Why was Thomas Wright made a Freeman?

The gravestone of Thomas Wright, a freeman of the city, at Glendermott.
The gravestone of Thomas Wright, a freeman of the city, at Glendermott.

The family of former Sentinel employee, Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) member and ‘B’ Special, Thomas Wright, has contacted the paper to issue an appeal for information on why he was made a ‘Freeman’ of Londonderry.

Mr Wright, who is listed as having lived at 12 The Dark Lane, in a Londonderry Corporation document dated 1883, worked in the typographical department at the Sentinel for a life time.

He died in November 5, 1926, and was buried in Glendermott. On his gravestone he is honoured as a ‘Freeman of this City.’

According to a report of the burial he was clearly held in high regard within the wider Londonderry community.

He was mourned by a “large number of old friends who knew the deceased citizen, whether in business, as a member of the Typographical Association, in the Loyal Orders, as a ‘B’ Special, or as a worthy citizen.”

The report explains that the chief mourners were his four sons, Thomas, Patrick, Joseph and David, and his sons-in-law WM Holloway, Wm Edwards, Robert Dougherty, Fred Wright and Matthew Kennedy.

Tragically, Thomas survived his son George, who had died at the Somme; his daughter Mary, who died on January 13, 1923 aged just 27 years; and his wife Jane, who died on February 9, 1924, aged 62.

The report states: “The coffin was covered with the Union Jack, on which were deceased’s cap and side-arms of the ‘B’ Constabulary.

“A detachment of the ‘B’ Specials attended, under Mr S. Heatley, the following officers being also present: - Mr WJ Hepburn, representing the City Commandant; Mr RJ Hyndman, representing the City Adjutant; and Mr C Kennedy, representing the Deputy City Commandant.

“The proprietor, Major Colhoun, MC, and members of the staff of the various departments of the ‘Sentinel’ in which the deceased spent 52 years of business life, were present, as were also members of the Londonderry Branch of the Typographical Association and many representatives of the general public.

“A service was held in Glendermott Church, at which Rev. JK Brattio, gave an impressive address. Rev. C. Cullinore read the committal prayer at the graveside.”

Thanks to the sterling work of Trevor Temple with the Diamond War Memorial project we also know that Thomas became an indentured apprentice in the Londonderry Sentinel in 1874, and his entire time was spent in the machine department.

An entry on Thomas’ son George explains: “He became a Freeman of the city of Londonderry, a distinction of which he was always very proud. A staunch Unionist, he was a member of the old Unionist Clubs, and when the UVF was inaugurated he was one of the first to line up. He was also a member of the ‘B’ Special Constabulary from its commencement, an Orangeman, and a member of the Apprentice Boys of Derry. Thomas Wright died on November 5, 1926, at the City and County Infirmary, Londonderry.”

If anyone has information on the reason Mr Wright was recognised as a Freeman contact the Sentinel on 02871341175 or Tweet @L_Sentinel