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WWI and Lt Col Jimmy Sproule



Ancestors of Brig Jimmy Sproule




Chart linking four generations of Sproules, Robinsons, Harpurs, and a Mathewson of Ardstraw.  Complicated by the repetition of Christian Names and Surnames and a marriage between first cousins.



Co Tyrone, NW Ireland c1840 - Fintona is in the bottom left part of the map south of Omagh



Sproule History



This document is in the papers of Brig Jimmy Sproule's son, the late Dr Brian J Sproule (Coldstream), and was copied in 2009 by Adrian Fletcher, who has added a preface linking the history to this page.  Also copied was a hand drawn family tree (probably by Brian) - all of the information on this has been transferred to the Sproule Family Tree.  We have found some of the information in the paper to be a bit inaccurate, but the family names seem OK and, hey, whoever did it most surely was not internet enabled like us privileged family historians today.  At this stage we have not used any stuff from the first half of the paper.


Link to Co Tyrone family research website



The Robinsons



in Co Tyrone


30 July 1775 - John Robinson born



in Fintona, Co Tyrone.


20 August 1791 - Sarah Harpur born



in Coroyneigh (sp?) (Corradinna possibly?)


7 July 1812 John Robinson marries



Sarah Harpur in Aughadulla, Co Tyrone

17 December 1814 Alex Harpur Robinson

UK Medical Register 1863


born in Fintona - Matilda Ann's older brother.  He is to become a dispensing doctor and insurance agent, belonging to the Irish College of Physicians and the English College of Surgeons (you don't need qualifications to be an insurance agent).  Also a JP but not a father - in fact he bequeaths his farm and palazzo Denamona to A H R Sproule's kids when he dies in November 1880.  (English Probate)



15 July 1816 - Matilda Ann Robinson



born in Fintona, Co Tyrone

29 April 1817



Sarah dies, leaving two very little kids, Alex Harpur and Matilda Ann, behind.  Husband John dies in 1825 when the kids are still under 10.






The Sproules 



County Tyrone


1812 - Thomas Sproule marries a Miss Blake




16 April 1815 - Joseph Sproule born



in Carrickamulkin, Co Tyrone (date from 1901 Canadian Census overrides date in Sproule history)

Where oh where is Carrickamulkin?  Does John (Jack Roe) Sproule fit in anywhere?



1822 - Robert Sproule snr born -



one of Joseph's three or four brothers.


1827 - Mary Jane Davis (who will marry



Robert S) born.  Her father is Arthur Davis.


1841 - Joseph and Matilda Ann Robinson




marry in Aughadulla, Co Tyrone - Revd Jas Reid Hill officiates.  No record yet.  In 1880 Matilda Ann's brother Dr Alex Harpur Robinson dies childless, and leaves his estate (mainly the Fintona property "Denamona") to the children of Matilda Ann's eldest son Alex Harpur Robinson Sproule - he is to look after the assets in trust for the benefit of his children, but does not understand this responsibility and they end up getting nothing. 



3 April 1846 - Alex Harpur Robinson



Sproule Snr (Adrian's Grt Grandfather) born to Joseph and Matilda Ann (Robinson) in Carrickamulkin, Co Tyrone.  He will marry his cousin (another) Matilda.


21 May 1847 - Robert Snr and



Mary Jane Davis marry in Langfield, Co Tyrone


16 May 1851 - Matilda Sproule born to



Robert and his wife Mary Jane in Carrickamulkin, Co Tyrone.








Peterborough, Ontario (Canada)


May 1860 - Joseph, Matilda and



5 Sproule children including GGfather AHR Sproule Snr (14) emigrate from Carrickamulkin to Canada - probably travelling from Liverpool to New York on the ship "Manhattan" (according to the family history document, but we have yet to find any records of the ship and it could be that they travelled to Manhattan on a ship of another name, or.... whatever - they certainly got to Canada somehow).


They move up to North Monaghan, which is southish of Peterborough in Canada in time for the January 1861 Census. 




Children of Joseph Sproule (1815 - 1902) and Matilda Robinson (1816 - 1902) (m 1841 in Aghadulla, Co Tyrone))


Sarah Ann (Haggart) b1842

John Thomas

Alex Harpur Robinson b1846 (returned to Fintona, Co Tyrone, with his family in 1881) (see below)

George Buchanan b1848 (Notable Canadian inen US photographer - see below)

Dr Robert b1850 (Royal Navy doctor)

Joseph John Robinson b1857

Mary Jane b1860


All except Joseph and Mary were born in Co Tyrone.  All grew up in North Monaghan, Peterborough, Canada.





Peterborough is just to the north east of Toronto


13 January 1861 - Ontario Census



The Joseph Sproule (spelled Sproulle here) family has settled (for good as far as mum and dad are concerned) in North Monaghan, Peterborough, Ontario (north east of Toronto).  Joseph Sproule (41) is a farmer.


We think that some families from Co Tyrone settled in S Monaghan (Ontario) after fleeing the Irish Famine just over a decade earlier, so it is quite likely that the Sproules had a friendly Co Tyrone welcome awaiting them when they arrived in S Monaghan.




1861 - 1865 US Civil War



1863 - 1869 First US Transcontinental Railroad built



1867 - Canada becomes a Dominion




Ontario then Canadian Censuses 1851 - 1911 are on the web (via "Ancestry")


Pre Federation:

11 January 1851

13 January 1861

Post Federation:

2 April 1871

4 April 1881


6 April 1891

31 March 1901

  1 June 1911  


Link to Irish Censuses from 1901 and 1911 and lots of other interesting Irish information


The Great Irish (Potato) Famine, during which Ireland lost up to a quarter of its population from emigration and starvation,

lasted from 1845-1852


2 April 1871



Canadian Census captures farmer Joseph & Matilda (now misspelt Sproul) and 5 "children" in North Monaghan.  AHR (25) and brother George Buchanan (23) are photographers (though AHR is just pretending, whilst GB went on to considerable photogeraphic fame - see below) whilst Robert Jnr (21) is a medical student in Dublin and will become a Royal Navy surgeon later before returning to Peterborough, Ontario.





George Buchanan Sproule (1848 - 1927 (79)


12 October 1871












George Buchanan Sproule (23) (real photographer) marries Maria Josephine Thirkell (23) in Lindsay, Victoria and they return to live in Peterborough where he becomes ever more in demand as a portrait photographer, and is also an enthusiastic outdoors recreationalist. 


Then in 1895 he sells up the business and moves (without wife or his two daughters) to Helena, Montana where he sets up the photography thing all over again and shacks up with his niece-in-law Sylvia (daughter-in-law of Josephine's sister and 17 years his junior), who acts as his assistant and retoucher and whom he marries in 1910 shortly after Josephine dies.  In the US Census on 18 April 1910 daughters Daisy and Annie are with George in Helena between the death of their mother and George's departure to Salt Lake City to marry their cousin Sylvia.


George B dies in Helena in 1927 aged 79, and Sylvia in 1948 aged 83.  Link to George's Obituary and other issues of the Helena day in the Helena Daily Independent - Friday Morning May 27 1927.




George Buchanan Sproule (1848 - 1927 (79))



We have recently learned a lot about George Buchanan Sproule, who became one of the leading Canadian (Peterborough, Ontario) then NW USA (Helena, Montana) photographers, with the help of some outstanding research work done by the Trent Valley Archives (Peterborough).  We have also been lucky to be able to obtain one of GBS's 1881 Peterborough studio portraits mounted on a small card (below).



Link to two articles about George Buchanan in the Heritage Gazette of the Trent Valley


Trent Valley Archives (Peterborough).



Peterborough Examiner 7 September 1871 (just before George got married)






Actual size 10.5 x 6.2 cm

Portrait of Joseph McClelland, April 13th 1881



24 February 1874



Adrian's great grandfather Alex Harpur Robinson Sproule snr (27) (photographer but not really) marries his first cousin Matilda Sproule (23) in Peterborough, Ontario. 


Matilda is a daughter of Joseph's brother Robert Sproule (Snr to distinguish him from one of Joseph's sons) and Mary Jane Sproule (Davis) - there are some inferences that the Robert Sproule family also emigrated to Canada (hence Matilda's presence there) but we have not found any data on them yet.


4 April 1881 Canadian Census



Links for Joseph & Matilda, and their children Sarah & John (Haggart), AHR snr and Matilda, and George Buchanan & Josephine in 1881 Canadian Census. 


Back to County Tyrone later in 1881 .....



In 1880, Dr  A H Robinson MD JP, Matilda Ann's brother, left his estate (mainly the Fintona property "Denamona") to the children of Matilda Ann's eldest son Alex Harpur Robinson Sproule - he is to look after the assets in trust for the benefit of his children, but chooses not to understand this responsibility and they end up getting nothing. 


AHR snr, now describing himself as a gentleman rather than photographer, must have set sail for Ireland with his family shortly after the census, and taken up residence in "Denamona", Fintona, Co Tyrone (see below).


6 April 1891 Canadian Census



Joseph and Matilda, both aged 74, in Peterborough, Ontario.


September 1895



AHR Sproule and a Miss Sproule (daughter?) travel (back) to Liverpool from Canada on the ship "Vancouver" (after visiting parents?).


31 March 1901 Canadian Census



Joseph and Matilda, both aged 85, in Peterborough as are the George Buchanan Sproule family (soon to be sans George).


1902 - Martha & Joseph die in Canada




"Martha" A Sproule dies on 3 April 1902 aged 85 (=Matilda we think), followed by Joseph aged 87 who died soon after on 1 November 1902





The South African Connection - A.H.R.Sproule jnr


6 October 1876



The South African Connection



AHR ("Harpur") Sproule Jnr born in Peterborough (transcribed as Alice Harper Robinson Frank Sproule - at least the surname is right this time).  After returning to Denamona with his namesake dad in 1880, he is captured aged c24 in a family photo at Denamona c1900.  He went to South Africa and married Elma Kidwell from the E Cape in 1908.  At some stage after WW I he moved to farm in the Eastern Transvaal Lowveldt (probably assisted by a soldier settlement scheme).  Several descendants now live in South Africa (2012).



c1916:  Harpur Sproule jnr with wife Elma (Kidwell) and sons Dennis and Roy.  Third son Pat was born in 1918.


Harpur appears in ship passenger lists from South Africa visiting Fintona in 1922 and County Down in 1950 with his wife Elma.  He died in Nelspruit (East Rand) in early 1951 aged 75.


larger photo

A H R (Harpur) Sproule Jnr (1876 - 1951 (75)) with wife Elma and their three sons Roy, Pat and Dennis (not necessarily in that order) at their home "Riverside Farm" Hemlock near Nelspruit, E Transvaal in the 1940s.  Harper would have been looking towards the building below (with new thatch c1970).






Back in Ireland





Dr  A H Robinson MD JP in listing of Tyrone landowners in 1876.  Prior to this he had appeared in the 1871 Fintona Directory as an Insurance Agent and Dispensary Doctor.


1 November 1880


(UK Only)


Dr  A H Robinson MD JP dies and leaves his estate to the children of his sister Matilda and hubbie Alex Harpur Robinson's, with AHR as sole trustee with power (which he exercised) to consume lots of the estate on the way - in fact son Jimmy (Adrian's grandfather) never saw any of it!


later in 1881



AHR snr, Matilda and family come back from Canada to "Denamona", Fintona - not yet located on a passenger list.


28 August 1887 Jimmy Sproule is born in "Denamona".  He never benefited from any of the significant Irish assets which his great uncle had left to him and his siblings.








"Denamona" - the Robinson then Sproule house at Fintona, where Mrs Robinson was banished for life to the servants' quarters as punishment for running off with the groom, and where Jimmy Sproule grew up and where he took this pic around 1900.



"Denamona" near Fintona, Co Tyrone c1900 (with "Monet" haystack)




Children of

AHR Sproule snr (1846 - 1921 (75)) and

Matilda Sproule (1851 - 1919 (68)


m 1874 in Peterborough, Ontario


born in Canada

Matilda Ann Robinson (Roche) b1875

Alex Harpur Robinson jnr b1876 (went to South Africa - see above)

Mary Jane "Jenny" (Agnew) b1878

John Robert "Jack" b1880 (stayed to run / own Denamona)

born in Ireland

Joseph George "George" b1884

Helen Margaret "Irene" (Sydney-Smith) b1885

James Chambers "Jimmy" (b1887) (RAMC Brigadier) - see below

Anna B Elizabeth (Williams)








Happy Time (not) for the Sproule Family at "Denamona" c 1900 - link to more photos and all their names


1901 Irish Census



The Irish census captures most of the AHR Sproule Family (but not AHR jnr - possibly already in South Africa) back at Denamona - which got its own house census as well (it was the biggest in the neighbourhood).


1911 Irish Census



Only Jennie and John (Jack) left at Denamona with their parents and Aunt Margaret.


1911 Irish Census

1  2  3


James C Sproule as a medical student at a well servanted establishment with lots of nurses in 16-18 Upper Baggot Street, Dublin.  We have included a fascinating operating theatre pic from his medical student days here.


1912 - On 26 July 1912 newly qualified doctor



Dr James Chambers Sproule is commissioned as a Lieutenant in the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC).


link to J.C.Sproule's Army Service Record 1912-47.



1914 - War (to be known much later as WWI) is declared on 28 July 1914.


1914 - 4 August 1914



At 9pm the famous 2nd Battalion of the Royal Welch (sic) Fusiliers receives mobilization orders.  At 2am on the 11th August 1914, the Battalion, including their Medical Officer Jimmy Sproule, sails from Southampton for France.




WW I and Capt / Lt-Col J C Sproule, OBE RAMC


A special collection of WW I documents and memorabilia about Jimmy Sproule OBE RAMC, medical student in Dublin, MO for the 2nd Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers, CO of 131 Field Ambulance and MO for the 38th (Welsh) Division.





Lt Col J C Sproule and HRH the Prince of Wales, at Chateau Longueau, near Amiens, 7 February 1919



LINK to page about Jimmy Sproule in "RAMC in the Great War"




28 July 1915 Jimmy Sproule and Clare Aldous



get married at Emmanuel Church, Compton Gifford (Plymouth)


30 July 1917



Peggy is born in Plymouth


1920 - 5 March, Major Sproule




sets sail for the NW India frontier.  Clare and Peggy follow on HMT Vita on 23 November 1920



and arrive in time for Christmas, camera clicking .....



and the cameras keep clicking .....



More to come about Jimmy, Clare, Peggy and Brian Sproule




in the 1920s & 30s (India) and the 1930s & 40s (Egypt), with the help of a small selection from Clare and Peggy's extensive photo albums.


link to J.C.Sproule's Army Service Record 1912-47.




Photos of Sproules in India & England - 1920-1935


and Somerton Retirement




May-June 1930 - Clare and "Bunny" (Brian) (born in Aden on 5 June 1924)



Jimmy's Diary




head to her parents home in Harrow to avoid the Indian Summer and to see Peggy, whilst Jimmy, feeling a bit lonely, gets two months' leave and sails to South Africa to visit his brother Harpur who has a citrus farm in the Eastern Transvaal.


1935 - Jimmy posted to Cairo 



with Clare and later joined by Peggy.




Photos of Sproules and Fletchers in Egypt - 1935-1944





1941 - Colonel Sproule awarded the CBE





1942-1947 Jimmy spends 6 years in




senior home postings before retiring as a Brigadier.




1947 - Jimmy and Clare Sproule retire to live in Old Bell House, Somerton.






More from Somerton in Paradoxplace






Sadly, Jimmy Sproule passed away on 15 May 1955, aged only 68.


British Medical Journal, September 24 1955, p794.



J C Sproule Entry in "Commissioned officers in the medical services of the British Army, 1660-1960" - Peterkin, Alfred.



Recent ancestors (with portraits)                                         Sproule ancestor chart