Sue Allan’s newly published book “Living in Hope” includes some local references to the Glenavy and Ballinderry area of the district.
I have heard many tales over the years centering in and around the townland of Ballypitmave, just outside Glenavy. Assaults, suicides, cattle disease, actions for slander, court cases and hornings are all part of the local history. In the 1850 period there is a record of an orange lodge L.O.L. 1602 having met in various homes in the area. The townland is not only the location of John Ballance’s birthplace but has a “Giant’s Grave.” This is described by archaeologists as a megalithic tomb. It had been excavated in the 18th century and found to have contained gigantic sized human bones. At Ballypitmave you can find traces of the lanes and ‘loanins’ linking homesteads that once were used by the ancestors prior to the formalisation of the road systems in the area. The Cairnhill Road links the Tullynewbank Road with the Lisburn Road. It is still referred to locally as “The Prog Lane.” This name also appears in some of the older church records. I have yet to hear an explanation of how it got this name.
In early 1972 The Ulster Star referred to it as “The Prague Lane” when they were carrying an appeal on behalf of the police for courting couples to come forward. The police were looking for anyone who may have been in the vicinity when 38 bags of barley had been stolen from an out farm in the area. 75 years prior to that the police had raised another concern in the area in the local press. Sergeant Smith reported to Lisburn Board of Guardians that in May 1897 he had discovered an elderly man named John Witherup, aged about 80 years, in a bed in a part of a house which he stated was unfit for human habitation. It was reported that there was no roof on the place and that Mr. Witherup had a donkey in his room. The Sergeant found Mrs. Witherup sleeping on the floor near the fire. The house was considered to be in an unsanitary state. The local Doctor - Arthur Mussen visited the pitiful scene and recommended that the house either be demolished or re-roofed.
The Witherup family name had been associated with the area from at least the beginning of the 18th century. There are a number of variations in the spelling of the surname - Withrop, Wethrop, Witherup, Weatherup, Witherow. In some families the surname appears to have changed to Withers. There is a record of a tenure for a William Weatherop in 1805 in the townland of Ballypitmave.
Talking about one’s family history could sometimes be similar to showing a set of family holiday snaps to someone not connected to the family. Not everyone’s ideal way of spending an evening. I found an exception to this rule recently when I received a copy of a newly published book titled “Living in Hope” written by English author, Sue Allan based in the Lincoln area.
Sue cleverly recreates in an imaginative way the stories of three female ancestors from her own family history. The book is divided into three parts, each part dealing with three ladies from different generations of the family. Sue writes about their experiences of love, hardship, loss and she even incorporates a murder.
I was immediately drawn into the book from the first few lines in chapter one which refer to local places in the district. It relates the story of Mary Hendren, who was born in Ballinderry, County Antrim about 1793. The story develops from Mary’s childhood and her sweetheart John Witherup. “…My brothers and John would break away from their chores and sneak off along The Prog to parade about.”
John left his native townland at Ballypitmave and joined the army from which he was later discharged in 1826 due to chronic arthritis. He and Mary were married in Ballinderry on the 6th August 1810. Sue charts their removal to England and their return to Ballypitmave on John’s discharge from military service. The use of historical fact tends to authenticate the background to the story and assists in recreating the scene in the early 19th century. The family leave Ireland and make their way to Quebec, Canada. They eventually settle in Peterborough. The story of their life is a moving one and at the conclusion of the first part of the book we leave the story of the author’s great-great-great grandparents and move onto the fascinating story of their granddaughter - Mary Ann Wetherup. She was born in the township of Dummer, Ontario in 1850. Her heart rendering story is told using her own words. It is a story that certainly supports the phrase that fact is stranger than fiction, exploring a mysterious case of infanticide. The body of her child is discovered close to her home leading to a mother’s traumatic ordeal.
The third part of the book tells the story of Edith May Masters, born in Tooting, London in 1899. She is the author’s paternal grandmother. It is certainly not a story of meeting someone, falling in love and living happily ever after. Life’s complications are explored in great depth and comfort zones are stripped away to deal with the everyday reality of life.
Edith May met Bill Weatherup whilst he was on active service during World War One in March 1918. Eventually they were married and they made their way across the Atlantic for a new life in Norham, Township of Percy, Ontario. Edith May soon discovered that the reception from her mother-in-law would be a cold one. Personal tragedy brings her and her children back to England. The shocking story is compelling and any hopes that life would improve are shattered.
The unique feature about this book are the author’s notes that explain the background of the book and her research process. It certainly is an encouragement for anyone “teetering on the brink” of family history to take it to a different plain. I tend to be in agreement with Sue’s strong views on family history. The collation of facts and figures, displayed neatly on paper in the form of a family tree, falls short of reality. She refers to the trap that the family historian can sometimes fall into, seeing “these past folk as mere collection of entries and not as once living, breathing individuals from the past.” Sue concludes that we all should at least attempt to leave behind some written record of our lives for future generations.
Sue Allan’s book titled “Living in Hope” is published by Domtom Publishing UK, priced £7.99, and is available at www.domtom.co.uk
Sue would encourage anyone who may be related to the Weatherup or Hendron/ Hendren families to make contact. For further information on the author and contact details see the website www.mayflowermaid.com
The Digger can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.