Winter 2012 newsletter

Winter 2012 newsletter

This newsletter covers personal news, new information on the website about the Newry Sinclair family and recent genealogical research, so I must apologise if some of it doesn't interest you. Wishing you a Happy New Year!

Martin Sinclair

On 25 September 2011, the family and friends of Martin Sinclair, my eldest son, celebrated his life at the Laburnum Boat Club in Hackney, London ( Martin died on 22 September 1997, nearly 27 years old. The Sinclair Trust donated its 45-foot narrowboat to the Club for the benefit of disadvantaged young and elderly people to enjoy London's waterways. On the day, I had the privilege of formally renaming the boat 'Martin Sinclair'. The event also celebrated the life of Tom Easton, the 22-year-old son of Dolores, my partner, who was stabbed to death in 2006. His birthday was 25 September.
A registered charity called the Flavasum Trust was set up after Tom’s death to support organisations that use the arts to convince young people not to carry knives or other weapons (

Other families related to the Sinclair family

There are now short histories on the website of some of the families who married into the Newry Sinclairs. Detailed genealogies are given in the Family Tree...

The first generation

The Walker family: William Sinclair married Ellen Walker in 1840. Her Co. Armagh family claimed to be related to the Rev. George Walker, one of the leaders of the citizens of Derry during its siege by king James II in 1689...

The Redmond family: Ellen Walker's mother was Jane Redmond. Her grandfather was 'Old Jack' Redmond, a very successful linen merchant in Co. Armagh...

The McBride family: William Sinclair's son Abraham Walker married Mary Margaret Davis in 1866. Her mother was Jemima McBride. James McBride, Jemima’s uncle, emigrated to America in 1795 and was a very successful merchant in New York. James' daughters Ellen (pictured) and Ann Matilda married into the McLanahans (also from Ireland) and the Vanderpoels, well-connected families in nineteenth-century America. William Cardwell McBride, one of Jemima's brothers, emigrated to the USA in 1857 and established himself in Georgia...

The Davis family: Mary Margaret Davis' father was William Alexander Davis, a respected doctor in Newry for many years. One of her brothers became a General in the RAMC...

The second generation

The James family: William Sinclair's daughter Ann Eliza married Robert James in 1864 (photographed). William James, his grandfather's brother, emigrated to America in 1789. He became a business partner of James McBride and created a fortune in New York State. Robert's cousins were William James, the psychologist, and Henry James, the novelist...

The Taylor family: William Sinclair's daughter Ellen married Dr William Taylor of Downpatrick, Co. Down, in 1874. His brother James was a doctor in Tandragee, and their two surviving sons became pharmacists in Enniskillen and Enniscorthy...

The Browne family: William Sinclair's daughter Sarah married Dr Thomas John Browne in 1878. One son became a Lt.-Colonel, a grandson became a Lt.-Colonel, and a great grandson became a Brigadier...

The third generation

The Irwin family: Abraham Walker Sinclair's daughter Mary Jemima in 1911 married Dr Samuel Thompson Irwin, a celebrated surgeon in Belfast who was knighted in 1957...

The Jones family: Abraham Walker Sinclair's son Henry Douglas married Ellen Elizabeth Jones in 1900. Her father was a factor at the Penoyre Estate in Cradoc, Powys...

The fourth generation

The Brown and Davies families: Henry Douglas Sinclair's son Eric Gerald Alexander married Norah Brown in 1936. The Browns were millers in south-east England, like the Sinclairs in Newry. William Davies, her great grandfather (photographed, centre) worked in the British Museum, and his son, Thomas Davies, her grandfather, was a Keeper of Minerals and the mineral 'daviesite' was named after him...

Other Irish Sinclair families

It has also been possible to record some details of twelve other Irish Sinclair families on the website. It is quite unlikely that they are related to the Newry Sinclairs, but there is a possibility that the other Sinclair family living in Newry at the same time were distantly related. As yet, though, there is no evidence one way or the other. Descendant tables are given for each family, compiled from existing information.

17th-century research


I have been able to show that William Sinclair of Rosslyn settled at Newton Manor Court in Ely O'Carroll country about 1620, taking his wife Jean Dobie and their two young children, George and William, with him. William was important in the history of the Sinclairs in Scotland because he extended Rosslyn Castle and was the first patron of the Scottish stonemasons. However, he fought with the Presbyterian kirk about Rosslyn Chapel and his womanising, and ran up large debts he found difficult to pay off. Ireland, and a 1000-acre plantation, offered a good way out of his predicament. It didn't prove to be, though, because he was fined £250 for not keeping to his agreement with James I to develop the plantation. He was already approaching sixty by then, and his wife was less than half his age, so it wasn't surprising to find that he had secured a much smaller holding at Ballyloughmaguiff, not far from Clogher in Co. Tyrone, where James Spottiswoode, the brother of his son’s father-in-law, was the controversial bishop.

William probably died before 1630 because Jean soon after married Thomas Cairns, a staunch Irish Presbyterian whose son David was present at the Siege of Derry. Jean died in 1634, leaving William's sons to establish themselves in Ulster.

12th and 13th centuries research


Hubert de St. Clair, who held land in Dorset and Somerset at 1086, was the father (if not the grandfather) of two brothers in southeast England: William and Hamon de St. Clair. William died about 1152 leaving Matilda, his daughter, who married Aubrey de Dammartin. Aubrey left England and was made the count of Ponthieu by the king of France in 1162.

Hamon de St. Clair, castellan of Colchester Castle and Sheriff of Essex and Hertfordshire in 1127, had only one son, Hubert de St. Clair. Hubert was killed in a battle at Bridgnorth in 1155 and Henry II gave his daughter Gunnora in marriage to William de Lanvalei, a Breton who Henry appointed his seneschal in Rennes. William obtained many manors through Gunnora. His grandson signed the Magna Carta in 1215, but he was the last by that name because his only child married John de Burgh, the son of Hubert de Burgh, justiciar of England.

The only St. Clair mentioned in the chronicles as being at Hastings was Richard de St. Clair, so it is reasonable to assume they he was the Richard who held land in Norfolk and Suffolk at 1086. His grandson, another Richard, was at Jerusalem during the Third Crusade (1189–1192). This branch established itself at Bradfield St. Clair in Suffolk during the thirteenth century.


Another branch in England was that of Hugh de St. Clair, who was a knight at king Henry II's court and one of those accused by Thomas a Becket of appropriating church land. Hugh was the lord of the manor of Islingham in Kent and indeed held lands belonging to the Archbishop of Canterbury in Kent and Sussex for several years. Some of Hugh’s descendants crossed the Thames and settled in Essex during the thirteenth century. When William 'the Lion', king of Scotland, was released by Henry in 1174, some young Anglo-Norman knights from Henry’s court were allowed to accompany him on his return north to Scotland. Amongst them, according to a contemporary chronicler, were the "Seynclers".

Important historical questions still to be resolved

(1) Were Hubert and Richard de St. Clair directly related? There was another St. Clair who held lands in Dorset, Somerset and Devon at 1086 and that was Bretel de St. Clair. However, there is no evidence that Hubert, Richard and Bretel were brothers – other than they were contemporaries and each held land in England at 1086.

(2) Can it be shown that Hugh was a younger brother of William and Hamon? Again they were contemporaries, and William held land almost adjacent to that of Hugh’s in Kent, but there is nothing as yet to confirm their relationship.

(3) Did Hugh’s younger sons or grandsons settle in Scotland in 1174, establishing the Sinclair families of Herdmanston and Rosslyn? If they were his younger sons, they would probably have been in their mid to late thirties in 1174, assuming Hugh was  born around 1100 – young enough to make a new life for themselves in Scotland and old enough to have the king’s trust.

Peter Sinclair, 41 High Street, Barkway, Hertfordshire, SG8 8EA

This is an occasional newsletter published by the Sinclair genealogy website. It provides information about new research and recent historical discoveries in Normandy, England, Scotland and Ireland.