The following extract from 'A Sketch of the Pelan Family' came to hand recently, regrettably this is all that there is, but possibly and hopefully more will be found. The 'Letter' so called is the 'Life of Samuel Pelan', and it spans an important period in Irish Affairs, the 1798 Rebellion, the Act of Union, The Famine, yet none of these are mentioned. However it does deal in detail with the day to day problem of life and in doing so gives considerable insight to the period on a personal level.
On the morning of the 24th of July 1793 I made my appearance on this stage of life being the Monday morning after the Maze races and a number of my mother's friends from Lecale were present at the event. They had come to the races and did not think of going home until the Saturday after the meeeting, drinking and spreeing all the time. I am told that such a jolly set of fellows never met together in Lisburn. The first thing I remember is going to school. I remember the first day quite well. The schoolmaster was an old man who had a great lisp and was blind of an eye and lame of one leg, and had a large School in Bridge Street, his name was Samuel Smith. I continued with him until I was ten or eleven years old, during which time I had learned to read and write a little and the common rules of Arithmetic, then I was removed to Neely's1 Academy. About this time I joined the yeomanry Band, then forming, and began learning to play the flute. I was extremely little at that time and quite a show when in military dress, which was very gay, at least I thought so. It consisted of a black castor cap and feather much as is worn by Officers at the present day, a black stock, a superfine white jacket gaudily trimmed with silver lace and epaulettes of the same material, white linen trousers for summer and white cloth breeches and black leggins for winter. We wore beautiful swords and had our hair in a queue and powdered. I continued in the Band about nine years. I became an excellent performer on the flute, besides being able to play on the Clarionette, French horn, Kent bugle and Cornopean. I also played in the Church band, there was then no Organ in the Church. I sometimes played there the Clarionette, sometimes the French horn but generally the flute.
On entering Mr. Neely's school he put me into strokes but in a short time he thought me fit to enter the eleventh class of writers, there were that number of classes who wrote every week for a prize; each boy or girl staked a penny and the winner in each class got the whole. When a pupil won three times in succession he was removed to the next class; and strange to say, I won three times in succession in every class until I reached the second, but there I was stopped, I could get no farther and you will perceive it was no great wonder when I tell you the reason. There was in this class a knowing lad (the present Mr. John Pennington who you know in Lisburn who would if he chose have won three successive times in this class but he preferred to win only twice and intentionally lose the third time sooner than get into the first class in which he knew he could not win at all; he preferred money to honour, I aspired to both and obtained them so far. In this class I continued I don't know how long, but I remember it was till Pennington left school when I soon after got into the first class - this class then consisted of four, boys, William John Darby (considered the best writer in the school at this time) Alexander Jordan (afterwards drowned while bathing in the Lagan) James Fulton, James McNamara and myself. With these competitors I battled my way, I don't know how long, sometimes winning, sometimes losing until at length I won three successive times and was removed according to rule out of the first class - After I was removed from the first class, I was obliged to accept a challenge from any boy in school for any sum not exceeding one shilling for the stake. I was soon challenged by Darby to compete with him for a shilling; which challenge I accepted as I was bound to do and it was arranged by Mr. Neely that we should write one line each in all the different hands viz Large hand, round hand, small hand, Germen text, Old English, Engrossing hand and all the different and ornamental kinds of printing, and that the time should be limited, to be begun and finished in one day between the hours of ten and three o'clock.
The day was appointed and I was the conquerer. There was a good deal of private betting among the boys upon this trial of skill; among many Darby was the favourite. I never was challenged by any one afterwards, so that I was called the Champion. My father was greatly rejoiced at my success and got me to write a specimen of all the different hands which he got framed and it was hung up in the parlour for many a year - I was not only a good writer but a good reader Arithmetician and Grammarian.
Not long after this, my father bound me an apprentice to Mr. Neely in order that I might become a Schoolmaster, I was then nearly fifteen years of age and about the height you are now and from my appearance it was not expected that I would be much taller, so that my father thought I would never be fit for any thing else. I was bound for five years but the Indentures were dated about a quarter of a year back so that I would be out of my time at the first May 1813. He gave me a salary of £10, the first year which gradually increased until the last, when I had £25. This money of course my father received for my support, for I continued to live in my father's house; besides my salary Mr. Neely was bound to devote to my instruction one hour every day. I studied during my apprenticeship Elocution, Recitation, Geography and the Use of the Globes and some portion of the Mathematics. I also learned to read and translate French during this time under a French teacher who attended once a week. He got a class amongst the advanced pupils which met every Saturday at 12 o'clock when the other scholars were dismissed.
Mr. Neely was one of the crossest and most austere men I ever knew, he
was a terror to his scholars and to me; he flogged me the very first or
second day after I went to his school for the following fault; George
Pelan who sat at the desk opposite to me, borrowed my penknife and
afterwards he refused to return it to me, when I went round to him and
gave him a box on the ear; Mr. Neely being in the upper schoolroom
(there were three schoolrooms on a parallel with each other besides the
Classical Schoolroom below, in all there were about one hundred and
twenty scholars) and seeing me strike George, he flogged me. I was
resolved to have my revenge of George on the very first opportunity, for
not only was he the cause of my being flogged but he "made game" of me
afterwards; so on getting out of School at 3 o'clock I made a snowball
(there happening to be snow on the ground at the time) and put a pebble
into it with which I hit him in the eye and blackened it; of which he
complained to his father who immediately called on my father desiring
that he would beat me for the offence, but he refused to do so when I
told him of George's conduct respecting the knife. My uncle resolving
that I should be punished called at the school next morning and informed
Mr. Neely of my assault on George who could not come to school in
consequence of his black eye, but Mr. Neely refused to interfere saying
that he would have nothing to do with matters which happened out of the
school for that was the business of the parents and not his; and there
the affair ended.
During the last two years of my apprenticeship, my father finding me attentive, encouraged me by allowing me some pocket money out of my salary which enabled me to follow in my leisure hours a pastime I was very fond of, handball and racket playing, and I required exercise. There was then in Bridge Street a good ballcourt and I could best any boy in the town at either of the above games, but unfortunately it often happened that in the evening after the ball playing was over, we repaired to the public house attached to the Court or some other, and concluded the evening at Cards, this last habit was of course unknown to my father. Now permit me to lay a father's injunctions upon you that you do through life avoid not only card playing but every species of gambling, as no good can arrive from it either in this world or the next, but on the contrary we may expect the worst consequences to follow both here and hereafter. Who would employ you, if you were even suspected of this vice or given to drinking or company keeping at night? I hope, nay I am convinced that this admonition is unnecessary for I believe you have more sense than to be guilty of either, nevertheless I feel it to be my duty to give it to you and I have every reason to expect you will attend to it.
Thus time passed on until my apprenticeship expired and well do I recollect the last day of it for on that day I did chalk out for myself the future course of my journey through life.
When three o'clock came and the scholars were about to be dismissed, Mr. Neely came to me and said, "I suppose you are aware that your time is up," I replied that "I was quite aware of it". He then said, you will stop and come with me, to which I consented and desired my brother Thomas who was at school to mention the circumstances to my father so that the family should not expect me home for dinner. Accordingly we descended to the dining room, and as dinner was not just ready I lifted up the Newspaper of the day which was on the sideboard beside me where I sat and glancing over the advertisements, my eye caught the following:- Wanted on the first of May a Clerk for reespectable Mercantile Establishment a few miles from Belfast, who can be well recommended. Application to be made to Park and Telfair, Winecellar entry, Belfast - Thought I, this might suit me, as along with my other qualifications I had learned Bookkeeping, but Mr. Neely had no idea of what passing in my mind. The first thing he said to me was, what are you going to do with yourself now? I said, I see an advertisement in this paper for a clerk and I think I will endeavour to get the situation. Oh! said he, you need not think of that, for I will make a new engagement with you and give you a right good salary; said I, Mr. Neely you need not think of it, for no salary you could give me nor any earthly consideration you could hold that would induce me to continue as your Usher or Assistant. Why said he, you and I have agreed very well and I am astonished to hear you say so. I then replied, Sir, I considered myself during the time I have been your apprentice as in a state of slavery, I am now free and I am determined to keep myself so; so you need not say another word on the subject, and he did not, the matter was at an end. Well, we dined and had a glass of punch then I requested my indentures and also a Certificate both of which he gave me and bidding him farewell I went home and related to my father all that passed between us.
About three months before my time was expired with Mr. Neely, a circumstance occurred which was likely to have altered all my calculations with respect to my future prospects in life - There lived at that time in Ballymacash a Clergyman of the name of Mr. Philip Johnson2 (an Uncle of Thomas Johnson Smith) who had a friend in Dublin of the name of Captain Reynatt this gentleman was placed at the head of the Military depot in that City to which place were sent all the recruits then enlisted in Ireland and being the time of War recruiting was carried on to a vast extent. This Gentleman wrote to his friend Mr. Johnson to procure him a clerk for the Military depot Office who hearing of my qualifications as a writer called at Mr. Neely's and requested an interview with me, so I was sent for to the parlour and Mr. Johnson declared his business with me and offered me the situation; I said I was greatly obliged to him for the preference and that I would accept it, but that I must consult my father. He told me the duties and emoluments of the Office as far as he knew. In the first place I must accept the rank of a Serjeant of Artillery but would not be obliged to do any duty nor even to wear military dress except on field days, and that my pay as a Serjeant would be made up by the Captain to £100 per annum; besides I would have the benefit of the Canteen. You may have some idea of a Canteen if you could imagine what a public house would be in a large Barrack yard containing 10,000 soldiers. It is not easy to conceive the immence quantity of drink that would be sold to such a number of men and of these the greater part recruits each of them receiving £18. 4. 0. of bounty and that paid on the spot. But this is not all, I would have the benefit of supplying those recruits with their slab jackets. Take it altogether, such a beneficial offer rarely occurs. When I mentioned the matter to my father, he consulted his friend the Rev. Andrew Craig, the Presbyterian Minister of the parish and he was against it; he said I should not go into the Army unless I got a Commission, but that was impossible for no commissioned Officer would be permitted to hold the situation, and besides, Mr. Neely would not allow me to go I being his apprentice. So I was obliged to call on Mr. Johnson and tell him that I was obliged to decline the kind offer and there the business dropped. The person who got the situation made, I was told about £1000 a year by it and afterwards was able to keep his carriage living at Blackrock in the vicinity of Dublin. I have no doubt but Mr. Neely's refusal to cancel my indentures instigated me to give him the reply I gave him when he proposed the new engagement.
When I told my father of the conversation which had passed between
Mr. Neely and me, he was both surprised and angry and upbraided me with
upsetting all his plans for making a Schoolmaster of me; after a long
altercation and finding he could do no better than to assist me in my
newly formed enterprise he called on his friend Mr. Craig again, for he
consulted him on all occasion of importance, and he got a certificate
from him as to my character. respectability and acquirement and
fortunately for me Mr. Telfair was a friend of Mr. Craig.
Armed with these two Certificates, I the next morning being the 1st May 1813 started for Belfast. This I have always considered the most important day of my life, for on the attainment of the object I had in view I placed all my hopes of future happiness, and having acted contrary to the wishes of my father I was doubly impressed with the importance of the undertaking having dubbed myself the founder of my own fortune and future destiny. Having arrived in Belfast I proceeded to the office of Mr. Robert Telfair a Tobacconist in Telfair's entry; I was directed here by some person whom I met on the street, but this was not the place where I should have gone to, however he was a brother of the gentleman to whom I should have applied and when I told him my errand and handed him Mr. Craig's certificate, he immediately became interested in my favor. He asked lie to show him a specimen of my writing and handed me pen, ink and paper for the purpose. I excused myself by saying that having walked from Lisburn my hands were sweating and swelled and that it could not be expected that I could write in my usual way, he said he would make every allowance for that and merely wanted to see my system or style in writing. I knew not at the moment what to write, but the following lines struck me, and they were certainly appropriate.
"when young, life's journey I
The glitt'ring prospect charm'd my eyes
I saw along the extended plain
Joy after joy successive rise".
He was highly pleased with both the appropriateness of the lines and the style of writing; he had a taste for writing being a good writer himself, his father was a writing master, and the most celebrated writer of his day, although he had no right hand, only a stump; and on the left hand he had only one finger, the middle one and the thumb. I met him once afterwards at a party at Castlereagh. Mr. Robert Telfair then took me to his brother in Winecellar entry who also warmly espoused my cause, and giving me a letter to Messrs. Robert Kennedy and Co. Brewers at Comber, advised me strongly to proceed to that town without loss of time as there had been many applications for the situation and one of them from my own town. Accordingly I started on foot, there being no regular passenger cars or other conveyances at that time and arrived in Comber in the evening. There was one young man in Comber I knew, having previously met him in Lisburn where he had come on business for the Brewery, acting for the firm until the new clerk would be engaged, his name was John Galway and for him I enquired on my arrival and found him in a public house treating two or three customers who had purchased some goods from him. He kept a Clothshop being one of the firm of McConnells and Galway in that town. He was glad to see me and received me very kindly and at once guessed my business in Comber and after treating me to something to drink (and I was much in need of refreshment after my long walk, Comber being 7 miles from Belfast, making the length of my journey that day fourteen miles a distance I had never either walked or rode before in one day) he took me to the House of the Messrs. McConnell two of them partners in the Brewery; to whom he introduced me and to whom I delivered my credentials, which being perused they desired me to sit down and invited me to tea which was just ready. They had an unmarried sister keeping house for them, a lady between thirty and forty years of age and there were four unmarried brothers that is, she had two brothers younger than herself who were the partners with Mr. Galway, and two older, who were partners in the Brewery; there were five partners in the firm altogether, viz Allan and William Ralph, Thomas and John McConnell & Robert Kennedy who was married to the McConnell's eldest sister. This lady, miss McConnell was very polite and attentive to me she was of most engaging manners and afterwards got married to a very respectable man in Belfast of the same name and they afterwards set up a Grocery and Spirit shop in Comber. This Gentleman had a very sudden death. Having walked over to Newtownards (3 miles) in company with three of four neighbours to attend the Sessions as jurors, and being there before the Court opened, they went into a public house to drink something, and in the course of five minutes, poor Mr. McConnell was a corpse having died on the chair.
After tea was over Mr. Thomas McConnell requested Mr. Galway to take me down to the Brewery and shew me the concern and when there, he introduced me to the old clerk who was called Thomas Hart and who was no longer fit for business, and with whom I slept that night in a bed in the inner office, a comfortable apartment. The next day I amused myself about the place and in viewing the town and neighbourhood and got my meals in the Messrs. McConnells' and continued thus for a few days assisting the old clerk at the Books and observing how they were kept and how the concern was generally conducted. At length Mr. Hart took his departure and I was recommended to lodging in the house of a worthy couple without children of the name of McMillan who kept a respectable public house; for which with my diet I agreed to pay £20 a year. At Mr. Hart's departure I was put in the sole charge of the books as well as Cashier and continued so for a fortnight and not one word about an agreement, but what I thought stranger still, that so much money should be entrusted in my hands, a complete stranger without ever king of security, but I suppose I may attribute that to my credentials.
At the end of this time I thought it best to enquire if I might consider
myself engaged and if so, what was to be my salary, as my father would
be anxious to know how I was situated; so I applied to Mr. Tom McConnell
on the subject, and told him that I wished to go to Lisburn to see my
father and to let him know how I was fixed and to fetch my clothes &c
(Mr. Galway supplied me with a change of shirts in the meantime). He
told me that I might consider myself engaged for three months (on trial
I suppose, he didn't say so) at £40 this was only the trifling sum of
£100 a year more than I expected, and £120 more than he intended to give
(but more of this anon) but it was not my business to say it was too
much, and he gave me liberty to take one of the saddle horses in the
morning and proceed to Lisburn, which I did and informed my father of my
success, as also Mr. Neely on whom I called, and they were both
astonished at so enormous a salary for so young a man. However when a
year elapsed and I had to credit my account with the amount of my
salary, I asked Mr. John McConnell how much it was to be, and he said
£60, and when I mentioned to him the original offer by his brother, he
said he must have meant £40 a year and I think he did, and I was
satisfied with the latter sum. When riding to the neighbouring towns
looking orders and collecting accounts, my expenses were unlimited and
thus I continued for the space of seven years as happy as man could
wish, when the partnership was dissolved, but I was retained to collect
the debts amounting to upwards of £2000, there was an auction and all
the Horses, carts and moveables were sold; they allowed me £10 a year
additional to my salary from the commencement, which made the sum paid
me for the last year £130. When the debts were collected and a dividend
made, the Brewery fell to the share of the Ralphs and one day when I was
telling them that it was time for me to look out for another situation
and that I had one in view, they asked me into the parlour and ordered
in the materials for making punch to be laid on the table and on our
taking a glass or two they proposed recommencing the brewing business
and making me acting partner and giving me the sole management, they,
furnishing the necessary capital and giving me my fair one third share
of the profits. I embraced the offer without hesitation, and the new
firm "Ralphs & Pelan" immediately commenced to make preparations for
Up to this time I had not learned to brew and as one of the young McConnells was about going to Scotland for the benefit of his health it was arranged that I should accompany him to look out for a first rate Brewer in Edinbro' Glasgow, Alloa, Leith &c. We started off on our tour and spent a pleasant fortnight in that country and I succeeded in getting a Brewer in Glasgow of the name of Sangster whom I engaged for one year at the sum of One hundred guineas, he engaging to teach me the business - At the time we commenced business and before it, the trade was in a very prosperous condition, beer was 48s/- pr barrell to retailers and 50s/- to private families, but soon after, it fell to 36s/- and again to 25s/- and afterwards to a guinea, so that during the four years I was a partner, there was little money to be made, however we got on as well if not better than some of our neighbours in the same trade and I never had a word of complaint from the Ralphs who never came to the Brewery but relied implicitly on my management. It happened one day that a Gentleman in Comber of the name of Stitt asked me into his house as I was passing after dinner, to take a glass of punch and while we were engaged, another gentleman of the name of Montgomery, an attorney came in and joined us. This occurred a few days after the quarter sessions at Newtownards where Mr. Montgomery had been in his professional capacity. He said that during the time of said sessions, a few of the attorneys were one evening enjoying themselves pretty freely and among them was Hugh Wallace of Downpatrick who was the Ralphs Attorney, possessing their entire confidence as well as all their valuable Deeds and documents.
Wallace was a good deal enebriated and he let the "cat out of the bag" for on their jibing him with his intention of possessing himself of the whole of the Ralph's property, he said he would not be afraid of doing so if he could find a pretext for getting young Pelan out of his way, and therefore said Mr. Montgomery I now take this opportunity of putting you on your guard, and of advising you to watch his machinations. Notwithstanding I was thus put on my guard, I had a wily enemy to contend with and I could only watch his proceedings.
One morning shortly after this I was sent for from the brewery by the Ralphs, and going into the parlour there I found Wallace and he commenced by saying that the Messrs. Ralph and he had been talking about the Brewing trade that it was not so good as it had been, this I could not but admit. He then said that they had been thinking of giving it up and of converting the Brewery into a Distillery which was a much better business if I had no objection and take him in as a partner and still giving me the -management. I could not help agreeing, although I knew it was only throwing dust in my eyes and that there was something in the wind. So an advertisement was prepared to the Newspapers of a dissolution of the partnership, and in order to allay my suspicion, all the outstanding debts were to be paid to me. So the debts were collected (all that could be got without law proceedings) and I handed the money as it was collected to the Ralphs, it not being safe to keep so much money in the Brewery office; but it turned out that I was wrong in so doing I should have placed it in one of the Belfast Banks but I was fearful lest they might think I doubted their honor and thereby give them a handle (if I retained the cash by placing it in Bank) for not going on with he new concern. I had a very difficult part to act. But the result of the business was, that Allan Ralph told me he had changed his mind and would not proceed with the contemplated business and declared that any idea of a further partnership must be considered as at an end. He however allowed me £100 which he said would be equal to my share of the profits taking into consideration bad debts wear and tear &c. which I accepted, and thus ended the firm of Ralph and Pelan.
Wallace having succeeded in his diabolical plans against me, I thought t
but fair to retaliate if I could so I let the Ralphs know that I was
quite ware of the manouvre from the beginning. I related to them Mr.
Montgomery's story, how by getting rid of me he intended to rob them of
their heirs by holding their title deeds &c. and I advised them strongly
to beware of him. From what I said and their own observations they saw
the necessity of getting their papers from him as soon as possible for
they had good reason to know that they were in his power for he actually
obtained from them four eight shilling bill stamps with their names on
each of them, any one of which stamps would have carried the amount of
the national debt so that if they the Ralphs were dead he could produce
a Bill or Bills accepted by them against their Executors or Legatees to
any amount. Allan Ralph asked me if I would go with him to Downpatrick
in order to get the stamps from Wallace and I readily agreed to go, for
he Wallace would then see that he had overshot the mark, that in fact by
injuring me he destroyed his own interest, and I was nxious to be a
witness of his mortification. Accordingly Allan and I started for
Downpatrick the next day after this conversation and called on Mr.
Wallace who looked rather queer when he saw us, however he put on the
best face he could and welcomed us to Downpatrick and invited us to
Dinner at 4 o'clock; he said if we had any business with him he would be
happy to t tend to it after dinner; in the meantime he said he was
particularly engaged. We then retired and amused ourselves through the
town until the appointed hour when we returned and were ushered into a
superb dining room where a table was laid out for dinner in a most
magnificient manner, silver knives and forks in short, silver everything
and in a few minutes, in came Mrs. and Mr. Wallace and at their heels
servants carrying in the dinner which consisted of everything a man
could wish, with a butler in livery to attend table. I don't think Allan
Ralph ever saw anything like it before, for he was a remarkanly plain
and ignorant man, at least ignorant of table etiquette but in other
respects he was one of the shrewdest men to be found, he always talked
broad scotch. He seemed fidgetty and awkward and unwilling to begin eat
so much so, that Mrs. Wallace had to beg he would commence and take his
dinner, when Allan said he had
nae fork although a silver one was placed beside his plate she,
pretending not to see it, asked the butler why he had neglected to leave
Mr. Ralph without a fork, the poor fellow who was by this time at the
back of his chair pointed to the fork when Allan lifted it up and said
"do you ca' that a fork? By H---ns its a speen; it was so unlike any
fork he had ever seen before that he did not know its use but actually
thought he had got a spoon in mistake and the butler was obliged to go
and bring a common fork from the kitchen before he would taste a bit.
Mrs. Wallace must have been greatly amused I should say amazed at this
gross ignorance, but Mr. Wallace knowing his guest seemed to make no
notice of it. When dinner was over, Mrs. W. retired and the wine began
to circulate and Allan without any ceremony demanded his four Bill
stamps which were given him for accommodation and for which they had
received no value. Oh! said Wallace now I know your business in
Downpatrick, you shall have them, and he went off for them but brought
only three of them saying he could not lay his hands on the other but he
would send it to them as soon as he could find it. Said I Sir, in this
case, you had better give Mr. Ralph a receipt of your letter stating
that you hold such stamp without having given any valuable consideration
for, without which or the stamp, his journey here to-day is in vain. You
are his law adviser I see, said he? Yes, said I, time about is fair
play. You have succeeded in injuring me but I am only assisting Mr.
Ralph at his request. Do you think I meditated anything unjust in the
matter, he replied? I know not said I what were your reasons for getting
the stamps but I do know that Mr. Ralph has thought it his duty to get
them from you and I think he is right and have advised him to the course
he has taken; for admitting that you contemplated nothing unfair, your
death or the death of the Messrs. Ralph might put a very serious
complexion on the affair.
Mr. Ralph got the necessary receipt and did not ask him for his other valuable papers as it was getting late and he knew Wallace could make a plausible excuse in not being able to furnish them at so short a notice; so we all got into apparently good terms (for Wallace did not think it prudent to appear angry) and spent another hour together, when we took our leave.
The next day Allan sent for Mr. Montgomery the Attorney I before mentioned and related to him the proceedings of the day before, when he said that is all very well so far, but what do you intend doing about your other papers? Oh! said Mr. Ralph I'll soon tell you that, I'll employ you to get them. Do you get me my papers and you shall have £200 for your trouble. It is a bargain said Montgomery and I expect it will be easy made money perhaps my letter to Wallace will be sufficient, in that case said he, probably you will refuse to pay me the large sum you propose? No said the other, get me my papers by any means and I will give you all I promised. Montgomery wrote to Wallace and in the course of a few days he was able to hand the papers missing stamp and all to the Ralphs and he was paid the money and he continued their Attorney as long as they lived.
Before I conclude the history of my proceedings in Comber, I must give you an account of a very serious affair which happened to me at the commencement of my partnership which nearly put an end to my earthly career. I engaged an itinerant Cooper to assist three other Coopers which we had employed as we wanted a great number of barrells to start with, those belonging to the late firm being all sold by auction. This man's name was Hamill a Killinchy man. He worked for us I dare say about a couple of months, then finding we had a sufficient stock, I discharged him; this was on a Saturday about two o'clock and paid him what was due him; he did not seem in any way displeased with me as we never had an angry word between us. He found during the afternoon an opportunity of sending some his tools by a Cart which was passing the gate all but a large drawing knife which he retained, for what purpose you will soon see. It happened that on that day I did not return from dinner until near 8 o'clock when on going down the yard it being then twilight, Hamill pounced on me suddenly and unperceived and made a blow at me with the tool above mentioned with the intent to out off my head (which he afterwards admitted) saying at the same time "You are the rascal I have been waiting for" but I providentially saved my neck by throwing up my left arm and receiving the blow on my elbow which nearly severed the arm from my body, but I was able through the interposition of the Almighty to catch old of the handle at the opposite end and to hold it with my right hand until some of the men came to my assistance and I was able to get to my lodgings without assistance; fortunately they were in the first house from he gate, about sixty yards distance, in the house of Doctor McCulloch; but I no sooner reached my bedroom that I fainted through loss of blood and fell with me face on the bed and two medical men soon came to my assistance, they bound up my arm and got me into bed where I lay a quarter of a year. Dr. McCulloch on examining my wound mentioned on leaving the room to the other Doctors in my hearing (although he did not intend that I should be apprized of his opinion) that I would die of lockjaw before twenty our hours; this was poor consolation but I thought otherwise and prayed to God that as he had so miraculously saved me from assassination that he could spare my life a little longer and He has graciously spared me to his day.
In the meantime the rascal was seized and sent to Downpatrick gaol where he lay until the following assizes in July, when he was sentenced to eighteen months' imprisonment and after his liberation he went to America and I never heard anything more of him.
During the time of the partnership, we kept two very fine saddle horses, fit for the field one of them especially was a first rate hunter, I called him "Brown stout" and I hunted once a week during the hunting season sometimes twice; some young men in the town and neighbourhood kept a pack of hounds and I was one of the members of the "Comber hunt".
In the year 1824 I bade adieu to Comber and went to Belfast as did
also Dr. McCulloch and family consisting of a son and two daughters
besides his wife. We took a large concern in Rosemary Street consisting
of a large house in front and extensive stores in the rere, for which we
paid between us £85. 10. 0. a year of rent. The Doctor paying £40 for
the dwellinghouse and I paying £45. 10. 0. for the stores; and I
continued to live with him paying for my diet &c. I commenced the
wholesale and retail spirit trade bottling ale and porter and the
manufacture of pop but I did not succeed my rent was too high, and then
the immence taxes on such a concern besides; the pirit license was the
enormous sum of £46. 0. 10. in Belfast, in Lisburn £25 pr. year. I was
obliged to give it up and was again ready for a situation and soon got
one as a writer for the Northern Whig. This was a good situation but it
lasted only three quarters of a year for the Whig stopped and Finlay the
proprietor was put in gaol for a libel on Mr. Crommelin Delacherois of
Carrowdore Castle and I never got a penny of my salary, £45 but I
received regularly half a guinea a day for travelling expenses for self
and horse when out. Sometime after this I got another situation as clerk
in a flour mill in Ballyhaise in the County Cavan the proprietor of
which lived in Dublin although he had a beautiful mansion adjacent to
the mill. He had also an extensive Woollen Warehouse in the City, he was
the owner of two estates, one in the County Meath worth £8000 a year and
the town and estate of Ballyhaise producing £6000 a year. It is
extraordinary the luck of this man especially when contrasted with mine.
I'll give you his history.
Mr. William Humphry was the son of poor parents but who contrived to give him some education and got him bound an apprentice to the woollen business to a man of the name of James Smith who kept a cloth shop in the town of Cavan. After the expiration of his apprenticeship he got a situation in a wholesale house in Dublin with a salary of £60 a year. In the course of a few years from his good conduct they encouraged him by giving him a corner in their establishment for the sale of trimmings on his own account, in which situation he remained until he had saved as much money as enabled him to set up in the retail trade in a little shop of his own in Pill lane in that City. At the end of a year (this is his own account and he was very fond of relating it) he took stock and found that he had made something and he therefore thought of enlarging his shop which he did by throwing into it the most part of the room adjoining it which had served him for bedroom, kitchen &c. and in this confined situation he contrived to live another year and on taking stock again he found that he had succeeded beyond his expectation and he then threw in the remaining part of the room and took the whole house and shortly afterwards married and got £500 with his wife and continued to live prosperously in the same house for a number of years. At this time it was that the Yeomanry of Ireland were about to be embodied, and having some good friends about the Castle of Dublin, upper servants of the Lord Lieutenant, they were able to communicate to him this (to him) important fact as you will quickly see. As soon as he found his intelligence was beyond doubt he immediately went to his old employers (who were not in the secret and bought them on credit (it was unlimited not only with them but through the whole city as well as in England) all the red cloth they had and at that time there was only one other extensive house in the wholesale Woollen trade in Dublin that of the celebrated Oliver Bond, celebrated for the conspicuous part he took in the rebellion of 1798 and from him he bought every yard in his warehouse; he also proceeded to England and secured all he could lay his hands on. You may be sure that he kept these purchases a secret, none of the merchants supposing that he had bought from any but himself. At length the Government issued their order for the raising of the Yeomanry, and these yeomanry had to be clothed but where was the red cloth to be got in Ireland? Billy Humphry could tell. He netted Twenty thousand pounds by the transaction. He soon after this lucky hit got into the wholesale trade, after some time he bought Ballyhaise estate then in Chancery for thirty thousand pounds, it was well worth five times as much if he had gotten a clear title but he took his chance (considered at the time a dangerous one) but his claim was never disputed nor never can now. I have been told that the timber on the estate was worth nearly all he paid for it. I never heard how he got his other estate.
The name of the Manager of the Mill was McKibben who was from the neighbourhood of Comber he was an imperious puppy and a rogue into the bargain and soon found from the position I was placed in that he could not accomplish a robbery which he contemplated of the concern until he found means like Hugh Wallace of getting rid of me, and he therefore framed some excuse to Mr. Humphrys who constantly resided in Dublin for dispensing with my services, so that I left Ballyhaise after a stay of six months, but I demanded a full year's salary, and refused to give up the key of the cash safe which I held being Cashier until I was paid, for McKibben was glad to get rid of me on any terms, and not long after I left that place. I saw an advertisement in the Newspapers afterwards offering a reward for his apprehension, having besides other delinquencies, committed forgery. He s now in very reduced circumstances in Belfast.
I now came to Lisburn and lived with my brother Thomas until he died
and after his death I carried on the business (public house) together
with the manufacture of pop. I became a practitioner in the Manor court
(same as John Pennington) and had a good townpark and kept a horse for
the purpose of labour, drawing pop to the neighbouring towns and for
riding occasionally. I had an old servant man who was a kind of heirloom
in our family who delivered the pop, worked in the farm, attended the
stables on market and fair days &c. In the year 1830 I married your
mother Eliza Jane Rutherford with whom I lived on the most affectionate
terms, but she was not long spared to me only 4½ years. I got no fortune
with your mother, your grandfather saying that he would remember me or
my children in his will and this is the reason why you are legatee under
it. It was your mother's dying request to your grandmother that she
should take with her to Annahilt and keep you as long as she lived.
Sometime after her death I thought of removing to Belfast as business
got very bad in Bridge Street, and let my house to a man also in the pop
trade called Richard McLaughlin who held it only one year and I got one
half year's rent from him with enough to do, and he ran away with the
other. By telling you how this man treated me you can form some idea of
his character. On letting the house to him the bargain was that the rent
should be paid half yearly, and if the rent were paid in three days
after becoming due, the half year's rent was to be eight pounds, if
later, eight guineas. The first half year's rent on the 1st May, but the
money was not paid, and it so remained till the latter end of June when
I called on him threatening to seize his goods but he pleaded with me to
let it lie over until the July races were past and then he said he would
pay me with thanks and if he were able, the ensuing gale, but if I
pressed him them for the money he would be unable to purchase an
additional quantity of pop jars and ingredients for making pop and other
soft drinks for the Maze races. I consented to this and waited until the
last day but one of the races, when being in Lisburn and having occasion
to stay all night in order to see him after he came from the course.
When the time arrived when it was likely to catch him at home, I called
and was told he was in Mrs. Clarke's a public house next door where I
found him sitting at the kitchen fire with two others. When I went in he
seemed glad to see me and asked me to sit down and take something to
drink which I did. In the course of conversation which was bout nothing
but racing, he said he would bet a pound he could mention the horse that
would win the first race to-morrow although there were five horses to
start; I said, done, and he placed a pound note in my hand and he named
he horse he said was to win. After sometime however he thought he had
made a bad bet and wished to have his money back, but I refused to give
it up, saying that if he had made a bad bet he had not me to blame, as
it was himself who proposed it. After some altercation he took me
unawares and assisted by the other two persons he drove me off the seat
and took from my pocket not only the note he gave me but all the silver
I had in my pocket. after this robbery and assault had been committed,
they allowed me to get up, and immediately left the house and the next
day I summoned him before the bench of Magistrates for the following
Tuesday, and I had him served at the same time with a notice to quit my
house at the ensuing November; for by our written agreement, a quarter's
notice was sufficient. When he appeared before the Bench, it was ordered
by the Magistrates that McLaughlin should return the money in full which
had been taken from me and that he should get on the table and make a
public apology for his misconduct and to thank me for dropping the
prosecution which he did, but the best of the joke was, if he had let
the bet lie, he would have won, for the horse he named did win the race
and he would have saved himself from public disgrace. After the business
before the Court was over, he took me to his house and paid me one half
year's rent and also had me served with a notice to quit (a useless
proceeding, having himself been served with a notice by me).
On my leaving Lisburn, I did not throw up my townparks but sublet them to John Belshaw for two years at a profit rent, thinking it probable that I might return to Lisburn and which at this time I intended to do, but I was afraid that McLaughlin would play me a trick at November, by not leaving the house or by withholding the key if he did. In consequence of which fear, I formed the following plan to over reach him if he attempted either. The second night before November I went to Lisburn in order to ascertain if he had left or was about to leave my house, taking care that he should not know that I was in town, when I found the place abandoned and locked up & he, removed to a large house on the other side of the same street. I then proceeded to the garden at the back of the house taking with me Johnny McIntyre and we easily found access to the house as I knew a plan of opening the back door from the outside; we then got to the door in the entry leading to the kitchen, then we forced back the bolt of the front door and left it ready to open by a latch, and then we retreated the way we came. This was a fortunate scheme as you will see directly. On the night of the first of November, I arrived in Lisburn about 9 o'clock with three loads of furniture. I stopped the carts at the top of the street to treat the Carmen, but my more particular reason was to enquire of the landlord if McLaughlin had flitted pretending ignorance of the matter, I did not even tell the Carmen of the plan I had taken. The horses were then driven down to the door above mine, the owner of which was leaning over his half door. I asked him was McLaughlin gone, he said he was, and was now living across the street; but his house was shut up and in total darkness and at that time there were no lamps. I said perhaps he may have left the door open as he knew I was to be here with my flitting to night, and I desired Hugh Banister one of the carmen to go and try, and he found it as I left it. I said to my neighbour that it was very thoughtful in McLaughlin to leave it open as from all appearance the family were gone to bed so I proceeded to put in the furniture, and the next morning McLaughlin was astonished to find me in possession and his intention frustrated. He had the impudence to summon me before the Magistrates for taking forcible possession of my own house, notwithstanding his notice to leave and mine to put him out, and the result was that the Bench took his examinations against me and sent the case to the quarter Session. The trial took place before the first and the last popish Barrister that ever appeared on the Bench in the County Antrim. Mr. Stephenson volunteered his services to defend me, McLaughlin had no Attorney being cocksure of succeeding. When the trial was called on, my attorney was out of Court and I applied to the Barrister to postpone the trial until he would come in, and he replied very sharply that he would do no such thing, to which I replied that in that case I would defend myself in the best manner I could; then Mr. John Birney got up and told the Barrister that I did not make the application for the purpose of delay but merely because my attorney was absent, but had only gone to the door for a private purpose and would be back directly. On, in that case said his Worship, the trial shall be postponed till he comes in but I thought the traverser wanted the trial put off till the next sessions, and at that moment Mr. George Stephenson entered, and the case was called ,n. After the usual preliminaries, McLaughlin was called on the table and sworn. The following dialogue between him and the Barrister took place. Barrister, Well you were the tenant of the traverser at the Bar. Answer, yes. How long did you occupy his house? Answer. A year. When did you leave it? Answer. Last November. How were you to pay your rent? Half yearly. Did you pay your rent? I paid one half year's rent. Did you get notice to quit? I did, and served him with one to leave. Indeed! said the Barrister in surprise and indignation and this is the way you intend paying he other half? Pray, what have you to complain of? You served notice that you would leave the premises, and you did so, and the landlord entered upon them! What kind of Magistrates were they, said the Barrister who sent such case here? (The Magistrates Thomas Johnson Smith and William Gregg were sitting beside him but did not speak) You (to McLaughlin) have kept the Gentleman at the Bar, your landlord waiting here all week on this impudent proceeding. Why Sir, if you had attempted to have obstructed him on his entry on the premises and he had shot you, . . have been justifiable. Begone Sir, I think you are as great a rascal (as has) appeared in a Court of Justice - and there was an end to this (business) to the great discomfiture of both McLaughlin and the Magistrates.
I had processed McLaughlin to the same sessions for the half year's rent due and obtained a decree against him, but he absconded before I got it executed and I never saw him since.
I commenced the pawnbroking business which I carried on only about a couple of years, but had to stop for want of capital and lost all I had and then came to Belfast and maintained myself as a Scrivener or Law Writer. In this precarious way I lived for seven years when even this last resource failed me, not being able to get employment so that I was obliged to solicit the situation I am now placed in.
I have now concluded, and I pray sincerely that you may escape the vicisitudes which have attended me through life.
May God Bless you my dear son; remember me in your prayers as I daily remember you in mine.
Your affectionate father,
Belfast 19th July 1851.
|1.||There were two Neelys schoolmasters and as to whether it was Erskine Neely or Benjamin Neely we do not know. There was also at this period another Erskine Neely who was a pawnbroker.|
|2.||The Rev. Phillip Johnson lived at Ballymacash House and was Vicar of Derriaghy for sixty-one years - see Derriaghy, A Short History of the Parish by the Rev. W.N.C. Barr, pp 26 - 29|