The following extract appeared in the Lisburn Standard — Saturday 16th June, 1894
The Romantic Career of a Ballinderry Lady
Mrs. Thistlethwayte, who died in the last week of the past month, at her beautiful villa called Woodbine Cottage, near London, was third daughter of Captain Bell, a retired officer, who held a large farm under the third Marquis of Hertford, and which was situated in the fertile district of Ballinderry. The Captain’s eldest daughter married Mr. John Vernon, a gentleman that, for many years, was a very much respected clerk in Lord Hertford’s rent office. After the Captain’s death, his widow and the two unmarried daughters came to Lisburn, where they resided for a few years. The eldest left for New York in November 1847, when the junior, Laura Eliza Jane, then leaving the teens behind her, rapidly rose into celebrity as one of the finest looking young ladies of a district famed for the handsome in petticoats. Her intelligence was of a very high order, and a lady of grace – which, to a stranger, would appear as if the result of a fashionable education in the West End of London – gave its special interest to Laura Bell. As she had the entrée of the homes of several of the rural gentry, she became a very expert horse-woman, and could have rode her steed over gate or ditch fence in a style that would have delighted the famous sportsman, James Watson, D.L., of Brookhill, to look upon. During the Autumn of 1848, Laura Bell had been on a visit at the house of a family in the neighbourhood of Holywood, and was riding a wild horse near the entrance to Squire Harrison’s ancient residence, when the animal suddenly reared and threw its rider on the roadway. The Squire, who happened to be present, ran to the lady’s assistance, and had her conveyed to Holywood House, where she introduced herself as Lady Hamilton. Dr. Purdon of Belfast, was called in, and for some days Laura Bell received all possible medical and hospitable attention. At the end of a week she was able to go to Belfast, leaving Mr. And Mrs. Harrison highly pleased with their impromptu guest. The World of last week gives a short but very graphic sketch of Laura Bell’s career in London, to which city she had gone in 1853. That sketch really presents a further illustration of the Byronnic aphorism, “Truth is strange, stranger than fiction.” About the middle of the Crimean War a younger son of the house of Thistlethwayte fell in love with Laura and married her. The means at his disposal were then limited, when news came that his elder brother, who led a troop of dragoons, was killed in the charge at Balaclava, and the junior became heir to landed property worth fifteen thousand a year. From the amplitude of means that came into his hands, the young husband gave his wife full power to exercise her naturally benevolent disposition. She contributed largely to the funds of the Church, taught at the Sunday School, and delivered lectures on social subjects to the daughters of the working people. Mr. Thistlethwayte met with a fatal accident many years ago. He had made a will leaving his wife a life interest in the estate, and from that time she went t reside at Woodbine Cottage. Occasionally during her widowhood Mrs. Thistlethwayte was visited by some old friends that had known her in the days of her girlhood, and in all such cases she received those guests in the very spirit of Hospitality. Many statesmen of the present day, together with their wives and daughters, were among her visitors, and the dinners at the Cottage were not less recherché for the intellectual than for the gastronomical part of the entertainment. There are still a few of the older farmers of Ballinderry who are able to recollect the residence amongst them of Captain Bell, his pretty wife and handsome daughters.
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