Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Before The Beginning

Ruins of Loughorne Cottage

John Martin took his first breaths in Loughorne Cottage on Sunday, September 8, 1812. This small stone cottage with its thatched roof was typical of the area just north of Newry in County Down. His safe birth was the successful conclusion of careful planning that went back several years.

The planners were three brothers, John, Robert and Samuel Martin. They had worked hard for years to amass a considerable fortune. But none of them had acquired a wife or an heir who could manage their property after death. They had doubtless discussed this oversight over the years. But by 1810, when Samuel had already reached the age of 61, and the other brothers were just a bit younger, they could procrastinate no longer.

None of the brothers volunteered to marry, so by agreement they drew straws. Samuel was the loser. Having little time to waste, he visited a farmer who lived nearby, James Harshaw, to ask permission to marry his daughter Jane. Part of the agreement must have been that the Martins would provide for her financially. This was certainly important to James, as his daughter was only 23 years old at the time and would doubtless outlive her husband by many years.

So the deal was struck. The marriage was soon performed by the Rev. Moses Finley, who was the Minister of the Donaghmore Presbyterian Church which both families attended. Brothers John and Robert Marin remained in "blissful singleness."

Jane quickly became pregnant, and in 1811 gave birth, not to the required heir, but to a daughter she and Samuel named Jane. There was little time for Jane to enjoy motherhood, before she became pregnant again. This time the Martins could rejoice, as Jane produced the necessary heir. Their plan had succeeded.

All that remained was to prepare the new baby to assume his responsibilities as an Irish landlord. Here, their plan took a dramatic turn that no one could have anticipated.

Sources: Life of John Martin, by P. J. Sillard.
Will of Harrison Fraser.

1 comment:

  1. Many thanks to my cousin and friend, Suzanne, who pointed out to me two errors of fact in this post. At my age, I should never rely solely on memory. I am lucky to have such a knowledgeable fact checker.