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Lurgan Coat of Arms The Armagh Guardian

4 December, 1851  

A CHARITABLE BEGUEST

The Northern Whig supplies the following strange particulars in connection with the will of the late Mrs. Magee, whose bequest of 20,000, towards founding a Presbyterian college in Lurgan in the north of Ireland has been the origin of the recent most discreditable proceedings at the meetings of the General Assembly.

Several years ago the ministry of the Presbyterian church in Lurgan was discharged by a clergyman named the Reverend William Magee. He died and his wife and children were left to depend on an annuity from the funds set apart for the maintenance of the widows of deceased clergymen for their support. Mrs. Magee had three brothers who had accumulated large fortunes principally in the service of the East India Company. During their lives these persons gave their sister no relief beyond the shelter of a house, for which she discharged the duties of housekeeper. For her sons, to be sure, they exerted their interest so far as to procure them situations in the East India Company's service, but for the outfit of the young men they advanced not one farthing. Mr. Magee's sons did not live to enjoy their appointment long; and one by one her three brothers had been carried off by death. And now stricken in years and sorely tried by domestic affliction, the old woman, who had not expected ever to receive a farthing from her brothers suddenly found herself the possessor of all their wealth.

It may possibly have been rather a sign of mental imbecility in the woman than any thing else, that, notwithstanding her riches, she still continued to draw the widow's annuity. Of such strange stuff were the amassers of all this wealth formed, and so little expectation had Mrs. Magee or anyone else that she would ever become the possessor of it, that an opinion actually prevailed among the good folk of Lurgan that the last surviving brother had made a will disposing of his property in some other manner. But with this, or any other gossips, we have here nothing to do. Rich people are never without aspirants to their friendship. Except by one amiable family in Lurgan, Mrs. Magee had been little cared for when she was poor; but as soon as she became the owner of thousands of pounds sterling it is astonishing how soon her good qualities were discovered, and how attractive an object of benevolent interest she became.

It was possibly from being overwhelmed ,by good-natured attentions of this kind that she removed to Dublin in 1838, the year after the third brothers death. But the rich find friends everywhere. In our metropolis, as at home, Mrs. Magee found plenty of disinterested individuals desirous of making her acquaintance, who in by-gone days would have had too much delicacy to trespass on the sacred privacy of her poverty. For some time after her arrival in Dublin she continued to be a frequenter of the Scots Church, Mary's Abbey. But all at once, for some reason unknown, she ceased to visit that place of worship, and became an attendant on the Episcopal Free Church,, near her own residence, of which the Rev. Mr. Hare is chaplain.

Some time after this, the late Miss Fleming went on a visit to the old lady, and through her influence she was induced to fall off from the Episcopal establishment, and to connect herself with the Scotch church, Ormond-quay, placing herself under the spiritual direction of the Rev, Richard Dill. Of course the aspirants for the rich woman's good graces were numerous enough; but, finally, through the exertions of Miss Fleming, Mr. Dill completely established himself in her confidence. Mr. Dill enjoyed the friendship of a member of the bar, Mr. Greer, and of a gentleman of a medical profession, Surgeon Henry. The last named became Mrs. Magee's medical adviser, and very shortly Mr. Greer found himself a tenant in the house next to that in which the old lady resided.

In 1845, it appears, the old lady made her will. It was drawn up by Mr. Greer, without the aid of a solicitor, and a curious document it is. It is remarkable for the want of ordinary legal precision with which it is worded; this was accounted for by Mr. Greer, on the ground that it was intended merely as a draught and that as Mrs. Magee was in a hurry it was converted into an original will. The vagueness of the document was the cause of the recent litigation. The first bequest set forth in it is the sum of 20,000 for the college, which sum is inscribed in figures. Then, there are. three bequests to the dear friends of the testatrix 5-000, to the Rev. Richard Dill, 5,000 to Samuel Macurdy Greer, and 3,000, to James Henry, surgeon. The bequests, by the way, are all very precisely written out in full not represented, like the college bequest by figures In this will 500 each are left to Miss Flooring and to Mr. Fleming, the latter being appointed an executor.

But this is not all. A codicil was added to the will, which bears the date the 10th of May, 1846 Sunday, by the way; and in this the residue of the property is bequeathed to the several legates, being divided according to a percentage on the sums already bequeathed to them; thus, of course, giving the lion's share still to those who had been so peculiarly fortunate in the first instance. Another codicil was added to the second Sunday following (a strange love of Sabbath work is here evinced) by which an Indian bond and dividend, valued at from 2,000 to 3,000 was left to Mr. Henry, surgeon, for ' his extreme attention.'

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