Tuesday, April 30, 2019

The Land Purchase Commission and the Ballyfrench Thompsons, 1929

This document surfaced recently, in a set of photocopies given to me by a late aunt. This is my great-grandfather Robert Thompson finally having the opportunity to buy the six acre farm in 1929. Other documents are dated 1933 so I'm not sure of the precise date that it was all finalised.

He was 71 in 1929. His son William, my grandfather, was 18. An older son, John, had emigrated to Canada in 1925 (previous post here). The Thompsons had farmed these fields as far back as records go - 1750s - and probably back even further than that, but for almost 200 years they had been tenants of the landlord. Francis Heron Scott was the last one they served (partial estate listed here). I wonder what it felt like to finally own the ground that they had sweated over all those generations?

Scott was a GP in Saintfield, who had inherited his estate from his own ancestors back to a Francis Heron of Killyleagh.

Six acres. My father, his two brothers and his two sisters were all raised on this. Self-sufficient with no other income apart from labouring to the local neighbours, the Ralstons and Johnstons. Hard work during every hour of daylight. They say that the agrarian economy was the most gender-equal, because everybody worked themselves to death.

This isn't ancient history, it's a whisker away from living memory. What a different world.