John Thompson (1815–1880)

Source: Kilpatrick, Alison. "John Thompson [1815–1880], proprietor and editor," a biographical sketch of the first editor and proprietor of The Armagh Guardian. In The Armagh Guardian, 1844–1852. Vol. I. Births, Marriages, and Deaths. 2nd ed. St. Thomas, Ontario: Quercus Arborealis Publications, 2015 (pp. 354–8).

Please note that the following is an article—not a transcript of a historic news item—and therefore, copyright to the author.

※     ※     ※

JOHN THOMPSON was trained up in the newspaper business by William Trimble (1802–1886), the proprietor and editor of The Impartial Reporter and Farmers’ Journal, published at Enniskillen, in the county Fermanagh.

On December 3, 1844, Mr. Thompson launched his own newspaper, a weekly entitled, The Armagh Guardian, from his office at 63, English-street, Armagh. Originally a six-column, four page publication, Thompson enlarged the journal twice between 1844–1852: first, on February 7, 1848, to a seven-column format; and, second, to a six-column, eight-page format on March 20, 1852. By the end of 1852, Thompson had moved his operation to 41, English-street, head of College-street.

In his first editorial article, Mr. Thompson outlined the philosophical and political orientation of his new journal. His first object was to support the status quo of the social classes. Accordingly, The Armagh Guardian would “assist in spreading that knowledge . . .  which is admitted to be essential for the better understanding of each individual in the present well-ordered arrangements of society.” Espousing the virtues of the present landlord-tenant system as a great “bulwark of British glory,” Mr. Thompson pledged to advocate for “the just and inalienable rights of the landlord.” Though he would not be party to any oppression of the tenantry through the medium of his journal, yet the Irish should “devote themselves to that employment for which nature has so peculiarly adapted them, rather than following the phantoms of independence.” Mr. Thompson’s second, but “more important trait of the character of this Journal is its religious sentiments. They are strictly Protestant.” After lamenting the current appetite for expediency, popularity and novelty over principle, Mr. Thompson declared his third objective, the political stance of his newspaper: “We are Conservative—the cause is good—and as such we enter the political arena.” However, while guarding the principles of Conservatism, he did not wish to “increase the stock of prejudices,” and so, would endeavour to depend “upon the force rather than the number of our arguments,” and to “soften the asperities of manner.” Finally, The Armagh Guardian would champion the “great agricultural and other resources” of the county of Armagh, the profile of which, he asserted, would be enhanced “by the introduction of railways.” Mr. Thompson called on his readers to expand their minds, their duties enlarged, because: “the importance of this county, both as a nucleus of agriculture, and the focus of trade for a great tract of country, may not any longer be kept secret.”

In the Literary and Educational Year Book for 1859, Mr. Thompson submitted an entry, describing his paper as “the advocate of Conservative Progress,” with particular attention “given to the Great Question of Education.” In provincial directories and other sources, Thompson identified himself as a printer and stationer.

Thompson published other works, including A Record of the City of Armagh, by Edward Rogers, in 1861. Arguably, the most notable of Thompson’s undertakings was A Memoir Introductory to the History of the Primacy of Armagh. Originally circulated in Thompson’s newspaper, in weekly portions of four pages each, in 1854 Robert King reprinted the series as a book. Thompson’s efforts and support did not go unnoticed, as the following accolade, which appeared in the 1855 edition of The Ulster Journal of Archaeology, attests: “The Editor of the Armagh Guardian, in which the Memoir first appeared, has reason to congratulate himself on having been chosen to convey to the public a work of which any periodical in the empire might be proud.”

A review of the advertising columns in The Armagh Guardian reveals that Mr. Thompson diversified his income as a sales agent for such goods as E.D. Lines & Company’s Metallic Inks, and for life and fire assurance policies indemnified by the Norwich Union company. He was also the sales representative in Armagh for a number of pharmaceutical products, a representative sample of which follow:

  • Measam & Co.’s (London) Medicated Cream for rheumatism, gout, and cutaneous diseases, erysipelas, childblain, ringworm, scorbutic humours, stings, and sprains;
  • Kearsley’s (London) Original Widow Welch’s Female Pills for “effectually removing Obstructions, and relieving all other Inconveniences to which the Female Frame is liable”;
  • Norton’s Chamomile Pills for “Indigestion and all stomach complaints”;
  • Dr. Locock’s  Pulmonic Wafers to give “instant relief, and a rapid Cure of Asthma, Consumption, Coughs, Colds, and all disorders of the Breath and Lungs,” and also Dr. Locock’s “Antibilious Wafers” and “Female Wafers”;
  • Thomas Parrs’ (London) Life Pills for indigestion, gout, rheumatism, rheumatic gout, liver complaints, jaundice, cutaneous eruptions on the skin, scurvy, and scorbutic affections;
  • Professor Holloway’s (London) Pills, for the “cure of a disordered liver and stomach, when in a most hopeless state”;
  • “The Silent Friend,” a book available in six languages and in its fortieth edition by 1851, promoted as a “practical work on the Exhaustion and Physical Decay of the System, produced by excessive indulgence, the consequences of infection, or the abuse of mercury”; and
  • “On Nervous and Generative Diseases,” a book, also containing “the newly-discovered preventive lotion [with respect to] Manhood: the causes of its Premature Decline”.

John Thompson and Family – Biographical Notes:

John Thompson was born in 1815 in Enniskillen, county Fermanagh, the son of Mr. William Henry Thompson and the former Miss Copeland of the same county. John Thompson had one sibling, a sister, who died rather young, at the home of John Copeland, Esq., Hollyhill, Enniskillen. The Thompsons had their origins near the town of Donegal, once holding landed property there – the ownership of which, and social position appertaining thereto, John Thompson had hoped to regain in his lifetime.

In about 1820, John Thompson’s father gave up his commercial interests in Ireland, to emigrate with his family to America. There, the elder Thompson pursued a clerical calling in the Episcopalian church, was ordained by the Right Rev. Bishop Hobart, in Christ Church, April 19th, 1821, and admitted to the holy order of priests by the Right Rev. Bishop White at St. Peter’s Church, Philadelphia, May 8th 1822. The Rev. Mr. W.H. Thompson concluded his career as the minister for Trinity Church in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; he died at Rye, Westchester County, New York, August 26th 1830.

After a residence of ten years in the United States, John Thompson returned to Enniskillen. Mr. Thompson was first employed by his uncle, Mr. John Copeland, in the Agricultural Bank, becoming manager of the branch in that town.

A few years after setting up his newspaper shop in the city of Armagh, John Thompson married Eliza Brackin, daughter of Hugh Brackin and Elizabeth Copeland. The event was recorded in the August 21, 1848 edition of Thompson’s newspaper:

     On the 17th inst., in Killinagh Church, county Cavan,
   by the Rev. James Armstrong, John Thompson, Esq.,
   Proprietor of The Armagh Guardian, to Eliza, only
   daughter of Hugh Brackin, Esq., of Toam, near Black Lion,
   in said county.

Births were noticed, first, for a son in the June 22, 1849 edition of the newspaper and second, for a daughter, on August 16, 1851. The son was William Copeland Bracken Thompson, who was named for his maternal uncle. One more son and three more daughters were born to the family.

An entry in The Irish Law Times and Solicitors’ Journal reveals that Thompson’s financial affairs were in distress during the 1860s. A petition to declare him an insolvent had been filed on August 11, 1869, and the hearing was scheduled at Armagh for October 30th of that year. The same volume shows that Thompson was discharged October 20th, suggesting that an arrangement had been concluded to the satisfaction of the creditors before the date of the trial.

After an illness of several months, John Thompson died February 5th, 1880, at Armagh. In the obituary published in The Armagh Guardian on February 13th, in language typical of that used for writing such notices in the mid-nineteenth century, it was stated that:

     In private life the late Mr. John Thompson was a most
   hospitable and friendly companion. He seldom entered
   personally into public affairs, being of a very retiring,
   unassuming manner. In religion he was a sound Protestant,
   but free from all taint of intolerance, and not much
   caring who preached Christ providing Christ was preached.
   In politics he was a strict Conservative, and those who
   knew him best sometimes thought he was too aristocratic
   a Conservative; for he never forgot the respectability of
   his family and family relations in Fermanagh, Cavan, and
   Donegal, and the family relations of his father’s second
   marriage, after the demise of his own mother. As a husband
   he was faithful and affectionate; as a parent deeply
   attached and tender. In every relation of life he bore an
   upright character; and all who had experience of his
   sterling worth will long keep his memory alive in their
   hearts, while deeply sympathising in the bereavement of
   his widow and children, for whose earnest prayer will
   ascend to the Throne of Him who is the Father of the

The chief mourners included Mr. Thompson’s two sons, William C.B. Thompson and Hugh B. Thompson, their two uncles Mr. James Bracken, J.P., and Mr. William C. Bracken, of Blacklion, county Cavan, and Mr. Hugh A. Bradshaw and Mr. William Arthur, of Enniskillen. Mr. Thompson’s remains were accompanied by a “large concourse of citizens” from his home at 41, English-street, to the rail station in Armagh. From thence, the funeral cortège continued by rail car to Enniskillen, where a funeral service was read at the Church, and Mr. Thompson’s body consigned to a tomb in the church-yard.

Mr. Thompson’s son, William Copeland Bracken Thompson, was the executor of his father’s estate. A merchant by trade, William succeeded his father at the helm of The Armagh Guardian, assisted by his younger brother, Hugh. In 1888, Hugh departed for Africa, to take up missionary work, and thus, the burden of managing the newspaper’s affairs fell solely to William.

Suffering from a “delicate constitution,” William Thompson succumbed to worry and strain, dying at his residence, 41, English-street, on January 3rd, 1892. Attended by his cousins and chief mourners, Mr. Hugh Bracken and Mr. William Bracken, Mr. Thompson’s remains were interred in the family vault in Killesher grave-yard, county Fermanagh. His estate was administered by two of his sisters, Emily Jane Thompson and Amelia Caroline Thompson.

After William Thompson’s death, Mr. Samuel Delmege Trimble (1857–1947), the proprietor and publisher of The Donegal Independent and Sligo, Leitrim and Fermanagh Advertiser newspaper, purchased The Armagh Guardian.

Three of William Thompson’s sisters lived as spinsters, in Belfast: Elizabeth Anna (1851–1911), Mary Sophia in (1853–1920), and Amelia Caroline (1861–1902). Emily Jane (1856–1921) married Cecil Sheridan Forwood (1878–1966), son of Ernest Harrison and Mabel Forwood, of Cheshunt, Hertfordshire, at Centenary Church, St Stephen’s Green, Dublin, on March 18th, 1901. No children were born of the marriage, and on June 9th, 1921, Emily died at Altamont, Bangor, county Down.

In 1903, Hugh Bracken Thompson married Margaret Churchill at Kingston, Surrey. The couple resided at Altamont, no. 23, Downshire Road in Bangor, county Down, and raised three daughters: Norah Margaret Elizabeth [1904–1983], Aileen Mary Felicia [1907–1989], and Kathleen Caroline Churchill [1908–2001]. Hugh Thompson died on the December 6th, 1924. In his will, Mr. Thompson bequeathed £300 “to the Editors of ‘Echoes of Service,’ to be distributed among servants of the Lord who have been labouring for Him in the Foreign Mission Field for thirty years or more.”


Armagh Guardian, 10 November 1846. Marriage notice for Wm. C. Brackin of Blacklion, co. Cavan, and Jane, daughter of William Armstrong of Drummee, co. Fermanagh. Transcribed by Alison Kilpatrick.

Ibid., 31 August 1847. Birth notice, daughter of Wm. Copeland Brackin.

Ibid., 21 August 1848. Marriage notice for John Thompson and Miss Brackin.

Ibid., 5 March 1849. Birth notice, daughter of William Copeland Brackin.

Ibid., 24 June 1849. Birth notice, son of John Thompson, proprietor of the Armagh Guardian.

Ibid., 16 August 1851. Birth notice, daughter of John Thompson.

Ibid., 7 February 1852. Marriage notice for James Brackin of Toam, Blacklion, to Rebecca, daughter of Archibald Collum of Tullyharney, Lisbellaw, co. Fermanagh.

Ibid., 13 November 1852. Birth notice, daughter of James Brackin at Blacklion.

Crisp, Frederick Arthur, ed. Visitation of England and Wales. Vol XV. Privately printed, 1908. Entry:

     Emily Jane Thompson, daughter of J. Thompson, of English
   Street, Armagh, married Cecil Sheridan Forwood, born at Grove
   Cottage, Cheshunt, on Thursday, 10 January 1878, at the Cente-
   nary Church, St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin, on Wednesday, 18
   March 1901.

Crone, John Smyth, Seamus O'Cassidy, and Colm O'Lochlainn. The Irish Book Lover. Vol. XIV. London: Whyte & Salmond, 1924. Extract of entry:

     The Armagh Guardian and South Tyrone News. (Weekly, Fridays.)
   No. 1, etc. (John Thompson.) BM (John Thompson was formerly
   with Mr. Wm. Trimble, of Enniskillen, who trained so many news-
   paper men. He was succeeded by his son, WCB Thompson ...

England. General Register Office. Marriage index entry for Hugh Bracken Thompson and Margaret Churchill, 2nd quarter ending 30 June 1903, Kingston Registration District (RD), vol. 2a, pg. 915. Online at (accessed 2013-07-06).

Ibid. Marriage index entry for Cecil S. Forwood and Agnes M. Crowe, 2nd quarter ending 30 June 1922, Kensington RD, vol. 1a, pg. 257. Online at (accessed 2013-07-06).

England. Hertfordshire. 1911 Census of England. PRO ref. piece 6470; Enumeration district no. 2, household schedule no. 199; Registration district: Abingdon, no. 117, sub-registration district: Sutton Courtenay. Digital images. Online at (accessed 2013-07-06). Entry:

   Cecil Forwood, Head, age 33, married, private means; born
     at Cheshunt, Herts.
   Emilie Forwood, wife, 36, married 8 years, no children;
     born at Armagh, Ireland
   Annie Clarke servant, 22, single, Servant (Domestic);
     born at Old Chorlton, Kent
   Census place: The Pleasaunce, Sutton Courtenay, Berkshire

England and Wales. National Probate Calendar. Will index entry for Cecil Sheridan Forwood, of 6 Hillcrest Park, Moygashel, Dungannon, county Tyrone; died 29 December 1963; Probate Belfast (1966), to Stephen Laughon [Langton] Forwood [Cecil’s half-brother], chartered accountant. £2335 in England. Sealed London, 9 May. Index of Wills and Administrations, 1858–1966, online at (accessed 2013-07-06).

Holt, Sarah K. Genealogy Pages. Online at
genealogy/getperson.php?personID=I0134&tree=SarahMain (accessed 2013-07-06). Re: Agnes Margaret Crowe was a native of Eglish, county Armagh. Agnes and Cecil were married at St James Norlands, London, 26 April 1922.

Ireland. Census of 1911. The National Archives of Ireland, online at (accessed 2013-07-06). Entry:

   Hugh Bracken Thompson, age 53, Head, Christian Undenomi-
     national, Minister of the Gospel, married 7 years, 3
     children born and 3 survive
   Norah Margaret Elizabeth, 6, daughter, do., scholar
   Aileen Mary Felicia, 3, daughter, do.
   Kathleen Caroline Churchill, 2, daughter, do.
   Mary Sophia, 58, sister, do., Teacher of Scientific Drawing
   Hannah Founds, 22, domestic servant, do.
   Rosina Florence Founds, 18, do., do.
   Census place: 23, Downshire Road, Bangor, county Down

Ireland. General Register Office. Index entry for birth of Cecil Ernest Forwood, 3rd quarter ending 30 September 1885, Dublin South Registration District (RD). Online at Family Search, (accessed 2012-01-27, and 2013-07-06).

Ibid. Index entry for death registration of Amelia Caroline Thompson, born 1861, died 2nd quarter ending 30 June 1902, Belfast RD.

Ibid. Index entry for marriage registration of Emily Jane Thompson and Cecil Sheridan Forwood, 1st quarter ending 31 March 1902, Dublin South RD.

Ibid. Index entry for birth registration of Norah M.E. Thompson, 4th quarter ending 31 December 1904, Newtownards RD.

Ibid. Index entry for birth registration of Aileen M.F. Thompson, 2nd quarter ending 30 June 1907, Newtownards RD.

Ibid. Index entry for birth registration of Kathleen Caroline C. Thompson, 2nd quarter ending 30 June 1908, Newtownards RD.

Ibid. Index entry for birth of Herbert Hugh Anderson Thompson, 3rd quarter ending 30 September 1909, Newtownards RD.

Ibid. Index entry for birth of George S.K. Thompson, 3rd quarter ending 30 September 1910, Newtownards RD.

Ibid. Index entry for death registration of Elizabeth Anna Thompson, born 1851, died 3rd quarter ending 30 September 1911, Belfast RD.

Ibid. Index entry for death registration of Mary Sophia Thompson, born 1853, died 2nd quarter ending 30 June 1920, Belfast RD.

Ibid. Index entry for death registration of Emily Jane Forwood, born 1856, died 2nd quarter ending 30 June 1921, Newtownards RD.

J.S.P. Review of "Memoir Introductory to the Early History of the Primacy of Armagh," &c., by Robert King, 2nd ed. Armagh: John Thompson, 1854. Ulster Journal of Archæology (1855-01-01), pp. 257-9.

Legg, Marie-Louise. Newspapers and Nationalism: The Irish Provincial Press, 1850–1892. Dublin: Four Courts Press, 1999.

Literary and Educational Year Book for 1859. London, 1859. Entry for the Armagh Guardian:

   Armagh Guardian.
   (Established 1844.)
     One of the largest Newspapers in the Provinces. Is printed
   and published every Friday morning in the City of Armagh, and
   is the advocate of Conservative Progress. Particular attention
   is given to the Great Question of Education.
     The Journal enjoys an extensive circulation in the Province
   of Ulster, with a liberal Patronage in the other Three
   Provinces, and in the Sister Kingdoms. The central position of
   the City, the nucleus of the Linen Trade, and having Direct
   Railway Communication with the Leading Commercial Towns,
   renders the GUARDIAN a suitable medium for Advertisements.
   —John Thompson, Proprietor.
   Office, 41 English-st., head of College-str., Armagh.

Liverpool, England. Baptisms, 1813–1903. Liverpool Registers, Liverpool Record Office. Online at (accessed 2013-07-06). Re: Cecil Sheridan was the son of Ernest Harrison and Mabel Forwood, of Cheshunt, London; baptised 2nd March 1878 at St James, West Derby.

Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI), Belfast. Abstract of will for John Thompson, granted 19 October 1880. Will Calendars, online at (accessed 2012-01-27).

Ibid. Will of William Copeland Bracken Thompson, died 3 January 1893, granted 30 January 1893.

Ibid. Abstract and index entry of the will of Amelia Caroline Thompson, date of death: 29 March 1902, date of grant: 14 February 1912, effects: £81 10s. 0d. Abstract: Administration of the Estate of Amelia Caroline Thompson late of 5 Holborn Terraec University Street Belfast Spinster who died 29 March 1902 granted at Belfast to Mary Sophia Thompson Spinster.

Ibid. Abstract and index entry of the will of Elizabeth Anna Thompson, date of death: 21 September 1911, date of grant: 9 February 1912, effects: £495 1s. 9-1/2d. Abstract: Administration (with the Will) of the Estate of Elizabeth Anna Thompson late of 5 Holborn Terrace University Street Belfast Spinster who died 21 September 1911 granted at Belfast to Mary Sophia Thompson Spinster.

Ibid. Abstract and index entry of the will of Mrs. Emily Jane Forwood, Belfast Registry, died 9 June 1921, granted 24 August 1921.

Ibid. Abstract and index entry of the will of Hugh Bracken Thompson, date of death: 6 December 1924, date of grant: 2 April 1925. Abstract: Thompson Hugh Bracken of Altamount 23 Downshire Road Bangor county Down missionary died 6 December 1924 Probate Belfast 2 April to Margaret Thompson widow.

RootsWeb mailing list: Fermanagh-GOLD-L archives. "," 20 August 2011, re: Hugh Bracken & Elizabeth Copeland. Online at (accessed 2012-01-27).

RootsWeb message board: Bracken. "Soopy464," 9 July 2010, re: Bracken, Ireland and Lancashire. Online at (accessed 2012-01-27).

United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. House of Commons. Sessional Papers. Justice, Administration of, in Ireland. Vol. LIII, sub-vol. I, pp. 417, 497 (1886). "William Copeland Bracken, Magistrate, date of commission: 14 Nov. 1884; particulars: Landed proprietor and grazier." Online at Enhanced British Parliamentary Papers on Ireland (EPPI), (accessed 2012-01-27).

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