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William Prentice of Ballydrain, Down, Ireland

William Prentice of Ballydrain, County Down, Ireland
By Linus Joseph Dewald Jr., Editor
Summer 2003 and Revised 1 Jan 2010

Kerry Prentice has provided us with information about the following family:

1. William Prentice was b. c. 1852 in County Down. He appears in the 1901 census in Ballydrain, County Down, Ireland in Tullynakill Parish at the age of 49. He was then a farmer and his religian was Presbyterian.

His wife was Anna Colville, b. c. 1856 at an unknown location. It is unclear whether "Colville" was her middle name or her maiden surname. Anna was then 45. They had 2 15 year old servants, James Girvin and Sarah Marshall.

No children are shown, so they either had none or they were by then deceased or had left home.

A Google search turned up the following bits of information:

  • Probate of the Will of William Davidson late of Lisbane County Down Farmer who died 4 November 1897 granted at Belfast to George Davidson of Lisbane and William Prentice of Ballydrain County Down Farmers.

  • Full Abstract: The Will of John Prentice late of Drumhirk County Down Farmer deceased who died 13 April 1878 at same place was proved at Belfast by the oaths of Malcolm Boal of Ballydrain (Comber) William Prentice of Craignaveagh (Saintfield) and William Prentice of Drumhirk (Comber) all in same County Farmers three of the Executors.

The Google search also surned up a murder story:

    Murder in Carricknaveagh, Killaney, 27th January 1900

    Early in the morning of 27th January 1900, a very savage murder and suicide occurred in the townland of Carricknaveagh near Saintfield.

    The evening before, a neighbour, Robert Morrow, held a party in his home. Robert was known colloquially by the expressive name of "The Beaker". This name distinguished him from his neighbour, another Robert Morrow who was known informally as "Decent Robert".

    Johnnie Magee, his wife Susanna aged about 65 years at this time, and their young nephew, James Wallace, aged about 24, were invited top attend to party. Young James was very anxious to go to the party as there was a young lady there in whom he was interested and admired. She was Robert's (The Beaker) daughter Bella who later because Mrs. William Mills, mother of the late highly esteemed Mrs. Dolly Grant of Comber Street, Saintfield.

    James, who had been adopted by his aunt & uncle [Johnnie and Susan], was forbidden to go to the party by them; and it is possible and conceivable he was feeling humiliated, frustrated and very disappointed by this treatment. His uncle and aunt were treating him as a servant boy and not giving him his proper place. He had been brought up by Johnnie and Susan and helped them to work the farm.

    Johnnie and Susan returned home late from the party and Johnnie went to bed. About 2 o'clock in the morning as he lay asleep, James [Wallace, his nephew] hit him on the head with a hatchet , the blow making him unconscious. He recovered some time later to find a dangerous wound on his head which had bled freely. He was now weak from loss of blood but was able to make his way to the kitchen.

    There was no sign of either his wife or adopted son. Thinking his wife had gone down the road next door to "Toddstown House" where the Prentices lived (as she had a routine habit of doing) he went back to bed again.

      Note: Toddstown House is a farm located 4km NW of Saintfield on the Lisburn road; named for John Todd's holding in 1663 in Carricknaveagh townland. It was lived in by Prentice family in 1900.

    In wakening about nine o'clock in the morning there was still no sign of anyone. This time he was determined with what strength he had left, he would go to Prentices. A short distance from home he found his wife lying dead in the middle of the road, with a hurricane lamp lying beside her. About 25 yards further on he found the body of young James lying at the side of the road under a tree with his braces [suspenders] hanging round his neck [the inference being that he strangled himself with his own suspenders].

    It seems that when James attacked old Johnnie with the hatchet and left him unconscious, Susan, who was in the kitchen at the time, heard the commotion. She took the hurricane lamp and was on her way to Prentices to get help when James caught up with her.

    The police, when they arrived, found marks around her neck and Doctor Scott, from Saintfield, on examining the body expressed the opinion that death resulted from Suffocation due to strangulation. Her face was also swollen but there were no marks of violence on the body apart from the fingerprints on the throat.

    From some time before this dreadful happening, James was very unhappy and mentally disturbed, expressing concern about spiritual matters. A few days before this shocking misfortune James had gone down to Saintfield to see the Rev. Stewart Dickson, minister of 1st Presbyterian Church. Mr. Dickson was not at home and James left a rather strange message for him saying he was depressed and worried about dying. He had been noticed lately of being rather strange in his habits, but no-one had any idea of him becoming a danger to himself or anyone else.

    We will never know what went on in the unhappy and troubled mind of James Wallace.

    The road where this tragedy occurred was known as 'Johnnie Magee's wee road' until about 1970 when the Hillsborough Council renamed it the Laurel Bank Road.

    The 'Beaker's' farm is owned by Jim Morrow and the Magee's farm is owned by the Scott family. 'Toddstown House' is now owned by the McKee family.

    Frank Fox SHM 1994 p40,41

If you have any information about the folks mentioned in this article, please contact us at dewald@prenticenet.com.

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