance and four on the right side. On the north wall of the residence three of the windows had been walled up. Considering the dimensions of the main part of the building and the number of windows, it is likely that there were upwards of ten rooms on the second floor. The original layout of the first floor seems to have been changed when the miners and their families moved in.

An area bordered by a hedge was situated to the north of the mansion and featured flag stoned gardens. A stone wall screened the home from the road that passed on the west. This road led to a nearby bridge over the Clyde and Firth Canal. One observer, presumably referring to the earlier situation, said that in his time there were 18 outbuildings on the property.

Somewhat confusing to a researcher is that there was a home just north of the Cowdonhill residence that retained the name of Clobberhill, the original name of Cowdonhill. Another home just to the west was called Cloverhill.

In his account, Macdonald sets forth some old stories about the mansion. One was that quantities of human bones were once found in a part of the home known as “Cowden’s Den”. Another tale was that there was a patch of ground where grass would not grow, a spot of some “dark deed in days of yore”. A



third tale related to an old lady of the Crawford family who “having hidden a pot of gold in a niche of the wall during her life, could ‘nae rest in her grave’ afterwards until she had revealed her secret”. Another story, too complicated to furnish the details, has a ghostly figure doomed to revisit in a shirt of fire.622

Notes of Dr. Buchanan mention other stories which he had heard. One was that there was a time when one or two deep passages extended underground at the east side of the wing. The passages had been so effectively blocked up that workmen gave up an attempt to clear them. Another story was that there was a hole 21 feet deep that was located under the stairway that led to the second floor. Although exaggeration plays its part, it may be that the old mansion was put to peculiar uses at certain times in its history.

Ending the story of Cowdonhill on a lighter note is that an early Crawford had a silver spoon that had a mouthpiece not less than three inches in diameter. It bore the inscription:

“This spoon I leave in legacie. To the maist-mouthed Craufurd after me” 1440623

At a later date another inscription was added which read:

“This spoon you see. Is left in legacy; If ony (any) pawn’t or sell’t Cursed let him be”.624

As a final note this writer regrets that he has not had direct access to a great many documents about the Spreulls of Cowdonhill and has had to make the most out of indexes and brief summations. Perhaps the occasion will arise when a properly researched history of the Cowdonhill family will be undertaken.



Scottish Miscellany The following records of various members of the extended Spreull family in the fourteenth to eighteenth centuries have been found, but how they might be tied into the wider family tree has not yet been established.

Thomas Sproule – an Esquire

In 1335 one Thomas Sproull is identified as an esquire of the garrison that was holding Edinburgh Castle for the English625. An esquire was a teen age boy who served as the shield-bearer and attendant of a knight. It is unlikely that this Sproule was a native of Edinburgh or vicinity as in the 1600s only a very few Sproules appear to have taken up residence there. Thomas Sproule may have been of the Coldoun family or perhaps of a related Sproule family of some status in or around Glasgow. Ordinarily, the son of a peasant did not become an esquire. Just how young Thomas came to be a member of a garrison supporting the English cause cannot be explained except to say that Scottish affairs witnessed political alignments and somersaults that today we find difficult to understand.

Thomas Sproule – Receiver of Stores

Under various spellings of his surname, one “Thome” Sproule was a receiver of stores for Edinburgh Castle in the years 1368, 1369, and in 1372626. The preceding dates show that Thomas held the position in the reign of David II who died in 1371 and on into the reign of Robert II, David’s nephew and successor. Complete records would probably show that Sproule held the position for a longer period of time than the years indicated. One could wonder if this Thomas Sproule was the same Thomas who was an esquire of the Edinburgh Castle garrison in 1335. If so, he must have been excused for his service with the English, perhaps on account of his youth. One would think that a receiver of stores would have-to have been able to read and write and to keep records. Such qualifications could have been held by a member of the Sproule family of Coldoun.

Anot (Annette?) Sproll

Anot Sproll is identified as the wife of Malcolm, son of Bernard of “Heith” in a period between 1390 and 1400627. The record involved land transactions which indicate Anot and her husband were of the land holding class, not peasants. As Heath cannot be found in a gazetteer of Scotland, perhaps the name should read “Beith”. There is a Beith in Ayrshire about eight miles west-south-west of Neilston. In the Scotland of the time, and actually to this day, a married woman is allowed to keep her maiden name. Anot qualifies as the first female Sproule to appear in an extant record of Scotland.

Mr. William Spreule, Vicar of Kilbarchan, Renfrewshire (1470 – 1508/09)

In a document of the University of Glasgow dated 27 November 1488, one Wilelmus Sprwl is involved in a land transaction which has a link to the “domino de Coldowne”.628 The laird of Coldoun at the time was Robert Spreule (1430s -1488-1489). Robert had become the laird of Coldoun in 1461. Perhaps William was his son.

The above William may have been the “Willelum Spreull” who received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Glasgow in 1489.629 Unless the records of the university are incomplete, William was the first Spreule to graduate from the University of Glasgow following its founding in 1450.



In 1493 one “Willelmus Sproull”, presumably the above, obtained a Master of Arts degree from the University of Glasgow.630 Such a degree brought a graduate the honour of being called “Master” (Mister). In correspondence and records “Mr” would prefix the name. The letter “M” was also used.

In a record dated 3 August 1503, one “M. Wil. Spreuell vicario de Kilbaachan” was a witness to a Latin document at Edinburgh.631 The document involved John, Lord Semple. Over a period of time the Spreules and the Semple’s were linked by numerous marriages.

In a Latin document dated 7 February 1509, “M. Willelmi Sproull” the vicar of “Kilbrauchen” was noted as having died and that his replacement would be one “M. Alexandri Shaw”.632 William would have been around the age of 40 at the time of his death. On a modern map the town of Kilbarchan may be located about 6.5 miles north-west of Neilston, Renfrewshire.

Mr. Robert Sproul, Minister of Dalrymple, Ayrshire (1600 – April 1660) – wife Janet Shaw

Robert Spreule’s ancestry has not been determined. He graduated from the Glasgow Divinity School in 1617.633 He was ordained on 24 June 1621 and took the post of Presbyterian minister of Dalrymple.634 Dalrymple is located about 3/4 of a mile south-south-east of the coastal town of Ayr in Ayrshire or alternatively about 28 miles south-south-west of Neilston in Renfrewshire.

In a document of 29 August 1632, Robert was one of many who contributed to a fund to improve the library of the University of Glasgow.635 He supported the Covenant that was initiated at Grey Friars Church in Edinburgh on 28 February 1638. The First Bishops War with England broke out the following year.

In a document dated 1 June 1644, he is probably the “M. Rob. Spreull” whose name as well as the names of many others appear to be involved in some land transaction regarding a property called “Brae”.636

Robert became the clerk of the Presbytery of Ayr. On June 2, 1648, “Mr. R. Sprule, Clerk” is a co-signer of a letter written on behalf of the Presbytery of Ayr.637 On a record of 29 January 1651, his name appears among those attending a meeting at Ayr.638 As clerk his name also appears on a record of the 12 February 1651, meeting of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland that met at Perth.

In the Presbyterian spectrum Mr. Robert Spreule was described as a “Resolutionist”.639 He died in April of 1660 which means he escaped the harsh measures taken against Covenanters following the Royal Restoration of 1660.640

Mr. Robert Spreule married one Janet Schaw (Shaw)641 possibly at a date in the early 1620s. They had one daughter named Agnes.642 Information about her marriage, son and stepsons is as follows:

The Reverend Andrew Millar Sr. Ayrshire (?  – 1648) wife – Agnes Spreule (mid 1620s? – ?)

Agnes Spreule was probably born in the mid 1620s. At a date that was likely in the mid 1640s she became the second wife of the Reverend Andrew Millar.643 His first wife was Geilles Hunter of Dumdrow. Their four sons will be dealt with shortly. Andrew Millar Sr. seems to have first ministered at Alloway644 just to the north of the town of Ayr and then became the minister of Girvan.645 Girvan is on the coast of southern Ayrshire. Further details are lacking about Andrew Sr.’s career. Agnes Sproule and Andrew Millar Sr. had one son as follows:





The Reverend Thomas Miller of Kirkliston (1646-48? – ?) wife – Jean Muir

All that has been ascertained about Thomas’s career is that he became the Minister of Kirkliston.646 The location of Kirkliston has not been established. The Reverend Thomas Millar married Jean Muir of Thornton.647 There is a Thornton north of Kirkcaldy in Fifeshire. Thomas and Jean had three sons and three daughters. There is no information about the daughters, not even their names, the three sons were as follows:

(a) William Millar. William became a minister,648 as he died in the Barbados, it is likely that he spent a portion or all of his ministry there. Further information is needed.

(b) Archibald Millar. Archibald became a surgeon and lived in London.649 More information is needed.

(c) Thomas Millar. It is said that Thomas died young.

By her marriage to Andrew Millar Sr., Agnes Sproule acquired four stepsons. They were the children of Andrew’s marriage to his first wife, Geilles Hunter of Dumdrow. The first marriage had taken place in 1629. It is likely that Agnes played a considerable part in the upbringing of her stepsons. Information about them follows:

The Stepsons of Agnes Spreule

  1. Reverend Andrew Millar, Jr. (1630? – Jan. 1686) Andrew Jr. took his early education at Irvine, a coastal town of northern Ayrshire, and then obtained an M.A. in 1650. He became the minister of Uailly, a little place north-east of Girvan, the place where his father ministered.650 Andrew Jr. was deprived of his ministry in 1662, probably as a result of the restrictive laws introduced after the Royal Restoration of 1660. He must have been restored to his ministry but at a date in 1684 when he refused to read a proclamation giving thanks that James, Duke of York, the Roman Catholic brother of Charles II had survived a severe illness, he was imprisoned in the Tollbooth in Edinburgh. He was also imprisoned at Blackson’s Castle, On 12 March 1685, he was liberated. He died in January of 1686.651
  2. The Reverend Robert Millar (early 1630s? d. ?) Robert became the Presbyterian minister of Ochiltree which is located in Ayrshire.652
  3. Alexander Millar (mid 1630s? d. ?) Alexander is said to have died in Glasgow.
  4. Henry Millar (mid or late 1630s? d. ?) Henry is said to have died in London.

The number of ministers that Agnes Sproule had in her immediate family is impressive. Her father, her husband, a son, two stepsons, and a grandson were all ministers.

Mr. Alexander Sproul, Minister of Liberton

Information obtained from the University of Glasgow shows that a Mr Alexander Sproul, parson of Liberton, drew up some biographical and genealogical information concerning a Mr. Andrew Hay, a parson of Renfrew.653 (Hay was born in 1530 and could have been several decades older than Sproul.) It has been established that one Alexander Spreull was among the ministers present on 19 November 1650, at a sederunt of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.654

From this information one can say that Alexander was a Presbyterian. He has to have been born in the early 1600s. The location of Liberton has not been established.



Francis Spreule, Presbyterian Minister and Jesuit Missionary (early 1600s? – 1685?)

Francis Spreule was a Presbyterian minister who was converted to Roman Catholicism. As a Presbyterian minister he was “reckoned by his Brethren a man of much learning, as he undoubtedly was of great zeal, in propagating Calvin’s doctrines”.655 The Synod of Galloway had him placed in the home of Lord Nithsdale in the hope that he could win the lord and his family from Roman Catholicism. The plan backfired. Lord Nithsdale’s Jesuit chaplain had many conversations and arguments with Spreule and succeeded in winning him to the Roman Catholic faith.

In 1639 Spreule entered the Scots College at Rome and left it that same year to become a Jesuit. Following training he was sent back to Scotland where he took the alias of Murray. He was considered an eminent missionary and made many converts. In 1685, aged and infirm, it was decided by his superiors that he go to Belgium. It is thought that he died at Tournay.

Sir Patrick Spreul – Sacristan of Trinity College

In a Latin document dated 1 February 1565, “Sir Patrik Spreul” is confirmed as sacristan “for all the dayis of his lyfetyme”.656 A sacristan was the official in charge of that part of the church called the sacristy. This was the place where the sacred vessels, vestments, etc. were kept.

Although Patrick Spreule was styled “Schir” (sir), this does not mean that he had a knighthood. In that period of time it was a form of address often applied to church officials.

While the Protestant cause had won ascendancy in Scotland in 1560, it has not been determined if Trinity College where Sproule was made sacristan had become staffed with Presbyterians. In a document dated 1 January 1577 or 1578 at Holyrood House in Edinburgh, Spreule is charged with exceeding the privileges of his office.657 The outcome of the accusation is not known.

In a publication about wills, an item dated 29 July 1583, contains the name of Patrick Spreule, sacristan of Trinity College.658

A Sproule Family of Auchenbothie-Langmure

Mathew Sproule (1480s? –  ?) – wife – Marion Langmure (? – 1541?)

Mathew Sproule married Marion Langmure of Auchinbothie-Langmure.659 Marion was one of seven sisters who inherited the Auchenbothie-Langmure estate*. Each sister inherited one-seventh of the various lands which made up the estate. Auchenbothie itself is judged to have been situated near Kilmalcolm in Renfrewshire. Langmure was located in Ayrshirenot to be confused with Ladymure, a property of another Sproule family. Two other properties of the estate were Waterland and Halket. Waterland is spelled Watterland in the documents of the time. Halket is spelled in various ways in the documents of the 1500s. They were both located in Ayrshire.

As Mathew Sproule can be said to have married well, it is possible that he was a member of the prominent Spreule family of Coldoun. If this supposition is correct, he may have been a younger son of the Robert Sproule who was the laird of Coldoun for a period in the 1400s. Robert is judged to have been

* The sisters father predeceased his father, thus they received their portions of the estate from their grandfather. The sisters names were Janet, Agnes, Margaret, Arabella, Agnes (Jr.), Mariot, and Allison. (Their names may not be in order of birth. Perhaps Mariot is the Marion under discussion.) Allison Langmure married one John Semple. She and her spouse transferred her 1/7 of the estate to Gabriel Semple and his wife Jonet Sproule. Jonet may have been a sister of Mathew.



born in the 1430s and he died around 1488 or 1489. Mathew may have been named after the Mathew Stewart who succeeded to the earldom of Lennox in 1494 and who was killed at Flodden in 1513.

The name of one Mathew Sproule appears in a document as a witness on 2 February 1502.660 If this Mathew is the Mathew under discussion, he may have been in his teens at the time. On 24 May 1532, one Mathew Sproule was a witness to a document that may have had something to do with the “ecclesiam colleg. de Restalrig” in Edinburgh.661 These two references are of interest because they are the first times this writer has come across a Sproule named Mathew.

In a document of an unspecified date in 1537, one Mathew Spreul of an unstated address is charged with the death of one George Burns. Mathew is a fugitive and has not appeared for trial.662 Although the document is inadequate on the point, it seems that authorization is being given for the sale of Mathew Spreule’s property to William Semple, the son and heir of Gabriel Semple.

One could suspect that the sale of Mathew’s property to William Semple was a protective tactic engineered by the Spreules and the Semples. Perhaps the authorities in Edinburgh were unaware of the various ties between the two families. Gabriel Semple’s wife was Jonet Sproule was part of the Sproule family of Coldoun. Jonet may have been a sister of Mathew Sproule.

A document of 3 August 1537, approved payment of a fee to a “messenger” who had been sent to seize the goods of Mathew Spreule.663 Again the address of Mathew is not given.

The outcome of the charges against Mathew Sproule has not been found in the available records and one cannot be certain that the Mathew Spreule in trouble with the law was of Auchenbothie-Langmure. One could suspect that the Mathew Sproule charged with the death of George Burne may have been found not guilty. The document of 1537 indicates that other charges were made against Sproule but possibly they were settled by fines. Whatever the fortunes of Mathew Sproule of Auchinbothie-Langmure may have been a short Latin document of 1541 conveys the conclusion that he has started the first of several property transactions with his son John.664 John has either just married or his marriage is in the offing.

Mathew Spreule’s wife, Marion Langmure, probably died around 1541. She is referred to as being, deceased in a document of 17 July 1542.665 Mathew and Marion may have had several children but a son, John, is the only one mentioned in the available records.

John Sproule (1524? -1590s?) – wife Elizabeth Hamilton

In 1541 the lengthy process of transferring the lands of Auchinbothie-Langmure from Mathew Spreule to his son began. A short document in Latin of that year has already been mentioned. A document of July 17, 1542 conveys the information that Marion Langmure is deceased and that the marriage of John Spreull is about to take place.666 John seems to have been made a ward of the crown on his mother’s death. This could have bean because he was underage and that he was heir to his mother’s lands. A record of 1544/1545 shows that John took a step to secure Waterland and Halket.667

Another step dealing with the lands took place in a document of 23 March 1546/47.668 The document itself identifies John Spreule as being of Waterland but the index of the printed book also adds Auchinbothie-Langmure. Perhaps John was living at Waterland at the time. References are made in the document to Waterland, Halket, and Auchinbothie but Langmure is not mentioned. John’s wife is identified as Elizabeth Hamilton. The name of Mathew Spreule does not appear in the document, indeed no mention of him is made after 1546.



The next item in the transfer of the lands is a sasine of 18 August 1546.669 This document does not speak of the one-seventh portions of the lands of Waterland or Halket but does speak of the one-seventh part of Auchinbothie-Langmure. The index of the source book states that John’s father was retaining the life rent of the estate. This information serves to prove that Mathew Spreule was still alive at the date of the document. The name of John Spreule’s wife, Elizabeth Hamilton does not appear in the sasine record.

The date of the marriage of John Spreule and Elizabeth Hamilton has not been established other than to say it took place at some date between the years 1542 through 1546. Elizabeth Hamilton may have been of the Hamilton family of Bardowie, Stirlingshire. Her marriage to John Spreule may have been an outcome of a previous marriage link. A document of 1486 shows that the wife of John Hamilton Jr. of Bardowie was one Margaret Spreule.670 The Hamilton’s of Bardowie had a distinguished lineage.

A document drawn up in Edinburgh on February 25 of either 1553 or 1554, shows that John Spreule “in” Auchinbothie and several dozen other individuals were granted pardons for past actions.671 The number of people pardoned strongly suggests that they had become involved in the religious strife in Scotland at that time. The granting of the pardons could well have been an attempt to appease Presbyterians during the regency of Mary, Queen of Scots.

On 7 April 1554, a document somewhat difficult to understand because it is in the dialect of the time, seems to state that one Robert Semple* and his heirs are being given the right to collect dues owing on various lands in Renfrewshire. Among the properties listed is the “landis of Auchinbody pertening to Johnno Spreule”.672 The non-payment of dues could also have been a reflection of the religious quarrels of the time.

On 31 October 1555, John Sproule of Auchinbothie-Langmure turned over most of his properties to Thomas Sproule, the laird of Coldoun.673 The pertinent document notes the transfer of the one-seventh part of Auchenbothie-Langmure and the one-seventh part of Waterland. The property called Halket is not mentioned. One may assume that the trans-action involved the paying off of the dues owing on John Spreule’s lands. Although the transfer reads as if it were permanent, a much later document shows that at an unknown later date that John recovered his lands. (More correctly it should be said that one John Sproule held the lands at a later date. Whether this John Sproule was the John Sproule who previously held the lands cannot be proven.) The transfer of the properties may have taken place just on paper. Beyond the official transfer John and Thomas Spreule may have had a private agreement comparable to Thomas holding a mortgage on the properties.

In a document of 5 January 1590, one John Sproule “of” Auchinbothie sold the properties to one John Montgomery.674 The document speaks of the “terrarum antiqui extentus do Auchenbothie-Langmure,” the seventh part of the land of Waterland and a grain mill on that property, and the property called Halket. If the sale was made by the John Sproule who was the son of Mathew Sproule, he was likely near the age of 70 in 1590.

The last found reference to a John Sproule of Auchinbothie is contained in a document of 2 November 1590. It reads:

“Caution in 500 marks by William Wallace, younger of Johnnstoun, for Gabriel Spreule in Dalquhirne, that he will not harm John Sproule of Auchinbothis, or William Cochrane his servant”.675

* The relationship of this Robert Semple to other Semple’s mentioned in this account has not been determined.



One could speculate that the bad feelings between John Sproule and Gabriel Sproule arose from the sale of the Auchinbothie-Langmure properties. Gabriel was a (possibly) son of Thomas Sproule the laird of Coldoun who had made the transaction regarding Auchinbothie-Langmure in 1555. (Thomas was still alive in 1581. Earlier Thomas had transferred Coldoun to his eldest son, another John.)

As the records of the transfer of properties in Scotland is the chief way of gathering genealogical information before adequate parish records were kept, there is but little chance of ever identifying descendants of the Spreules of Auchenbothie-Langmure.

William Spreul

In 1685 William Spreul was one of two hundred or more Covenanters who were arrested following the abortive attempt of Archibald Campbell, the 9th Earl of Argyle, to support the Duke of Monmouth in his challenge to the rule of James VI (r. 1685 – 1688).

After several weeks of confinement in various dungeons, arrangements were completed to take the prisoners to Virginia and Jamaica. A few days before the sailing of the “Henry and Francis” on 5 September 1685, William Spreul was among 28 Covenanters who signed a testimony regarding their religious position. Although his name is not mentioned in the document, it is very clear that the kingship of James VI was not acceptable to those who signed it.

Weather conditions forced the ship to sail for New Jersey and in the middle of December 1685, it docked a Perth Amboy. During the long voyage of nearly 3.5 months, upwards of 70 people died of sickness. Apparently the Covenanters did not receive a hospitable reception at Perth Amboy and it is alleged they moved on to a little country village called Woodbridge. In time many of them moved on to eastern Pennsylvania, Connecticut, New York and South Carolina.676

Hugh Sprowle. Privateer.

During the French and Indian War of 1755-1763, better known as the Seven Years War of 1756-1763, one Hugh Sprowle was the skipper of a privateer called the “Hero”. She was owned by Benjamin Tatem of Norfolk and operated out of Norfolk, Virginia.677 A privateer was a privately owned ship commissioned for war service by the government. One might wonder if Hugh’s enterprise was linked to that of Andrew Spreull of Gosport. The name Hugh was used by the Cowdonhill family and it is possible that Hugh Sprowle was related to that family.

Brief mentions of Sprouls/Spreul’s

John Spreul “in” Uplaw, Renfrewshire, is identified as a fugitive in the spring of 1684. There is no information about the fate of this Covenanter. Uplaw, it may be remembered, was a property which before 1621 was long in the possession of The Spreule family of Coldoun adjacent to Neilston.678

John Spreul, another Covenanter, is identified as a fugitive “in” Uplaw. The date may also be 1684.679

William Sprewell is identified as Vicar of Kilbrauchan in 1501.

A John Spreule was identified on a list of those holding the office of Commissary of General Authority, Commissioners of Glasgow on five occasions between 1505 and 1554. Because of the long period covered, it is likely that more than one person was involved, possibly a father and son. Four of the five entries are for a one year term and the other for two years.

John Sprewell was the Vicar of Carmunnoch in approximately 1515 to 1517.



Stephen Spreull sold lands of Dalmuir, in the neighbourhood of Edinbarnet, to Andrew Strieuling of Law. Charter at Edinbarnet, dated 13 July 1569.

Margaret Sprewell was tried for witchcraft in approximately 1630.

From the University of St. Andrew’s Institute of Scottish Historical Research, we find the following brief mentions of the Spreulls in the seventeenth century.

Andrew Spreull was a Scot in Grudziadz (Poland) who subscribed to the subsidy for King Charles II in 1651. He paid 40 florins. A.B. Pernal and R.P. Gasse, The 1651 Polish Subsidy to the exiled Charles II, Oxford Slavonic Papers, vol xxxii (Oxford, 1999), p.38; Z. Guldon and L. Stepkowski, Szkoci i Anglicy w Koronie w polowie XVII wieku, Kieleckie Studia Historyczne, ii (1977).

John Spreull was a Scottish merchant in the second half of the seventeenth century. Between October and December 1675 he could be found in Bremen and Hamburg from where he corresponded with the Scottish merchant factor in Rotterdam, Andrew Russell. From his letter to Russell dated 29 November 1675, it is clear that Spreull was also in contact with Scottish merchants in Gothenburg, like Robert Clerk and others in Elsinore like Sir John Paul. National Archives of Scotland, Russell Papers, RH15/106/199. Various letters, John Spreull to Andrew Russell, 1675; T. C. Smout, Scottish Trade on the Eve of Union, 1660-1707 (Edinburgh & London, 1963), pp.79, 117, 121, 158, 222, 263, 291.

Robert Spreull was an officer in the Danish-Norwegian army. He served in Lord Spynie’s regiment as sergeant major in 1628 and received his reckoning by 6 October that year. T. Riis, Should Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot (Odense, 1988), II, p.139.



The Irish Sproules  Two concurrent developments are likely to have led to the Spreul’s migrating from Scotland to Ireland. Firstly James Spreul had sold the lands and it is likely that many of the extended family members who would have been living on nearby farms decided to (or were forced to) quit the area at the same time.

Secondly, in 1603, the Crowns of Scotland and England unified under James VI of Scotland, who found it expedient to disburse the ‘unruly border clans’. In 1587, an Act of Scottish Parliament had condemned certain border families for their lawlessness.  These Border Clans, largely the Strathclyde Britons on the western border, and the Boernicians on the Eastern Border Marches, were dispersed to England, northern Scotland and to Ireland. Some were banished directly to the Colonies. Thus Ireland offered a reasonably easy way to regain lands as the crown was granting lands previously held by the Catholic Irish. All settlers had to do was sign an ‘Undertaking’ to remain protestant and faithful to the Crown.

It is worthwhile giving a brief history of Ireland at the time the Sproules moved there.  When most of the Ulster Gaelic Lords fled to the continent in 1607 their lands were confiscated and in the following year the Government published a plan to allocate the land to English and Scottish landlords and some “deserving” natives. The new landlords were to attract British settlers, improve their estates and found towns. Large numbers of Scots settled in Counties Antrim and Down, where they put down deep roots, but in the other Ulster counties fewer new immigrants settled. The new landlords unable to attract enough British settlers kept the native Irish in place, which was contrary to the plantations aim.  Plantations were implemented in other parts of Ireland. British settlers returned to the Desmond lands in Munster, Wexford was planted in 1613 and parts of the midlands in the 1620s. In these plantations the natives, whose labour was needed were left in place. Despite the introduction of many Protestant landlords about three-fifths of Irish land remained in Catholic hands.

The new Protestant settlers replaced the Anglo-Normans as the loyalist party in Ireland. The Catholic Anglo-Normans continued to see themselves as loyalists but the Government was deeply suspicious of them. The settlers founded market towns, build a network of new roads to link them and built magnificent country houses. They introduced the market economy and capitalism. Many Gaelic landowners were unable to compete in the new economy and lost their land. Although Gaelic customs and practices did not completely vanish and in remote areas life went on much as it had before. People still followed herds of cattle and lived in makeshift houses rather than building permanent houses and tilling the soil as the new settlers did. Still the arrival of more sophisticated Scottish and English settlers led Ireland to experience an industrial boom. Timber was scarce in England but Ireland had huge forests of oak. Many of the new landlords were short of money and the forests provided a quick source of funds. The oak forests were used to smelt iron, and exported as barrel staves. Government efforts to conserve the forests were futile, and in a little over a century they were gone.

The motives of the Ulster Gaelic landlords who seized Charlemont Fort (Co Tyrone) in October 1641 were complex. Some wished to replace King Charles 1 with a foreign King, others claimed they were rising to defend him. Whatever their reason they unleashed a 12 year war which devastated Ireland. At first the rebels with the element of surprise in their favour were victorious, seizing most of Ulster, with the exception of south Antrim and Down. In the chaos of the early days resentful natives took the opportunity to settle scores and in many places Protestant settlers were murdered. The massacres were wildly exaggerated, but they were to play a crucial role in the future of Irish politics. Irish Protestants resolved never again to be taken by surprise and murdered by their Catholic neighbours.



In 1642 the Anglo-Norman’s entered the war on the rebel side, spreading the war throughout the island. The rebels formed a parliament, the Confederation of Kilkenny. In March the English Parliament passed an “adventurers act” to finance the re-conquest of Ireland. The Kings army under the Duke of Ormond succeeded in stopping the rebel advance and holding the area around Dublin. Other Royalist forces held out in Cork.

Events were complicated in August 1642, when civil war broke out in England between the King and Parliament. Exiled Irish soldiers returned from the continent to fight with the Confederation. A Scots Presbyterian army landed at Carrickfergus, some Irish lords, most notably Lord Inchiquin declared for the English parliament.

The politics and military events of the next five years were Byzantine in their complexity. Political affairs revolved around attempts to agree a treaty between the Confederation and the Royalists. This produced the “Ormond Peace” of 1646, which failed to bring peace, mainly due to the political intrigues of the Papal Nuncio (Popes Ambassador). The war dragged on without any side gaining a decisive advantage. Participants changed sides, alliances were unclear, and campaigns were fought without clear objectives.  In 1647 another peace treaty was agreed which brought most of the Royalists and Confederates together to defend the royalist cause, but it was too late on January 30th King Charles was executed by Parliament. A last ditch effort to drive the Parliamentarians out of Ireland at the Battle of Rathmines failed.

In August 1647 Oliver Cromwell landed at Dublin, with him were the New Model Army, a highly trained and experienced force. He set about the re-conquest of Ireland with determined efficiency, quickly seizing control of the east and south east coast. By the time he left Ireland in May 1650 he had conquered most of Leinster and South Munster. He left Henry Ireton in command. The re-conquest was a slow affair driving royalists and rebels out of castles, forts and fastness and eventually required a garrison of 35,000 troops. The war ended in April 1653 when the last garrison surrendered, in Co Cavan.

Under the Adventurers Act (1642) bonds had been sold to raise fund for the Irish war. The bonds were to be redeemed with Irish land. Army pay was in arrears and Irish land also provided a way to pay soldiers for their service in Ireland. To implement this a settlement act was passed in 1652. Catholic landowners that had been in rebellion lost all their land. Those who had not were to surrender their land and move to Connaught where they would be granted a smaller parcel of land. When complete less than a fifth of Irish land remained in Catholic hands.

In 1660 the English Commonwealth ended with the restoration of the monarchy. Irish Catholics who had fought on the royalist side expected they would have their land restored. It was not to be, the new King Charles II, was insecure and the Irish Cromwellian settlers had influence in England and power in Ireland.

After the restoration a limited degree of tolerance was granted to the Catholic Church but anti Catholic hysteria intensified in England. The Archbishop of Armagh Oliver Plunkett was convicted of trumped up charges and executed in London.

The new landlords had to meet certain conditions such as settling people from Scotland and England on their estates. The settlement programs were designed to build up a Protestant population in Ireland that would be loyal to the British crown. The period of the settlements came to be known as the “time of the Plantations”. The landlords and the prospective tenants could conclude various types of leases. A “life lease” meant a lease for 21 years. A lease of “three lives” entailed a period of  63 years. If a person acquired a long lease, he had the right to name the person or persons who would take over the lease if he died before its expiry. An extra fee was paid when such transfers took place. It was also possible to substitute other successors if the original successors died before the expiry of the lease. Some leases



included a clause giving the right of renewal  and occasionally a lease was granted for 1,000  years which really meant in perpetuity. In any case, it was not unusual for a property to be held by the same family for several generations. Roman Catholics were not allowed to have long term leases and the properties they leased were always quite small. In their desire to acquire more lands they would offer higher rents to the Protestant landlords. Rents were payable twice yearly. The earlier leases were often payable in either cash or kind or in a combination of both.

In 1708 a Registry of Deeds was set up in Dublin for the purpose of filing “memorials” (abstracts of lease agreement and other types of agreements). Short term leases were not accepted for registration. It was intended to make the registration of leases compulsory but unfortunately for genealogists the plan was dropped. The result was that thousands of agreements were eventually lost or discarded. The addresses and occupations of the participants, the acreage of the lease, and the rent payable are common features of all leases revealing useful information about Sproule families. At times such abstracts have included the name of the leaseholder’s father, grandfather, spouse, some of the children, and even a grandchild. Ages are often given but such information is not necessarily reliable.

1662 A charter of Charles II replaces Cromwell’s charter of Londonderry (10 April)

  • An Act forbids the export of Irish wool (19 May) • Ormond becomes Lord Lieutenant, arriving on 27 July • The Act of Settlement (31 July) confirms some adventurers’ landowning rights but allows claims from ‘innocents’ and royalist supporters • The Tenures Abolition Act (Ireland) abolishes the distinction between knight service and common soccage (two sets of conditions under which royal grants of land were held) • The Irish parliament orders the annual observance of 23 October as a day of thanksgiving for deliverance from the 1641 rising; for over a century, church services on this day will remind Protestants of Catholic disloyalty


James II was crowned King in 1685. He was a Catholic ruling a solidly Protestant England. James immediately proceeded to appoint Catholics to positions of power and influence. He appointed the Catholic Richard Talbot, Earl of Tyrconnell, as Viceroy of Ireland. Tyrconnell immediately began to sack Protestants from state offices and purged the army of Protestant officers.

In 1688 James had a son which promised a Catholic succession. It was the last straw for many of his Protestant subjects and led to the “Glorious Revolution”. James’s opponents invited his nephew and sonin-law, the Protestant William of Orange to become King. William landed at Torbay on November 5, 1688 and advanced on London, James fled to France with his family. William was given temporary control of government, and in February 1689 he became King.

England and Wales pledged allegiance to William, but James retained support in parts of Scotland and in most of Ireland. When William arrived in England, the Earl of Tyrconnell raised an army in Ireland to support James. In March 1689 James landed in Ireland, intent on using it as a base to recover the throne of England.

The Protestants of Ulster supported William. Jacobite (James supporters) efforts to crush them failed, the Williamite garrison at Londonderry held the city through a long siege and at Enniskillen they waged a successful campaign to maintain control of south-west Ulster. This gave William a bridgehead to reconquer Ireland.



In 1690 he landed with a multi-national army and defeated James at the Battle of the Boyne. James fled to France but his supporters held out for another year. They suffered a major defeat at the Battle of Aughrim (witnessed by Captain John Sproule and his sons). The war ended with the treaty of Limerick, which allowed the Jacobite army to go to France and guaranteed civil liberties to Irish Catholics. William was in favour of keeping the treaty but the Irish Parliament rejected it.



The Athlone Sproules Nearly one hundred years ago a person engaged in tracing the ancestry of certain Sproule families of Ireland said: “The Sproules of Longfield, Co. Roscommon, have a tradition that three brothers named Spreul came to Ireland from Cowdon, one settling in Tyrone, another in Donegal, and the third in Roscommon.”680.  Their settlement dates in the mid-1600s, and this is the story of the Roscommon brother.

Captain John Sproule

Captain John Sproule was reputed to be son of James Spreull, last of Cowden, and would undoubtably been a close kinsman of his. With the sale of Cowden, James and his extended family would have been dispersed, many travelling to Ireland. John Sproule probably first went to Tyrone in Ulster.  But it seems he was quickly recruited into the army. A second, younger, brother, Robert Sproule settled in County Tyrone, and even today there are numerous Sproules in counties Tyrone and neighbouring Donegal.

Captain John Sproule came to Athlone on the border between Westmeath and Roscommon in about 1660 with a regiment of Highland Light Infantry.  Second hand records say that Capt John Sproule was born in 1626, thus he lived until the age of 104.  This is a very old man in the 21st century and it must be possible that the chroniclers over the years have mistaken an old English 4 of a 2 in his year of birth (e.g. 1644, not 1624).  In any case it does seem that John and his brother Robert were born in Ireland, almost certainly in Ulster, where the family moved after the sale of Cowden and the general dispersal of many of the Scottish Sproules.

Where Captain John was prior to 1660, when he appears in Athlone, is open to question.  As the family seems to have emigrated to Ireland, it fair to suppose he went to County Tyronne or Donegal, whereupon he was recruited into the locally raised Highland Regiment.  This was the period of Cromwell’s Commonwealth and Captain John would have been of prime military age during a time of considerable fighting.  This fighting was in no way confined to the British Isles and there is a record of a Captain John Sproule serving in the Scottish army in the Baltic campaign.  It cannot be ascertained that this is the same man, but the dates and military rank of Captain John certainly suggest it is a possibility.

As to why Captain John eventually settled in Athlone, two events are probably relevant.  Athlone was a town of strategic importance, commanding the main crossing of the Shannon for the Irish midlands.  Given Captain John’s military experience, he may well have had something to do with this garrison, although by the time he settled there he was 40 years of age.  It is also possible that he had friends and acquaintances in the area.  There are references to Lt Semple, who came from the same area (near Cowden) as Captain John, and had travelled to Donegal at approximately the same time.  There were at least three marriages between the Sproules and Semple’s in previous generations, so it could be that Athlone offered some family connections.  Nor was Captain John the only soldier settler in the area, on the other side of Loch Rae Captain Henry Pakenham settled in approximately 1650, building Pakenham Hall, his son became first Baron Longford and the family eventually establishing itself as the Earls of Longford.

With the restoration of Charles II in 1660, the Duke of Ormond was sent to placate Ireland after Cromwell’s disastrously harsh rule.  By the time Ormond came to Ireland, the lands were being divided something like 40% for noblemen from England and Scotland (these were largely absentee landlords), 40% for soldiers, who were expected to stay in Ireland and provide a backbone for English and Scottish rule (they were known collectively as “The Ascendancy”), and the remainder of the land was designated for co-operative locals.  Captain John, a Protestant, was obviously was part of this “Ascendancy”,



although he did purchase his Roscommon lands.  It is notable that even for southern Ireland, Roscommon was one of the counties with the fewest number of Protestant land owners, and indeed with a notably small number of landed gentry681.

According to an eighteen century description of the southern Roscommon parish where Captain John Sproule settled:

KILTOOM, or KILTOMB, a parish, in the barony of ATHLONE, county of ROSCOMMON, and province of CONNAUGHT, 5 miles (N. W.) from Athlone, on the road to Roscommon; containing 4514 inhabitants. This parish, which is situated on Lough Ree, comprises 7510 statute acres, as applotted under the tithe act; the soil is light but fertile, and the lands are generally in a profitable state of cultivation; the system of agriculture is improved, and there is a moderate portion of bog. The scenery is pleasingly diversified. The principal seats are Hodson’s Bay, that of L. Hodson, Esq., pleasantly situated on the shore of Lough Ree, in tastefully disposed grounds commanding a fine view of the lake and the river Shannon; Grove, of J. Sproule, Esq.; New Park, of Mrs. Smythe, a handsome residence pleasantly situated; and Rockhill, of E. Hodson, Esq. The living is a vicarage, in the diocese of Elphin, united by act of council, in 1784, to the vicarage of Camma, together forming the union of Kiltoom, in the patronage of the Bishop; the rectory is impropriate in the Incorporated Society. The tithes amount to £155, of which £65 is payable to the impropriators, and the remainder to the vicar; the gross tithes of the benefice are £200. The glebe-house is situated about a mile from the church; the glebe comprises 20 3/8 acres. The church, which is in good repair, was built in 1785 by a gift of £390 from the late Board of First Fruits; the tower is castellated and the occasional residence of Sir Frederic French. The R. C. parish is co-extensive with that of the Established Church; a spacious chapel is now being built. There is a private school, in which are about 45 children.

In 1669 Captain John Sproule married Diana Wilson, the sister of Andrew Wilson of Shinglas Castle (no completely gone) near Ballymore, Westmeath, the county to the east of Roscommon, across the river Shannon*.  Captain John Sproule first lived near Tuberit, near Castle Daly, County Westmeath.  In 1675 he purchased, for £1600, Gurtmacassa Castle, or Longfield, from a Mr. Dodwell.

Mr Dodwell had married the daughter and heiress of Edward Coyle, Edward Coyle having erected the castle in 1646†.  The castle is located on a hill about 12 miles, northwest of Athlone and 12 miles from the battle of Anghrim.  In 1642, during the time the house was owned by the Coyle family, it is reported that the family were in a skirmish with Sir Charles Coote Junior. The Coyles were landowners in the Rahara area close to Longfield and would have held a position of secondary importance to the local ruling families, the Kellys and the Fallons. The house would reflect their social standing in the community. It wouldn’t have been a tower house as big as the Kelly or Fallon Castle, but it would have been a relatively big house.

In 1654 Sir Charles Coote received an order from Oliver Cromwell to demolish all the superfluous castles in the vicinity of Athlone.  The encounter in which the Coyles and Kellys took part is mentioned in a                                                       * See history of the Irish Bomford family for details of the Wilson family, little seems to be known before the generation of Andrew and Diana. Andrew Wilson, at his own expense, erected two charitable institutions with a Church between them, now called Wilsons Hospital* at Multyfarnham, 7 miles from Mullingar, he bequeathed nearly £4000, per annum, for the education and apprenticeship of 40 Protestant boys, in one of them, and the other to support 40 old men.  The boys receive each on leaving £10, as well as two of everything for their wardrobe.  The old men used to wear a picturesque uniform, but since becoming infirm have discarded it. The Hospital is a large building, it stands on an elevation in beautiful well wooded grounds, in which are many fine trees. From the window extensive views of Lough Owel are obtained.

† The Dodwell’s are buried near the Sproule’s in Tisrara graveyard.



statistical account of Roscommon by the Rev John Keogh, drawn up for Sir William Petty in 1683. The old exterior wall has narrow slits for armoury which suggest that it may once have been a Norman Castle and the Coyles may have built on to what was left of it after it was destroyed by Cromwell’s henchman, Sir Charles Coote.  Upon purchase, Captain John Sproule repaired the castle, placing over the main door the Sproule of Cowdon arms with the motto “Semper Fidelis”.

On July 12th 1691, the day of the battle of Aughrim, Captain John  is said to have stood with his three sons, James, Joseph and William, on a hill near Longfield, and heard the battle about 10 or 12 miles distant.  Captain John is said to have exclaimed “It is all over King James and the Irish are beaten, the report of the heavy guns and the volleys are getting farther off”.*  John died in 1730, leaving three sons and one daughter Anne.

Captain John Sproule is interred in the Church of Tisrara graveyard, approximately one mile NNW from Longfield682.  There is a Sproule section of the graveyard, next to the Church of Ireland Chapel in what is otherwise a catholic cemetery.  One of the subsequent family gravestones in Tisrara cemetery is carved with the Sproule coat of Arms (see illustrations).

The Wilson’s of Shinglas Castle, Westmeath

The Wilson’s were established in Shinglas Castle by the mid seventeenth century. The castle lies some four miles due north of Ballymore, Westmeath Ireland. There appears to be little of no trace left of the buildings today.

  1. The first Wilson recordeded was William (or Andrew?) Wilson683, he had a number of children. He probably had a sister named Diana. 1.1. Andrew Wilson of Piercefield or Piersfield, Co Westmeath, died in March 1725 after he made his will in February 1724. In it he named his wife Margaret; and his brother-in-law Thomas Strangman and his wife Elizabeth. It is thought that Andrew had no living children when he made his will because he bequeathed his property to his three nieces and a nephew, and to found the school later called Wilson’s Hospital.  There is no information on Andrew’s first wife.  Margaret Eyre was a sister of Edward Eyre of Galway.  Margaret was unlucky with her husbands.  She married firstly the Hon Charles Annesley, 7th son of the 2nd Viscount Valentia who died in 1702;  she then married secondly Colonel Ambrose Edgeworth who died in Dec 1710.  Andrew was her third husband; after Andrew’s death in 1725 left her a widow for the third time, she married fourthly, on 14 May 1726, John Meares of Mearescourt, Co Westmeath.  She died Sept 1742 (or 1746 according to the IGI). A Plaque inside Leny Church over the door leading to the Wilson vault (plaque now in the Chapel of Wilsons Hospital following the closure of the Church; also recorded in the Journal of the Memorials of the Dead in Ireland – Vol  XI – p337) records: “Underneath are interred Andrew Wilson of Piersfield Esq Founder of the Hospital on Heathland near this Church who departed this life in March 1725.  Also Elizabeth, wife of Thomas Strangman Gent, and sister of sd Andrew who departed this life in Sept 1730.  Also Margaret, daughter of the above Thomas and Elizabeth and wife of James Sheridan of Shercock in the County of Cavan, Gent, who departed this life ye 29th April 1739 and also James Sheridan of Shercock, aforesaid Gent who departed this life the 24th of Sept 1755” 1.2. Elizabeth who married Thomas Strangman, may have had a daughter Elizabeth, mentioned as one of the nieces in Andrew’s will.                                                       * The Battle of Aughrim (Irish: Cath Eachroma) was the decisive battle of the Williamite War in Ireland. It was fought between the Jacobites and the forces of William III on 12 July 1691 (old style, equivalent to 23 July new style), near the village of Aughrim in County Galway. The battle was one of the bloodiest ever fought on Irish soil – over 7,000 people were killed. It meant the effective end of Jacobitism in Ireland, although the city of Limerick held out until the autumn of 1691.



1.3. Thomas, appears to have had a son and daughters, named in Andrew’s will and linked as one family through the 1754 deed: 1.3.1. Rev William Wilson of Shingles or Shingless or Shinglass or Shingliss and later Piercefield, Co Westmeath. Vicar of Kilcommick, Co Longford, 1718 – 1743, following the Rev John Wilson as the incumbent; this is a possible reason for placing the Rev John as his uncle. William made his will in 1738 and died about 1743. He married Emilia Eyre, daughter of John Eyre locally known as ‘Proud Eyre’ of Eyrecourt, Co Galway. They had no children. Emilia married secondly on 24th May 1746 John Rochfort of Clogrenane, Co Carlow, and died 23rd August 1770. In his will Rev William donated more land to Wilson’s Hospital and also land for the school at Farragh (7.7.5).  Notes from the will of Rev William Wilson of Shinglas, Co Westmeath.  Dated 25 Marcy 1738  Proved in 1743 (Pregrogative Court).  My nephew Thomas Bumford £300.  My nephew Arthur Bumford £100.  My nephew Oliver Bumford £100.  The legacies left to Thos Bumford, Andrew Bumford and Oliver Bumford, three of the sons of Oliver Bumford of Cushinstown in Co Meath deceased to remain in the hands of Boleyn Whitney one of the executors until the legatees shall release the said Boleyn Whitney from all claims on account of administering to their father Oliver Bumford.  My sister Elizabeth Ecclin, her daughter Elinor Cathcart.  Margaret Ecclin, youngest daughter of the above mentioned Oliver Bumford.  My Nephew Andrew Bumford.  Laurence Bumford my nephew and son of Oliver Bumford.  2nd Codicil dated 15 Oct. 1740: £300 to the use of Wm Bumford, eldest son of my nephew Thomas Bumkford of Clownstown, Co Meath, gent.  3rd Codicil 1742 [month and day blank]: My nephews Laurence Bumford and Wilson Bumford and niece Elinor  Bumford, being the children of Launence Bumford by my niece Susanna Bumford.  My sister Susanna Bumford.  My nephew Laurence Bukmford, son of Oliver Bumford.  William Bumford, son to my nephew Thomas Bumford of Clownstown, Co Meath.  Endorsement Rev John Wynn and others, Petrs Susanna Wilson, aka Bumford Defts (Irwin Papers, National Libary GO MS 433: Leonard Riley email 20 Feb 2009) 1.3.2. Elinor Wilson who married Thomas Taylor, who was born 1669, Archdeacon of Ardagh, Co Longford, 1705 – 1749 and died in April 1749. It is not known when Elinor died (perhaps it was she who was ‘recently deceased’ in the 1754 deed) but they had a daughter who married Mr Donogher and in turn they had a daughter Gertrude. This comes from the 1754 deed, which says Gertrude “otherwise Donogher, grand-daughter and heir of Rev Thomas Taylor”. Gertrude married Robert Fetherston of Whiterock, Co Longford. Robert was the only son of Francis Fetherston who in 1714 married Elizabeth, daughter of Robert Jessop of Doory Hall (see 14.2). The Bomford lands of Farragh eventually end up in Robert Fetherston’s hands. 1.3.3. Susanna Wilson, who in about 1705 married Laurence Bomford of Killeglan who died in 1721. Susanna lived on for perhaps 30 years as a widow. She is mentioned in 1745 but although a beneficiary is not included in the above Wilson property deed; this indicates that she was dead, so she must have died between the years 1745 and 1754 when she was in her 60s. Their son Wilson married Anne Bomford. 1.3.4. Elizabeth Wilson, who married (1) Oliver Bomford of Cushenstown about 1702. Their eldest son, Thomas of Clounstown, is mentioned in the 1754 Wilson Property deed. Oliver Bomford died in 1721 and Elizabeth married (2) on 28th June 1723 (ML) Rev John Echlin who died in 1763. Elizabeth died before 1749. She is refered to in the 1754 deed as a sister of William Wilson of Shingles.


Possible siblings of Andrew Wilson are numerous.  None is mentioned in his will.  They include: 1.4. Rev John Wilson, b c1661.  From Trinity records, John entered Trinity College Dublin on 18 July 1681 aged 20, son of William, b Co Westmeath, Sch 1684,  BA Vern 1686,  MA Aestiva 1704.  This John went on to become a cleric, at Theksynode (Taghsynod), Tashinny, Kildemock (Kilcommick), Shruell (Shrule) and Abbeyshrule (Ardagh) 1691-1717; Moyglare (Co Meath) 1709-19, and perhaps C Ballykean (Kildare) 1704 and C Geashill (Kildare) 1710 (Leslie Mills email 21 Jul 2008).  Rev John was alive in 1718 but, because he was not mentioned concerning



the marriages before 1710 and during his lifetime of the two Wilson sisters, Elizabeth and Susanna, it is thought that he is not their father; 1.5. John Wilson, b c1653, entered Trinity College Dublin as Pen (Mr Newcome) Mar 19, 1669-70, aged about 16, son of Andrew, Presbyter; b Trim (Leslie Mills email 21 Jul 2008).  Only one of these two Johns can be Andrew’s brother as they have different fathers; 1.6. Thomas Wilson.  The Upton papers suggest a brother Thomas Wilson of Farragh, who married an Elizabeth (surname unknown) and had children  1.7. Jacob Wilson.  The Upton papers suggest a further brother for Andrew: Jacob; and 1.8. Robert Wilson of Mullingar, who married Katharine Hodson who died 1709 and was a brother of Jacob and son of Anne. 2. Diana Wilson. She was said to be a sister of Andrew Wilson of Shinglas Castle near Ballymore, but given she was married to John Sproule in 1669; it seems likely she was the sister of the first Andrew Wilson, and thus aunt of the Andrew Wilson who married Margaret and who left the will.


The records of Killucan Castlelost Parish, Rochfortbridge, in the Church of Ireland Library, Dublin, include, somewhat cryptically, under burials, ‘1827, Law [?Lawrence] Bomford, grand nephew[?] next of kin to founder of Wilson’s Hospital, Cottage, Killucan, Peter William Wilson’.


Other Wilsons who appear in the deeds and who may be relations are: – 2.1.1. 1726 James Wilson of Curastown, Co Meath.  2.1.2. 1767 James Wilson of Parsonstown, Co Meath, who died 1780 (probate). This may be the James Wilson who before 1733 married Elizabeth Tew, niece of Thomas Bomford the elder of Rahinstown  2.1.3. 1803 Whillon Wilson and Jane Matthews his wife 2.1.4. 1814 Nicholas Loftus Wilson 2.1.5. 1828 Rosina Wilson marries Thomas Muley



The Longfield Sproules James was Captain John Sproule’s eldest son.  James married Anne Ryan, sister of the Reverend James Ryan Rector of Maywood, they lived at Longfield, he died in 1754 aged 85 years and is buried at Tisrara, they had four sons James, Francis, Peter and William.  James and his family are recorded as living in Longfield in the census of Elpine of 1749684, along with his son James and three children (over 14 years old) and one man and one woman protestant servant, as well as two “Papist” men and four “papist” women servants.  James and his son list their occupation as “gentleman”, there being only one other gentlemen listed in the local area.  A footnote to the census states that James was educated by a Dr Poole and entered Trinity College Dublin in 1736, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts some four years later.

James Sproule lived at Longfield from the death of his father Peter Sproule in 1778, until 1824, when he moved into a smaller house in Athlone, owing to his expenses in Longfield having been so great, and the difficulty in getting paid his rents. He was a large hearted and generous man, besides his own large family he kept open house for his brother and sister, as well as for his nephews and nieces, and friends ad lib. From early in the century until his death in 1836 and for long afterwards there was great distress amongst the poor owing to the fall in the value of cattle and grain, and the landlords suffered accordingly. In 1815 he speaks of “a general bankruptcy feared amongst the farmers” and in 1816 of “the deplorable state of the country for want of money, everything for sale extremely low, and every article of consumption extremely high, not forgetting the taxes”.  They had “as an unfavourable season as the rest of Europe”. However in spite of the hardness of the times when writing in 1816 September, he says “I have begun an addition to the castle of Longfield I have got it up a story this season end in the course of the next hope to be living in it685.  It was an addition much wanted now that my family are growing up, it is on a plan that I got some time ago and will be handsome and convenient when finished.”  In 1822 when writing of the very unquiet state of the county he says “we however are not alarmed as this old castle is well barred and bolted, with plenty of firearms, and stout fellows to use them should occasion require”.  In June 1824 he writes “the decline in landed interest is very great for instance I have given £25 per cent abatement to several tenants end with all do not get my rents with satisfaction, however we must endeavour to live and hope for better times”.  From Athlone in November 1824 he writes “I have purchased Captain Fry’s interest and have got a most excellent house, offices, gardens, and a small park, at the moderate rent of £42 per annum, for which I paid 30 guineas fine, it is considered by every person a very great bargain.  You know the situation which I consider the most eligible in this town except the house that Monks holds from me.  I need not therefore describe it.  We came here last Friday, bag and baggage, which I assure you was no trifling undertaking, considering the large family, and great number of articles we had to move.  Before I left Longfield I let all my land that was out of lease and settled with my tenants, giving them an abatement and making them freeholders, also James, Peter, and Sandy, that I will have it in my power at the approaching election to make some respectable friends and interest, which is a matter of consideration, when I have so many boys to provide for, exclusive of Peter and Sandy, who are for the present in a fair way of doing well.  They are as you know to live at Longfield, and have it Grange and Gertearnam well stocked and from their industrious habits, and sober and proper conduct on all occasions, I have no doubt they will succeed in all they undertake.  George I have brought to town, and will get him into business as soon as possible.  Frank, and John, I will send as day-boys until they are fit to provide for, according to their ability. I am sure you will congratulate me on the great change that is made in my very large and expensive establishment which by the present arrangement will save me half the money, and more than half the trouble to support it.

I have discharged and got rid of Nicholes, Meran, Lechey, Delmare etc, besides a number of followers and intruders who lived on me, and have reduced my servants here, to 2 males, and 3 females, which I



think will be full sufficient making only five in the kitchen, instead of 10 or 12 I had at Longfield.   In 1842, Francis writes of his brother “James is a good natured thoughtless man, and I may mention unfortunate, for he somehow got into debt unknown to his family before his marriage. His wife (Diana Fair) is rather a dark silent woman but when she pleases she knows what to say very well.  About four years ago his creditors began to be troublesome, so much so, that he had to tell his wife.  Her brother came to Longfield and he handed over his property to John Fair, his wife’s eldest brother, until his debts were paid, allowing himself and his wife so much to live upon, (but between you and I, I think they have taken an advantage of him.) I suppose you have heard they went to live at Millmount, beyond Lough Ree, to a house which belongs to her sister and the old castle of Longfield is without a Sproule, which has not been the case this 170 years, when my great grandfather purchased it.  Francis, second son of Peter, was ever known to his niece Hester Fairbrother and to her sons, as “Uncle Frank” and was ever beloved by them.  Later his grand nephews transmitted his name to their children as one to be revered and honoured.  He served in the Barony of Athlone Cavalry, consisting of 3 officers, two sergeants (of which he was one) 1 trumpeter, and 50 privates, commanded by Capt Kelly, from Nov 1796 to 1811, and by Capt James Lyster of Lysterfield, from that year until August 1814, when the Yeomanry Cavalry were reduced.  George IV when in Ireland ordered pay to all the permanent Sergeants during their lives, but Francis never demanded his at the time, not hearing of it, until many years after, and also being independent.  But owing to bad times and when he was past 80 years of age in Nov 1840, he presented a memorial to the then Viceroy Lord de Gray, petitioning to have the money then paid, but history does not record whether he was successful or not. According to certain letters Francis considered himself to have been unfairly treated by his nephew James, who ejected him from a house he had long held from his brother James.  On leaving his old house Francis first stayed with Naghtens, whose great kindness he records. Afterwards he went to live in Irishtown, he died very suddenly at Rahara in October 1851 aged 91 years.

  1. James, married a daughter of Major Studholm of Leixlip in 1737 and lived at Lachen he died in 1757 d.s.p. end was buried at Tisrara. 4. Francis, a doctor died in Dublin in 1758 of a Spotted Fever. 5. William, spent most of his time in London and died at Aix-la Chapelle in 1782 6. Peter, married Elizabeth Tew in 1752, and lived at Longfield he died in 1788 and was buried at Tisrara. His wife was a sister of Mark Tew of Radinstown. They had two sons James and Francis and one daughter Hester. 6.1. Francis (1760-1851), lived at Longfield in 1824, no issue.  6.2. James born in 1756, married Elizabeth Gunning daughter of the Revd Alexander Gunning (of Hodson’s Bay House, in Roscommon, close to Athlone). Elizabeth inherited the McMullen property, thus bringing the Jones property to the Sproule’s686. James and Elizabeth lived at Longfield and he died in 1836, aged 80, and was buried in Tisrara, leaving six sons and seven daughters. 6.2.1. James (16 Aug 1795 – 1843) married Diana Fair687 ( – 1884) on 3 Feb 1837 in Cartrontroy, she was the youngest daughter of Robert Fair of Fortville, Co Mayo. James owned Grove and Milltown. James, died in Athlone in 1908, in the 1870s James Sproule of Cartrantroy, Athlone, owned 797 acres in county Roscommon and 232 acres in the neighbouring county of Westmeath. Never married. Robert Fair (1835 – 1 Apr 1889) in 1866 married Rebecca Mary Berry, daughter of Rev Thomas Berry. Robert is buried in Tisrara Graveyard. James Alexander Berry ( – 1914) married Edith Vere Rebecca Marie ( – 7 Feb 1898), buried in Tisrara Graveyard Evelyn Rachael Elizabeth Henrietta Thomas Berry (1876 – 1914) married in 1890 Edith Vere Gunning, she was the daughter of William Hodson Gunning of Hodson’s Bay, later Kiltoom Glebe. Thomas succeeded to the estates upon the death of his uncle James

176 Dorothy Patricia married in 1939 Henry Gerald Ashton, she was the “last of Longford”, which had been continuously occupied by the Sproule family since 1660. daughter Robert Fair ( – 1947) married Sarah Mulligan, emigrated to Toronto Noreen Robert Maurice Fair, living in Toronto in 2001 three sons Diana Maude John (1840-1906) Thomas (1843-1908) Jane, (1851-1921) Elizabeth  (1841-1887) 6.2.2. Peter (1800-1834/36) married a cousin, Elizabeth Gunning, of the Gunning’s of Hodson’s Bay , Co Roscommon, Ireland Elizabeth Mary. 6.2.3. Alexander ( – 1 July 1869) married on 20 Nov 1851 Susanna Knight (- 9 Nov 1851) they lived at Rahara House, Roscommon,  and had two sons, James, late of Curraboy House, Roscommon, married three times, his children lived in Dublin. By his wife Emily Jane Blake, (daughter of George Mills Blake) they had688: James Mills ( – 1919) George Eyre Isabel Wright Mary Anne (Mamo) Gibson ( – 1955) Godfrey, a doctor, died in 1882, at Frome, Somerset. 6.2.4. George, (- 1835). 6.2.5. Francis (- 1843) married Julia Kelly they first lived at Caldra, but later went with their children to America.   6.2.6. John a doctor, died unmarried, in India. 6.2.7. Elizabeth married Alexander Gunning, lived at St. Johns, had six children, Alexander of St. Johns had had a son and daughter Hodson, George, James, Elizabeth, and another daughter, who died young. 6.2.8. Catherine married in St. Mary’s Athlone, Edmund Naghton, 2 children 6.2.9. Jane married in St. Mary’s Athlone, Stephen Longworth, 1 son. 6.2.10. Anne married at St. P’s, Christopher Plunket, no issue. 6.2.11. Hester, ( – 1842) 6.2.12. Maria married in St. Mary’s Athlone, George Abbot lived at Castlegar, had two children. 6.2.13. Francis married at St. P’s, Thomas Abbot who went to America.   6.3. Hester married in 1773, George Berford of Ballymurray and they had three sons and two daughters.  6.3.1. George, a Lieut in 31st Regt, died in 1794 of Yellow fever in Guadeloupe. 6.3.2. Peter married Mary Ann George of Lisburn Co Down, emigrated to Pennsylvania, they had one son Richard George who married an American, they had four daughters one of whom died young. 6.3.3. Richard married first Mary Ann daughter of Admiral Balmborough, had three children, George died in 1900 unmarried, age 82 years, a Judge in India, Percy, and Mary who died young. The first wife died in 1829.  He married secondly in 1832, Emma sister of Sir Henry Willock, who died in 1871, Richard having died in 1852. 6.3.4. Mary died unmarried in 1881 aged 93. 6.3.5. Hester married George Fairbrother of Bellymurray, and Galey House, she was born in 1785, and died in 1872, leaving five sons and one daughter. George married Harriet Tomes, had 3 sons and 1 daughter he died in 1896, aged 81. Richard, died, unmarried, aged 30.

177 Edward John married Annie Renwick, he died. in 1895, aged 74, he was of Syleham Hall Suffolk, left 2 daughters, only one survived, Annie Harriet who married in 1901 Henry Raven, they had a daughter Joan. James married Margaret eldest daughter of the Revd George Vaughan Hart of Glen Alla Co Donegal, he was a Colonel in the Indian Army, and died at Aden in 1882, aged 58, his wife having predeceased him, leaving six children Edith Francis, died aged 5 years. Henry Willock, died young George V Hart, married in Australia in 1898, had a son and daughter Emeilie married General J H Drummond, who died in 1893, leaving seven children. Eveline, matron of the K?C?H? Convalescent Home Edith Hester married Reverend William Raven, who took the name of Hart, they had a son and a daughter. Elizabeth married John Whitty of Enniskillen, she d.s.p. in 1888.


The Second Son of the Athlone Sproules

Joseph Sproule, second son of Capt John Sproule, married Elizabeth Ryan, or Jocelyn, lived in Athlone, buried in St. Mary’s Church leaving 3 sons and 3 daughters.  He is noted in 1716 as taking the lease on the flour mills of the east side of the Shannon689.  Joseph signed Parliamentary returns in 1709, meaning he was a freeman of the borough. They were Quakers.

  1. Joseph (1707- 23 March 1773690) married in 1731 in Lexlip Dublin a Dorothy Goldsmith (1711-1784) daughter of the deceased Dean of Elphin691 and his wife Elizabeth of Dublin692. In order to claim a settlement of £600 (a fortune at the time) it was stipulated that Dorothy be married in the Church of Ireland, Joseph thus converted. Joseph was a “prominent banker” noted in Athlone in 1745/46693. Joseph’s bank was at one point rumoured to have failed, but this does not seem to have been true and a reward was offered to find the purpurtratior of the rumour. Joseph signed the Athlone Parliamentary Returns in 1731 and 1759, so he must have been a freeman of the borough694. There is a memorial plaque to him in the old tower of St. Mary’s church, Athlone.*   1.1. Edward, drowned in Liffey, some accounts claim he was the only son, however this seems unlikely as the same accounts immediately name a second son, James. 1.2. James A, entered Trinity College Dublin in 1836, was later a Justice of the Peace.  1.3. Mary, married a Captain Donnelly, brother? of Admiral Sir Ross Donnelly [there is some confusion here, was Mary’s husband the brother of Ross, or are the references to Capt Donnely about Ross himself, before his promotion to Admiral?]  1.4. Thomas, Captain, Royal Navy  1.5. Joseph 1.5.1. Joseph, married a Miss Atkinson, sister of Captain Atkinson, RN.  Joseph’s only daughter Anna, went to America with her mother, after her father’s death.  There she married Mr Denis Field, but having a great dislike of New York, where they lived, she and her family returned to Ireland and settled in Dublin.  Thomas Sproule’s branch of the family lost sight of Anna Field’s, but they have some of her lovely letter written to Joseph Sproule’s eldest brother (John P Sproule) and there is a song in Ottawa called “Erin, Erin, home of my bosom” the words and music of which she (Anna) wrote.  She expresses her ardent longing for home whilst living in New York.  Joseph Sproule (uncle Joe) lived at Larkfield, Athlone.   1.5.2. Susan 1.5.3. Thomas Ernst Sproule, (1762/72? – 1849/51?)695 was born in Athlone and brought up by his uncle Captain Thomas Sproule of Dublin and his wife Mary, who was the sister of                                                       * There are some conflicts as to the children of Joseph, but work carried out in 1909 by Mr Bond of Athlone confirms Mary, Thomas and Joseph were descendants of the Sproule – Goldsmith marriage.



Admiral Donnelly.  At the age of 17 he became a midshipman in the Royal Navy, undoubtedly benefiting from his uncles patronage.  He was commissioned a Lieutenant on 30 Aug 1780696.  As his initial commission is listed as simply “Lieutenant” which would suggest he was on a 6th-rate ship of 20-24 guns, such as a Sloop of War, Fire ship, Bomb, Store ship, or such ship of vessel which rated only a single Lieutenant.  Records appears to show he was commissioned abroad and that commission was finally confirmed about 20-25 Feb 1782.  A spell of peace in the 1790s, where he probably went on half pay from the navy, allowed him see service with the East India Company, where he was present at the storming of Seringapatam*. After returning to Ireland he served in the yeomanry697. In 1793 it appears he married, in St. Mary’s Athlone, a widow Hanna Stanley698, however this must have been a very short marriage as in 1795 he married Marianne, the eldest child of Captain John Plummer Ardesoif, she was his third cousin, also descended from Captain John Sproule of Longfield.  In 1800 they leased a house and garden in Irishtown and latter a house called Bonny Villa in Westmeath in County Westmeath.  When in Ireland, Thomas Sproule appears to have been employed by the Royal Navy in enforcing customs in the Irish Sea around Dublin.  In 1820, Thomas retired from the Royal Navy as a Commander, and with the legacy provided by Marianne’s uncle, The Rt Hon Sir Samuel Auchmuty699, the family emigrated September 1820 to Canada.  He at once joined the military reserve of Richmond, purchased land and settled there, at the Chaudire on the Ottawa River, where the bateaux from Montreal landed their freight. Sproule and his family arrived in the spring of 1820, and whilst admiring the wild grandeur of the scenery from the bluff, he was offered the whole of the present Ordnance Property then belonging to a private individual and consisting of more than half the present City of Ottawa, including the hill on which the Parliament buildings are erected, for the sum of 75 (dollars? pounds?). But he preferred proceeding to the settlement of Richmond. He was appointed first coroner of the Bathurst District700, which was afterwards formed into the Counties of Carleton, Lanark and Renfrew, and made a captain in the Carleton Militia. He was one of the first in organizing a Church of England parish at Richmond. Thomas was a Tory of a now extinct school; with a strong spice of the old sailor in him701.  Thomas and Marianne had seven sons and six daughters; all were born in Athlone and Christened in St. Mary’s, Church of Ireland.  Their children were: John Plummer Ardesoif Sproule, Born Athlone (1798-1867), never married. Robert Auchmuty Sproule (1799-1845)702.  RA Sproule was educated in Trinity College Dublin and became an artist703. Robert Auchmuty Sproule came to Lower Canada in 1826 and settled in Montreal.  On 30 September he put an advertisement in the Montreal Herald, announcing himself as a miniaturist who had studied with “the best masters in London and Dublin.”  In November 1829 he gave notice of his intention to bring out six views of Montreal, which did in fact appear the following year.  Published by Adolphus Bourne, they had been engraved on copperplate by William Satchwell Leney from Sproule’s watercolours.  The series marked the beginning of a fruitful collaboration between Bourne and Sproule that lasted until 1834 and led to the introduction of lithography into the colony.  Bourne went to the London lithographer Charles Joseph Hullmandel in 1832 for the printing of the group of works by Sproule, including four views of Quebec and a portrait of Louis Papineau.  He returned with a lithographic press and subsequently used it for Sproule’s drawings.  The results included the frontispiece for the Montreal Museum or Journal of Literature and Arts in December 1832, a portrait of Archbishop Bernard-Claude Panet, one of St. Francis Xavier, and a view of the steamer Great Britain, all three published in 1833 and a view of the church of Norte Dame in Montreal printed in 1834.  As well Sproule transferred illustrations with Alexander Jamieson Russel and several others to stone for lithographing; they were printed by                                                       * The Battle of Seringapatam (4 May 1799) was the final confrontation of the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War between the British East India Company and the Kingdom of Mysore. The British achieved a decisive victory after breaching the walls of the fortress at Seringapatam (as Srirangapatna was then known) and storming the citadel. Tippu Sultan, Mysore’s ruler, was killed in the action.



Bourne for Hawkin’s picture of Quebec; with historical recollections, a work by Alfred Hawkin’s that came out in Quebec in 1834.  In Montreal Sproule also taught drawing, a common practice among miniaturists of the period.  His frequent moves with his family after 1834, however, suggest it was not possible for him to make a living there.  He can be followed through his children’s births, rather than through his artistic activities, to Cornwall in Upper Canada in 1836, Williamstown around 1838, and finally the Bytown (Ottawa) region.  In 1839 he was residing in Huntley, where his wife’s family had lived since 1836; his father had also been living nearby at Richmond since 1820.  In 1840 Sproule and his wife received two acres of land in March township from her brother, Albert Hooper.  Sproule apparently kept a store at March Corners for a while, and later another one at Stittsville.  In June 1844 he again advertised himself as a miniaturist and drawing master, but this time in Bytown.  When he died in November or December the following year, he was reported to have been living in March Township. Robert Auchmuty Sproule’s name has lived on through his prints.  The views of Montreal (copies of each edition and five of the original water-colours are held at the McCord Museum there) are said to make up the most handsome series published in Canada and to demonstrate the maturity achieved in the pictorial print making during the first half of the 19th century.  The other prints done by Sproule and Bourne were not always of the same quality as the Montreal and Quebec series, a quality partly obtained through collaboration with Leney, who was an excellent engraver, and Hullmandel.  Except for one portrait of himself and another of his wife, Sproule’s work as a miniaturist remains little known.  He married on 8 Oct 183, Jane Hooper of Montreal, grandniece of General William Hooper, also of Captain George Hooper.  Robert Auchmuty Sproule died in March Township, Upper Canada. Thomas Ernst (1833-1877) married Rebecca Watson (1837-1915).  See portrait miniature illustration Robert A L (1865-1919) married Nellie Gale (1879-1960) Robert Godfrey, served in RCAF in WWII Eleanor Shannon (1911-1923) William F (1876-1920) Thomas E (1874-1957), married Mary Nichol. Served in Canadian Army in Boer War and World War I. Henry Sproule married Lenora Vicker Rosetta Maria married William Philip Riddell Jane Sparling married Charles Spry Annie Hopper (1836-1918) married in 1865 James Frederick Farley, son of James Farley of Quebec. Fred Farley, a lumberman in Boston Robert Auchmuty Farley, died in infancy Arthur Farley, electrician Walter Farley, telephone superintendent Tom Farley, lumberman in Saskatoon Jennie Erin, directress of a kindergarten Gerald Arthur Hopper Marianne Ardesoif (1839-1936) married David T Brown Jane (1842-1879) Maria (1844-?) Thomas (5 July 1801 – ?) Died young Diana Ardesoif (8 Jan 1803-?) William (22 Aug 1804-?) Joseph (10 Sept 1806 – 12 Sept 1894) was a farmer in the Gloucester area of Russell county, Ontario704 he married in 1859, Emily Walker (1836-1920) daughter of Issac



and Mary Walker of Goulburn Ontario.  They are buried together in Merrivale United Church, Ottawa. Robert Auchmuty (1860-1939)705, was born on 1 March 1860, in a farmhouse at the junction of Concession Street – now Bronson Avenue – and the Rideau Canal, in an area which has become one of Ottawa’s finest residential districts. Mr Sproule used to relate that his father as a youngster, used to sit on the side of what is now the Rideau canal and watch the British sappers and miners, under Colonel By, blowing the trees out of the course of it with barrels of black powder.  R A Sproule was educated in the Ottawa public schools.  At the age of 18 years he entered the firm of Harris and Campbell to learn the woodworking business.  He afterwards established the firm of Sproule Dowsley and Co, which operated a factory on Lisgar Street.  From there he formed the Ottawa Specialty Co, of which he was managing director.  This business was wiped out in the great fire of 1900.  Its plant was located on Duke Street. Mr Sproule then went to the W C Edwards Co in their woodworking department and with them was partly responsible for the bringing of the Library Bureau Co to Canada.  After some years with them, Mr Sproule formed the company of Thackeray and Sproule, with the late William Thackeray, established their plant on Beechwood Avenue. On the death of his partner Mr Sproule carried on alone for some years, where his contracts included designed and made much of the furniture for the new Canadian Parliament post the fire of 1916. Post World War One he took his son R E (“Ted”) Sproule into the partnership under the title of R A Sproule and Son.  He produced furniture for amongst others, the Canadian Parliament, as well as the Duke of Devonshire when he was Governor General of Canada706. R A Sproule retired from the business in 1935. Throughout his life he gave much time to public service.  For eight years he represented the Rideau Ward on the Ottawa Public School Board.  For 20 years, during which he was chairman, he was a member of the Public Library Board.  He was a director of the YMCA for 16 years and for two years president of the association. As a young man Mr Sproule true to the instincts of some of his forbearers, was keenly interested in sailing and was a frequenter of Lake Deschenes.  He was interested in all forms of boating.  At the age of 70 years he took up golf and played ever since. A great admirer of Sir Wilfred Laurier, Mr Sproule supported the Liberal Party for many years though he was never an active party man.  In later years he became an independent.  RA Sproule married in Ottawa in 1885, Mina Schneider (1859-1914). Robert (–1919) died of Spanish Flu Ethel (1886–1919) died of Spanish Flu Mary (1888–1919) died of Spanish Flu Alice Edith (1892-1990) married in 1924 Ben Allen (1886-)  Ben served as a Captain in the Canadian army in WWI and was awarded the Military Cross; after the war he became an actor. Mary Elizabeth Allen Margaret Allen Robert Edwin was born in Ottawa on January 5 1895, and educated at the Ottawa Public Schools and Ottawa Collegiate Institute.  After leaving school he entered the woodworking business with his father and in 1918 became a partner in the firm under the name RA Sproule and son.  In 1926 he negotiated the sale of part of the business to the Robert Mitchell Company of Montreal, and was  associated with that company for a year in connection with the transfer.  At the end of 1926 he organised the Corinthian Construction Company, general contractors, and became its first president. This company carried out important building contracts in New Brunswick and Montreal notably the Bell Telephone Toll building and the Scott’s Restaurant Building.  Later he severed his connection with



the Corinthian Construction Company to become President and joint proprietor of Scott’s Restaurant and the building in which it was situated, with his brother in law A A MacNaughton.  In 1927 Mr Sproule entered the investment field and became associated with various New York banking interest as their Canadian representative.  In this capacity he carried out several important business transactions. During World War I he served in the Royal Navy torpedo boats 1916-17, where he received the Distinguished Service Medal while acting as commander of one of the Royal Navy’s raiding motor boats in a raid on Dunkirk.  Later he received his commission as a pilot in the Royal Naval Air Service and became a Flight Lieutenant on the amalgamation of the Service with the Royal Air Force.  His war time letters are in the Canadian War Museum library.  In 1921 Robert married Mary McLean (1899 – 1983) of Buffalo New York, they had met in London in 1918. Mary Emily married Stuart Brown.  Mary was a stock broker in Montreal, and later farmer in Ontario.  No issue. Robert Edwin (1926-1998) married Jane McLeod.  Robert served in the Royal Canadian Navy in 1944-45 in North Atlantic convoys (HMCS Micmac) and subsequently attended McGill University, and obtained a PhD in economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  He was an academic at the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario. Andrea (1963 – ) born London Ontario Ellen (1967 – ) born in London Ontario, married Kyle Payette, marriage dissolved 2009. Claire Payette Julia Payette Diana married John Pootmans.  Diana was for many years the secretary to the Leader of the Canadian Liberal Party. Richard (11 Aug 1956 – ), married Francis Wright, settled in in Calgary Alberta, where he became a city councillor. No issue. Michael, a paramedic, lives in Ontario 2 daughters Richard McLean (6 June 1932 – June 1986), was born in Montreal and died in Seattle Washington.  Served briefly in RCN (HMCS Swansea). He married in Sept 1960, Janet Ann McPherson (8 Apr 1936 – ), she attended Bryn Mawr College and the University of Washington.  Dick Sproule attended McGill University and became a writer. James Richard, (5 Feb 1962- ) was born in Montreal, raised in Philadelphia and Seattle before attending University in New York and thence emigrating to the United Kingdom where he was commissioned in the Royal Navy.  He served for five years as a Lieutenant, specialising in signals and communications.  After leaving the Royal Navy he attended the London School of Economics, became a financial economist in the City of London.  James has been an occasional academic at the LSE, frequent commentator on a wide variety of subjects in publications ranging from the Wall Street Journal to The Spectator as well as a diarist. In 2005 he stood as a Conservative parliamentary candidate in Streatham, London.  He is a member of the dining club Brooks’s. He married the journalist Louisa (Lucy) Harriett Grinling Johnson (26 July 1967 – ), in Great Saling Church in June



2010*.  Lucy is the eldest daughter of wine and gardening writer Hugh Johnson OBE and his wide Judy (nee Grinling) of Saling Hall, Essex. James and Lucy live in Cradley House in Parson’s Green London, SW6 and they have: India Eve McPherson (29 Jan 2010 – ) was born in London. Alexander Hugh Ardesoif Sproule (6 July 2012 – ) was born in London. Mary Alison (2 Sept 1966 – ).  Born in Montreal and attended the University of Washington and worked in London as a business strategy for charities and management consultancies for many years.  She stood for the European Parliament in London in 2009. Emily M (1863 – ?), was a school mistress, married Edward Calquhoun Joseph Robert (1859-1930), served as an Officer in Canadian Army, WWI George (1867 – ?), worked on the railways, married Delima Walker (1874-?) Arthur William Henry William Ardesoif (1871-1949) Henry M[asters?] (1875 – ?) Wilhelmina Marianne Edward Elizabeth Ardesoif (1872-1875) Ethel Marianne (1878-1880) Anne Auchmuty (1808-?) Elizabeth Ardesoif (1810-?) married Thomas Lundy Marianne Dufour (1811-1844) died in Richmond Ontario after a short but severe illness707. Susan (1814-?) Lucy (1814-?) Thomas (1816 – 19 Nov 1840) Lived eventually in Woodcut, near Richmond Ontario. He held a commission in the 2nd Carleton Militia, and his funeral was attended by his brother officers708. Henry (1818-1896), was a farmer in the Gloucester area of Russell county,  Ontario709, he married Hannah Walker (1825/7-1902).  Hannah was the sister of Joseph Sproule’s wife Emily. Thomas L (1853 – ), married Ella Healy Ernest Eva Lillian Isaac (1855 – ) married M Hester Harry George Reginald Leslie John Plummer Ardesoif (1857-1920), a John Plummer Ardesoif joined the Canadian Army in WWI, may have been his son. Joseph (1859 – ) William H (1862 – ) married M T McGreggor Donald H  (1885-?)

* This was the parish directly neighbouring the one in which John Royland Sproule was vicar in the 1780’s

183 Albert Florence A   (1889-?) Isabel  (1891-?) Jessie M  (1895-?) Marjorie C  (1899-?) Irene M  (1895-?) Emily A (1867 – )


  1. Andrew Sproule (1717-1795) married in 1753, Catherine (9 Jan 1732 – ?) a sister of General Flowermocker. Was admitted to Middle Temple as a barrister710. They owned considerable property in Bath, Clifton, Weymouth, and Daltonstown, and afterwards at Bathford House, had 3 sons and 3 daughters: 2.1. Reverend John Royland Sproule (Dublin 13 April 1754 – 1828/9 Great Bardfield, Essex)711, married in 1791 Ann Masters (?- 28 Aug 1831). Educated at Oriel College Oxford, matriculated 12 Dec 1877, vicar in Appleby Westmoreland, and subsequently Great Bardfield, Essex712. 2.1.1. Marianne (1792-1813), buried at Landbeach 2.1.2. Catherine (1793-1813), buried at Landbeach 2.1.3. John Royland, (1795-1814) born at Appleby, Westmoreland, educated St. John’s College Cambridge, died at Clifton, buried Bathford 2.1.4. Charlotte (1797-1887) Never married. After her mother’s death in 1831, she lived with her two aunts and for the last 50 years of her life she was the doyen of the family.  2.1.5. Andrew Masters (1800-1891), born at Great Bardfield, Essex, educated Jesus College Cambridge, buried Bury St. Edmunds. 2.1.6. Henry Mocker (1804 – 1849), Jesus College Cambridge, he travelled through much of Europe and Asia Minor. He married Lucy Strong and they lived at 15 Edwards Square, Kensington, London, where his children were born. Fanny (1837 – ?) Twin with Lucy, born in Kensington, London. Married a Captain C W Ford, lived for many years at Landsdown, Bath. Had two sons and four daughters, of which only two had issue, Coronel Charles Ford and Mrs Ethel Bickford, each of whom had two sons. Lucy (1837 – 11 Nov 1924) lived for many years with her aunt in Bath. Married in 1890 the Rev J McGrath moving to Bournmouth; they subsequently separated and she then lived in Southsea. Emily (1840 – 1917) married Trelawny New, died in Folkestone, had six daughters, but only one married a Charles de Rouett, but they had no children. Henry Masters (1840 – 1903) born in Kensington. He joined the Lincoln Regiment in 1859, seeing service in South Africa and India; married Alice Speedy (? – 1911) daughter of John Speedy of Gravesend Kent. Buried at Landbeach Henry Hatton (1873 – ?), Lt Col Indian Army Charles Alice Sylvia Hilda 2.2. Elizabeth (1755-1789), never married 2.3. Mary Sarah (20 April 1756 – 1842), born in London, died in Marlborough buildings, Bath. She one of the well known “Miss Sproule’s of Bath” in the Regency period, a portrait of her is said to exist.  2.4. Catherine (1758-1829), the other “Miss Sproule of Bath” famous during regency times. Buried in Bathford.  2.5. Flower Mocker (29 Aug 1760 – 11 March 1815), Served in the Army (Royal Artillery) from 1774 to 1812, eventually reached the rank of Major General713, he married in May 1793, Louisa Halliday, youngest daughter of John [Simon?] Halliday MP of Westcomb Park Kent714. They had no children.



2.6. Andrew, (1762 – 6 Nov 1822) was a Captain in the Royal Navy, whilst on the Leward Islands Station in command of HMS Solebay, captured Estrella de Norte, a Spanish privateer armed with two guns and with a crew of 35715. Commanded the King’s Irish Yacht, HMY William and Mary.  Andrew married Harriet Letitia (?-1831).  Both are buried in Kemerton, Tewkesbury716. They had three daughters: 2.6.1. Harriet (?-1824), “the poetess”, her poetry was published717, died young and unmarried, buried Bathford 2.6.2. Anne (?-1844), died unmarried, buried Trinity Church, Cheltenham.  2.6.3. Catherine, who married the Rev Sir George Bishopp (Baronet). He was the Arcghdeacon of Aghadoe. Catherine married General Sir Frederick Francis Maude VC GCB (20 December 1821 – 20 June 1897) Lieutenant General Sir Frederick Stanley Maude KCB, CMG, DSO (24 June 1864 – 18 November 1917), most famous for his efforts in Mesopotamia during World War I and for conquering Baghdad in 1917. Ada Alice Sir Cecil Agustus Bishopp (6 July 1821 – ) married Catherine Daughter married a Mr Young of Manchester, a barrister Sir Edward (23 Feb 1826 – ), never married George Curzeon Bishopp (19 Apr 1823 – ) Jane Annabella Bishopp (20 Apr 1824 – ) Henrietta Arrabella Bishopp (6 July 1821 – ) 2.7. Joseph (1764-?) born at Bathford, died young


  1. Adam Sproule (1720-1776), married Prudence Lloyd and lived at Rockfield House near Athlone, which he later sold. Adam signed the Parliamentary returns in 1767, meaning he was a freeman of the borough. Adam and Prudence had three sons and one daughter. 3.1. George Sproule (1743-1817)718, After receiving his early education in Athlone and nearby Dublin, he joined the British army in 1762 as an ensign in the 121st foot and trained as a surveyor and engineer. He eventually attained the rank of captain and was referred by that title until his death. Of the five children know to have been born to Sproule and his wife Alicia, two sons followed their father into the army and two of his three daughters married military officers. Sproule’s major achievements were in the field of surveying.  In 1766, while stationed in Louisbourg, Nova Scotia, with the 59th foot (to which he had transferred the previous year) he was added to the staff of the noted surveyor Captain Samuel Johannes Holland, who described him as “very fit in Knowledge and Constitution for this Business.”  At the time Joseph Fredrick Wallet DesBarres, James Cook and Holland were all busy conducting extensive surveys of the Atlantic costal region for the British Government.  In 1766 and 1767 Sproule worked with Holland on Cape Breton Island, and then joined Tomas Wright on the shores of the lower St. Lawrence.  Anticosti Island and a stretch of Labrador were also surveyed.   In 1770 Sproule was in a party that surveyed the eastern New England coast in conjunction with work being done by DesBarres.  His surveying and mapping efforts were eventually incorporated into DesBarres famous compilation The Atlantic Neptune … (2 Vol, London, 1777-[81]).  Engaged from 1772 in the first through survey of New Hampshire foundries, Sproule was two years later appointed surveyor general of that colony, a post he held until the American Revolutionary War broke out.  Although he had obtained permission to retire from the army in order to establish his family permanently in New Hampshire, at the commencement of hostilities he returned to active service as a Lieutenant in the 16th foot.  Having joined the British army in Boston Mass, he was immediately named assistant field engineer.  On 9 June 1781 he purchased a captaincy in the 16th, “observing but little probability of being restored to his appointment and property in New Hampshire.”  The following year his lands were confiscated by the State.  At the end of the war Sproule found himself in a difficult position: not only had he lost both position and property, but he also faced the prospect of reduction on half



pay.  “Justice to his family” prompted him to sell his company, though he could only get half the price for it he might have obtained during the war.  In memorials to loyalist claims commission he estimated that his total losses as a result of the revolution exceeded £2300.  In compensation, and as a reward for his military service and his surveying work, he was appointed on 2 September 1784 surveyor general of the recently established colony of New Brunswick at a salary of £150 per annum.   In the spring of 1785 Sproule energetically took up his new post, which he would hold until his death.  He was a significant figure in the Province’s administrative history because he established the Surveyor General’s Office, created and maintained the essential land records and in doing so offered a high degree of stability for the new settlers during a particularly turbulent time.  On his arrival he found matters “in a very perplexed state”; earlier surveys had to be corrected and descriptions of grants regularised.  He also had to organise his staff, establish guidelines for their activities, and develop procedures for the maintenance of adequate records.  A large number of deputy surveyors were appointed, among them Israel Perley and Abraham Iredell, and under Sproule’s supervision they undertook the immense task of surveying land for some 12,000 loyalist refugees.  Sproule who insisted on high standards and did much to improve surveying techniques, was also responsible for laying out roads and reserves and for establishing parish and county boundary lines.  Provincial boundaries were a matter of concern as well.  In 1787 Lieutenant Governor Thomas Carleton asked Sproule to meet with Hugh Finlay of Quebec to discuss the conflicting claims of the two colonies to the Madawasaska region, a dispute that was eventually settled in New Brunswick’s favour.  That same year Sproule laid out lots for the Acadians who had settled in the region.  In 1795 he acted as surveyor and map maker in the efforts to determine the Maine New Brunswick boundary and three years later he combined the results done by Dugald Cambell, Thomas Wright and other into one general map for the use of commissioners.  Sproule – “that correct, faithful and devoted officer” as Edward Winslow described him – was one of New Brunswick’s most influential and active government officials during the first decades after the creation of the new province.  Not only did he carry out his surveying assignments in an efficient manner, but he further assisted the government by interesting himself in public works.  He was frequently involved in the construction of roads and bridges, and helped to erect the new House of Assembly buildings and the Surveyor Generals Office.  In 1805 he took on the added responsibility of acting as the province’s receiver general and in September 1808 he was appointed a member of council.  He was also regularly involved with the military establishment in Fredericton, where he served as keeper of the military stores.  A member of the Church of England, he acted as Churchwarden and Vestryman. George Sproule’s long and distinguished career as a surveyor, soldier and administrator deserves recognition.  To New Brunswick he brought a valuable experience and a capacity for leadership that greatly helped the young province during its early stages of development.  He served as surveyor general for 33 years; the office was to change hands nine times in the three decades after his death in 1817.captain in 16th Foot in the American Revolutionary War, afterwards Chief Surveyor of New Brunswick, Canada.  He married Alicia and had two sons and three daughters719. 3.1.1. Frances, in 1811 married Major Moodie of the 104th Foot in Fredricktown New Brunswick720 3.1.2. Benjamin Sproule (1774-1835), Captain RN James Sproule (1804-?) Arthur Sproule James Sproule Benjamin Sproule (1807-1865) 3.2. Joseph Sproule (1750-1840) of Larkfield House, Athlone married Anne Gambell Atkinson. Joseph held considerable lands in and around Athlone721.  3.2.1. George Sproule, a doctor, married Rebecca Whitley Rev George Edward Whitley Sproule, emigrated to Australia Five daughters, one son 3.2.2. Henry



3.2.3. William  3.2.4. Anne Marie 4. Anne married John Dunsterville, of Coolvoe near Athlone. 5. Diana married James Clerk, of Athlone, 1 daughter who married Capt Gould 47th Foot. 6. Joyce, buried in St. Mary’s Athlone.  7. Jane, born 1707, died, 23 August 1726, buried at St. Mary’s Athlone.




The Quaker Sproules William Sprowle722, (1674 – 23 March 1751723) was the third son of Capt John Sproule, was educated in the Church of England. “He was inclined to virtue in early youth and strict attendance on public worship; yet he became dissatisfied therewith in his mind, and his father observing this recommended him to the bishop and others of the most eminent clergy with whom he had many conferences, but no little satisfaction”724.  Through friends who he esteemed he became a member of the Society of Friends, more commonly known as Quakers.  In 1711 he married Mary Lowther (1684-1739) of the Cumbria Lowther’s725, the marriage certificate is in the possession of Ruth Sprowls.  The Quakers were very often tradesmen, in William’s case a Chandeler726 and their scrupulous honesty quickly won them the trust of their customers, adding further to their success.  William lived in Athlone and was buried in the nearby Friends Burying Ground (FBG) in Moate; this burying ground still exists, but is no longer used and has become derelict.

  1. William (1712 – 1806), married Elizabeth daughter of John Watson of Clonmel, he was born in 1736, and died in 1806, he lived in Athlone, and left three sons and two daughters. He has estates at Mount William (or Monksland) in Co. Roscommon and Arcadia (or Creganfanlagh) in Westmeath. William signed the Parliamentary returns, meaning he was a freeman of the borough. He bequeathed between three and four thousand pounds amongst his children.   1.1. William, ( – 1884) lived on the main street in Athlone, was a tallow chandler727, buried in FBG Moate728 1.1.1. Henry William, buried in FBG Moate 1.1.2. Samuel, a tallow chandler and soap boiler, died of typhus 1.1.3. Edward was a grocer and tanner, buried in FBG Moate 1.1.4. Wilhelmina married George Harrisn at Monkstown 1.1.5. Sarah married Joseph Swain 1.2. Solomon ( – 1818) married Sarah Fayle buried in FBG Moate 1.2.1. William, bought his sisters interest of five acres in Abbey lands 1.2.2. Sarah, married John Shaw, a clothier of Dublin 1.3. Sally married a W Tottenham, buried in FBG Moate 1.4. Mary (1768 – 1851) married 15 May 1794 to Anthony Pim of Cork 1.5. John (1749 – 1845) married 1793 Elizabeth Love (Lonney) (1761-1818). They lived near Enniskillen, Ireland. In the year 1793, feeling that he could better his condition and at the same time be free from the political and religious questions which were then disturbing that unfortunate country, determined to emigrate to America. He at the time resided on a farm. He with his wife and family, consisting of eight children, sailed from Londonderry in 1793.  After a voyage of about three months, they arrived in Philadelphia. The children, who came with them were: Arthur, Jane, Edward, John, Henry, James, Elizabeth and Nancy. Wm. and Mary were born in America.  In Philadelphia, he located in South Ward, purchasing property from Ann Armitt on the South East corner of Plumb St. and 5th. St. in August 8, 1793, the deed lists John as being a shallopman. From Philadelphia, they moved to Carlisle, Pa., where they remained about two years. It was then concluded to go farther west. Finally, they landed in Washington County, Pa., where they lived until 1810, when they moved to Finley Twp., Wash. Co., Pa. All the members of John Sproule’s family went with him to the last named place.  When John Sprowls located in Finley, it was a wilderness.  He, with the assistance of his sons built a log house, and as glass was then scarce, difficult to get, and very expensive, the openings in the house intended for windows were covered as best they could, and it was not an uncommon occurrence we are told, for the inmates to be awakened at night by the howling of wolves in the forest surrounding them.  John Sprowls was a large muscular man, plain and direct of speech, but was respected on account of his sturdy honesty and strict integrity.  As other pioneers were required to do, he, by unremitting toil, cut and cleared fields on the farm, which he had purchased and made for himself and family a pleasant and happy home.  He died upon this farm in 1845, about ninety six years of age, his good wife having preceded him to the grave August 10, 1818, age fifty-seven, they are both buried on the farm which they conquered from the



wilderness in what is known as the Sprowls graveyard on land lately owned by W.W. Sprowls in East Finley Township.  The children born to John and Elizabeth Sprowls were as follows: Arthur, Jane, Nancy, John, Edward, James, Elizabeth, Henry, William, and Mary, the first eight of whom were born in Ireland, and the last two in America, Wm. in Carlisle, Pa. and Mary in Finley Township.


1.5.1. Arthur Sprowls married Catherine Wallace to whom were born the following children: John, who married Margaret Carr. Rachel, who married William Camp and moved to Ohio–we have no information as to the number or names of their descendents. William, who married Ann Montgomery. Elizabeth, who married Laban Sampson, and moved to Ohio, we have no knowledge of the number or names of their descendents. Fannie, who married David Sampson. Mary, who married James Sammons and moved to Ohio; we have no information as to the number or names of their descendents. Catherine, married Jesse Montgomery. Silas, who married Christina Ealy. (George Sprowls’, parents.) 1.5.2. Jane Sprowls, daughter of John and Elizabeth Sprowls, married William Carr and moved to Ohio.  We have no knowledge of their descendents. 1.5.3. Nancy Sprowls, daughter of John and Elizabeth Sprowls, was never married – is buried in the Sprowls Cemetery to which reference has been made. 1.5.4. John Sprowls, son of John and Elizabeth Sprowls, married Margaret Greadon, and the names of their children are as follows: Eleanor, who married John Ealy. William, who married Mariah Newland. James, who married Elizabeth Montgomery. Alexander, who married Jane Montgomery. Henry, who married Mary Stollar. Nancy, who married John ? Arthur, who married Hester Seaman. John, who married twice, first to Elizabeth Lucas and after her death to Jane Trussell. Mary, never married. 1.5.5. Edward Sprowls, son of John and Elizabeth Sprowls, married Sarah Brown–to whom were born the following children:  Elizabeth, Isaiah, Margaret, Jane, William, Elmira, Jefferson, Washington, Julia Ann, Edward, Obadiah, and Sarah. Elizabeth never married and died in 1891. Isaiah never married and died in 1902. Margaret never married and died in 1852. Jane never married and died in 1897. William, married Margaret Mitchell.  He died in 1897, and his wife died in 1898. Elmira married Margaret Robison.  He is dead, she resides at Bentleyville. Edward never married and lives on the old home place at Bentleyville. Jefferson never married and died in 1853. Washington never married and died in 1899. Julia Ann never married and lives with her brother, Edward on the home place. Obadiah was married first to Damarias Mitchell, after her death he married Henrietta Luker.  He had no children to his first wife, and eight to his second. Sarah married Nelson Town and to them was born one child, who is married and lives near Elm Grove, West Virginia. 1.5.6.  James Sprowls, died 1837, son of John and Elizabeth Sprowls, married Elenor Enlow, she died 1865, to whom were born the following children: Belinda, who married Joseph Martin.

189 Cyrus, who was married to Phobe Post, after she died he married Belinda Elliot, and she also having died, he married Mary Ann Ashbrook. Jesse, never married. Elliott, never married. John, who married Hannah Reed. Simeon, who married Mary Montgomery.  James, who married Mary Ann Sampson. James is living but his wife is dead.  He resides in West Finley Township. 1.5.7. Elizabeth Sprowls, daughter of John and Elizabeth Sprowls, never married and is buried in the Sprowls graveyard to which reference has been made. 1.5.8. Henry Sprowls, son of John and Elizabeth Sprowls, married Elizabeth Newland to whom were born the following children: Matilda, who married John Fields. Elizabeth, who married Joseph Buchanan. William, who married Retta Newland. Mariah, who married George Frye. Abram, who enlisted in the American Civil War and died in service. James W., who married Barbara Carr.  James enlisted in the American Civil War and died in service. Nancy Jane, who married William Birch.  Mrs. Birch resides in West Finley Township. 1.5.9. William Sprowls, son of John and Elizabeth Sprowls, married Dorcas Town, to whom were born the following children: Eli, never married. James, never married. William, who married Elizabeth Stockdale. John, who married Eliza McCroroy.  Soon after John’s marriage he moved to Illinois, and after breaking out of the Civil War, John enlisted in an Illinois Regiment.  On account of gallant and meritorious conduct on the field of battle, was promoted, and about the close of the war he died from disease contracted in the service.  He held a high position as an officer in the regiment. Abigail, who never married. Elizabeth, never married. Henry C., who married Nancy McClelland. Dorcas Ann, never married and lived in Washington. Cyrus, who enlisted at the beginning of the Civil War, and was killed in action.  He is buried in the Sprowls graveyard of which reference has been made. Isaac H., who died when a small boy. 1.5.10. Mary Sprowls, daughter of John and Elizabeth Sprowls, was married to Andrew Kimmous, and to him had two children.  John who died when quite small and, Elizabeth, who married John Anderson.  After the death of Andrew Kimmous, Mary married William Wilson and moved to Washington, where the following children were born: George, during the American Civil War enlisted in the One Hundred Fortieth Penna. Volunteers, died at Andersonville. Sarah Mary John S (“Jesse”?) enlisted during the American Civil War and was killed in the battle of Gettysburg Charlotte S. Wilson. 2. John (1713 – ?) probably died young 3. Samuel (1715 – 1806), signed the Parliamentary Returns, meaning he was a freeman of the borough729. Samuel is buried in F.B.G. Moate 4. George, (1716 – 1806) born in Athlone, signed the Parliamentary Returns, meaning he was a freeman of the borough730. He left his estate to his nephew Solomon, buried in F.B.G. Moate.   5. Hannah (c 8 June 1718 – ?) Christened in St. Mary’s, Athlone.



Anne Sproule  Anne only daughter of Capt John Sproule, married John Plummer of Athlone, he described himself as the only Protestant Innkeeper in Athlone.  The Plummer’s had two sons and five daughters.

  1. John married Rachel Longworth d.s.p. in 1771 buried in St. Mary’s Church Athlone. 2. Anne married James Acton of Athlone, they had one son and two daughters 2.1. James 2.2. Letitia married Capt Sheppard, cousin of Connelly of Castletown. They had issue Connelly, Thomas and Katherine who married Capt Ashe of Drogheda. They had a son Thomas and lived in Derry. 2.3. Delia married Thomas McGrath of Castlerea, has issue James, Thomas, Eneas and Anne. 3. Mary married Andrew Galbraith of Galway, they had two sons. 3.1. James married Rose Trench, daughter of Richard Trench of Garbally.  They had four sons and a daughter 3.1.1. Andrew married a daughter of William Lancaster of Fort William near Ballinasloe 3.1.2. Richard married a daughter of Capt Wade of Ballinasloe, died in 1830, leaving issue 3.1.3. John, Rector of Tuam 3.1.4. William, a Captain, lived near Castlerea   3.1.5. Rose married Mr Lancaster 4. Diana (?-1746) married in 1725 Abraham Ardisoif (1696-1742) of Athlone, Abraham was descended from Pierre de Courteuil Ardesoif and Vicomte Henry Robert D’Ully de la Val.  They had 2 sons and 3 daughters. 4.1. John Plummer Ardesoif (?-1790) was a Captain in the Royal Navy and an expert in fortresses and gunnery, writing papers on the subject731.  He commanded HMS Loyalist and HMS Royal Oak (74 gun ship of the line), both seeing action in the American Revolutionary War.  He retired to London and spent considerable time in the city’s coffee houses, from there wrote frequently to his daughter732.  He first married Marianne DuFour, they had.   4.1.1. Lt William Ardesoif RN, died of Yellow fever whilst serving on HMS Argonaut, age 21 in Santa Domingo, West Indies. He left the considerable sum, for a relatively junior officer, of £300 to his sister733. 4.1.2. Marianne Plummer Ardesoif (married her third cousin, Thomas Sproule).  Marianne was educated at Mrs Dillon’s school in Athlone and seems to have spent her early years in that town734.  In 1816 she inherited several thousands of pounds from her aunt Anne Auchmuty.  This money was the legacy of the Rt Hon Sir Samuel Auchmuty, late Commander and Chief of the British Army in Ireland.  This legacy gave Thomas and Marianne the where-with-all to emigrate with their entire family to Canada in 1820.


John Ardesoif married secondly Lucinda Mence, but there was no issue

John Ardesoif married thirdly Miss Gunning, sister of the Rev Alex Gunning   4.1.3. Elizabeth Plummer, died in infancy


John Ardesoif married fourthly Jane on 7 January 1790

4.2. Anne (-1810), married James Auchmuty. James was the son of Dr Samuel Auchmuty, and the brother of the Rt Hon Sir Samuel Auchmuty GCB (1758-1822)*, Governor General of Ireland.  Sir Samuel never married, and left his considerable fortune to his relations735.                                                       * Sir Samuel Auchmuty GCB (1756-1822) a distinguished General who attained his high rank by merit alone, was born in New York in 1756.  His grandfather, a distinguished Scotch lawyer, has established himself at Boston in the reign of William III and his father after being educated at Harvard and Oxford, had become rector of the Church of England Church in New York.  When the colonies declared war, Dr Auchmuty and his brother, who was a judge at the high court of Admiralty in Boston, at once declared for the King and young Samuel present with the 45th Regiment as a volunteer at the battles of Brooklyn and Whiteplains.  The need of rewarding the loyal colonists caused to be given to young Auchmuty in 1777 and ensigncy and in 1778 a lieutenancy in the 45th regiment without purchase.  On conclusion of peace, Auchmuty went to



4.3. Diana (-1775), lived in Westminster, London.  Left all her possessions to her friend Elizabeth Lyons and one shilling to her brothers and nephew John Larkin.736 4.4. Mary married a John Joynt (1734-1809) of Hollymount, Galwayhad.  James Joynt was of Ballinacourty 1769 when he conveyed his Ballinvohir interests to his sister-in-law, Margaret Cummone Joynt. He probably settled in Galway through the influence of his mother’s Galbraith kin from whom he acquired interests in various Galway lands. At one time or other he had interests in the Richard Annesley lands of Killmore, in the Abbey Knackhine and Drummnagoule lands of Patrick Persse, all in Galway; in Bonvally, Westmeath; in Longfield, Roscommon; and in Athlone, both Counties. Through the 12 Sep 1781 marriage settlement deed, he acquired interests in more of his Annesley in-law’s lands. Included as parties in many of the deeds were his cousins James Galbraith of Cappa(h)ard and Patrick Persse of Spring Garden, both Galway; as well as Charles and John Annesley of Ballysax, Kildare. James’ will and codicils, all dated and proved in 1809, also mentioned that he wished to be buried in the family vault in the Killinan Churchyard, Loughrea. At the time of his death, there was equity lawsuit pending against Richard Galbraith of Cappard and J. Power Trench, resulting in a deed of sale, executed 3 Mar. 1819, by James’s executors, son John P. Joynt and son-in-law Anthony Lennon.737 4.4.1. James Joynt (?-1818), Captain 103 Foot, served in American Revolutionary War, Copenhagen in 1801 and Peninsular Campaign.  Died without issue.   4.4.2. John Persse Joynt (1770-1841) married Elizabeth Lancaster 4.4.3. Andrew Joynt (1774-1847) married Mary Powder.  Andrew was a cloth merchant of Limerick and Ennis, c. 1820 moved to Canada where he became one of the first settlers of the Bytown (Ottawa) area.   4.4.4. Rose married Anthony Lennon, a Lieut in the Roscommon militia 4.5. Hester married John Larkin, as her parents disapproved of the marriage she was disinherited, although they continued to correspond frequently.  They had two sons: 4.5.1. Commander John Larkin RN (May 1746- ) Larkan’s father and grandfather were cordwainers (bookmakers), the former also being a Justice of the Peace. He entered the Navy as a boy servant under his uncle by marriage, Captain John Ardesoif, and was later followed into it by his younger brother Robert. Both were commissioned in 1780; John, then 34, as fourth lieutenant of the HMS Cumberland. In November 1790 he sailed as first lieutenant under Capt Edwards in the HMS Pandora, 20 guns, to search for Fletcher Christian and the ‘Bounty’ mutineers. The 14 ‘Bounty’ men found on Tahiti, while not all                                                                                                                                                                      England with his regiment, but as he could not live there on his lieutenancy pay, he exchanged in 1783 into the 52nd regiment then under orders for India and was at once made Adjutant.  … Promoted to Captain in the 75th Regiment for his services in 1788, made a Brigade Major in 1790 by Lord Cornwallis; present at the siege of Seringapatan in 1792 (as was his nephew, Thomas Sproule). … Returned home in 1797.  In about 1800 went to the Cape. … He and Beresford were with Baird in Egypt in his march across the desert and passage down the Nile and they became popular heroes.  In 1803 Auchmuty returned to England and was made a Knight of the Bath. … In 1806 he went to South America. … When he took Montevideo he was voted a thanks of Parliament. … In 1808 he was promoted Major General and in 1810 appointed Commander in Chief Madras. He had his portrait painted by Joshua Reynolds, and it is now in the Chenai museum.  In 1811 he was ordered to capture Java. … Became Colonel of the 78th Regiment. … In 1813 left India for England where he was promoted Lieutenant General, but the peace of 1815 prevented his again seeing active service. … In 1821 he was appointed to Commander in Chief in Ireland, but did not long enjoy this high command, for he fell dead off his horse on Augusta 22nd 1822 in Phoenix Park and was buried in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin.  Sir Samuel was an extremely able Indian Officer and had served with distinction in every quarter of the globe but Europe, his great merit is shown by the high rank which he, the son of a loyal and therefore ruined American colonist, without money or political influence, had managed to attain.

Extracts of the will of Robert Auchmuty 1788.

I Robert Auchmuty of St Mary Le Bow, City of Westminster.  Wife Deborah to be Executrix and to have half of the property in America on which in my behalf may be recovered there after my decease, with one half part, or whatever may be allowed or granted to me or my account by the British Government for my losses and services in America.  After my wife’s death, one third part to my nephew Samuel Auchmuty, one third part to my brother James Smith Auchmuty and one third part to his son Robert.  Sarah Craddock, sister to my wife.  To my three nieces Mary Juliane Mulcaster, Isabella Burton and Jane Tilden, £100 each.  Nephew Robert Nicholas Auchmuty 1/-.  The reason I have not given anything to Catherine Brinley, sister to my wife or to Robert Brinley her son, is because having left my wife residue legatee she can make good the omission.

Signed 9 Feb 1785.  Witnessed Samuel Morrow, Alex Hope, Thomas Oliver. Proved 29 Dec 1788 by Deborah Auchmuty widow.



mutineers, were indiscriminately confined in a makeshift lock-up on deck dubbed ‘Pandora’s box’. One of the most articulate culprits among them, James Morrison, called Larkan an uncaring man with a harsh streak, which Midshipman Dillon’s memoirs tend to confirm. Unable to find the ‘Bounty’, the ‘Pandora’ was wrecked on the Great Barrier Reef in August 1791, with losses that included several men who failed to escape the ‘box’. Larkan commanded one of the ship’s boats on the 1,110 mile voyage to the safety of the Dutch East Indies settlement of Coupang, Timor (the same port that Bligh first reached after the ‘Bounty’ mutiny). A number of items probably relating to Larkan, including his metal name stamp, have been recovered from modern excavation of the ‘Pandora’ site and are now in the Queensland Museum. Larkan went on to serve as James (later Lord) Gambier’s first lieutenant in the 74-gun ‘Defence’, including at the Battle of the Glorious First of June 1794. Both he and his brother Robert, first lieutenant of the ‘Leviathan’ there, were among those rewarded by promotion to commander on 6 July 1794 but John saw no further sea service. From 1803 until at least 1807 he was in charge of Sea Fencibles (coastal defence volunteers) in Galway. In 1784 he married Elizabeth Knott at St. Mary’s, Athlone, with whom he had three daughters and two sons. He died aged 83, at Larkfield, his small property near Athlone on 1 November 1830 and was buried with his wife at Westmeath: she predeceased him, aged 52, in 1815. His elder son, Edward, inherited Larkfield. John’s unmarried second daughter, Elizabeth Diana Larkan, died at Maze Hill, Greenwich, in 1852 and there is also a miniature of her in the collection of the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich738. 4.5.2. Captain Robert Larkin RN, Governor of Greenwich Hospital 4.6. Abraham Ardesoif




The Huguenot Connection  The Huguenots (the origin of the term is obscure) were French Protestants of the Presbyterian faith who followed the teachings of John Calvin (1509-64). The growth of Calvinism in France during the sixteenth century led to a long period of persecution (notably the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre of 1572) and religious wars which only ended in 1598 when the Protestant leader Henry of Navarre changed his faith in order to become King of France. When he did so, he safeguarded his former co-religionists by signing the Edict of Nantes, which guaranteed the right of the Huguenots to exist as a Protestant minority in a Catholic country.

At first the privileges granted by the Edict – freedom of conscience, liberty to practise their religion in public, and equality with Catholic citizens in all civil offices and professions-were buttressed by the right to maintain garrisons in a number of castles and fortified towns (such as Montpellier and La Rochelle). By 1629, however, this ‘state within a state’ had been removed. Thereafter the Huguenots depended solely on the protection of the King, and as a result were among his most loyal subjects when the authority of the crown was challenged by some of the nobles in the 1640s and 1650s. When Louis XIV began his rule he promised to observe the terms of the Edict in full. Despite frequent assurances of this kind, the Huguenots nevertheless soon found their freedom restricted when everything not expressly mentioned in the Edict – such as their annual Synod, new church buildings, daytime burials of their dead – was forbidden. All churches put up after 1598 were pulled down (by 1685 only 243 remained out of a total of 813). In 1677 a fund was started to buy conversions. Much of this pressure was due to a religious revival in the French Catholic church, (it was the age of St. Vincent de Paul and St. François de Sales) and to the growing influence of the Jesuit order, which led the fight to recover ground lost to the heretics. Toleration of religious minorities anywhere in Christian Europe was rare. Most French Catholic clergy detested the toleration of the Huguenot faith, while many Catholic laymen detested the guarantees of civil equality. Pressed in this way, some Huguenots conformed and others emigrated.

Repression and the flow of refugees (a term first used in English to describe the Huguenots) increased significantly from 1678 onward. The legal guarantees in the Edict were withdrawn, the movements of ministers were controlled, mixed marriages were forbidden, children over the age of seven could be converted and removed from the care of their parents; for a time, pastors were forbidden even to visit the dying. In addition to these religious restrictions, Huguenots were excluded from all public office, were barred from the legal profession, could not practise medicine and could not print or sell books. The last straw, from 1681, was the dragonnades, the billeting of large numbers of dragoons on Protestant families with free rein to terrify and ruin them unless they converted. Thousands conformed, many others fled.

Finally, Louis XIV, perhaps believing reports that there were few Protestants left, agreed to get rid of the Edict altogether. The revocation of 22 October 1685 forbade all Protestant services; ordered all their remaining churches to be destroyed; threatened death to any of their clergy who remained in France after a fortnight but forbade any lay members to leave the country; and decreed that their children were to be baptized and reared as Catholics.

The majority of the Huguenots, some 700,000, remained in France and most of these became nominal converts. More than 200,000, however, risked imprisonment or the galleys by going abroad. The largest number fled to Holland, many to Switzerland and Germany, some to Denmark. Forty to fifty thousand escaped to England, where they joined those who had settled there earlier.

About 10,000 came to Ireland. They were not the first. Some of those who had left France in earlier years were already settled here, though the numbers were small. In the 1660s, indeed, special inducements to encourage immigrants were offered in Ireland which did not apply in England. Charles II’s lord



lieutenant, the Duke of Ormonde, in 1662 sponsored an act of parliament which made it easy for ‘Protestant strangers’ to become naturalized citizens and freemen of towns and guilds; and grants of land were made to them. Ormonde had encountered the Huguenots when as James Butler, he had spent twelve years in exile in France, after the Irish and Royalist forces were defeated by those of Oliver Cromwell. Not only did he have respect for their skills and financial acumen, he would have been very happy for more Protestants to dilute the overwhelmingly Catholic populace of Ireland. Ormonde himself established a colony of Huguenot linen weavers at Chapelizod near Dublin and groups of wool workers at Clonmel and Carrick-on-Suir. Most of those who came in Charles II’s reign, however, settled in Dublin, where two French congregations were established. Under James II the act of 1662 was annulled and the pastor of the congregation attached to St. Patrick’s cathedral was imprisoned. None of the Protestants in Ireland more devoutly wished for the victory of William of Orange and his French allies than the Huguenots.

That victory and the restoration of easy naturalization made Ireland an attractive place of refuge, especially when an act of 1692 granted the newcomers a degree of religious toleration greater than that enjoyed by Catholics and Protestant Dissenters. Of the 10,000 or so who settled in Ireland, some came directly from France but many more had escaped first to England or Holland before moving on.

A significant part in William’s victory over the Catholics in Ireland – and in many a later campaign against the armies of Louis XIV and his allies-was played by Huguenot soldiers. The best known of them was his commander in Ireland, Frederick Duke of Schomberg, once a Marshal of France, who was killed at the Boyne. Two years later the commander-in-chief in Ireland was another Huguenot, Henri de Massue de Ruvigny, whose brother had been killed at the Boyne and who himself had commanded the victorious cavalry at Aughrim. William created him Earl of Galway and rewarded him with a large grant of confiscated land at Portarlington, where he established a colony of French officers. This aristocratic and military settlement retained its French character longer than any of the others in Ireland; its French church did not close till 1841.

Above all, the Huguenot refugees in Ireland settled in Dublin. In the early years of the eighteenth century there were for a time no fewer than four congregations in the capital, two of them conforming to the established church, the other two retaining their Calvinist form of worship. It was estimated at one time that nearly 2,000 members of the professions in Dublin were Huguenots – many of them among the clergy of the Church of Ireland and in the legal profession. Huguenot names are also prominent in the list of sheriffs of the city (D’Olier Street was named after one of them), a reflection of their importance in the guilds of merchants and craftsmen which controlled its industrial and commercial life – merchants in linen, wool and wine; craftsmen catering particularly for the luxury and fashion trade, such as goldsmiths and silk weavers. The leading private bank in Dublin in the eighteenth century, La Touche’s, was started by a Huguenot who had established a poplin factory after coming to Ireland with William and taking part in the battle of the Boyne; his grandson was appointed first governor of the newly-founded Bank of Ireland in 1783. James Gandon, the architect whose great public buildings such as the Custom House and the Four Courts transformed the appearance of Dublin during the same period, was the son of a London Huguenot; and Richard Cassels or Castle, architect of Leinster House, the Rotunda Hospital and parts of Trinity College (as well as many fine country houses and the parish church of Knockbreda near Belfast), was probably also of Huguenot stock. The nonconforming Huguenots maintained a separate church in Dublin until 1814. Three years later, the church attached to St. Patrick’s cathedral also closed. By that time, the descendants of the refugees had long been part of the Protestant section of Dublin society.

The town of Portarlington, which lies WSW of Dublin on a bend in the River Barrow not far from the border with neighbouring Co. Offaly, is now a quiet backwater of Co. Laois. (Note before Irish partition,



Co. Laois was known as Queen’s Co. and Co. Offaly was known as King’s Co).  Nowhere did their culture, religion and language of the Hugenouts survive more tenaciously. Portarlington was surrounded by bogs and forest and therefore sufficiently isolated from the rest of the countryside to maintain a separate identity. Second, the settlement was large enough to be self-sufficient and third, the place had a distinctive character in that an astonishingly high proportion of its families were of noble origin. The establishment of the French communities took place at a time when, in another Irish paradox, Roman Catholic Irish soldiers were fleeing to France after the Jacobite defeat at the hands of King William III, and it was one of William’s senior lieutenant’s, the Huguenot Henri Massue, Marquis de Ruvigny, later styled Earl of Galway, who got the Portarlington project under way.

Portarlington had been laid out for English settlers with a market square and four streets leading from it. But the little town had suffered severe damage during the war, and de Ruvigny personally financed the construction of over 100 houses of unique design. The entrances and gardens were to the rear and blank walls faced the streets.

The first wave of French immigrants arrived in 1692, many of whom were pensioned-off soldiers and their families. Most came from the officer class, which, at that time, was made up of sons of noble families. There were six ensigns, one cornet, 16 lieutenants, 12 captains and one lieutenant-colonel. The most elegant and magnificent of all, with his scarlet cloak and silver-buckled breeches was Robert d’Ully, Vicomte de Laval, a man of the royal blood line of King Henri de Navarre*.

However, the nobles of that era could hardly have been expected to fend for themselves, and a second group of “labourers”, 13 families in all, arrived from the Swiss cantons where they had taken refuge, and gave the colony a more balanced character. So by the start of the 18th century the foundations of a lasting settlement were laid. There were stories from visitors from neighbouring areas of noblemen sipping a strange drink called “tea” from china cups under trees in the village square; of the wine of Bordeaux being favoured over the whiskey of the surrounding countryside.

All that remains of the Portarlington French connection now are its meticulous records, a few of the old noble houses and an annual French Festival at which the wine of Bordeaux is imbibed in great quantities and snails and frog legs are eaten in abundance.

The records of Portarlington’s Eglise Francaise de St. Paul were kept in French from their first entry in 1694, until finally being superseded by English in 1816. Fortunately, these records were retained locally rather than sent to the Public Record Office in the Four Courts in Dublin, many of whose priceless papers were destroyed in a fire during the civil war in the 1920s. As a result, more is known about the French who peopled Portarlington than is known of the Irish and Anglo-Irish who inhabited the rest of the county.

Robert d’Ully, Vicomte de Laval

It is said that the Vicomte’s de Laval can trace their history back through King of France. What is more certain is that the history of the Vicomte (Viscount) de Laval can be traced through the Dictonnaire historique, genealogique et geographique du depertment de l’Aisne739.

Seigneurs de Laval.

  1. Jean de Poinssy, Vicomte de Laval et mvion-le-Vineux. * His descendants married into the Sproule family



  1. François d’Almane, écuyer, Vicomte desd. mme, Jeanne de Cbalandry.
  2. Jean de Lancy, vicomte desd.

14??. Jean II de Lancy, son fils, vicomte desd., pute aux États généraux de Tours en 1484, se iuva aux batailles de Fornoue et de Ravenne.

  1. Charles de Lancy, Vicomte desd. Femmes: Nicole St-Pèrc, dont Marie, femme d’Antoine jche, bourgeois de Laon ; 2″ Isabeau Branche, ut Charles, Barbe, Jacques, et Claude, seign. Charlus.
  2. Charles II de Lancy, vicomte desdits.

15??. Charles III de Lancy, Vicomte desd. Femme, lude de May. Il se trouva à la bataille d’Ivry

  1. Les armes de cette famille étaient: (d’or, l’aigle éployé de sable, becqué el membre de eules, à l’écu d’azur en abyme, à 3 lances or (alias 3 fuseaux d’or) en pal, à la bordure même.
  2. Jean Robert, écuyer, seign. d’Ully, élu Laon, vicomte desd. Femmes: 1° Jeanne des ties, dont Esther, femme de René de l’Aulne, seign. de la Berquerie, dont Benjamin, Henri, s. de Laffaux.
  3. Benjamin Robert d’Ully, écuyer, vicomte desd. Femme, Madeleine de Hermant. Enfans : Cornille, Madeleine, femme de Balthazar (alias Valentin) de Flavigny.
  4. Cornille Robert d’Ully, vicomte desdits. Femme, Suzanne de Gouart. Enfans : Benjamin, Henri.
  5. Benjamin Robert d’Ully, chev., vicomte desd. Femme, Anne Robert d’Ully.
  6. Henri Robert d’Ully, vicomte desdits. Il vendit au suivant, son cousin.
  7. David de Guillelain (aliàs Gosselin ou Guiselin ), écuyer, seig. de Lucé. Femme, Louise Robert d’Ully. Il vendit au suivant,
  8. Jean de Guillelain, chev., s. de Chepilly.
  9. Antoine de Guillelain, son fils, v desd.
  10. Pierre Clément, écuyer, seign. de la Rouillée, capit. d’infant., vicomte desd. Femme, Marie-Elizabeth Lèvent. Enfant, Marie-Elizabelh.
  11. Fr.-Paul Solage, capit. de carabiniers, vicomte desd. Il vendit à
  12. Richard O’ffarel, capitaine de cavalerie, chevalier de St. Louis.

From the point of view of the history of the Sproule’s, it is Robert d’Ully in 1689 who is of particular interest.  He possessed large estates at Gourlencour in Picardy, but in 1688 he had been imprisoned in Verneuil while his wife, Madeline de Schelandre was removed to Sedan and his eldest son was imprisoned in Laon, not to be freed until 1705. The parents were liberated before their son and moved to Ireland, settling in Portarlington sometime between 1690 and 1695.  Records show that “Gabrielle d’Ully fille de M. Vicomte de Laval” represented Catherine de La Goupillere as “Marianne” at the baptism of the son of Seigneur Du Petit Bosc and when the baptism of Danile David de Laval, son of the Vicomte, is recorded. Another daughter, Marianne, was married at the French Church in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin in the



previous year to Captain Abraham Ardesoif of Alencon in Normandy.  Five sons of the Vicomte fought in the wars with Anne, of these Louis Fontaine (who took his name from an estate of the family in Picardy) embarked with his brother Joseph. A letter from him to his sister in Portarlington, quoted by Sir Erasmus Borrowes, describes the death of his brother and a friend in an engagement with a French Squadron on the way from Cork to Portugal740.

Robert and his wife Madeline, were just one, albeit the most highly placed, of the French Huguenot immigrants who sought refuge and the chance of a new life in Portarlington.  Robert’s earliest extant letter was written to his children from a prison in France, not far from his home at the Château de Gourlencour near Laon in Picardy, and in this he encourages his family to have faith and hope for a better future; subsequently both he and his wife successfully fled from their homeland741.  Like many emigrants, they hoped for a return, but that was not to be.

Robert and Madeline had at least three sons, none of whom seemed to have produced an heir as the title passed to a cousin.  So far as can be determined, their children were:

  1. Daniel David D’Ully De Laval, 25 October 1695742
  2. Louis Fontaine
  3. Joseph, died fighting a French naval squadron
  4. Marianne, who married Abraham Ardesoif, see below.

Abraham Ardesoif I

On July 18th 1694, Abraham De Courteille (Ardesoif) and Marianne D’Ully were married in the French Church, Dublin.  The former is described in the marriage certificate as “Messier Abraham De Courteille Ardesoif, Chevalier, Seigneur (lord) of the said place of Courteiulle, and of Gueriviere in the province of Normandy.  Baliage d’Alancon Captaine, son of Messier Pierre de Courteuil Ardesoif, lord of the said lordship, and of Dame Jeanne Le Comte, his father and mother.  Demoiselle Mary Anne D’Ully daughter of Messier Henry Robert D’Ully, Chevalier, Seigneur Vicomte de la Val and other lands, and lordship of Picardie and of Dame Madeline de Schlandre, her father and mother”.

In the parish register from which the above marriage was taken, Ardesoif is entered, as given, between two brackets (  ).  Could the said Abraham De Courteille Ardesoif, have dropped the last name for some reason or other and the foregoing information regarding Abraham De Courteile, Captain of the Grenadiers refers to him?  If not, then the probability is that the father of Messiere Pierre De Courteiul Ardesoif married and heiress of the Courteiul family and thus became lord of that place.

According to the English Army List 1661-1714, Abraham Ardesoif was appointed a Second Lieutenant on 1 April 1707 and First Lieutenant 9 Feb 1710 in Colonel Joshua Churchill’s Regiment of Marines (the 31st foot).  As with a good number of his contemporaries, he was later appointed a Lieutenant in Sir Harry Goring’s regiment of Foot when it was reformed on 1 June 1715743.

Abraham De Courteiul Ardesoif died in about 1725, leaving his widow Mary Anne and five children in deplorable condition.

Abraham Ardesoif II

Abraham Ardesoif was the son of Abraham and Marianne Ardesoif, he was born in Ireland in approximately 1696. Like his father Abraham Ardesoif joined the army and belonged to Colonel



Richbell’s Regiment of Marines and was promoted to his captaincy in December 1742. He died in Dublin in approximately 1744 leaving a widow and five children in poor circumstances.  His wide, Dinah, daughter of Mr John Plummer of Athlone, died in 1746 and bequeathed any money she possessed of to her three daughters, and but one shilling to her son Abraham, who “tho’ as dear to me as any of my children is in a way of supporting himself, having provision made for him by the will of his late Grandfather, Mr John Plummer, of Athlone744”.  No provision seems to have been made for the youngest son, John Plummer Ardesoif.

While the circumstances of Abraham’s childhood are not known, they may well not have been particularly easy given the financial straits his mother found herself in at the time of her husbands’ death. However by the time he was a young man Abraham seems to be relatively thriving, to the point where whilst attending Trinity College Dublin he became one of the seven founder member of “The Club” a society formed to debate the issues of the day.  Other members included Edmund Burke and a number of peers, suggesting a fairly elite membership.  How serious a member Abraham Ardesoif was of “The Club” is open to question as he seems to have been fond of “stage playing” and was often drunken745.

Dinah (Plummer) Ardesoif wrote her will in Feb 1745 [1745/46?], and she died three months later so might well have been ill at the time, although still in her late 40s.  Although she would have been able to sell Abraham’s commission, he probably had debts nearly to match.  Dinah’s will states that son Abraham, an apprentice, “shall lodge and dyet with my three daughters” however it makes no provisions for John Plummer Ardesoif, why he was not included in the will is not certain.  It might be thought he already was embarked upon a profession, but even if born 1735, he would only be aged 10, at the very minimum age threshold for serving on an RN warship.  What seems most likely is that like his brother Abraham, some additional provision had been made for him, so Dinah did not feel she needed to leave him money.

Abraham and Diana’s daughter, Dinah Ardesoif, is said to have lived in London.  How close she was to her family is open to question, she was certainly not mentioned in any of her brothers numerous letters (which follow).  However the will of Captain Thomas Ardesoif left a legacy of £50 to a Miss Dinah Ardesoif, but there is no clue as to the relationship.  The testator was a bachelor and left the residue to his estate to the children of his dear friend Dr Squire, Bishop of St. Davids.  Isaac Ardesoif (d 1799) does not mention Captain J P Ardesoif or his children in his will.

Captain John Plummer Ardesoif Royal Navy John P Ardesoif (Ireland 1737? – 29 May 1790 London) was the youngest son of Abraham Ardesoif and his wife Diana (nee Plummer). The exact birth date of John Plummer Ardesoif has not yet been found, however, he was commissioned a Lieutenant on 10 Oct 1759 which given he would have probably been between 19 to 24 when he became a Lieutenant, suggest he was born between 1735 and 1740.

John P Ardesoif was raised in Ireland and was married as many as five times.

First to a French lady, a Miss Dufour, by whom he had two children, William and Marianne.  Their mother was living in 1771, but had certainly died by 1778 when John married again.

Marianne Ardesoif Marianne746, the eldest daughter (and child) of Captain John Plummer Ardesoif was christened on 20 May 1772 in Church of England, Parish of Alverstoke, Hampshire, she died 4 May 1865 in Carleton Ontario. Marianne was educated at Mrs Dillon’s school in Athlone and seems to have spent her early years in that town747.  She married in 1795



Thomas Ernst Sproule, son of Joseph and nephew of Captain Tom Sproule of Dublin (and kinsman of her own).   They had seven sons and six daughters, all detailed elsewhere. Marianne died in Carleton County Ontario and is buried in the Merivale United & St. John Anglican Church, Carleton, Ontario. A portrait miniature of her by her son RA Sproule is in the Canadian National Archives, see illustration.

William Stratford Ardesoif William was educated at his Uncle’s academy.  In 1790, he entered the Royal Navy at Plymouth as a midshipman of the “Diana”, under his father’s great friend Captain Thomas MacNarmara Russell (TMR).  This was a reasonably common arrangement, where friends or relations took young officers to sea for training.  The letters from JPA in which he refers to TMR as his “Great friend” suggests intimacy above the normal relationship between serving officers.  In the language of the day and in the naval world which ran on patronage, words such as “affection” and “friendship” where as meaningless in sincerity as the standard salutation of the era: “Your most humble and obedient servant.”*  Even Lord Nelson expressed his “affection” to TMR although, they only served on the same station for three weeks duration. What is certain is that Thomas MacNamara Russell  and John Plummer Ardesoif  had similar backgrounds.  Both were born in Ireland, were grandsons of landed gentry but were impoverished orphans before they were teenagers.

William’s first ship, HMS Diana was a fifth rate frigate with 32 guns. The ship has been paid off at the end of the American War of Independence in Aug 1783, but in Dec 1789 she again was commissioned, fitting out at Plymouth until Mar 1790, then sailing for Jamaica on 14 Mar 1790. According to a letter of Captain Ardesoif’s, his son was “very accomplished, spoke French well, drew beautifully, and fenced beyond belief for his age”, which must have been about 14 or 15 years.  There is a letter in which William writes from board the “Argonaut”† Jamaica (no date) to his aunt begging her to ask his cousins, the two captains Larken’s, to help push him on in his profession in which he was very keen.  He seems to have done well, passing his Lieutenants exams at the relatively early age of 19748.

His career was however to be tragically short as there exists a letter which Captain Penross749 wrote from Halifax on 27th Oct 1796, to William’s sister Marianne.  This told her of poor William’s death, having taken place some short time before at St. Domingo, better known today as Hispaniola and comprises the nations of Haiti (in the west) and the Dominican Republic (in the east).  The Captain speaks of his “excellent disposition and unblemished character, which made him affectionately beloved by all who knew him”.  William sailed last under Captain Ball (in the Argonaut?) who wrote to Captain Penross “of his misfortune in losing our dear young friend Ardesoif and spoke of him as a father would of a beloved son”.  William was about 21 or 22 when he died.

Secondly on 17 Nov. 1778 John Plummer Ardesoif of the parish of St. Martin in the fields, in the County of Middlesex, Widower, and Lucinda Mence of this parish, a Spinster, by Licence.  E. Rouse, Curate.  Witnesses Edmund Bromley, William Swanwick750.  At the time John Ardesoif was a Lieutenant assigned to a Portsmouth Guard ship, so the marriage in London makes sense. By Lucinda he apparently had no children.

* This salutation is still used by officers in the Royal Navy when writing formal letters.

† HMS Argonaut (3rd rate, 64 guns), Captain Alexander John Ball (later Rear-Admiral, Sir Alexander), commanding, the ship was out of commissioned from 1783 until 05 July 1793.  She paid off 31 Oct 1796 just days after WSA was died.


There are confusing records of a third marriage, there are letters which suggest Captain Ardesoif married again prior to 1789, to Elizabeth Gunning.  With Elizabeth Gunning he had a daughter Betty, but his wife appears to have died soon after her birth. Elizabeth was the sister of the Rev Alex Gunning and the Gunning’s are a family from Co Roscommon, near where his daughter Marianne was living.

There is also a record of another marriage on 7 Jan 1790 at St. Marylebone, St. Marylebone Road, London,  viz. John Plummer Ardesoif and Jane Windover.  There is not a birth or baptismal record for his wife unless she is the Jenney Windover, daughter of Nicholas and Jane Windover, baptised 31 Mar 1764, at Basingstoke, Hampshire.

A final marriage may yet have been to a Jane, surname unknown751. She submitted papers to the Charity for the relief of Officers’ Widows [1790].  It would be normal for these submissions to include significant biographical details such as cause and location of death and perhaps even where buried; however, these papers have yet to be consulted and it may be that John Plummer Ardesoif had a pauper’s burial.

Naval Service of Captain John Plummer Ardesoif

A quick note on Royal Naval Officers ranks. Until 1794 there were only three ranks of commissioned officers below nine or ten ranks of Admirals, specifically: Lieutenant, Master & Commander, and Captain.  A lieutenant commanding a ship or vessel was called Lieutenant & Commander; however, that was a position, not a definitive rank (indeed the rank of Lieutenant-Commander was only introduced at the close of the First World War).  Then to confuse the issue, except in matters of rank and pay, a Master & Commander was called a “Captain” although if the ship or vessel also had a Master assigned, in his commission he might be listed as simply “Commander.”

The base pay of a Royal Navy Master & Commander or a Captain in the 1780s was 8 shillings a day for commands of 5th rate frigates and smaller increasing proportionally to one pound a day for command of a 1st rate.  The pay of a Lieutenant was 4 shillings a day except for Lieutenants serving on 1st & 2d rate ships who received 5 shillings a day.  Lieutenants who commanded vessels also received 5 shillings a day.  It was said at the time that one could live like a gentleman for £200 a year, so these rates of pay would have afforded a reasonable life, particularly given that most naval officers were spending considerable amounts of time at sea where spending their money was difficult if not impossible.

In order to qualify for Lieutenant, a candidate must have served at least six years sea duty of which two or more were as a Midshipman or Master’s Mate and be age 20 or older (this latter requirement frequently was ignored).  He then had go before the Lieutenants Passing Board (LPB) and if passed, received his Lieutenant’s Passing Certificate (LPC).  In England, the LPB usually met at the Navy Office off Crutched Friars and was chaired by the Comptroller of the Navy assisted by two very senior RN Captains*.

4th Lieutenant to “Valiant” 4th March 1759, then a brand new ship of the line752. HMS Valiant was not launched until 10 Aug 1759 and did not complete rigging until 9 Oct 1759 so it is probable that newly frocked Lieutenant Ardesoif joining Valiant at Chatham as its 4th and most junior Lieutenant in Oct 1759.

4th Lieutenant to “Torbay”, Plymouth 5 Jan 1760

Lieutenant “Boreas” Plymouth 16 Sept 1765

Lieutenant “Carysfoot” Mediterranean 1767-69                                                       * Similar exams exist to this day and James Richard Sproule passed his “Fleet Board” in September 1987.



1st Lieutenant “Terrible” Plymouth 1770-1773, during which time he published: “An Introduction to Marine Fortifications and Gunnery”753.

1st Lieutenant “Argonaut” left England for Leeward Isles 1775.

1st Lieutenant and Commander “Pelican” Antigua 1776-1778 (superseded)

Promotion was heavily dependent upon one’s “interest” and two things happened when JPA was serving on the Leeward Islands station which were detrimental to his promotion —

First, on 06 Nov 1775 he requested that his Commander in Chief, Vice Admiral James Young try by court martial his Captain, Francis Grant Gordon.  Although Gordon was found partly guilty and consequently was dismissed from command of his ship and lost six months personal pay, it is likely that JPA became “tainted” by this event.

Secondly, by accepting the position of Lieutenant & Commander of HM Armed Brig Pelican JPA may have received some short term financial gains, but he delayed his promotion to Master & Commander.  Of all the Lieutenants in the squadron assigned to the Leeward Islands he was by five years seniority the most senior Lieutenant in the squadron, however, promotion was not based up seniority but generally was from the flagship which contained the Commander in Chief’s “favourite Lieutenants”. Except for assignments (commissions) by Admiralty, the hierarchy of Lieutenants on every ship was a function of seniority and policy was that when a promotion was made, the senior Lieutenant on the ship from which the posting was made would be promoted.  In 1775-1776 there were two cases of which I am aware where the overseas Commander in Chief attempted to promote out of sequence from the flagship.  In the fall of 1775 the Commander in Chief North America, Vice Admiral Samuel Graves promoted his nephew and namesake, then 2d Lieut on the flagship to M&C to the detriment of the 1st Lieut Alex. Graeme, then away on temporary command.  Graeme complained to Admiralty which “fixed the problem” by confirming Graeme’s commission one day in advance of the confirmation of Graves’s commission costing both officers position on the M&C’s seniority list.  In the Leeward Islands, Vice Admiral Young attempted to post his son, then seconf Lieut on the flagship, to M&C Pomona, Sloop.  Admiralty disallowed this commission and posted the flagship’s (HMS  Portland) 1st Lieutenant as M&C Pomona with a date of rank of 19 Feb 1776; however, these orders didn’t reach Antigua for some time as implementation of these orders does appear to have occurred until about 08 May 1776.  This meant that William Young wore the uniform of a M&C and commanded the Pomona for six months before being reverted.

Somewhere in the William Young fiasco, it appears that JPA transferred from 1st Lieut, Argo (28) to Lieut, HMS Hind (24) after 01 July 1776 but before ca. 07 July 1776 when the Hind sailed for St. Kitts to escort the convoy of trade well clear of the islands.

John Plummer Ardesoif achieved Master & Commander of HMS Loyalist, Sloop of War. It was while in HMS Loyalist that he saw considerable action off the Carolina’s during the American Revolutionary war.  There was a fraught encounter with Major James, a American Revolutionary.  By American accounts, JPA confronted the Major, but was knocked back and the Major escaped754. The Loyalist became icebound at New York in the winter 1779-1780 and it was after Feb 1780 when the ice went out of the river.

While John Plummer Ardesoif’s career might have been somewhat hindered by events during the American Revolutionary War, these setbacks were not so sever as to stop his promotion to Capitan on 12th Jan 1782. At that date he was given command of the ship of the line (battleship) HMS Royal Oak (74 Guns) between Sept 1782 and Sept 1783.  During this time he was in command HMS Royal Oak took



part in the Battle of Chesapeake.  The Battle of the Chesapeake, also known as the Battle of the Virginia Capes or simply the Battle of the Capes, was a crucial naval battle in the American War of Independence that took place near the mouth of Chesapeake Bay on 5 September 1781, between a British fleet led by Rear Admiral Sir Thomas Graves and a French fleet led by Rear Admiral François Joseph Paul, the Comte de Grasse. The battle was tactically inconclusive but strategically a major defeat for the British. since it prevented the Royal Navy from resupplying or evacuating the blockaded forces of General Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown, Virginia. It also prevented interference with transport of French and Continental Army troops and provisions from New York to Yorktown. As a result, Cornwallis surrendered his army after the Siege of Yorktown, the second British army to surrender during the war. The major consequence of Cornwallis’s surrender was the beginning of peace negotiations that eventually resulted in British recognition of the independent United States of America.

Letters written by Captain John Plummer Ardesoif to his daughter and other relations.

John Plummer Ardesoif wrote frequently to friends and relations throughout his life. Elizabeth H Fairbrother put together a document in the early part of the 20th century detailing all of these letters; however the original letters themselves have not yet been found.

The first letter is dated 18 Dec 1771 from Gosport and is to his sister Mary Joynt.  At this time he was 1st Lieutenant of the “Terrible” and was stationed at Plymouth (1770-73).  In his letter he apologises for not “bringing her acquainted with the woman of my soul, who would have given you a satisfaction in her acquaintance, beyond what the mode of life will permit me to express, as you know it is not good breeding in Ireland (no more than in France), for a man to praise anything belonging to himself, more especially to his wife”.   At the end he sends “love to my old French woman”.  In the same epistle, he refers to some ingratitude that his sister Hetty (Hester) and “her fantastic husband Larkin” had shown his wife and child.  From this we gather that his first wife, Miss Dufour, who was a French lady was therefore living in 1771, but dead prior to 1778 when he married for a second time.  “Nancy” must refer to his sister Anne, who was the wife of James Smith Auchmuty, brother of Sir Samuel Auchmuty, who has been claimed as the Governor of some place in America.  Whereas Samuel was essentially British, and a very distinguished General Officer, especially in India a longer account of Sir Samuel will be found at the end, but whilst speaking of Anne Auchmuty, her husband’s parentage must be introduced here.

The grandfather of Sir Samuel and his brother James was a distinguished Scots lawyer, who had established himself at Boston in the reign of King William III and his son after being educated at Harvard and Oxford, had become a rector and principle of the Church of England Church in New York, where Sir Samuel was born in 1756.  When the colonies declared war, Dr Auchmuty and his brother, who was a judge at the high court of Admiralty in Boston, at once declared for the King and young Samuel present with the 45th Regiment as a volunteer at the battles of Brooklyn and Whiteplains.  The need of rewarding the loyal colonists caused to be given to young Auchmuty in 1777 and ensigncy and in 1778 a lieutenancy in the 45th regiment without purchase.  On conclusion of peace, Auchmuty went to England with his regiment, but as he could not live there on his lieutenancy pay, he exchanged in 1783 into the 52nd regiment then under orders for India and was at once made Adjutant.

From the above we may also conclude James Smith Auchmuty was also born in America, and owing to their adherence to the King, the Auchmuty family probably had to come home, when no doubt Anne met her future husband and later they returned to America.

Now to return to Captain Ardesoif’s letter dated Dec 18th 1771.  He sends his “respectful compliments” to his sisters mother, meaning no doubt her husband’s for their own mother died in 1746.  His favourite



nephew was John Larken, but later his brother Robert was more in favour and it was the later who served under Captain Vanderput.  Mrs Angilque De Courteille must have been some relation.

The next letter is from his sister Anne Auchmuty*.  Written to her brother from New York in Dec 1782 and in it she refers to his second wife Lucinda Mence, who he had married in London in November 1778.  Who is the Captain Sproule she mentioned?  She asks “does anyone in little Athlone remember Ann Ardesoif who was?  If there is, offer my comforts etc.  Various are the [compliments] I am charged with for you – Mr and Mrs Foliot, Great Bob and the Lord knows who, but I must lump them or my paper wont hold out”.

Unfortunately a gap of 10 years occurs between the foregoing two letters and 18 years between Capt Ardesoif’s letter of 1771 and his next dated 1789.  But the following letter is from the Captains great friend T M Russell (afterwards Admiral Thomas MacNamara Russell, died 1834) written from Croydon in 1786, in which he sends his compliments to Thomas Sproule (Captain RN).

In a second latter dated 4 August 1786 he says:

My dear Fellow

I wrote mistakenly to Prouse, he was absent at Plymouth, on his return he told me he wrote to you by Captain Maddot and likewise by Post; and I had nothing then material to communicate, I was silent, but now I hope I have.  Mommett, who commands the “Champion” on the Scotch station, is just arrived from Caen, and desired me to tell you that some person died there, whose fortune (amounting to 800 Louis per annum) devolved to either you, or your children.  And that Monsieur Amiel, the Surgeon, told him so Amiel added that you had been often written to on this head, but they could not hear from you. As you know my affection for you, and are D-d with as much sensibility as most mortals you will easily conceive my joy on this formulation – and should it not be true, what my disappointment will cost me.  I wrote this instantly on parting from Donnett.  Prowse and family send their love…. Your same affectionate

T M  Russell

A sister of Captain Ardesoif’s first wife, must have been the first wife of Dr Amiel, as in his letter of Aug 4th 1789, the Captain mentions (to his daughter) her “two charming” cousins Madelline Amiel and Camilla Dufour, who have the sweetest voices I have ever heard and are considered by judges to be perfect” (Musicians).  The following description of Camilla Dufour, eight years later, taken from an old magazine, will prove interesting.

“October 18th 1797 – Miss Dufour, who formerly sung at Solomon’s Concerts, appeared the first line at Drury Lane, in the Character of Adela, in the Haunted Tower.  She is a pleasing singer, but at the present cannot be estimated high enough to take the lead in musical province.  Her voice is sweet and she appears to understand music.  Her ear is good, but also has not enough power for so large a theatre.  Her figure is low and not elegant and as an actress she has much to acquire before she can be held in any great degree of estimation in any other light than as a vocal performer”.

* From a Gravestone at Athlone: Here lieth the body of Anne Auchmuty, who departed this life on the 14th of April 1810 in the 74th year of her age.  This stone was erected by her faithful servant and friend Benjamin Carter”.  (Does this refer to Anne Ardesoif = Auchmuty?)



According to Chancery suit – Dufour vs. Sheridan, she is described as Camilla Dufour of Frith Street Soho, Middlesex, Spinster.  That she “possessing vocal and other abilities adapted for singing and performing on the stage and being willing and desirous to engage herself to suit and perform at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, was about September 1797 applied to by or on behalf of Richard Brinsley Sheridan Esq. Joseph Richardson Esq. and John Grubb Esq. Proprietors and Patentees of the said theatre to sing, play and perform for four several successive years or seasons and she was to receive £6 for each week during the first 4 successive seasons and also £7 by and for each week during the season in and during the second season of such from successive seasons and likewise the clear full sum of £8 by and for each and every week during the third of such four successive seasons and lastly the full and clear sum of £10 by and for each week during the fourth and last of such successive seasons … and that it was further mutually agreed … that your oratrix should have been entitled to one beneficial night at the said Theatre Royal during each of such four successive seasons for her own sole use and advantage, or should be entitled to have receive for the Proprietors the full and clear sum of £80 in case your oratrix was willing to accept the same in lieu of her said benefit … That in pursuance of the said public appearance your oratrix made her first public appearance at the said Theatre Royal sometime in October 1797, afterwards regularly attended there during the first two of such four successive seasons to give and perform in such characters and at such times as she was required and your oratrix further shaweth that on the 6th of September 1799 without any previous intimation from the said Richard Brinsley Sheridan and co. she received a certain note or notice in the following words or figures: “Theatre Royal Drury Lane Sept 6th 1799, Madame I am directed by the Proprietors to inform you that they do not consider you as engaged at this theatre.  I am William Powell, Proprietor”.

That your oratrix elected to receive the sum of £80 in lieu of a benefit night and that there is due to her on such account as well as arrears of salary and other matters upwards of £400*.

Captain Ardesoif in his letter of 17th March 1789, gives a good description of the arrival of a typical Irishman in London, “without a second coat, a third shirt, without but two guinea’s in his pocket, not knowing a soul in this country” (excepting this writer).  Had I been out of the way, even at Croydon with my dear friend Russell, or with the Admiral at Mitcham†, he might have starved before he could find me out, as no man here would discount a stranger bill.  After sharing my bed with him, and giving him £31.10.00 in bank notes and gold out of my pocket for a bill of 21 days on a Robert Droughtby Esq. No 48 Bishop Street Dublin, and another of Athlone, but no name…  Here we get a glimpse at the warm hearted generosity and kindness of the dear old Captain, so that it is not surprising he was so much beloved by those friends, whose letter to him have been preserved.

The Irishman who arrived so unexpectedly was a Mr Wilder, who seems to have been a suitor for the hand of Marianne.  But her father having discovered some vein of madness in the Wilder family, congratulates her on his having done so.

Then follows a very graphic and amusing account of a “ruction” at the Castle, Hampstead Heath (where Captain Ardesoif then lodged) in which his small son William comes to his father’s rescue by going manfully for Mr Wilder.

“Here follows the history of this day week Sunday the 10th March 1789”.

* A second suit has been found of a date nearly 40 years earlier than the one quoted and also of a Camilla Dufour who must have been the grandmother (as she was married in 1745) of Camilla Dufour the singer.  It proved a most interesting suit, mentioning numerous Huguenot names.

† Who was this admiral?



Mr Wilder was accidentally introduced by a French gentleman of my acquaintance to a Mr Hamilton (a famous printer) of my acquaintance also, whose country house is not a mile from hence.  Mr Hamilton immediately on seeing Mr Wilder exclaimed “you are the son of my friend Dr Wilder for whom I undertook (Wilder Newton) that all the printers in London and Dublin had refused.  It paid me well, I respect your father.  Come to my house and we will be Irish for one day and every Sunday or Holly day while you stay here, Captain Ardesoif and you shall command my house, my cellar and my carriage.  He accepted the invitation as also did my French friend (who is much respected there)

Mr Wilder not content with the unbounded hospitality and friendship of my friend Mr Hamilton, put no limits to his improper conduct, calling for more and more wine, which he was indulged in to an immodest degree.

Hamilton and Mousieur Barbache being able to drink more than Mr Wilder, he was obliged to be helped home by Mr Hamilton’s servants and the French gentleman, who is a strong lusty young man, that would make no mean appearance in the King’s Horse Guards.

On the way to my castle, otherwise Jack Straw’s, he took it into his head to show his gratitude to Mr Hamilton by beating his livery servant and insulting my French friend.  On this happy day, I fortunately excused myself to Mr Hamilton and dined with an elderly gentlemen whose lady and family are on a visit in his son’s in a distant part of Hartfordshire.  I drank my pint of wine after dinner with my worthy old friend, Mr Symonds, went to church and returned to habitation at 7, drank tea and nothing stronger until after the bloody scene between Wilder and your humble servant unavoidably happened as follows:  William and I were chatting with the Mrs of the castle and her sister when Wilder arrived, he was announced by Oaths and imprecations damming your father for not being at the party.  William and I hid, his violence reverted to the women and servants of the house, damning and blasting and cursing everybody in it, calling the women by every abominable name he could invent, saying that Captain Ardesoif was in the house, he was proceeding to break open the door of every room in the house to find me.  The women expostulated with him and told him that if it was not for the respect that she had for Captain Ardesoif, that she would send him to prison for his bad behaviour and that Mt Jones, who he had lodged with before, would have done the same and that one of the Princes of the Blood Royal was liable to be punished for half of what he had done, since his arrival at Hampstead Heath.  He flew at the widow Parker and the Mrs of the house, do stick her: she called to Captain Ardesoif, I flew to her assistance.  I took him by the collar and thought to pacify him, but instead of appeasing him, he made a blow at me with his fist, which was the cause of my striking him under the right ear with my fist.  Which tumbled him to the floor and set his nose and mouth to bleed, which closed up his blow ports.  The women dragging me from him with all their might exposed me to several kicks and bruises.  But while they were dragging me off, my little champion William began a second attack and did him up completely.  The conclusion of this night scene was curious to the highest degree.  While William was pelting Wilder, Mrs P and her sister dragging me off two maids with candles attending, enters Mr Oslter, a stout honest fellow ready for action 2nd a dragoon from the Oxford Blues, with nothing but his breeches on 3rdly an Adonis of a waiter saying “oh dear oh dear, Master William don’t kill the gentleman”.  However, Mr Oslter the trooper the tender hearted waiter Patty Clocer and Polly Pallens put the straight jacket on; and forced the unfortunate patient to bed.  He spent the remainder of the night less disturbed, was quite next morning and at noon was quite calm. When he wrote the enclosed letter which I insist upon you to keep as the apple of your eye as we do not know where his madness may end.



I have just shown your letter (of 1789) to Wilder to Captain Russell which met with his highest approbation, but what was my surprise, when he produced two from Wilder, expressing all the contrition, humility and regret in losing my friendship, in both of which he expresses his love to you.  And is it not strange that even Russell, is an advocate and mediator for even the poor mad Wilder.  However should he write to you, answer none of his letter without my knowledge”.

At the end of this long letter we get the first mention of little Betty, the child of his third wife Eliza Gunning*, so that Captain Ardesoif second wife did not survive more than 10 years of matrimony, if that.  Poor little Betty was born afflicted, probably with infantile paralysis, or something which ought to have received surgical aid, but her father forbade the Mrs Gunning with whom the child lived to allow any surgeon to come near her†.

The Gunning family of St. John’s Le Carrow County Roscommon, were of the same stock as the two beautiful Misses Gunning of Castle Coote, County Roscommon, who on their arrival in London at once became famous‡.

Now the Rev. Alexander Gunning, who died in 1793, was the grandfather of Mr Alex Gunning living in 1909 at St. John’s.  The said Rev Alex Gunning had two sons, both of whom were in the church, and one daughter Elizabeth who was unmarried May 30th 1789 when her father signed his will, therefore she cannot have been Captain Ardesoif’s wife.  So it would only be by seeing the wills of the Rev Alex Gunning and his brother the Rev George Gunning that the parentage of the Captain’s third wife could be obtained.  This wife apparently died about the time of little Betty’s birth.

Captain Ardesoif enquires after his trees “which I look upon as planted for my children.  How is Mr Waldron and Bonna Villa§?  My grove if birch where my Hermitage is to stand?  May the Great God of Heaven bless you, my dear Daughter”.

Throughout her father’s letters, poor Marianne is continually being found fault with, for writing untidily, giving no news, never dating her letters, spelling very badly, using inferior paper, and for not writing closely, so as to also leave plenty of room for news!  “My dear little Women, do not write to me on such bad paper, spare no expense in that article, or in your wax, for I am sorry to say the Mr Trish in General, do not pay attention to those particulars”.  (There does not seem to be any improvement in that respect, in the 20th century!)  Then the Captain goes on to say, that he is expecting “William to meet me at his uncle William’s in Berwick Street at once.  You have a lovely and accomplished cousin there, but I do not believe you remember her.  Indeed I may say that she is not only a beautiful Brunette, but mistress of all he polite accomplishments, musick on various instruments, painting &c &c &c.”  What was the Uncle’s surname?  Was he a Dufour?  Probably it was after him that William got his first name (after whom did he get the name Stratford?) and perhaps this was the uncle at whose Academy he was educated.

The Captains next letter is undated!  In it he states the difficulty he experiences in getting William into an active station and remarks that “A war would be of great use to many and particularly to me, but alas!                                                        * Said to be the daughter of a Clergyman.

† Letters at the time stated “Poor little Betty was born afflicted”, this was probably with infantile paralysis, or something which should have received surgical attention. One is not born with infantile paralysis but rather “catches it” via the nasal passages like the common cold. John Ardesoif’s forbidding any surgeon to come near her was probably a result of a bad experience related to “surgeons.”  Naval surgeons were a “mixed bag” of competent and incompetents and a bad surgeon or two certainly could have set him against surgeons as a group.

‡ One marrying the Duke of Hamilton, and after his death the Duke of Argylle, the other the Earl of Coventry.

  • His house in Ireland



There is no prospect of any kind in my favour.  William and I began bathing this morning, for to say I have been at Margate without taking the benefit of the sea, would be like going to Rome and not see Celebration of Mass.

France is in a flame and I believe it will take some time and cost many lives before good order is established.  … William and I shall return to Hampstead Heath in a day or two, where you may direct for me, but not to Mr Ardesoif, as I do not live with him now in the Town of Hampstead, but at the Castle Hampstead Heath, or if you will direct for me to the Hungerford (a coffee house on the Strand) it will do as well”.

The Mr Ardesoif, to whom the reference is here made and elsewhere, the Captain calls him, “my friend Ardesoif”, must be a Mr Isaac Ardesoif, who died at Hampstead in November 1799 aged 87 years and was formerly a merchant in London.  But his relationship to Captain J P Ardesoif, has yet to be ascertained.

In his letter dated August 4th 1789 from the Hungerford, the Captain says, “I have been all this week in constant attendance on Madame Amiel and your two very accomplished and lovely cousins (cette a dine) Mademoiselle Amiel and Camilla Dufour, they have the sweetest voices I have ever heard and considering by judges perfect of music.  Your uncle from France seems to me a worthy honest man.  He says that there is nearly one hundred Guineas due to me and that you and William will have twenty pounds sterling a year for ever, in right of your mother … I am very much displeased with the careless manner of your writing … Give me good writing and some interesting information for my ten pence.  I am much obliged to my Athlone friends who have married me already.  I do not say that I never will, but I give you my word of honour it is the least of my thoughts at present.  I am exceedingly sorry for poor Dan Hodson, I had great respect for him.  You never once mentioned his father in any of your letter and very seldom your aunt or cousins, if you would write less straggling you would have full room for every necessary information.”  The Dan Hodson here referred to died about 1789. He was the grandson of Daniel Hodson (d 1781), who married the poet Goldsmiths sister Catherine, and the son of William Hodson of St. John’s (d 1794) by his first wife Mary Longworth and their daughter Elizabeth (Dan’s sister) married a Gunning.

The Hodson’s intermarried with the Sproule’s, Longworth’s and Gunning’s and those three families had also intermarried considerably amongst themselves, so that it would be difficult to say what relationship existed amongst them all!  Also Rev. Alex Gunning (d 1793) was brother in law of Daniel Hodson who died in 1781.

The Captain goes on to say in the same letter, that “the party now on a visit at your uncle’s in the city, is your Uncle Dolumbut, a French Abbe, Madame Amiel, Miss Amiel, a Monsieur Suille et sa fille” (This ought to be et son fils) David is also returned from France, so that there is not one word of English spoke at the table, nor at school.  (This uncle in the city is probably Uncle William.)  He sends his love to his sister (Hester?) “and my two cousins (?)”  I am in better health than I have been in these 20 years, but I am obliged to wear spectacles to read, but particularly so when I am favoured with a letter from you” (!)

The next of Captain Ardesoif’s letter is dated 2nd September 1789, and is written from No 17 Store Street, near Bedford Square.  In it he begins by stating how happy he is “in receiving frequent testimony’s of Duty and tender affection from the best of Daughters.”  Your dear brother too gives me every satisfaction that a father can expect from a son; he is no longer considered by me as a boy, he is my friend and companion.  He and his cousin David conducted my things and placed them with me in my new lodgings, where I intend to winter and in the Spring you may expect me in Ireland or you will come to see me” …



“Your Uncle Pierre Jacque Defour, Mrs Amiel a lovely woman, and you much admired and charming cousin Amiel are all retuned to France, much to my regret.  Thee were wet eyes on both sides at our parting.  The dear Mrs Amiel is not mother to your cousin, but Dr Amiel’s second wife.  I attended her all the time she was in London and showed her everything that a foreign Lady could wish to see in this wonderful city.  I am apt to think, if I by any means can make it convenient that I shall pass a month with them in the spring.  Your uncle also behaved very well, took my power of Attorney to transact our business in France and has promised to remit me fifty guineas in part of what is due. … I have passed a very agreeable summer, that my bathing in the sea at Margate has given me a renovation of Health, Vigour, Youth and Spirits.  Billy was with me at the sea and liked it much, he desires his love to you”.

The Captain’s letter of 15 September 1789, is also written from Slore Street.  In it he expresses his surprise at the marriage of his niece, “little Rose Joynt”, with Lieutenant Anthony Lennon and congratulates her on having such a worthy lad as her husband.  Mary Ardesoif married Mr James Joynt of Hollymount, County Galway and Rose was their only daughter, but they had sons viz Captain Galbraith Joynt.  John Plummer Joynt married Elizabeth Lancaster, cousin of the Earl of Clancarty and had one son* and many daughters.  Andrew Joynt married and had a son James Joynt who married 1st Thomasina Lennon, his cousin, she died shortly after and was buried in Boyle.  Secondly he married another cousin, Sarah Lancaster Joynt, one of the daughters of John Plummer Joynt and they had a son James Dudley Joynt who was in 1909 in Ottawa, whose family consists of three sons, John Perse, Edward Lancaster and Leonard Galbraith and two daughters viz Florence Agusta who married C A Kirley and Laura Isabel, the name therefore runs in this line.  Mr James Dudley Joynt, who kindly furnished the foregoing information regarding the Joynt pedigree, states that the Trenches, Joynt’s and Plummer’s were driven from France for conscience sake, as were the Ardesoif’s who were Huguenots.  But the others were British (?) what were they doing in France?  And how long were they resident there?

To return to the letter of 15th of September 1789, Mrs Holmes and Mrs Meacham, to whom reference is made, appear to have been friends of the Lennon’s.  Catherine, the 2nd daughter of William Hodson (who married Mary Longworth) married George Meacham Esq. and no doubt is the Mrs Meacham of whom the Captain speaks.

Marianne is given permission “to live where you can be happy under your present circumstances.  I am sorry I cannot enlarge them.  I can give you no fortune while I live.  I have had no remittance from France as yet; but am in daily expectation of a sum.  Your brother’s expenses are now nearly equal to my own.  I pay two guineas a month for his fencing and I pay as much for his education and board to his uncle, as if he were at any Academy in London.  Therefore I have nothing to spare.  You know I have remitted £30 to Mt Boswell to help to pay my debts in Athlone.  I am therefore poor enough and cannot think of returning until everybody is satisfied, as I cannot stand any demands on my return.  I scarcely or ever had two days gout since I left Ireland.  I am in the best of health I have had for many years”.  He sends his love to Marianne’s aunt (Hester Larkin) and her two cousins John and Robert Larkin and their family.  To my honest dear Tom Sproule (Captain RN) and Mrs Mary Donnelly”.  Apparently this was the Captain Tom Sproule (later) of Dublin, whose nephew Thomas Sproule married Marianne Ardesoif and Mrs Donnelly was sister of the said Captain Thomas of Dublin.  She married Captain Donnelly, brother of Admiral Sir Ross Donnelly KCB and the last named is the Ross Donnelly (and his little woman) whom Captain Ardesoif was expecting to see in London, when he wrote.  Sir Ross Donnelly died at an advanced age in October 1840.

* He had a large family of four sons, one of them was in 1909 a lawyer in Fitzroy Ave, Belfast Ireland who married when aged 60.  None of the others appear to have married as far as is known.



Marianne is advised to apply to Ross, Robert Larken and Tom Sproule for advice.  She is also warned not to form any intimacy with any man whatever, except it is done with the consent of the young man’s family and her father’s.

The next letter is written from No 75 Margaret Street, Cavendish Square and bears the date 15 January 1790, so for some reason Captain Ardesoif was unable to remain in Slore Street for the winter.  He says “our darling boy is now at Plymouth, Midshipman of the “Diana” with our dear friend Captain Russell who is going on the Jamaica station for three years.  I have the happiness to say that no gentleman’s son ever went out with a finer prospect of success.  He is completely educated for his war like and noble profession.  He speaks French well, he draws beautifully.  He fences beyond belief for his age.  He has gone through a course on Mathematics and in short is in every respect an accomplished gentleman”.  Captain Ardesoif expects his “brother in law” James Joynt to assist Mr Boswell in setting all his business in and about Athlone”.  If a remittance arrived soon from France, he hoped to take his daughter to Caen for a few weeks, as he longed to see that country again before he died.

Now we come to apparently the only letter extant of Lieut. William Stratford Ardesoif RN, written to his aunt (Hester Larken?) from Jamaica where he was stationed on board the “Argonaut”.  At this time he was a Lieutenant and anxious for a bigger command than he had already.  But hoping for this, it did not mean he was expecting his Captaincy at the time of his death, which occurred some six years after entering service.  For he was much too junior for that and should have had to hold the posts of “master” and “Commander” for some years prior to being made a Captain.  He petitions his aunt to ask Jack and Robert Larkin (who are both Captains) to write a letter “to their friends if it would not retard their promotion, would be of great service to me.  I only wish them to say I am their cousin, but if they have the least idea that it would throw them back, I should not wish them to try, as it would do us all no good”.  William states that Admirals Vanderbilt and Murry and Sir Andrew Hommam have promised to help him, so he appears to have, as he says, a good deal of interests at his back.  Earlier in the letter he mentions having written to Marianne, also to do her utmost to push him on in the service.  He says “… situated as I am at the present, I am under no obligation to my father’s friends, Though I should not wish to tell them so. If we never ask them for a favour, they will never come forward to give and a gentle refusal can never do any harm, so if the worst comes, I still have the honour of remaining a Lieutenant in H M Service.”

On 22nd April 1792, Captain Ardesoif writes from London to his kinsman Lieutenant Thomas Sproule RN living at Athlone (he was later Captain Thomas Sproule of Dublin) and “my dear Mary”, no doubt the Captain’s sister.  He says, “My continuance here is uncertain , as I have only done part of my French business.  Let public broils go on there as they may, I am pretty safe.  The French Ambassador here signed officially all my papers and Power of Attorney as soon as presented, with every approbation, which secures my interest in the French court.  My being a Huguenot secures me the National Interest of the States General, so I am in some measure easy.  My agent there is one of the Established Church of France and brother to my first wife who has acted very honourably by his Protestant brother here and me also.  He says they have received a great part of their share of the ready money and I have received none, that I shall be first paid.  It is not possible to determine as yet whether Protestant forfeited Estates, for religion, in Louis XVth persecution, will be restored of not.  If that should be the case, I leave my children a very comfortable life”.  He requests that father Casy should teach Marianne to spell (as well as other things).  “The want of spelling in a boarding school mistress is unpardonable.”  He desires to be remembered to G Sproule and all friends at Monksland.”

William Sproule (1674-1751) and his wife Mary had three sons, Samuel, George and William, all of whom died in 1806.  G Sproule referred to is George Sproule of Athlone, who apparently died a bachelor for he



bequeathed to his nephew Solomon Sproule of Dublin the lease of the house in Athlone, which he “held from John Plummer Esq., late of Athlone, deceased”.  He was a Quaker, as was also his brother William, who seems to have been a fairly wealthy man.  He, William, speaks of his estate Mount William, or Monksland in the County Roscommon, also of his estate Arcadia, otherwise Creganfanlagh in the County Westmeath and bequeaths between three and four thousand pounds among his children.  He married Elizabeth Watson who predeceased him.

On the 16th of March 1792, Captain Ardesoif writes to his daughter and in his letter speaks of spending most of his time by himself “an odd transition from his former way of living.  I received a summons to attend the great festival of my titular Saint, which is to be held at London Tavern tomorrow.  Lord Rawdon in the chair, where all the Irish nobility and gentry will attend. … It was not lately that I could withstand such temptation, but I hope God will enable me to conquer many more of my passions by degrees.  I am now recovered and better in health than I have been these many years.  The weather is severe, and my going to town would be imprudent, as a relapse might prove more dangerous and troublesome than what I have suffered.  However I will wear a Shamrock in my hat and drink prosperity to Ireland by myself” … “I am staying here on my half pay, William is at his Uncle’s academy” (Presumable then the latter was home on leave) “You and he will have no more than eighteen pounds per annum from France in Right of your mother, but there is near £100 now due.”  He sends his compliments to Captain and Mrs McMullen and my love to your aunt and cousins of Monklands (William Sproule’s family). And again mentions Marianne’s “Aunt Nancy”, who no doubt was his sister Anne.  “Give my love to Eliza Lisels, Court Devenish &c &c”

William Hodson of Athlone who died in 1770, left to his three unmarried daughters the lease of the house in which he lived in Court Devenish, which he held from Mr Robert Hancock for 3 lives or 31 years.

Olivia Hodson, widow of William Hodson of Athlone Gent, who died in 1779, was a Miss Manners and her sister Sarah married her husband’s brother, John Hodson.  To this Sarah Hodson, Olivia leaves “all the houses and gardens of which I am seized in the place called Court Devenish, in the town of Athlone”

Captain Ardesoif thus ends his letter, “If I eventually pray this night that God may bless you William and little Betty, and that the almightily Lord restore my dear child to perfect use of her limbs and that she may be a comfort to me in my old age, is the prayer of your tenderly affectionate and loving father”.

Here follows a long letter, without a proper beginning, or it may be only a postscript to the foregoing letter, but he ends it as if it were a fresh epistle.  It begins in French and he speaks of a Mr Sterne and asks Marianne news as soon as possible after her arrival at Mr Galbraith’s.  He also bemoans the fact that he is going to lose a child, who having grown so dear to him, he feels all the more (referring to Marianne’s marriage).  Billy is no longer with him and little Betty is in such a state, he trembles for her and sees no other prospect for himself, than later dying amongst strangers and no child near him.

The Captain was continually moving from place to place for better air and relief from asthmatic complaint that I have laboured under ever since the night your poor mother was carried to St. John’s* all that was dear to me in Ireland lies there except yourself as I do not count on Betty, I shall say nothing of her, until I hear she is over all danger.  Should I get a settlement in life, I will send for you or go for you myself and perhaps for the last time embrace that dear and only pledge I have left of a beloved woman who was a patron of virtue, honour and religion to her sex.  I did not choose to get my dear Angel who (I

* Does he not mean Betty’s mother?



am confident) is now in heaven of the suffering of my darling little Betty.  Therefore tell Mrs Gunning I request that she will not suffer a surgeon to come near my child, let God work his will with her, and as soon as the weather permits her to be bathed.  If the spring beattie has not the desired effect, I will have her sent to Galbraith’s Lodge near the sea in the autumn while he family are there.  In all probability I may pay a visit thee in the later end of the summer, and in that case shall take Betty with me.  But do not by this suppose that I ever intend to make Ireland my residence until my affairs here are settled to my satisfaction.

In French he states he has a thousand things to communicate to Marianne of himself, but there is not enough time to tell them to her.  Then he says “I have taken airy lodgings at the castle on Hampstead Heath, as it is a high situation than the town.  Through I generally live with my friend Ardesoif I love a place to retire to, a sweet room which commands the most lovely prospect, for card parties and Routs have fairly surfeited me.  I was at a wedding supper last night, about 40 people of great fortune, no pride and all pleasantness, much musick elegance and mirth.  I have for sometime left off touching spirits of any find my hand is now steady my head cool and my heart sound, but the smoke of London does not agree with my chest, I am therefore obliged to fly from it. … My affectionate regards to Mrs Gunning and tell her I am assured she did everything for the best.  Remember me to Miss Browne and all friends.  In a few months I flatter myself a very great change will take place in my affairs.  The Regency is settled but not so generously as his Royal Highness friends and I could wish.  Never the less, I am flattered as well as many many thousands with the hopes of His Majesty’s recovery*.  God grant it and that my dear girl and my little child is well is the prayer of your loving father.

John P Ardesoif

Send your letters constantly to the Hungerford coffee house in the Strand as I change my situation often I am sure to find them there.

This is the last of the dear old Captain’s letters, letters which we have grown to love and which must have been so characteristic of the affectionate and generous hearted old man.  His letters were always brimming over with news, or with daily incidents, most graphically described.  Why are there not more forthcoming, for he lived at least 12 years longer.  It seems extraordinary that the last ten years of his life are shrouded in obscurity, specially as his daughter survived, also he must have been a very clever, popular and distinguished officer.  Between Captain Ardesoif’s last letter of 1792, there is a gap of 4 years in the bundle of old letters and then comes one from Captain Penross which was written at the request of Admiral Murry, who is ill, to Marianne, to acquaint her with her brother’s death having taken place at San Domingo in 1796.

On 18th November 1806 Marianne writes from Athlone to some naval officer (probably Admiral Russell) stating that she had written to him two years previously, but had received no reply and therefore concluded that her letter had never reached him.

“For I cannot for a moment suppose your silence proceeded from disrespect, or inattention to the only surviving child of your once friend Ardesoif, who had he not known you to posses in a very eminent degree every amiable quality, would never have taught me to consider you in case of the fatal event of his death, as the brother of his heart, to look to you for advice and in short to solicit in his name from you the protection of a father.  And though the distance at which fate has placed us both in point of rank, I have never failed to regard you in that endearing light.  But I hope that God has

* ‘Mad’ King George III



blessed you with a daughter indeed who will make it as I did the delightful duty of her life to contribute to your happiness.  I have married a nephew of Tom Sproule’s of the Navy, whom you know and am truly blessed with a kind and affectionate husband and five children.  But my fortune is very limited for I have (owing to my being female) lost the inheritance of my father and my husband who was brought up to the sea has forsaken his way of life finding it very inconvenient to a large family and as he understands nothing of traffic we are obliged to live just on our own income.  I did once indeed apply to Admiral Dakenham whom I knew to be under no trifling compliment to my father requesting him to procure him a place in the Revenue or Ordnance of which he was Master General, but he choose not to answer me.  My aunt Auchmuty lives with me and looks remarkably well at her years.  She desires to be affectionately remembered to you.  I have not words to express my gratitude to Sir Alex (?) Lehomberg of his kindness in finding out my brother’s agent and endeavouring to procure a proper settlement of his affairs.  Had it not been for him, I think I should not have received any money due to my brother for pay of prize money, as it is I fear I have not been fairly dealt with by Mr McBean, the purser of the Argonaut.  He acknowledges himself to owe me some money, but though Sir Andrew Hamilton who was so kind as to write to him on the subject, he seems very reluctant to pay.  This letter will be forwarded by a Mr Davenport of the Royal George who is a near relation of Lieutenant Joynt, who is a first cousin of mine and though I have not had the pleasure of a personal acquaintance with him he bears an exceedingly good character.  He has lost his naval interest by death and could I flatter myself that you still little Marianne with affection I would coax you to countenance him, as I have a particular attachment to his friend.  If you do remember him, it will be laying me under a vast obligation.  I know that my letter is tedious and too particular, I trust to your friendship for an excuse and remain with the highest respect and esteem. My dear Sir

Your truly affectionate

Marianne Sproule

This brings us to the last of the letters written by an Ardesoif.  But there were a few letters which were written between the years 1776 and 1779 by Charles Mence, a young Marine officer to Captain Ardesoif.  For the most part, letters of a love sick swain!  However they are so far interesting as he became in 1778 brother in law to Captain Ardesoif who married in Nov 1778 Lucinda Mence and on the 20th of the same month, Charles writes from Rochester to congratulate his friend upon his nuptials.  The Mence’s lived in Tavistock Street and the family consisted of Mr and Mrs Mence and their three daughters: Lucy, Bessy and Sally and their son Charles.



The Country Tyrone Sproules There are a number of fragments of Ulster Sproule family trees, these mostly start with the settlement of Ulster in the first half of the seventeenth century and continue on through the nineteen century.  Extensive work on how these branches fit together was done by Fred Sproule, and published in 1991 as “A Sproule Family of Ireland and Canada”; that there are still omissions and more work to be done goes without saying.

John Inch (1795 – 1873), a Sproule on his mother’s side, claimed a Robert Sproule from Scotland came to the Castlederg area in 1650 and settled on the town land* of Golan755. Today there is no town land in the vicinity of Castlederg that bears just the name of “Golan”. There are, however, three townlands respectively named Golan Sproul, Golan Hunter and Golan Adams located south-east of Castlederg. It would seem that the original Golan was at some date divided into three parts. If the division occurred in the 1700s or the early 1800s, John Inch would have been correct to use the name Golan when referring to the 1600s.

What John Inch may not have known is that there are documents of the 1700s that show that for a time the name “Golan” was interchangeable with the name “Drumnabey”. Modern maps show that a town land named Drumnabey borders on a portion of Golan Hunter. One would think that the present Drumnabey is a portion of the older Drumnabey that also included the three Golan’s.

The Location of the Three Golan’s

In Co. Tyrone there is a town land, otherwise called Liscreevaghan, located about 6 miles east-north-east of Castlederg. On its north-east, Clady Sproul borders the Mourne River. The town land is 113 acres, 2 roods, 8 perches in area. Also in Co. Tyrone is a town land named Golan Sproul. It lies just south-east of Castlederg. Golan Sproul is 180 acres, three roods and 15 perches in area.

At its closest point, Golan Sproul lies just under two-thirds of a mile south-east of the centre of the little town of Castlederg. The northern border of Golan Sproul fronts the River Derg for about one-third of a mile. A detailed modern map shows that the shallow stream may be crossed on stepping stones at this location. From north to south, Golan Sproul extends about one and one-quarter miles and as previously stated, contains 180 acres, 3 roods and 15 perches.

Golan Hunter and Golan Adams adjoin the northern portion of much of the eastern boundary of Golan Sproul. Golan Hunter is 77 acres, 2 roods and 7 perches in area. Golan Adams has an area of 86 acres, 1 rood and 24 perches. If the Robert Sproule of “Golan” actually held what is now the three Golan’s and the present town land of Drumnabey, the combined holdings totalled 757 acres and 38 perches.

The three Golan’s and the present Drumnabey all lie within the parish of Ardstraw. In earlier times the Parish of Ardstraw appears to have been called the parish of the Skirts of Urney and Ardstraw. The surviving records of the parish of Urney and of the Parish of Ardstraw, whether they be of the Church of Ireland or of the Presbyterian Church, do not go back far enough to provide information about the early generations of Sproules.

A Link to Renfrewshire, Scotland?

* Rural Ireland is made up of thousands of irregularly shaped areas of land of varying sizes. These areas are called town-lands and ordinarily have nothing to do with towns. In rural Ireland the townland you live on constitutes your address.



Previous chapters have dwelt at length on a Sproules of (Cowdon) near Neilston in Renfrewshire.  John Inch, previously quoted, is the source of a claim that Robert Spreul of Golan, Co. Tyrone, came from a place called “Cowdonknowes” in Scotland. The word “knowes” means “hill”, an appropriate name for some portion of the Coldoun estate.* The name “Cowdonknowes”, however, never appears in any record dealing with the Coldoun property, the only property of that name being in eastern Scottish borders.  A reference book on heraldic seals assigns a seal of a hawk grasping a partridge to a Sproule of Cowdonknowes, Haddingtonshire.†  Haddintonshire was later known as East Lothian and it lies to the east of Edinburgh. James Richard Sproule visited Cowdenknowles and spoke to the present owners in 2007, they had done extensive research on the house and had no record of it ever being owned by any member of the Sproule family.

Cowden itself is on a hill, so it may well be that the name refers to the Renfrew Cowden, the ‘hill’ being a descriptor rather than a reference to the East Lothian Cowdenknowles.  There are, however, other reasons to support a belief that the Robert Sproul of Scotland who settled at Golan could have been closely related to the last one or two generations of the Sproule family that held the Coldoun property in Renfrewshire. One source states, although direct supporting evidence is lacking, that Robert acquired about nine townlands near Castlederg, Co. Tyrone. In area they would have totalled about 3,000 acres. It is much more likely that several of these properties were actually acquired by Robert’s sons and grandsons. Nevertheless, the rapid accumulation of properties by the first two or three generations of Sproules suggests that Robert and his immediate descendants had enough money and/or status to get well established in Co. Tyrone. Certainly a poor Scottish crofter and his sons could hardly have made such an auspicious start in Ireland. Robert Sproul through his father may have inherited some money that originated from the sale of the Coldoun estate in 1621 or Robert’s immediate family may have accumulated money by being tenants on a portion of Coldoun. Robert may have arrived in Co. Tyrone at the age of 22, not an age by which he would have saved much money on his own.

Before his life and descendants are discussed, it is worthwhile considering the sort of life he is likely to have led.

Features of an Irish Farm

The Sproules of Ulster (the spelling seems to have settled on either Sproule, or less frequently Sproul, as the family crossed the Irish Sea) were more often than not, farmers.  This would make them squires, firmly into the then middle class, neither aristocrat, but then nor were they landless peasants.

In the fifteen years that Robert Sproule operated it, the Carrivetragh property would be best categorized as a “mixed farm”. His 101 acre farm would have been considered large by Irish standards. Crop rotation was practised and portions of the farm were sown to grass as dairy and beef cattle were an important part of the operation. Various small fields were sown to oats, potatoes and wheat and portions of fields were sown to turnips and mangles.  An orchard produced apples, pears, plums, currants and gooseberries. A large garden featured cabbage, turnips, carrots, peas and rhubarb. Chickens, ducks, geese, and sometimes turkeys were kept. In the late 1800s Irish farms were quite labour intensive. There was no electricity, engines, or farm machinery of any sophistication. Fields were ploughed with a one-shear walking plough drawn by two horses. The ploughing took considerable time and was started in the winter months. If necessary, ploughmen who had their own ploughs and horses could be hired. The farmers and the

* Cowdonhill, Dumbartonshire, must be ruled out as the Sproule  family of that place did not adopt the name until the early 1700’s.

† AF Sproule’s late father recalled that a relative who lived beside Fintona in Co. Tyrone, used the hawk and partridge as a crest.



ploughmen took pride in being able to plough straight furrows. The fields would often be harrowed before seeding.

Grains such as oats and wheat were sown by hand. Another harrowing might follow. At harvest a small farmer would cut his grain with a scythe. A large farmer would use a horse-drawn mower. The small farmer would fork the grain into windrows whereas a large farmer would use a horse drawn hay rake to row the grain. The grain was or could be hand-tied into small sheaves by using a handful of stalks for binding. The sheaves would be placed in-cocks (stooks) for a time and then hauled to the farmyard and built into conical-shaped stacks. Such stacks were effective in shedding rain. Small farmers would thresh their grain by using flails and winnowing. Large farmers would usually have a horse-powered stationary thresher. After threshing, the grain would usually be bagged, especially when transportation was involved. In the Carrivetragh district the amount of land sown to oats was considerably more than the amount sown to wheat.

It is likely that some farmers kept some of their wheat to be ground into flour and it is possible that oats would be ground into oatmeal. A portion of the oats was likely fed to the horses during the busy periods. The remaining wheat and oats would be marketed after saving some for seed. Turnips and mangles were also sown for farm use and for sale. The turnips were often left in the ground until needed. Putting up the hay crop was always a challenge in the wet climate of Ireland. A small farmer would cut his grass with a scythe and then fork it into windrows for curing. When rain occurred it could mean that the windrows would have to be turned with a fork to prevent deterioration or rotting. The next step was to gather the hay into rucks (haycocks). In the preceding operations a large farmer would employ a horse-drawn mower and a horse-drawn hay rake. The next step was to haul the hay to the farmyard where it was either put into haystacks or stored in a hay shed. Large farmers used a big flat decked cart called a rucklifter to expedite the hauling of the hay. First, the rucklifter would be tilted down at the back. A rope was then thrown around the ruck and the ruck cranked onto the cart. On small farms potatoes were planted and dug up with a spade. Large producers would plant their potatoes by placing them in a furrow made with a walking plough. The potatoes were then covered with another furrow. A plough would again be used to unearth the potatoes in the fall.  Potato diggers were probably in use in the late 1800s.

The potatoes were usually temporarily stored in shallow pits in the fields and covered with a layer of straw and earth. A pit would be opened when needed, either for sale or to replenish the supply in a potato house in the farm-yard. Large quantities of potatoes were boiled and fed to the pigs and chickens. A substantial number of potatoes would be bagged and sold, Robert Sproule had a name plate which was used to stencil his name and address on the produce that left the farm in bags. Robert Sproule is believed to have kept ten or twelve milch cows and also a number of beef cattle. Seeing that Robert Sproule helped establish a cooperative creamery in Clones, he would have shipped his milk there. The creamery would return skim milk to its clients. The skim milk was used to feed calves, pigs and chickens. Some farmers would have processed their own milk into cream and butter. It should be pointed out that at this time it was the fresh milk that was churned. A farmer with a number of milch cows would churn the milk by means of a horse-drawn apparatus. The horse would walk in a circle and propel gears that drove a shaft leading to the churn. The same apparatus would be used to operate a stationary thresher. Beef was frequently bought fresh from the local butcher. In the case of pigs, the purchasing butcher would often have them slaughtered on the seller’s farm. A farmer would probably arrange for one pig to be butchered for his own use. Much of the carcass would be preserved by salting and then used when needed.

The draining of turf bogs and the cutting and drying of turf was a feature of many Irish farms. When dry, the turf would be stored in a turf house in the farmyard. One will still see old stone-built turf houses in



Ireland. They are distinguished by having narrow ventilation slots at numerous places in the walls. The turf was used as the fuel for heating and cooking.

The Carrivetragh farm had phased out the use of thatch to roof the buildings. Although thatched roofs are very picturesque, the thatch has to be replaced every few years and yearly repairs are often necessary. The Carrivetragh buildings all had slate roofs which although initially more costly were quite long-lasting.

Irish farmers had to resist the inroads of crows, rabbits and rats. Scarecrows, shotguns, snares, and poisons were employed to keep these enemies in check.

Every person on an Irish farm except the very young and the aged and infirm had to work. In addition to the usual household tasks, the housewife and the younger children would look after the garden, feed the fowl, gather the eggs, care for the dairy, feed the young calves and run the errands. During the harvest, the entire family would by necessity be involved in the fields.

Social Life

Sundays served both religious and social needs. Everyone dressed in their “Sunday best” and set off for church on foot or in a trap or carriage. Visiting was possible before and after the services and people commonly attended two services on Sundays.

The other major social event was the local market or fair days in one’s home town, or in nearby towns, where people came together to buy and sell and socialise.

The people of Ireland have an abiding and fierce interest in politics. In the days before radios and television political meetings would draw great crowds even though the exercises were often little more than trying to convert the converted. Compatible neighbours probably seldom extended formal dinner invitations. They would be quick, however, to have a chat over a hedge or to wander over to a neighbours to have a chat, the perennial problem being the weather. On such occasions there would be a quick invitation to “come in and have a drop of tea.”

Robert Sproul of Golan (Drumnabey) Co. Tyrone (b.c. 1628 in Scotland d. Sept 1689*) md. c. 1647 to Jean Deniston of Scotland (b.c. 1631 – 8 Sept 1712)

A contributor to one of the Sproule family trees has said that there was a tombstone in a Castlederg churchyard that bore information that one Robert Sproul died in September, 1689, at the age of 61 and that his wife, Jean Deniston, died at the age of  81756. Another person has noted that the tombstone also bore the inscription “W and  Alex Sproul”757. It is likely that the “W” stood for William. William and Alex may have been sons of Robert and Jean.

Perhaps the above mentioned tombstone still stands but if it does, it would be extremely doubtful if the inscriptions would be still discernable. AF Sproule made a cursory check of the tombstones in the churchyard of the Church of Ireland in the fading light of a summer evening but failed to find anything that looked promising. The tombstone, however, may have been erected in a Presbyterian cemetery.

The fact that Robert Spreul’s wife bore the name of Jean Deniston (Denniston) could be significant as it tends to support the idea that Robert was a reasonably close relative of the last Sproule of Coldoun. It may be recalled that James Spreul who sold Coldoun 1621 had a daughter whose second husband was a

* One could wonder if Rober T Spreul’s death in 1689 could mean that he was killed in one of the battles between the supporters of King William III and the supporters of the ex-King, James II.



Denniston. There is also some suggestion that James Spreul’s father, John Sproule, had a second wife who was a Denniston.

Robert Spreul’s marriage to Jean Deniston could be regarded as another example of intermarriage between the Spreul’s and the Dennison’s. This was not at all uncommon in both Scotland and Ireland where intermarriage between blood relations was acceptable. If Robert Sproul and Jean Deniston were reasonably close relatives to the Sproules of Coldoun by both blood and marriage, Robert may have inherited enough money to make a solid start in Ireland. John Inch claimed that Robert and his wife came to Co. Tyrone in 1650. This would have been at the beginning of the predominance of Oliver Cromwell over the British Isles, Charles II having been executed in January, 1649.

Cromwell’s harsh reduction of the native Irish encouraged the return to Ireland of many Scots settlers who had been obliged to flee Ireland a few years before. Perhaps Robert Sproul accompanied some of the Scots who returned to Co. Tyrone. He may already have had Denniston relatives who had lived in Co. Tyrone as the name Denniston is encountered in records pertaining to the Co. Tyrone of the  1600s. Although there is no extant record of any Sproule living in Co. Tyrone before 1650,* this is not true of neighbouring Co. Donegal.

Perhaps a Sproule relative in Co. Donegal encouraged Robert and his wife to settle in the Castlederg district of Co. Tyrone. Tradition has it that Robert and his wife came to Co. Tyrone with three sons. The information on the Castlederg tombstone allows us to say that Robert would have been born in 1628 and that his wife was born in 1631. In order to have had three sons upon the time of their arrival in 1650, Robert and Jean would have had to be married no later than say 1647. At that date Robert would have been age 19 and Jean would have been 16. John Inch may be out a few years as to the time of the couple’s arrival, but if need be, the year 1650 can be fitted into a time framework. Thomas Sproule of Altamullan, Co. Tyrone, who died at the age of 92 in 1893, compiled or was the source of some notes which include the following statement:

Robert Sproule with four or five sons came to Ireland from Renfrewshire in the reign of Charles II. He settled at Spamount, Co. Tyrone.758

In trying to narrow down Robert Spreul’s place of origin, it is significant that Thomas said he came from Renfrewshire. Thomas has Robert coming to Co. Tyrone with more sons than the three previously suggested. The discrepancy is not a serious matter. Thomas may have unknowingly failed to distinguish between sons born in Scotland and sons born in Ireland. One would think that additional sons and certainly some daughters of whom there is no record would have been born in Ireland. Born in 1631, Jean Deniston may not have passed the child-bearing age until the early 1670s. The rapid proliferation of Sproules in Co. Tyrone and in the adjoining counties of Fermanagh and Donegal almost demands that Robert and Jean had several sons! John Inch claimed that Robert and his wife arrived in Co. Tyrone in  1650  whereas Thomas Sproule of Altamullan claimed they arrived in the reign of Charles II. To accept Thomas Sproule’s claim, one is somewhat obliged to believe that Thomas or his sources knew the dates of the reign of Charles II. The Restoration took place in 1660† and Charles reigned until 1685. If Robert

*  There is the undocumented claim that James Sproule, the last Sproule proprietor of Coldoun, went to Ireland in 1622 and settled on the townland of Tullymoan, Co. Tyrone. This townland lies about 5.5 miles north-north-east of Castlederg. It may be recalled that James had a quarrel with Sir George Elphistoun in 1621 over the sale of Coldoun and that James was the object of a warrant of arrest. James may have taken refuge in Ireland for a few weeks in 1621 but that he permanently settled there is questionable. A Sproule family held Tullymoan in the late 1700’s, if not earlier, but the earlier ancestry of this family has not been encountered.

† A devoted royalist of the 1600’s would have claimed that  Charles II was King from 1649, the year of the execution of his father, Charles I.



and his wife came to Ireland at the very beginning of Charles II’s reign only a discrepancy of ten years separates John Inch’s claim from that of Thomas Sproule.

The date of Robert Spreul’s arrival in Ireland could be an indication of his religious and political attachments. If indeed he arrived in 1650, he could have been a moderate Presbyterian whose religious beliefs were not too far from that of Oliver Cromwell. If that was so, he may have been regarded as an acceptable person to be allowed to settle in Ireland. If John Inch was wrong about the date of 1650 and if Robert and his family arrived in Ireland in the reign of Charles II which was from 1660 to 1685, one would think that Robert would have been a royalist and an adherent of the Episcopal Church. It should be pointed out that many of Robert’s descendants carried royalist names such as Charles, James, William and George. The name Oliver, however was popular in one branch of the family. In the final analysis it may have been naming customs that was the major factor.

The lack of early church records for much of Co. Tyrone, Co. Fermanagh and Co. Donegal means that the religious faith of the early Sproules cannot be established. Whatever it was in the beginning must have soon been affected by inter-faith marriages. Later church records indicate that there was about equal numbers belonging to the Presbyterian Church and the Church of Ireland. A small number of Sproules were Roman Catholics. A few became Methodists and in the Athlone branch of the family, Quakers.

John Inch’s claim that Robert Sproul settled at Golan and Thomas Sproule’s claim that Robert settled at Spamount can be reconciled. During Thomas Sproule’s lifetime direct descendants of Robert Spreul were living on the town land of Spamount and apparently not on the town land of Golan (Golan Sproul). One could conclude that it was unknown to Thomas that the Sproule’s of Golan had moved to Spamount around 1765.

Townlands Attributed to Being Held by Robert Sproul

Thomas Sproule of Altamullan left a generous list of townlands which he stated that Robert Sproul “owned”.  Perhaps he did not mean to imply that Robert was the out-right owner of the townlands as that would have been highly unlikely. Whatever lands he had were likely held as a chief tenant. The number of properties Robert supposedly held must be viewed with scepticism. It is agreed, however, that the properties (townlands) were in whole or in part held by the sons or grandsons of Robert at later dates. The townlands on Thomas’s list generally were located to the east and south-east of Castlederg. All but one of the townlands did in some way border on one or more of the other townlands on the list. The names of the townlands and their areas follow:

Golan 344 acres. In early times also (all 3) called Drumnabey

Drumnabey 411 acres, area as now constituted

Spamount 87 acres

Upper Third 188 acres

Kilrail (Upper?) 242 acres. There is also a Lower Kilrail of 116 acres

Carrick[adartan] 131 acres, called Carrick by Thos. Sproule

Coolnacrunaght 405 acres, referred to as Crawfordstown by Thos. S.

Drumgallan 461 acres, referred to as Bridgehill by Thos. S.



Ednashanlaght 353 acres

Cavanabun, acreage unknown, no present town land of Co. Tyrone bears this name.

Without the elusive Cavanabun and disregarding the possible inclusion of Lower Kilrail, Thomas Sproule has Robert Sproul holding 2,717 acres, 3 roods, 6 perches of land. If the two aforementioned properties were included one would think that the total acreage would rise to around 3,000.

It is doubtful if Robert Sproul ever held all the lands listed above. In supplying such information, Thomas Sproule was guilty of “telescoping”. In brief, his land information really applied to two or three generations of Sproules. It should also be said that the genealogical information attributed to Thomas Sproule suffers from a lack of dates. Although some of his information seems acceptable, a good proportion of it must be used with care.

It may be recalled that Thomas Sproule said that Robert Sproul and his wife had perhaps four sons when they arrived in Ireland. Thomas does not name the sons but he states where they settled. These unnamed sons, not necessarily listed in the order of their birth, are said to have settled on the following townlands:

  1. A son settled on the town land of Greenan in the Parish of Dromore, C. Tyrone. Greenan consisted of 1,306 acres, 3 roods, 7 perches. Much of the town land consists of rough pasture on hilly slopes. At its closest point Greenan is about ten miles south-south-east of Castlederg. The closest town to the southern end of Greenan is Dromore.
  2. A son settled on the town land of Altamullan “and Gortin”. Actually Gortin is a subdivision of Altamullan. The town land of Altamullan lies in the Parish of Termonamongan, Co. Tyrone. It consists of 1,676 acres, 2 roods and 16 perches. Altamullan contains a good deal of rough pasture land. The eastern end of this large town land lies about 52 miles west-south-west of Castlederg. It may be that this Sproule acquired one-half of Altamullan and that the other half was obtained by one Thomas Sproule in 1733.
  3. A son settled in Crawfordstown. Crawfordstown is judged to make up a portion of the town and of Coolnacrunaght but it is possible that it was an unofficial name for Coolnacrunaght. A farmstead called Crawfordstown lies close to two miles south-west of Castlederg. The total area of Coolnacrunaght is 1,676 acres, 2 roods and 16 perches.
  4. A son settled on the town land of Brockagh which is near the village of Ballybofey in Co. Donegal. As the crow flies Ballybofey lies about 92 miles north-west of Castlederg but the road connection by way of Castlefinn would be 18 miles.

Additional Snippets of Information

Three scraps of information that could not be comfortably incorporated into the preceding narrative should be mentioned. At some date between 1672  and 1700, one Robert Sproul is mentioned in a record relating to the Parish of Ardstraw759. As Golan was in this parish, the reference may be to Robert Sproul, the original settler, who died in 1689 or it could be to one of his sons of the same name.

An Andrew Sproul is identified as a member of the Parish of Ardstraw Presbytery in 1672 and one Andrew Spreul is again associated with the parish in a record of May, 1697. The two items may be about the same Andrew Sproul and he could well have been a son of Robert Sproul and Jean Deniston.760



If the “W.” and the “Alex Sproul” whose names appeared on the tombstone of Robert and Jean were those of two of their adult sons, one is tempted to think that four of the sons of Robert Sproul bore the names of Robert, Andrew, William and Alexander.

The County Tyrone Sproules are thought to have descended from Robert Sproule, younger brother of Captain John Sproule.  Robert was born in 1628, and died in Sept 1689 in Castledorg, Ireland.  He married Jean Deniston (1661-8 Sept 1712).  They had a son, Andrew of Grennan, Dromore, he had 2 sons and a daughter, Joseph, Robert and Martha.

The Immediate Descendants of Robert Spreul and Jean Deniston

As references to Robert Spreul (1628 – 1689) are spread throughout the previous chapter, it seems advisable to present some conclusions about him. He and his wife came from Renfrewshire, Scotland, to Co. Tyrone, Ireland, in either 1650 or the early 1660s. His coming in 1650 could limit him to three Scottish born sons but if he arrived some years later he could have very well had four Scottish born sons and some daughters upon his arrival. In either case further children could have been born in Ireland. Robert settled on a town land near Castlederg, the name of the town land then being Golan. The rather quick acquisition by Robert and his sons of sizable properties suggests that he was a man of some means. It is assumed that on the death of Robert Spreul in 1689 that his eldest son succeeded to the Golan property. The name of this son has not been established.

Samuel Spreull of Golan (Drumnabey) (b.c. ? d. after Nov. 5, 1733)

In a transaction of 5 November 1733761 the name of Samuel Spreull of Golan appears. It may well be that he was an elderly son of the original Robert Spreul but it is more likely that this Samuel was his grandson. The 1733 transaction notes that Samuel Spreull is the father of Thomas Spreull of Golan. The names of some of Samuel’s other sons appear in other sources. The name of Samuel’s wife has not been established.

Thomas Spreull of Golan (Drumnabey) (b.c. 1690? d. 1759?) – wife – Mary (?)

The heir of Golan  (Drumnabey), Thomas Spreull, assumed to be the same Thomas as mentioned is the above document of November 3, 1733, appears as a witness to a land transaction dated March 10, 1719, but made effective as of 1 May 1718762. Thomas was also party to a property agreement dated February 13, 1732.763 On that date Hugh Edwards of Castlegore, Co. Tyrone, leased “Thomas Spreul of Golan” the townlands of “Meenacheeran and Pollygeravane containing one thousand and three hundred and eightysix acres.


As a town land by the name of Pollygerevane does not exist in current government records, it is possible that it was a subdivision of Meenacheeran. In recent times the acreage of the town land of Meenacheeran is given as 2,301 acres, 2 roods, 2 perches. The discrepancy in acreage in recent times compared to the 1782 figure is explainable. The acreage given in the 1732 transaction must be in Irish acres, an Irish acre being equal to 1.62 English, Canadian or U.S.A. acres. When converted to English acres, the size of the Meenacheeran of 1732 becomes 2,217.6 acres which is reasonably close to the current figure of just over 2,301 acres.

Meenacheeran is located in north-west Tyrone in the Parish of Termonamongan. It is judged to consist of a great deal of rough pasture and bog. The yearly rent of Meenacheeran was 13 pounds plus a 12 pence per pound Receiver’s fee. In addition, thirteen days work by a man and horse had to be supplied each



year. The lease was to be effective from November 1, 1731 and was for the “lives” of Thomas’s sons Robert and James, and James’s son, Edward.764 The lease had a clause for renewal forever upon the payment of 20 shillings on the death of each “life.”  In addition to sons Robert and James, other records show that Thomas had a son John who was an apothecary in Strabane and a son Samuel who was of the town land of Coolnacrunagh.765 Thomas also seems to have had at least two daughters.


On November 5, 1733, Thomas Spreull acquired a lease of one-half of the town land of Altamullan in the Parish of Termonamongan, Co. Tyrone, from Hugh Edwards of Castlegore.766  The land involved was estimated to total 511 acres. Again the estimation must have been in Irish acres for if the number is multiplied by 1.6 the result is 817.6 acres which is reasonably close to the current figure for one-half of Altamullan 838 acres, 1 rood, 8 perches. Much of Altamullan seems to consist of rough pasture.

It is not known if the half of Altamullan secured by Thomas Spreull in 1733 was the land or included the land, or was entirely separate from the land held by the Samuel Spreull whose will was probated in 1725.767 Later information contains a hint that this Samuel may have held the other portion of Altamullan and that it passed to his descendants.

The 1733  lease of one-half of Altamullan provided that it be held for the life of Thomas Spreull of Golan and for the lives of Arthur and James Johnson, sons of William Johnson of Coolnacrunagh. One could entertain the idea that Arthur and James Johnson may have been grandsons of Thomas Spreull.

In 1902 one A. A. Campbell had his “Notes on the Literary History of Strabane” published. Campbell recounts a story which must be about Hugh Edwards (1707-1737) of Castlegore and Thomas Spreull of Golan. Campbell had access to an account written by John Gamble as at times he quotes Gamble. John Gamble’s mother was a Spreull. Campbell says that Mrs. Gamble’s father, presumably Thomas Spreull

“was a great favourite of the lord of the soil, the eccentric Squire Edwards of Castle Gore, so much that on one occasion the Squire presented him with a large tract of land, forever, at a very cheap rate. ‘My grandfather went home delighted’, writes Gamble but early the following morning he came back to the castle, and returned the gift to the astonished squire. ‘In truth said the good old man – it is none of my fault, but the good wife has given me no quiet since she heard it, nor could she rest quietly in the grave, if she thought her bairns were living on land which had been taken over other people heads. ‘Well Mr. S. said Squire Edwards, You may do as you please but both you and Mrs. S. may be assured that, whether you take the land or not, the people who had it shall never have it again.’ However, the honest and disinterested farmer was not to be prevailed upon, and persisted in his obedience to the good wife’s mandate.”

There is other evidence of a close relationship between the Edwards and the Sproules. Thomas Spreull was named a trustee in the will of Jane Edwards who died in 1730768. She was a sister of Hugh Edwards. One “Thomas Sprowle of Clare” was a witness to the will of Hugh Edwards on October 22, 1737, just two days before Hugh’s death769. This Thomas of Clare could have been Thomas of Golan. Thomas may have moved to the Clare property in the latter half of the 1730s. A reason for this suggestion is that at a later date a portion of Altamullan went to a Spreull of Clare770.

It may be significant that another Spreull family secured leases of the townlands of Greenan, Curraghamulkin, Dressage and Derrynaseer from Hugh Edward father, Thomas, in 1718771. If the registration of land transactions with the Registry of Deeds would have been compulsory, one might have other records of Spreulls obtaining leases from the Edwards family. Although the Spreulls would not



have had the social or economic status of the Edwards family, there were over a long period of time three marriages between the two families. The first one was between Hugh Edward’s first cousin, Martha Edwards, and Thomas Spreull’s son, Robert. This marriage gave a line of descent from the Edwards family and consequently some information will now be provided about that family.

The Edwards Family – the Welsh Connection772

Hugh Edwards (b.c. 1615? d.c. Feb. 1667) -wife- Margaret ? – married circa 1636

The Edwards family is said to have come to Ireland from Wales in the early 1600s. The first Edwards of Ireland about whom information is available is one Hugh Edwards whose wife’s name was Margaret. Hugh was an alderman in the First Corporation* following the restoration of the monarchy in 1660.  He was Mayor of Londonderry in 1668 and High Sheriff of Co. Tyrone in 1669. Around 1668 Hugh purchased “Manor Hastings”†, a large estate in the Castlederg area of north-west Tyrone. Castle Gore, located less than a mile south-west of Castlederg, was the seat of the Edwards family, though Hugh himself may not have lived there. Hugh is judged to have been born about 1615 and probably married about 1636.  Hugh died in February of 1672. He was succeeded by his second son, Edward.

Edward Edwards of Castlegore (b.c. 1638? d. 1688?) md. Margaret Muncriffe in 1667

Edward was probably born in the late 1630s. On 11 January 1667, he married Margaret Muncriffe. Edward was Sheriff of Londonderry in 1671 and High Sheriff of Co. Tyrone in 1675. At that time he settled in Co. Tyrone, probably at Castlegore (Castle Gore). Edward’s will was dated 23 March 1688 and it was proved in 1701. Edward was succeeded by his second son Thomas but it is through another son, Robert, that this writer traces his descent. In order not to unduly stray from the narrative, information about son Thomas and his descendants is provided in the footnote below‡.

Captain Robert Edwards of Kilcroah (b.c. 1676 d. ?) md. 4 November 1700 Martha La Vie (b.c. 1680?)

Robert Edwards, a younger son of Edward Edwards of Castlegore, was born about  1676.  He became a captain in King William III’s army which suggests that he saw service in William3s struggle with Louis XIV of France. Robert Edwards leased the town land of Kilcroagh from his brother and had a residence

*  “Corporation” refers to the city of Londonderry.

† The “Manor Hastings” seems to have come into existence on 28 June 1610, when Sir John Davys, the Attorney General of Ireland, received a grant of 2,000 acres of land. Other lands were acquired later. Sir John built a castle, perhaps the one lived in by the Edwards family. In 1617 Davys rebuilt the ancient church of Castlederg. It was destroyed in the uprising of 1641.

‡ Thomas, the second son and heir, was baptized on 4 January 1669/70. He died on 27 April 1721. On 13 July 1699, Thomas married his cousin Jean Cairns, the daughter of his Aunt Margaret and her husband David Cairns. Thomas was succeeded by his second son, Hugh.

Hugh Edwards was born about 1703. He was a minor at the time of his father’s death in 1721. Hugh rebuilt the Church of Ireland in 1731. Several members of the Edwards family are buried at this location and have commemorative tablets erected about them. Hugh provided an annuity for the education of orphans and an annuity for Presbyterian clergymen.  Hugh and his father before him granted land leases to various Sproule’s. It is probable that Hugh was a heavy spender or that he inherited an estate that had heavy debts. He held fifty-five or more townlands during his lifetime and many of them were mortgaged.

Hugh married Anne Mervyn of Trillick, Co. Tyrone. He died in 1737 at about the age of 34. He willed his estate to his three young daughters as co-heiresses. (It may be that a fourth daughter was born after his death.)

Hugh’s eldest daughter, Olivia, became the Countess of Rosse upon her marriage to Richard Parsons, the second Earl of Rosse. They had no children and separated in 1756. Hugh’s sister, Margaret, married Robert Stuart of Stuart Hall, Co. Tyrone. Their son Andrew became the first Earl of Castle Stewart. One of Margaret and Robert’s daughters married Sir James Hunter.



there. In area the town land was just over 350 acres. The eastern boundary of Kilcroah is situated less than one-third of a mile west of the centre of Castlederg. Captain Edwards’ marriage left a French strain in his descendants.

The La Vie Marriage – the French Connection

Count Henri La Vie of Bordeaux, France was a Huguenot (French Protestant) He and thousands of others fled France after Louis XIV, “the Sun King,” revoked the Edict of Nantes in 1685. The revocation ended certain rights that had been extended to the Huguenots by King Henry V in 1598. Count La Vie had his three young daughters hidden in apple barrels and placed on a ship that carried them to safety to a British port. The La Vie family lost its property in France and it may be that the count turned to trade to re-establish himself. One of his daughters was for a time a tutoress in the household of the Duchess of Marlborough at Blenheim Palace. Another of the daughters, Martha, married Captain Robert Edwards of Kilcroagh, Co. Tyrone. They were married on November 4, 1700, at St. Michael’s Church in [Wicklow]*.  Robert and his French wife had two sons and two daughters. One of the daughters married a Sproule, he being a son of Thomas Sproule of Golan.

Martha Edwards of Kilcroah (b. early 1700s d. ?) married c. 1720s Robert Sproule of Golan (b. early 1700s d.c. 1734).  It has been established earlier that Thomas Sproule of Golan had a son named Robert. Martha Edwards, a daughter of Robert Edwards and Martha La Vie married this Robert. Secondary evidence of this marriage may be found in one of the several genealogical charts dealing with Sproule families of Co. Tyrone773. (Supporting evidence can be found in a genealogical paper on the Edwards family). This source just states that Martha married a Sproule.

It is concluded that Robert Sproule died somewhat early inasmuch as the will of one Robert Sproule of “Drumnabeigh” (Golan) was probated in 1734774. Unfortunately this will was among those destroyed by a fire in Dublin in 1922, or otherwise one could expect to definitely establish the identity of Robert. Robert Sproule and his wife Martha seem to have had one son and two daughters. The small family fits in with the belief that Robert died rather early. Certain evidence allows one to deduce that the son’s name was Oliver and that his grandson and great-grandchildren were the Sproules of Spamount. One of Robert Sproule’s daughters married a Reverend [John] Brown of the Church of Ireland but no real attempt has been made to trace Brown’s descendants775.  The other daughter of Robert Sproule was named Martha. This daughter married into another Sproule family776. The ancestry of this other Sproule family which was associated with the town land of Currahamulkin will now be examined.

Properties Associated with the Sproules of Curraghamulkin

The earliest extant record connecting a Sproule to the town land of Curraghamulkin† is a lease bearing the date of March 10, 1719, but made effective from May 1, 1718. The lease also involved the townlands of Greenan, Derrynaseer and Dressoge.777

Curraghamulkin is within the Parish of Longfield West and the other three townlands are in the Parish of Dromore. Curraghamulkin is mainly bordered by Greenan on the west and both Curraghamulkin and Greenan are bordered by Derrynaseer on the south. The north-west end of Dressoge is separated from Derrynaseer by the town land of Camderry. The acreages of the four townlands are as follows:

* The name is very difficult to make out in a handwritten record but it bears a resemblance to Wicklow.

†  called Carrickamulkin on early records



Curraghamulkin 1,150 acres

Greenan 1,036 acres

Derrynaseer 282 acres

Dressoge 203 acres

The total area of the four townlands is just over 2,673 acres. The northern boundaries of both Curraghamulkin and Greenan would be about 10 miles south-south-west of Castlederg. By road, the chief residence of Greenan, The Holme, would have been between 12  and 13  miles from Castlederg. The families of the four townlands probably did most of their marketing at Dromore to the south-east. The little village of Drumquin lay to the north.

The 1718 lease for the aforementioned townlands was granted by Thomas Edwards of Castlegore, Co. Tyrone, to Cornet Andrew Spreull for the lives of Joseph*, Charles and Oliver Spreull, his 5th, 6th, and 7th sons. The yearly rent of the four townlands was 70 pounds and three yearling bullocks. There was a Receiver’s fee of 4 pence per pound.778

Cornet Andrew Spreull (b.c. 1665? d.c. 1720s?) – md. c. 1690? – name of his wife not determined-

It may well be that Cornet Andrew Spreull took up residence on the town land of Greenan rather than Curraghamulkin. One of the Sproule genealogical charts implies that one Andrew Sproule of Greenan had a son named Joseph who was of Curraghamulkin779. It also identifies Andrew as the son of Robert Spreul (1628-1689), the original settler. There are no primary sources to verify the relationships. If, however, Cornet Andrew Spreull was a son of the original settler, it is estimated that he would have been at least upward to age 50 if not in his mid-fifties at the time of the 1718 lease.

Andrew Spreull’s military rank of cornet (junior officer) shows that he was serving, or had served, in the cavalry. It was the custom for officers in either the regular army or the militia to retain their military titles even after retirement. In Andrew’s case he was probably serving in the militia in 1718. One could speculate that Andrew may have served in King William’s army around 1690 when William was campaigning in Ireland to prevent James II from regaining the throne. It could also be that Andrew saw service during the long struggle in which King William and then Queen Anne were at war with Louis XIV of France. One of the duties of a cornet was to carry the flag of a cavalry troop, a duty of considerable risk when in battle.

The 1718 lease shows that Cornet Andrew Spreull had at least seven sons at that time and one cannot rule out the likelihood that he had some daughters. Depending on the date of Andrew’s marriage, he may have had other children that were born after the date of the 1718 lease†. One can wonder as to the names and occupations of Andrew’s first four sons. Perhaps they were already established elsewhere on farms of their own which would explain why they were not parties to the 1718 lease. As Co. Fermanagh came to be populated by a number of Sproules in the vicinity of Kesh, it may be that the first four sons were already settled on properties there.

* The microfilm copy of the deed proved difficult to read. Although the 5th son’s name looks to be Joseph, another person has his name as James.  (See G. & H. chart, P.R.O.N.I.)

† Andrew could have been a grandson of Robert.



Andrew Spreull’s name does not appear in a lease of  1731 that affected Curraghamulkin. Perhaps he died in the period between the 1718 lease and the 1731 lease.* This could have been a factor in prompting the property adjustment that is recorded in the 1731 lease.

The 1731 lease will now be reviewed as one can assume that the participants, Joseph and Oliver, were the 5th and 7th sons of Cornet Andrew Spreull.

Joseph Spreull of Curraghamulkin (b.c. 1690s? d. ?) – md. ? Mathewson

In a lease of November 10, 1731, Hugh Edwards of Castlegore agreed that Joseph Spreull of Curraghamulkin was acquiring 1/3 of Curraghamulkin for 25 years at the yearly rent of 10 pounds and a Receiver’s fee of 12 pence on the pound. The new lease also agreed that Oliver Spreull, the brother of Joseph, was the other “life” in the lease. At this time Joseph and Oliver each already had one-third shares of Currahamulkin as a result of the 1718 lease. Their brother Charles who was party to the 1718 lease is not mentioned. His 1/3 share must have reverted to Edwards.

Joseph Spreull of Curraghamulkin may have married a Mathewson. He and his wife are known to have had three sons and two daughters. Their names were John, Jane, Thomas, Robert and Martha. John, presumably the eldest son, was his father’s heir to Currahamulkin.

John Sproule of Curraghamulkin (b.c. 1720s?) married c. 1750 – 1755? – wife – Martha Sproule of Golan (Drumnabeigh) (b.c. 1730?)

John Sproule of Curraghamulkin married Martha Sproule, the daughter of Robert Sproule of Golan and his wife, Martha Edwards. This marriage brought two Sproule lines together as both husband and wife were descendants of Robert Spreul, the original settler. It is likely that John and Martha were married between 1750 and 1755.  They had six sons and three daughters but the order of their births is open to question. The names of the children were Joseph, Robert, Thomas, John, Edward, Henry, Martha , Betty  (Elizabeth) and Anne. Martha Sproule’s marriage united another Sproule line with the lines of her mother and her father.

* It is likely that on the death of Cornet Andrew Spreull that Grennan passed to one or more of his other sons. There are no extant records to provide details. Later records show that the Greenan Sproule’s became of greater prominence than the Currahamulkin branch. There is no significant information about the Dresoge and Derrynaseer properties.



Sproules of Upper Greenan, Crillan, Carrivetragh and Canada  “Upper Greenan” was the name given to a particular Sproule farmstead of the town land of Greenan, County Tyrone, Ulster, Ireland. The word “Upper” is taken to refer to elevation, and if so, it is likely that Upper Greenan lay in the south-west quadrant of the townland. An alternative name for Upper Greenan may have been “The Brae,” a name of a Greenan property in the 1800s. Crillan, a townland located near Kesh, Co. Fermanagh, had an area of just over 155 acres.

Charles Sproule of Upper Greenan, Co. Tyrone (b. 1705 d. January 17, 1789) married first [ ? ] Rodgers; married secondly Anne Wallace (b. 17727 d. Feb. 14, 1810).

It is proposed that Charles Spreull, the sixth son of Cornet Andrew Spreull and presumably the grandson* of Robert Spreul, the first settler, was the Charles Sproule that a Sproule genealogical chart identifies as Charles Sproule of Upper Greenan780. If so, he was born in 1705 and would have been age 13 when he was named one of the “lives” in the lease of 1718 pertaining to the townlands of Curraghamulkin, Greenan, Dressoge and Derrynaseer781. If it would be questioned that a boy of 13 would have been named a “life” in a lease, it can be stated that much younger children were often named as “lives” in leases.

The surname of Charles first wife was Rodgers but as yet that is all that is known about her782. Charles and his first wife had two sons and two daughters.

Charles’ second wife was Ann Wallace783. As yet her ancestry has not been determined. Anne was 23 years younger than her husband, she being born in 1728. Charles and Ann were married on January 29, 1755784. They may have spent the last twelve years of Charles’ life living on the town land of Crillan located near Kesh in Co. Fermanagh. Charles died on 17 January 1789, and Ann died on 14 February 1810785.

Charles and Anne had four sons and four daughters, their names being George, Joseph. Oliver, Catherine, Elizabeth, Annie, Jennie and Charles786. Attention will now be given to their son George.

George Sproule of Upper Greenan and then of Crillan, Co. Fermanagh (b. or bap. on Nov. 17, 1755 d. Nov. 24, 1838787) married Martha Sproule of Curraghamulkin on 28 January 1787 (b. or bap. 15 May 1766 died 22 April 1844788)

George Sproule was raised at Upper Greenan, Co. Tyrone, but in his 22nd year he became associated with the town land of Crillan near Kesh, Co. Fermanagh. The move arose when his father, Charles, leased lands from the Vaughan Charter School. The school was located near Kesh and educated orphans.

The 20 January 1777 minutes of the governors of the school lists a number of individuals approved as lessees of various properties. At this meeting one Charles Sproule and one George Sproule were approved as the lessees of the town land of Crillan at the yearly rent of 5 shillings and 5 pence per acre789. This rental of Crillan is also mentioned in a Sproule genealogical chart790.

The town land of Crillan consisted of 155 acres, 1 rood and 6 perches. The farmstead lay about one and two-thirds miles north-north-east of the village of Kesh. The village, however, is not visible from the farm buildings as Doors. Hill intervenes. It is understood that there is a view of Loch Erne from one part of the town land. By road the Crillan farm buildings are about 2.5 miles from Kesh. One can leave Kesh by the west road leading to Pettigo. Within the first mile one comes to three successive junctions and                                                       * If the two Sproule’s have not been properly matched the 6th son of Cornet Andrew Sproule could have been a great-grandson of Robert Sproule.



keeps to the right each time. At the third junction a road leads to the north-north-east. After taking this road for about one-third of a mile, another road leads eastward and the two old Sproule farmsteads are reached after travelling about 5/6 of a mile. The buildings lie on the left  (north) side of the road.

It is said that the presence of two former Sproule farmsteads was the result of a division of the town land between two Sproule brothers in the early 1840s791. The newer home lies to the west of the older home which is somewhat smaller. It is said that the brother who had the new home got the older set of outbuildings while the brother who got the old home acquired a new set of outbuildings. The respective houses, although altered at times in the past, were still in use in the 1980s. The boundary line of the two farms passes between the respective sets of buildings.

The town land of Crillan lies on both sides of the west-east road. The portion on the north side of the road is the largest. The southern portion is bounded by a little brook which later drains into the Kesh River. In general, the Crillan property slopes from north to south.

Charles Sproule, George’s father, was also granted a lease of Rabbit Island in Lower Lough Erne and a projection of land named Sconcehill Point792. One Robert Sproule,* and four others were granted leases of portions of the town land of Feddans which adjoins a portion of the western boundary of Crillan. Although some information about this Robert Sproule has been gathered, his relationship to Charles and his son George has not been determined. There must have been bad feelings about the Feddans leases. On 18 December 1777, the Governors of the Vaughan Charity School offered a reward of 50 pounds for the apprehension and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the cutting of the throats of two mares on the nights of the 18th and 19th of November on the lands of Feddans. The mares were the property of Hugh Keys and Robert Sproule793.

The Sproules of Crillan attended Tubrid Church  (Church of Ireland) which served the Parish of Drumkeeran. To reach Tubrid Church from the Crillan farmsteads one first goes west about five-sixths of a mile. A right turn is then taken and one goes northwards about one-third of a mile and the church will be seen to the left of the road. A cemetery of the church lies to the right of the road. It is assumed that there are a few Sproules buried in this cemetery but none of their tombstones have been located. If flat tombstones marked their graves, the stones could well be under the present surface of the ground. Behind Tubrid Church lies the Vaughan Agricultural Institute, the successor of the Vaughan Charity School.

The records of Drumkeeran Parish which until the late 1700s was part of the Parish of Magheraculmoney show that a Sproule family resided on the town land of Crillan prior to the 1777 lease. An entry of February 21, 1770 shows that one William Sproul and his wife Elizabeth of “Krillen” had a daughter named Rhoda baptized. Another entry records that one William Sprowl of “Crillen”, presumably the above William, was buried on 5 April 1786. The burial date shows that William continued to live on the Crillan property after the lease of 1777 to Charles and George Sproule. One can suspect that William was a close relative of  Charles Sproule, but the relationship has not been established.

On 28 January 1787, at the age of 32, George Sproule of Crillan married Martha Sproule, a daughter of John Sproule of Curraghamulkin794. Martha was age 21 having been born or baptized 15 May 1766. Perhaps the newlyweds lived in the home of the William Sproule who had died the previous year. It is possible that at a later date that they had a new home built for at some time two Sproule homes were a

* The relationship of this Robert Sproule to Charles and George Sproule has not been determined.



feature of the town land of Crillan. George died on 3 May 1838 at the age of 83 and Martha died on 22 April 1844 at the age of 78795.

George and Martha had six children – two daughters and four sons796.

  1. Elizabeth Sproule (bap. 14 April 1788 d. 21 March 1886) Around 1810 Elizabeth married Thomas Keys of Rahall, Parish of Derryvullan, Co. Fermanagh. Thomas was a Lieutenant in the Fermanagh Volunteers. He may have been the Thomas Keys who died on February 19, 1855, at the age of 74. Elizabeth and Thomas had a large family but as yet their children cannot be identified with certainty*. One problem is that there were a number of Keys families in the Rahall area and there are insufficient clues to sort them out. 2. Charles Sproule (b. or bap. 2 March 1790 d. 20 Dec 1861) Charles married his first cousin, Mary Anne Sproule, a daughter of his Uncle Joseph Sproule of the Rosses, Co. Donegal. The Rosses is a general name given to a rocky area of western Donegal. Charles moved to Donegal and lived on the town land of Lackbeg which is in the Parish of Templecrone. As the eldest son, one would expect that Charles would have inherited Crillan but such was not the case. Perhaps he received a monetary settlement from his father or enjoyed a marriage settlement from his father-in-law. Charles and Mary Anne had at least one son George and possibly another son, Charles J. Sproule. Information about George follows: 2.1. George Sproule  (b.c. 1839?) It is assumed that George was the chief heir of his father who died in 1861. On July 14, 1864, George Sproule Esq. married Catherine Rocks, daughter of Thomas Rocks† Esq. of Dublin. George’s address is given as Dungloe (Dunglow), a coastal village of Donegal. Birth records, however, identify George as of Lackbeg. Perhaps Dungloe was his postal address or nearest village. Birth records also identify George as a land agent and as a representative of Lloyd’s. George and his family may have moved away from Lackbeg about 1870 for information is lacking after that date. George and Catherine had at least four children as follows: 2.1.1. Marion Kate Sproule b. 4 May 1865 d.? ) 2.1.2. Charles Sproule (b. 8 August 1866 d.?) 2.1.3. [male] Sproule. (b. Sept. 1867 d. The lack of a name does not necessarily mean that the above child died shortly after birth. Birth entries indicate that parents had a period of grace to pick a name.  2.1.4. Mary Sproule (b. December 8, 1868 d.  2.2. Charles J. Sproule. It is not certain that Charles was a brother of George. Charles, however, was a witness to George’s marriage and he and George were involved in a transaction regarding the island of Iniscoe (Sp?) in 1870-1 Charles is identified as a merchant of Dublin. 3. Joseph Sproule (b. or bap. March 15, 1794 d. July 12, 1879). Joseph and his younger brother Robert each acquired one-half of the town land of Crillan, Co. Fermanagh. Joseph never married and on his death in 1879 his farm of about 77acres became the possession of his nephew Robert, the son of his brother Robert. 4. George Sproule (b, or bap. Nov. 15, 1796 d. Dec. 1847) George emigrated to the United States and is said to have settled in St. Louis, Missouri. No known effort has been made to gather more information about him. Had George remained in Ireland, it is possible that he would have inherited part of the Crillan property. 5. Annie Sproule (b. or bap. Jan. 27, 1800 d. Jan. 23, 1859) Annie married her cousin James Sproule of Upper Greenan, he being the son of her uncle Charles Sproule of Upper Greenan. James was probably regarded as a “gentleman farmer” as it is believed Upper Greenan was still a sizeable property. James and Annie had no children. As James had four unmarried sisters and one bachelor brother, it would be interesting to know who was the last survivor and what happened to Upper Greenan.                                                        * An attractive gold ring that belonged to some member of the Keys family eventually came into the possession of Fred Sproule’s, George Sproule (1896 – 1974) and then was passed to his eldest son, Robert (1919 – 1980), and then to the latter’s son, Robert (1943 – )

† The proper spelling of the surname may have been “Roche”.



  1. Robert Sproule of Crillan, Co. Fermanagh (b. or bap. Oct, 23, 1802 d. April 11, 1847) – md. July 6, 1840, perhaps at Tubrid Church, to Elizabeth McCrea (b. June 24, 1819 d. Aug. 13, 1916). Robert obtained one-half of the Crillan farm, probably after the death of his father in 1838. His approximately 77 acre farm had the newer home and the older outbuildings. It may be that he was the one that had the new home built about the time of his marriage (or if it was constructed earlier) that he acquired it by an agreement with his older bachelor brother, Joseph. Robert was in his 38th year when on July 16, 1840, he married Elizabeth (“Bessie”) McCrea who was then age 21. She was the eldest daughter of John McCrea and Rebecca Harper of the town land of Clonaweel, Co. Fermanagh. Clonaweel was but a mile or so to the west of Pettigoe, a village just inside the border of Co. Donegal. Perhaps the couple first met at Tubrid Church (C. of I.). Robert contracted an illness about two years before his death in his 44th year in 1847. The size of Robert’s farm rules out that he would have died from one of the famines of the  1840s but it could well be that he may have caught one or more of the debilitating diseases that accompanied the famine. When Robert fell ill, his brother-in-law, Edward McCrea, stayed at the Crillan farm to carry on with the farm work. Robert and his wife Elizabeth had two daughters and two sons as follows: 6.1. Rebecca Sproule (b. July 9, 1841 d. early 1900s) Rebecca married George Buchanan, a farmer of Aghadulla Harper, Parish of Dromore, Co. Tyrone, on April 17, 1861.  The were married in Tubrid Church, the church of the bride. They had a large family of which the birth dates of nine have been established. At least four of their sons emigrated to the United States but detailed information about the family is inadequate. George, the father, is thought to have died about 1916.  6.2. Martha Sproule (b. 20 July 1843) It has been suggested that Martha married a man whose name was something like McKee. There is no record of her marriage in the Civil Registration Records of Ireland or in the records of Drumkeeran parish. This may well mean that Martha emigrated prior to her marriage.  6.3. George Sproule (b. July 11, 1845 d. Sept. 16, 1847) As in the case of his father, one could speculate that infant George may have died in one of the epidemics that accompanied the potato famine.  6.4. Robert Sproule of Crillan & Carrivetragh (b. Nov. 8, 1846 d. Jan. 17, 1901) – md. June, 1880 to Katherine Robinson (b. March 25, 1859 d. July 11, 1952). Details of his life follow.


Robert Sproule (b. 8 Nov. 1846 d. 17 Jan. 1901) – married June, 1880 to Katherine Robinson (b. 25 March 1859 d. 11 July 1952).

Robert was just five months old when his father died in 1847. He would have been his father’s heir had his widowed mother not remarried in 1851. Her second husband was Joseph McCormick who prior to his marriage was of Drumbane, Co. Donegal. The descendants of the second marriage are living in either Canada or the United States.

Although Robert Sproule did not succeed-to his father’s Crillan farm, he did succeed to the approximately 77 acre farm of his bachelor uncle, Joseph Sproule. Joseph died on July 12, 1879. It is likely that the inheritance cleared away any financial impediment to Robert’s marriage.

On June 9, 1880, Robert, then in his 33rd year, married Katherine Robinson who was just past her 21st birthday. Katherine whose name has also been known to have been spelled with a “C”, was born on March 25, 1859. She was a daughter of John Robinson and his wife, Mary Armstrong, of Feugh House of the town land of Feugh, Co. Fermanagh.

In a straight line Feugh House lies about one and two-thirds of a mile south-east of Newtownbutler but the distance byroad is farther. It is rather puzzling how Robert and Katherine became acquainted as Feugh House lies approximately 30 miles from Crillan.



Ten children were born to Robert and Katherine but only the first three were born at Crillan. At some time in late 1885 or early 1886 the family moved to Carrivetragh House near Clones, Co. Monaghan. It would appear that the new farm was rented for a time. The move to Carrivetragh may have been initiated by Katherine as it is said she knew and liked the property as a result of some Robinson relative having lived in the vicinity in earlier years. In addition, Katherine’s parent’s home was but ten miles away.

Another factor in the move was Robert’s disposal of his Crillan property. On April 3, 1886, Robert entered an agreement whereby Samuel McCormick of the town land of Ballought, Co. Tyrone, would, over a period of time, acquire the Crillan property. On May 25, 1887, Samuel McCormick married Fanny (Frances) McCormick, a daughter of Robert’s step-father Joseph McCormick of the other Crillan farm. The two Crillan farms were now held by McCormick’s, a situation which in one way or another prevailed until 1917.

On April 27,  1888, Robert Sproule was able to end the rental situation and enter an agreement with the Court of the Irish Land Commission to purchase the Carrivetragh farm from the estate of Sir Thomas Lennard. .Part of the farm was in the town land of Carrivetragh and the other part was in the town land of Cavan. The Carrivetragh portion contained 65 acres, 1 rood, 30 perches and the Cavan portion contained 35 acres, 2 roods, 35 perches. In total, the farm consisted of 100 acres, 3 roods, 36 perches. The purchase price of 1,676 pounds was advanced by the Land Commission and could be paid back over a period of 49 years at the yearly rate of 67 pounds and 10 pence: The role of the Irish Land Commission was to buy up debt-laden estates and other estates and to sell viable farms to farmers. It is thought that the Carrivetragh farm was paid for within around ten years.

In a direct line, Carrivetragh House lay just over two miles north and slightly east of the town of Clones, Co. Monaghan. It was reached by a road going north from Clones which in the last stretch curved to the north-east.

It is thought that Carrivetragh House was built in the early 1700s.  It was still standing in the early 1980s but was not occupied. It had been replaced as a dwelling by a new bungalow located to the north-west and closer to the road. One of the exterior walls of the old home was in need of structural repairs and it had to be decided whether the problem would be repaired or the home torn down.

Robert Sproule is believed to have been reasonably well educated and to have been something of a leader in his community.  He is credited with being the driving force behind the establishment of a cooperative creamery in Clones. In planning the creamery he was able to draw on the experience of a second cousin, Alexander Harper Robinson Sproule of Denemona House) Fintona, Co. Tyrone. In church affairs Robert served on the vestry and the select vestry of the Church of Ireland in Clones. He may have been a member of the Loyal Orange Order.

In 1899 or perhaps 1900, Robert Sproule was badly gored by a bull in the Carrivetragh farmyard. His dog came to his rescue and kept the bull at bay until he crawled to safety. George Sproule, nearly five years old at the time, dimly remembers his father’s funeral cortege assembling at Carrivetragh House. Robert was buried in the churchyard of the Church of Ireland at Newtownbutler, Co. Fermanagh, the parish church of his wife’s family, the Robinsons of Feugh. His tombstone still stands, being located to the front and left of the main entrance of the church. In the years that followed, although buried elsewhere, the names of his three sons who lost their lives in World War I were added to the stone as was that of his widow, Katherine. At the time of his death Robert was survived by his wife and nine children. His eldest was in her 19th year and the youngest was just past his second birthday.



Robert’s widow, Katherine, continued to operate the Carrivetragh farm until early 1914 when she and three of her daughters and three of her sons emigrated to Canada. One of the factors prompting emigration was that Katherine was suffering from asthma and her doctor advised her that a different climate would be helpful. Another factor could have been her daughter Martha who went to Canada in 1913. She may have been urging her mother to do likewise. Certainly other relatives on her husband’s side such as the Dunlop family had gone to Canada and some McCormick relatives had settled in the U.S.A.

Running the Carrivetragh farm must have been a burden some responsibility. It is believed that the tight rein exercised by Katherine over her children was in part responsible for her eldest son, Joseph, and her third son, John, seeking escape by enlisting in the army. Her second son, Robert, also enlisted but his release was purchased by his mother. The decision to go to Canada was probably reached after the harvest of 1913 but could not be exercised during the winter months because of the freezing of the St. Lawrence River. The decision to emigrate was for a trial period. The Carrivetragh farm was rented out rather than sold. The livestock, however, was sold and possibly some of the household furnishings and farm equipment. On 6 May 1914, Katherine and six of her family left the port of Liverpool on board the Canadian Pacific steamship named the Lake Manitoba. The 6,276  ton ship carried 564 passengers of second class and steerage accommodation and was bound for Quebec City. As second class passengers the ship’s manifest listed Catherine Sproule, widow, age 54, occupation farming Mary Elizabeth, age  32, occupation of nurse in a hospital; Catherine age 23, nurse in a hospital and farming; and Sara, age 20, occupation of nurse in a hospital and farming. The designation of Catherine and Sara as nurses in a hospital is subject to qualification. Each may well have been employed in a hospital but not as fully qualified nurses. As steerage passengers, the manifest listed Robert Sproule, age 26, occupation farming; George, age 18; and William, age 14.

The ship arrived at Quebec City on 17 May at 11:00 p.m. but the passengers had to await the following morning, May  18, to disembark. The family then proceeded by train to Toronto, Ontario.

The first jobs obtained by Catherine, Robert and George were with the T. Eaton Company founded by an Irishman, Timothy Eaton. Young William obtained a job with Eaton’s later. It would not be surprising if Sara also had a job with Eaton’s for a time. The securing of jobs with a company that was establishing a chain of department stores across Canada could have arisen from the fact that there was a blood relationship between the Sproule and Eaton families. Robert Sproule’s mother’s maiden name was McCrea. Her brother’s daughter, Flora, married John Eaton, later Sir John Eaton in 1901.

On 10 October 1914, Katherine Sproule signed an agreement whereby she purchased a two-storey frame house in Toronto. The address was  28  Ellsworth Avenue.  Ellsworth Avenue lies in the south-west quadrant of the intersection of Bathurst and St. Clair Avenue West. A nearby church* has the names of her three sons who lost their lives in World War I commemorated at the back of the church.

During the family’s first years in Canada certain of Katherine’s sons and daughters lived with her in the home.

Around 1932  the Ellsworth home was sold and Katherine went to live with her eldest daughter Mary Elizabeth  (Minnie); around 1924  or 1925 Minnie had married and around 1931 she and her husband, Percival Morgan, bought a home in the Swansea district the address being 1 De Forest Road. The home was on the south side of De Forest Road being the first house adjacent to the west side of High Park.

* The name of the church may have been St. Michaels and All Angels



Katherine’s second daughter, Martha, and her husband Edward P. Rodgers, acquired the home directly opposite that of her sister. Martha’s address was 2 De Forest Road.

Katherine  (Robinson) Sproule, Fred Sproule’s grandmother, did not have an easy life. Widowed by the premature death of her husband, she had to cope with the raising of a large family. Three of her sons lost their lives during World War I and her daughter Martha died in her 51st year, allegedly in part from the strain of countless hours of wartime nursing in England and France. At the time of her death, Katherine had outlived all but three of her children. She died on July 11, 1952, about 32 months past her 93rd birthday. She is buried in Park Lawn Cemetery, Toronto.

Robert Sproule and his wife Katherine had a family of ten. Some details about their children and descendants follow:

  1. Mary Elizabeth (“Minnie”) Sproule b. at Crillan, Co. Fermanagh, March 24, 1881 d. in Toronto, Ontario, 1963 – md. Percival Morgan (b. 1881 d. 1959) “Minnie” trained as a nurse at Adelaide Hospital in Dublin and nursed in the British Isles for some years. She and other members of her family emigrated to Canada in May of 1914 and settled in Toronto. She held a responsible post in the General Hospital of Toronto both before and after her marriage. Around 1925 or 1926 she married Percival Morgan, an ex-serviceman of World War I. Percy was born in 1881 in Cardiff, Wales. In World War I he became a Regimental Quarter Master Sergeant in the R C D. He was wounded and as a result had a plate in his head. It is thought that for a time he was a monotype operator but then he went on full disability pension. He died in 1959 and is buried in Park Lawn Cemetery. Minnie’s mother, Katherine, lived with them for the last 20 odd years of her life. Minnie died in 1963 and was buried in Park Lawn Cemetery, Toronto. 2. Joseph Sproule b. at Crillan, Co. Fermanagh, March 19. 1883 – killed near Ploegsteert; Belgium, Dec. 7/8, 1914.  Joseph’s service records in the British army were among those destroyed by enemy action in World War II. His enlistment number was 7917 which suggests that he enlisted in 1901 or 1902. Perhaps his enlistment was tied to the Boer War which ended in May 1902. Joseph was a handsome moustached man whose stature exceeded six feet. Photographs of him in dress uniform have survived. Joseph enlisted at Clones and would have done his initial training at Armagh. He then joined or was assigned to the lst Battalion of the Royal Irish Fusiliers in Hollywood, Co. Down. He next went with the battalion to Dublin and was promoted to corporal in 1906. He served as an instructor at the Depot for a time but returned to his battalion as a sergeant in the fall of 1907. It was then stationed at Aldershot in England. His unit moved to Bordon at the end of 1910 and then to Shorncliffe at the end of September in 1911. In 1912 he earned a 1st Class Certificate in Education. When Britain declared war on August 4, 1914, the 1st Battalion of the Royal Irish Fusiliers was stationed at Shorncliffe. The 1st Battalion was part of the 10th Infantry Brigade which in turn was part of the 4th Division. After some moves around England, the 1st Battalion embarked from Southampton on the morning of August 23 on the S.S. Michigan and disembarked at Boulogne on the following morning. The battalion left Boulogne by trairzon the morning of the 24th and detrained at Le Coteau. It then marched to a bivouac south of Inchy, a village near the road going from Le Cateau to Cambrai. The Battalion’s approximate position was about 100 miles north-north-east of Paris and about some 30 miles south-south-west of Mons in Belgium. The immediate task of the battalions of the 10th Brigade was to move north and help cover the retreat of the British forces from Mons. In turn these British forces had to coordinate their retreat with French forces on their right. The retreat had started on the night of August 23rd and faced the problem of checking what the German commanders thought would be a quick drive to Paris. The 4th Division made its initial contact with the enemy on August 25th and from then until the 5th of September the 1st Battalion was almost continually fighting and retreating.  In the case of the 1st Battalion, the retreat ended near the vicinity of Chevry about 15 to 20 miles east and slightly south of the heart of Paris. Before dawn on 6 September the British Expeditionary Force and French forces began the offensive known as the Battle of the Marne. For the let Battalion of the Royal Irish Fusiliers, the advance against the enemy stopped in the neighbourhood of Bucy do Long on the heights north of the Aisne River on 14 September. It is estimated that the Fusiliers in the period of retreat and advance in 22 days had



moved 260 miles without any significant period of rest. The 10th Brigade remained in this part of the front until October 6th when by foot, train and bus it was moved to that part of the front defending the Channel ports. The 1st Battalion arrived in the vicinity of Hazebrouck on the morning of October 13th and before the day was over captured a height north of Meteren. On the evening of October 15th the 10th Brigade moved into billets in Bailleul which lay to the east-north-east of Hazebrouk. On October 17th the Battalion participated in the capture of Armentieres and in the evening of that day Houp-lines was captured. It lay about two miles north-east of Armetieres and a mile or so from the Belgium border. These actions formed part of what was called the First Battle of Ypres, Ypres being a Belgian town lying about 12 miles due north of Armentieres. On October 20th and for several days thereafter an unsuccessful attempt was made to dislodge the Germans from Frelinghien. On November 2nd the Royal Irish Fusiliers participated in an attack on Ploegsteert, a village about two miles inside the Belgian frontier. In the British army Ploegsteert became known as “Plugstreet”. Fighting became very severe in this area and within a few days the front was basically static as each side dug in. At some time during the fighting in France and Belgium, Joseph Sproule was promoted to Company Sergeant Major. The promotion was evidently made in the field as it was never formally recorded. Joseph was killed on the night of December 7th-8th. The cause of his death is recorded in the history of the 1st Battalion of the Royal Irish Fusiliers: “In addition to the constant bombardment of the enemy, there was always a good deal of sniping in this sector. Both sides used rifle batteries,, these were rifles laid on an object and fixed, a soldier being detailed to fire a round at stated intervals. This fire was useful at night. Our casualties were not severe, but many good men were lost this way. Company Sergeant-Major Sproule, an exceptionally fine type of Irish soldier, was shot dead on a pitch dark night by one of these snipers.” A letter from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission states that Joseph lost his life on the  8th of December 1914, whereas the Sproule family record states his death was on December 7th.  The family understood, probably from letters, that Joseph Sproule was killed while making a trip from an exposed advance position back to the main trench in order to get food and drink for the men under his command. Joseph was probably buried in a cemetery established by the Battalion on Seaforth Farm on the Douve sector of the Belgian front. The farm lay just north of Ploegsteert. In later fighting this cemetery was obliterated by shell fire and no gravestones marks the places of the soldiers that were buried there. Joseph’s name, however, is recorded on Panel 9 of the Ploegsteert Memorial in Belgium. The Memorial is located in the Berke Cemetery Extension about one mile north of Ploegsteert village on the west side of the road to Ypres. Joseph was entitled to the 1914 Star and British War and Victory Medals but their whereabouts are unknown. Joseph’s death was honoured by a memorial in the Gortnawinney School near Clones, in the Church of Ireland in Clones, and in an Anglican church in Toronto. It is understood that it was the intention a few years ago to move the Gortnawinney memorial to the church in Clones. Joseph’s and his brother John’s dress uniforms and probably their personal effects were at some date sent to Ireland. Joseph Sproule died unmarried.  3. Martha Sproule b. at Crillan, Co. Fermanagh, 30 March 1885 d. 7 March 1937, at Toronto, Ontario. Martha was the last of the Sproule children to be born at Crillan. The remaining children were born at Carrivetragh, Co. Monaghan. Martha took her nurse’s training at Leamington Spa in England. In 1913 she emigrated to Toronto, Ontario, and nursed in the Isolation Hospital. On 4 January 1917, she enlisted in the Canadian Army Medical Corp (C.A.M.C.) and first nursed in the Base Hospital in Toronto. On May 29th she sailed for England and arrived there on June 8th. While overseas she nursed in both England and France. She arrived back in Canada in September 1919, and nursed at St. Andrews Military Hospital and the Dominion Orthapedic Hospital. She received her discharge in Toronto on 13 October 1920. For her service she received the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. After her discharge, Martha nursed at Christie Street Hospital, Toronto. In 1930 she married a widower and ex-serviceman, Edward (“Ted”) P. Rodgers. It is said that he had a small military pension. Ted is believed to have been employed by Toronto Hydro. Martha’s death in 1937, just short of her 52nd birthdays is in part attributed to the strain of her wartime nursing. Martha was buried in the Soldier’s Plot of Prospect Cemetery in Toronto. She was outlived by her husband but the date of his death has not been established. Like her sister Minnie, Martha’s late marriage meant that there were no children.  4. Robert (“Bert”) Sproule (b. August 16, 1887, at Carrivetragh, near Clones, d. February 11, 1918, at Halifax, Nova Scotia) When Robert was 19 he enlisted in the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, the date



being January 14th, 1907. His mother purchased his release the following month Robert accompanied other members of his family to Toronto, Ontario in the spring of 1914 and he secured employment with the T. Eaton Company. It is understood that after the outbreak of World War I that he tried to enlist but was turned down because of an eyesight problem. In the latter part of World War I Canada introduced conscription and Robert was inducted into the lst Battalion of the Central Ontario Regiment on 5 January 1918. (During the course of the war that physical requirements were reduced). Robert was briefly stationed in Toronto and was then sent to Halifax, Nova Scotia. He was awaiting embarkation for overseas duty when he contracted double pneumonia, possibly as a result of drilling in inclement weather. He was admitted to hospital on February 4, 1918 and died on February 11. His body was returned to Toronto and he was buried in Prospect Cemetery in a section set aside for conscript soldiers  (Section 18, Stone  4558). The Sproule family felt some bitterness at Robert being conscripted after trying to volunteer earlier and also over the circumstances of his death and burial. After a struggle his mother was able to secure a small pension from the Canadian government because at the time of his death Robert was her eldest son and a means of support. Robert was not married.  5. John (“Jack”) Sproule b. Nov. 8, 1889, at Carrivetragh, near Clones, he was killed in Belgium, February 14, 1915. As was the case with his brother Joseph, John’s service records were among those destroyed by enemy action in 1940. His enlistment number was 9108 and from that an army office suggests that he would have joined up in 1906. The suggested year and other information indicates that he would have enlisted when he was about 16 John must have lied about his age and one concludes that when his date of birth was established that it was too late to do anything about it. John enlisted in Clones and took his initial training at the Depot in Armagh. He joined or was assigned to the 1st Battalion of the Royal Irish Fusiliers in April or May of 1906 and was made a Lance Corporal in the fall of 1906. He was posted to the 3rd Battalion at Armagh in October of 1908 and was returned to the 1st Battalion in Aldershot in 1909. He was sent to India, probably in 1911, when several large drafts were sent to join the 2nd which was based at Quetta near the frontier with Afghanistan. All told, John served perhaps four years in the same battalion as his brother Joseph, i.e., the First Battalion of the Royal Irish Fusiliers. It is assumed that John was promoted to Sergeant and then to a Sergeant Major at dates between 1911 and 1914. After the outbreak of war in 1914, the second Battalion was brought back to England. It sailed from Bombay on 16 October and disembarked at Plymouth on 18 November. It was then sent to Winchester and joined the 82 Brigade of the 27th Division. On 19 December 1914, the battalion embarked on the City of Benares and arrived at Le Havre the following day. The battalion was billeted in Arques, a village about 30 miles east of Boulogne until 7 January 1915. It then undertook a five day march to Dickebusch, a village south-west of Ypres in Belgium. Upon its arrival on 12 January the 2nd Battalion relieved the Royal Scots in the front line. On 4 February, after a six day rest period in the rear, the Battalion occupied trenches in the St. Eloi south of Ypres. It is likely that John Sproule received a field promotion to Company Sergeant Major in the next few days but that the promotion was never formally recorded. On 14 February the Battalion came under a violent bombardment at about 3:30 p.m. Companies A, B, and C were in front line trenches and Company D in a support trench. Company A came under attack and Company D came forward in support. The Germans were driven back but both Company A and Company D suffered a number of casualties and Company Sergeant Major John Sproule was among those killed. A few days later the 2nd Battalion was paraded and the Divisional Commander congratulated it for its gallantry on 14 February.  The St. Eloi sector was about five miles north of where John’s brother Joseph was killed about nine weeks before. It is possible that Joseph may have been briefly reunited with his brother when the former was given a ten day furlough on 25 November 1914, for John had returned from India on 18 November. It is rather ironical that had Joseph lived another three weeks that he would have met John when officers and non-commissioned officers of the And Battalion visited the let Battalion on 29 December 1914, to learn about trench warfare. At the end of the war John Sproule’s grave was not located by the War Graves Commission. It is assumed that he, like his brother, was buried in a cemetery close to the front lines and that the cemetery was obliterated in later fighting. John Sproule is commemorated on Panel 2 of the Ypres Memorial (Nenin Gate), Belgium. His death was also honoured by a memorial in Gortnawinney school, in the Church of Ireland in Clones, and in an Anglican church in Toronto. John was entitled



to the 1914/15 Star and the British War and Victory medals, The whereabouts of these medals is unknown. John was not married.  6. Katherine (“Katy”) Sproule b. Feb. 28, 1891 at Carrivetragh, Clones, Co. Monaghan d. May 10, 1954 at Palmerston, Ontario – md. Hary Wm. Gage on November 17, 1923.  Katy emigrated with other members of her family to Toronto, Ontario, in May,  1914.  She secured employment with the T. Eaton Co. In 1916  she and her brother George returned to Ireland to operate the Carrivetragh farm.  It had been rented out in 1914 and 1915. Katy took over the running of the household and helped her brother in many other ways. Shortly after George’s marriage in the fall of 1918, she returned to Toronto. She took stenographic training and took office employment. On November 17,  1923, Katy married Harry William Gage. He had served as a sergeant in the Canadian Expeditionary Force. Harry was born on April 25, 1886 in London, England. During his war service in France he contracted trench foot and after several operations was a double amputee. He died on June 20, 1931 and was buried in Prospect Cemetery in Toronto. His widow, Katy, was left with two young children to raise. Katy died at Palmerston, Ontario, on May 10, 1954 and was buried in Park Lawn Cemetery, Toronto. 6.1. Eileen Beatrice Gage (4 September 1924 at Toronto – 3 Oct. 3, 1990) m Ivan C. Whiteside on June 18, 1949.  Eileen’s husband, Ivan C. Whiteside was born on March 13, 1924) at Alliston, Ontario, he being a son of Edmund Carrol Whiteside and Edna Mildred Steele. Ivan graduated from the Ontario College of Pharmacy in 1948 and secured his own pharmacy. Ivan and Eileen were married in the Church of the Messiah, Toronto, on June 18, 1949. Her Uncle William Sproule was the minister there.   6.1.1. Edmund (“Ted”) Carrol Whiteside b. November 23, 1950.  Ted received a B.A and M.A. from York University. On August 14, 1974, he married Therese Anne Tremblay, a social worker of Alma, Quebec. Emile Anne Whiteside b. Sept. 30, 1978 Gregory Edward Whiteside b. July  17,  1981  6.1.2. Carol Elizabeth Whiteside, b. October 21, 1952.  Carol is a graduate from University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario. She is an occupational therapist. Krista Allison b. September 7, 1978 6.1.3. Brian Richard Whiteside b. June 10, 1955 d. Brian graduated with a B.A and a B.Ed. from York University. 6.1.4. Bruce Douglas Whiteside b. May 26, 1958 d Bruce has a B. Sc. in Agricultural Resource Management from the University of Guelf. 6.1.5. Robert Gage Whiteside b. July 15, 1961 d. 6.2. Kathleen Isobel Gage, 2nd dau. of Harry & Katy Gage b. February 10, 1927 at Toronto, Ontario. On April 18, 1937, Kathleen married Wesley Roy Ruller. He was born on April 11, 1923 at Palmerston, Ontario. In World War II Roy served with the Argyll and Sutherland Regiment and was badly wounded in Holland. Kathleeand Roy’s children are as follows:  6.2.1. Narda Ruller – died at birth 6.2.2. Katherine Anne Ruller b. January 3, 1951 On April 24, 1971, Katherine married Michael Strauss of Mildmay. Katherine and Michael have two children as follows: Serena Annie Strauss, b. December 1974 Regan Michael Strauss, b. August  15,  1977  6.2.3. Daniel Earl Ruller, b. January 7, 1957.  In 1977, Daniel married Joanne Hope of Walkerton. He and Joanne have two children as follows: Angela Danielle Ruller b. January 5, 1978 Corey Jo Ruller b. April 25, 1980 6.2.4. Louise Gay Ruller b. September 5, 1959. On March 28, 1981, Louise married Harold Sache, Jr. 7. Sara Sproule b. May 16, 1893 at Carrivetragh, near Clones, Co. Monaghan d. August 27, 1945 at Winnipeg, Manitoba.  Sara emigrated with others of her family to Toronto, Ontario, in May of 1914. On November 12, 1919, in the Church of St. Michaels and All Angels she married Thomas (“Tom”) Colquhoun Robinson. Tom was born on November 25, 1882, at Lisnaskea , Co. Fermanagh and was baptized in the Methodist Church, Newtownbutler)on January 1, 1883. He was one of the four children of Thomas Colquhoun Robinson and Eliza Anne Foster Thomas Jr. emigrated to Canada in



1906 and worked for the T.H. & B. Railway for six years. He went to Winnipeg in 1912 and took a job with the Canadian Pacific Railway as a claims clerk in the freight department. On March 16, 1916, he enlisted with the 59th Battery of the Canadian Field Artillery and served in France with the  60th Battery of the C.F.A. Tom was demobilized in July 1919. He resumed employment with the C P R at Hamilton and moved to Winnipeg after his marriage. Tom rose to the position of City Freight Agent. Sara died on 27 August 1945 and Tom on 1 February 1947. They are both buried in Elmwood Cemetery, Winnipeg. 7.1. Irene Kathleen Robinson b. September 10, 1920, at Winnipeg. On February 21, 1942, Irene married Harry Booth. He was born on January 9, 1921 at , he being the son of Thomas Booth of Liverpool, England, and of Maud Hutchings of Winchester, England. Harry became an accountant and in time President of Alberta arid Southern Gas in  1971. Irene and Harry had three children as follows:  7.1.1. Robert (“Bob”) Booth b. November 26, 1952 at Winnipeg.  Bob graduated from the Royal Military College with an Engineering degree in 1974 and with a law degree from Dalhousie in 1977. He is a partner with Bennett – J

37 thoughts on “Eight Centuries of the Spreull and Sproule Families”

  1. Dear Mr. Sproule
    I am blown away by the academic quality of the work you have done in this Sproule project. I will do my best to contribute to the development of this project but like many I feel I have the two ends of the story but not nearly enough of the middle. Tell me the best way to share my story and I will. I can say here that we are New Brunswick Sprouls but I suspect not directly tied to the surveyor Sproul of circa 1780s but more likely amongst the 12,000 Sprouls that came as U.E.L.’s I also believe we are Scots-Irish as the spelling of the name would suggest.

    But I have a question to start with. You refer several times to illustrations suggesting there are some images tied to this book but they do not seem to appear in the online version. I was particularly interested in seeing the original coat of arms. By the way, if you haven’t seen it there is a video showing the relatively recent state of the original cowdon property. I can send it to you if you haven’t seen it.

    Ken Sproul, Toronto

  2. I come from New Zealand and I have a Marriage Certificate for a William Colhoun and Isabella Sproule 18 March 1865
    He was a Farmer from Urblereagh and She was from Lisercevaghan . William’s father was Adam and Isabella father was James. They are my Great Grandparents. My Grandmother was a Colhoun. Being so far away it is difficult researching further back. Is it possible you may be able to help me?
    Thanking you very much
    Berneice Edmonds
    79 Joy Street
    Christchurch 8061.

  3. I am trying to find information dating back from my great grandmother Anna Bell Ramsey (Collins)…her mother was Lydia A. Collins ( Sproel ) from Huntington or Bluffton Indiana. I believe the Sproel’s came to Indiana from Delaware.
    Thank you

  4. I read with interest this account of James Manley Spreull (1878-1942), my maternal grandfather, who is said to be a “gambler.” I had previously only linked him to alcohol and to a unsuccessful bid to win a seat in the 1931 election in East Bristol. (A Conservative/Liberal candidate, he lost by less than 450 votes.) I have just been to visit the grave of his brother, George John Spreull (1880-1956), at the Royal Oak Cemetery here in Victoria, BC.

  5. What a wonderful “Doctoral Thesis!!!!”–a precious trove of information. I’m emailing from Australia & am wondering if you ever came across James SPROULE’s Family from Milltown, Fermanagh, N.Ireland. James (1837-1913). He married Jane WATSON (1846-1882). She was born in Londonderry. (father William WATSON (1810-1888) and mother Agnes “Nancy” McCANDLISH (1810-?). James’ & Jane’s children were John James (b. 1869); Sarah Ann McCandless (b. 1871); William Alexander Irving (b. 1874); Robert George Watson (b. 1876); Charlotte Elizabeth (b. 1879); Eliza Jane (b. abt 1880) and Thomas Albert (b. 1882). We know that at least 2 of the children went to Ontario, Canada –John James & Elizabeth. Most sincere thanks for any help.

    1. Hello Janette. Thank you for visiting this website! I have sent you a followup email. Look forward to hearing from you soon. Joe

  6. I am an original Sproule from Greenan Dromore Co.Tyrone
    At one time we had 8 families of Sproule living on our mountain but sadly i am the only surviving family of sproules
    I was informed my family came from Renfrewshire circa1725.
    My father was called Robert James Sproule 1928-1996, my grandfather was James Sproule 1785-1950
    Anyone wants to contact me please do so, my Aunty May is still alive in her 90th year and has a great knowledge of ‘The Sproules of Greenan’

    1. Hi John, Thank you so much for visiting the website and providing your lineage. The Greenan Sproules are one of lesser researched Sproule branches and will be vital for the Sproule project to learn all we can about it. I have sent you an email. Joe

    2. Hi John
      My husband’s gt gt grandmother was Jane Sproule of Greenan c1819-1902 who married James Alexander of Dresogue. They immigrated to Australia in 1864. Jane was the daughter of John Sproule and Elizabeth Wallace. John might have been the son of Hugh Sproule. Would you know how your family and John Sproule would be related?

    3. My Sprole (sometimes Sproule) family, in the person of one William, m. Rebecca McConnell in Baltimore MD 1803, having come apparently from Ireland , his wife perhaps from Philadelphia. Their son was Presbyterian Rev. William T. Sprole, at one time chaplain of the U.S. House of Representatives. William’s ancestry have confounded us, but his sister-in-law’s grave says she was from Strabane.

      Do you know of Tyrone Sproule families who emigrated to Maryland or Pennsylvania? I note in The Irish Sproles listed on this site a William Sprowle (1674 – 23 March 1751) who was a Quaker and who moved to Pennsylvania, having a son William.

      Any word on Baltimore Sproles?

      Thanks for any useful word you can offer. Please use my personal email: ctm_logan@yahoo.com.

      Christopher Logan
      Eugene, Oregon

    1. John,

      I am very interested to hear that you are a Grenan/Greenan Sproule. I have been looking at Jack Elder’s family trees, filed with PRONI. There are several family trees of Sproules of Grenan, and it is difficult to determine how they are all related. There were three brothers – John, James and Oliver – who farmed the western portion of Greenan, about 143 acres, at the time of the Tithe Applotment (1834) and I came from Oliver. That branch eventually moved to Oshawa, Ontario, Canada, while others went to Australia. However, the most prominent of the Sproules of Greenan undoubtedly seems to be the Sproules of the Holme.

      I and other researchers have been looking through the deeds, available online, and have found some limited information on James Sproule of Greenan in the 1750s.

      Please let me know if you are able to share any further information. I can send you the information I have on the deeds from the 1700s.

  7. Hi everyone, there are quite a few Sproules in Australia.

    We’ve tried to find past our great grandfather but the records are hard to find.

    My grandfather was Ronald Sproule who married Edna Alfred.

  8. I am a descendant of John Sproull who came to Canada from County Tyrone in the 1820’s. I believe that John’s father was also called John (Jack Roe?), and that his father was Joseph. But I do not have documentation of either.

    I believe the John who came to Canada was originally married to an Anne Edwards, with whom he had 3 children; who, even after coming to Canada, were raised Protestant like Ann.

    When Anne died, John married Mary Toner. John & Mary had 4 more children (1 in Ireland and 3 in Canada?), who were raised Catholic like Mary.

    The John Sproull who came to Canada died in Ormstown, Quebec in 1853. He was my 3x great-grandfather.

    I have Irish on both sides of my father’s family (O’Dougherty), and am finding research of my Irish roots to be frustrating.

    I haven’t completely read your paper, but I don’t think we are in it. Is any of this familiar to you?


  9. I just started researching in depth about my family tree. The only info known for sure is my Grandpa Harold Sproule born in Bay City, MI(1907-1988) ; his father Flaud Sproule (1879-1968) in Canada. I believe Flaud Sproule’s parents were Robert J. Sproule from Simcoe, Ontario (1852-1921 died in Augre, MI) and Matilda Mooney(1853-1915). Robert J’s father is believed to be William Sproule (circa 1810 in Dublin died in Canada 1868 and was possible married to Charlotte Wallace(1813-1881). My search ended there. Any clarification or further info would be greatly appreciated.

  10. a very very interesting read
    my family own and farm longfield in rahara
    i often wondered about the sproules ,where they actually came from
    the history lesson was fantastic

  11. I am a direct descendant of Dr. Godfrey Spruill. He was my 9th great grandfather. I am seeking information on him prior to immigration as I have all the histories of my line from him upward in the states. Any help is greatly appreciated. I know we were a sept of Clan MacFarlane but would love some info on the connection.

    1. I too am a direct descendant of Dr. Godfrey Spruill (8th Great Grand father) immigrant to South Carolina. His father( also a doctor), Godfrey Spruill 1615-1690 lived in Lanarkshire, Glasgow, Scotland and was married to Margaret Neilson, daughter of John Neilson and Margaret Gordon. Through the Gordon line, Lord John Gordon 1487-1517 married Margaret Stuart, daughter of Margaret Drummond and King James IV of Scotland. You (we) are direct descendants of the royal Scottish line back to Robert The Bruce.

    1. Hi Paul. Thank you for visiting my site and leaving your comments. Yes, I can’t tell you how excited the Sproul DNA project and Sproul researchers in general are and how relieved that you have carried on your dad’s legacy. It is so important and several of our testers do indeed come from your line. So thank you for taking up the torch!

    1. Yes! There is a connection. One thing I can say for certain is your line is of the mutation FGC60992 which we have classified as the James Sr of Cowden mutation. I can say this because the men that are descended from your particular line are positive for this mutation. It was James Sr’s three sons that took their father’s inheritance once selling Cowden in 1622 and settling new lands in County Tyrone, Tullymoan in the parish of Urney being the first. Kate Tammemagi, our genealogy researcher for the Sproul DNA project has been working diligently on determining which townland your particular lineage settled. It was likely not Tullymoan (settled by James Jr) due to a mutation difference that likely occurred between the three brothers. We have several Big Y-700 testers from your lineage that we are expecting results from in the near future that we hope can shed some light on when the mutation for your particular line occurred so we can say definitively that it happened between the brothers. If you wish I can add you to our email list so you can be kept in the loop as to how we are progressing.

      1. Thank you for your research. My forebare was an Elizabeth Sproule who arrived in Austraia in 1855 with her lady help Frances Liomin. I think from Tyrone Ireland. Her mother could have had a Scottish background. Elizabeth married James Gubby and resided near Geelong. Elizabeth named some of her children afterFrances Liomin, as did her children (Mary Hodge, nee Gubby (Elizabeth’s daughter) named one of her sons Leomin Hodge. Elizabeth Sproule was the daughter of Andrew Sproule and it is said that she had a brother James and that she left for Australia after a falling out with her father. I would love to know more about Elizabeth’s ancestry.

      2. Hello Joe,
        When the Sproulls sold Cowden, one brother apparently stayed behind, as this is the lineage I have. My great grandfather x6, John Sproull had “a son, Matthew born 1737 to John Sproull in Green Fields of Cowden”. This Matthew later had a bleach works, Nether Craigs Bleach Works, and it was his son, Matthew, who immigrated to Nova Scotia in 1823. BTW, Nether Craigs adjoins, or was part of what was the old Cowden property..

      3. My brothers and a cousin are also listed on the DalyClan website. We would be interested in kept in the loop of Big Y-700 testers. It seems we are all searching for Robert Sproul’s lineage.

        1. Hello, Twin!
          I came across a recent post of yours (July 28, 2020) on an e-mail thread and I am excited to be included in your ‘search’.
          I joined the “Sproul Project’ and I look forward to reading many hours about our ancestry.
          LOCH SLOY!

  12. Hi my gt gt gt grandma is Elizabeth Sproul born c.1811 in Antrim. She married James Wilson 7.11.1832 in Bute (my maiden name is Wilson).
    I would love to know more about her and her family but seem to keep hitting brick walls in my research.
    I was also wondering if the two families were connected before the marriage as there do appear to be some Wilsons in the Sproul history.

  13. Thank you so much for sharing your research, it’s really interesting and very much appreciated! My great grandmother was Letitia Sproul/e born abt 1832, daughter of Robert Sproul/e from Kilcroagh and around the Castlederg area. She married a William Taylor in 1854 and went on to have eight children. I can’t fine out anything about her before her marriage or any of her Sproul/e relations. I wonder if you’ve come across anything associated with her or her family? Thanks in advance Christine

  14. Hi there, I’m another descendant of Robert Sproul born in 1725 in Ireland, so I would love to hear about any updates on his parentage. One researcher believed his father may have been named Andrew? Please add me to the email list if you’re still running it!

  15. Hi John
    I have been researching my Irish ancestors for sometime and day come across your website. Very interesting, thanks for sharing your research.
    I have found that my 4th great grandmother was Mary Sproule, born abt 1770, was from the Parish of Dromore, Tyrone. I found a Memorial of her Marriage Articles in the Registry of Deeds, lodged 1795, (478/553/311812) . There are no church records for Dromore from that period so it was an amazing find for me as it stated who her father was – a John Sproule from Greenan. There are other Memorials relating to the lands she and her husband Chadwallader Blayney acquired at their marriage, leases at Dullaghan and Bodoney. They eventually emigrated to Canada with several of their grown children leaving 2 sons, my ancestor Ambrose & James to continue in Ireland on their Dullaghan leases.
    How do my Mary and John Sproule fit into the Sproules of Greenan?

    1. Hi Cheryl,

      I think I have some information from other deeds that establishes the connection from this John Sproule of Greenan to others. Please email me separately.

      Jamie Reid

  16. Hello,
    I am another descendant of Robert Sproul b. 1725 in Ireland, married Sarah Whitcomb in Massachusetts in 1745. Your research is truly amazing! Thank you so much for making it available to all of us in search of our Irish/Scottish roots – very much appreciated.

  17. Facinating to find this history. My family is from North Carolina. I was raised in Brooklyn, NY, and I’m Afrikan American. I trace my family to 1786, and the slaveholders who owned us were the Spruill’s of Creswell County.

    1. Hi Eric, Thanks for visiting my site! For more information please visit our project at FamilyTreeDNA. Search for the Sproul project. Do you think you are descended from the Spruills?

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Ancient and Modern Ancestors of the Sprowl Family of New Castle County, Delaware and Camden County, New Jersey