On Wednesday 1st January 1817, George III is king of Great Britain and Ireland, although by now he is pronounced insane. His eldest son, George Prince of Wales is ruling as Prince Regent. James Madison is coming near the end of being the 4th President of the United States of America, hailed as the “Father of the Constitution”. In Ulster, after a very cold and wet 1816, there is little food to eat or fuel for the fire. In near-famine conditions, typhus was rampant, affecting all classes but mostly the poor. In mid Tyrone, William Kyle (20) born in the town-land of Brackey, is packing his belongings to sail to the United State. Like so many of his neighbours, he is leaving his family and country forever, in the hope that he will carve out a better future in a far away land. On this cold dark wintry morning, Mr Robin Armstrong unlocks the front door of his business premises to the public and begins his new position of Sub-Post master in the village of Sixmilecross.
With his wife Mary acting as his assistant, the first sub-post office to be opened between the towns of Omagh and Dungannon comes into service. Their salary is £2 per annum, later to be increased to £3. Under the terms of Act 23, 24 George III in 1784 “sub-offices throughout this kingdom from whence all letter and packets whatsoever to or from places within this kingdom, or beyond the seas, may be with speed and expedition sent“, they have been appointed to carry out.
In the village there is still some lingering tension between those loyal to the British crown and those of Irish nationalism. The plane stone Celtic cross from whence the village takes its name, was destroyed nineteen years earlier by Royalist yeomanry during the United Irishmen rebellion 1798.
This is the social and political environment of that day, when a Scottish plantation family began a post office business, that stayed within their family for the next two hundred years or 72,897 days to be precise or did it?
I shall tell you what happened the next time I write.