Wednesday, 18 April 2018

A School, A Hymm, A Soldier.

On the 10th day of October 1874 one John James Hamilton Humphreys of Lincolns Inn, London leased a rood of his land on the lee of a green hill in the townland of Barnes, Parish of Upper Badoney and Barony of Upper Strabane to the Right Reverend Francis Kelly the then Roman Catholic Bishop of Londonderry and the Reverend Patrick Magee Parish Priest of the Parish of Upper Badoney. The term of the lease was nine hundred and ninety nine years and the assurance declares that the demise was upon trust that a school for the instruction of the youth of the district should be established and maintained. The demise goes on to say that if such a school should cease to operate for twelve calendar months then the lessees were required to surrender their leasehold estate and give up possession of the premises to the Lessor his heirs and assigns.

Who was this Mr Humphreys? Unsurprisingly with an address of Lincoln's Inn he was a barrister. Born in 1817 he was the eldest son of Major John Humphreys of Milltown House, Strabane, (until recently the home of Strabane Grammar School). He graduated from Exeter College, Oxford in 1839 and was called to the Bar on 18th November 1842. His father, Major Humphreys of the Royal Marines fought under Nelson at the Battle of Copenhagen in 1801. The latter's military career was subsequently cut short by injuries received in the West Indies. Following a period as a staff officer in Dublin he became the Agent of the Earl of Wicklow and subsequently accepted a similar position with the Hamiltons of Baronscourt.

The Major's third child was a girl Cecil Frances who was born in 1818. She is better known by her married name of Alexander having married the Reverend William Alexander in October 1850. Dieing on 12th October 1895 she was buried in Londonderry City Cemetery. By that time her husband was the Bishop of Derry and Raphoe. In 1896 he was elevated to the Archbishopric of Armagh a position he held until 1911.

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