The Walker family
The Walker family was very extensive in Co. Armagh in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Many of that name farmed in the area. However, the single most famous individual in Ireland was the Reverend George Walker, who led, with others, the resistance of the people of Derry during the three-month siege by the army of king James II in 1689. George wrote a famous pamphlet called A True Account of the Siege of London-Derry and was feted by Londoners and Parliament when he visited England. He was present at the Battle of the Boyne the following year and was killed by a musket ball.
Because of his fame, many northern Irish families claim to be descended from him, and the Sinclairs are no exception. It is known that William Sinclair married Ellen Walker in 1840, and her father was Abraham Walker of Richhill, and his father was Thomas (Tom) Walker of Richhill (1747-1813). Tom Walker’s father was Abraham Walker of Annahill, and then of Ballyleany, near Richhill, who lived from 1724 until 1786, according to his gravestone at St. Aidan’s Church, Kilmore. This, though, is where the ancestral trail currently ends.
The Rev. George Walker had four sons, the eldest of whom was John Alexander Walker, a collector of customs at Dundalk, Robert, George who died in 1728, and Thomas, who died in 1712 at Ottley, near Leeds. John Alexander received a grant of £2000 from the Irish Parliament and an annual pension of £200 until the reign of king George I. He had two sons, Alexander who married Mary Nixon in Co. Cavan and another who lived in Derry. So far, though, no direct link can be made between any of George Walker’s surviving sons and Abraham Walker of Ballyleany, nor between Abraham and the descendants of Godfrey Walker, George’s brother and High Sheriff of Armagh in 1678, and another brother, Gervase. This, though, does not mean that the Richhill Walkers are unrelated to the Derry family, just that it has been impossible to prove they are.
Abraham Walker of Richhill (1791-1827)
Abraham and his father Tom were linen merchants in Richhill when linen production was at its height in the north of Ireland. Rich Hill, formerly known as Legacorry, was the best place to buy linen cloth and was used by residents of Armagh to buy clothing and food. However, by 1835, a few years after Abraham died, it had become a backwater, with just a few people attending a Saturday market. Apparently, this was a result of hostility by the Quakers, who deserted the town after one of their members had been killed in a riot there.
Tom Walker had seventeen children, which, even by the standards of the time was a lot. Unlike “Old Jack” Redmond, who amassed a fortune by “a strict and undeviating regard to sobriety and industry”, Abraham was a very different type of person. He died just a year after Old Jack, at the young age of 36 years:
He was an emblem of gentleness, meekness, and kindness, a loving husband, a tender parent and an honest man. He has left a loving wife and a large family of small and promising children to deplore his loss.
In 1827, his wife Jane was left to bring up alone John Walker Redmond Walker (11 years old), Ellen (9 years), Thomas (7 years, who was to marry Elizabeth Sinton), Mary Jane (7 years), Anne Elizabeth (4 years, who was to marry William Browne), and doubtless a number more. It is not known for sure when Jane died, but there is a record of a Jane Walker of Creenagh being buried at Kilmore in 1856, aged 61 years.
Ellen married William Sinclair in 1840 at Grange House and then moved to Newry. Abraham Redmond Walker, probably another of Ellen’s brothers, joined William in his milling business and later set up on his own in Newry, retiring, like William, to Warrenpoint. The remaining Walker Redmonds, as they were known in the Richhill area, lived a riotous life, “living like like gentlemen of leisure, doing no work”, and squandering the fortune and estate left to them by Old Jack.