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Sleeper Thompson

The Story of Sleeper Thompson

A few weeks ago in January, Gerry O'Dowd sent me an extract from a book named "Chronicle of the Century" entitled 'Mr. Lazy gets up' and asked me if I had ever heard of this.

I certainly had, but the story relayed to me and my family by my father was slightly different from this article. His story was (told to him by his father, my grandfather) Sleeper Thompson had put a rope across the road at the Clare Crossroads to trip the pony and trap carrying the priest to say Mass. The priest (allegedly) put a curse on Thompson and the story went that Thompson slept for over 20 years and couldn't get out of bed until that particular priest died!

While I am not 100% certain where Thompson lived at that time, the ruins of a house on the Lowtown Road was always known as "Sleeping Thompson's House"

House ruins 2

The site of the ruins of Sleeper Thompson's house on the Lowtown Road

After Gerry sent me the extract, I did some research through old newspapers and, sure enough, it was a big story in 1907. I've typed out the newspaper articles to make it easier for you to read. I'd be really interested to hear if any of you heard of this story before - either version!

Email me at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

ARTICLES

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 The extract I received from Gerry O'Dowd

Evening Express

16th February 1907 (First Edition)

Laziest Man Alive.

I SLEEP-AT-ALL-COSTS CHAMPION

Some people are born tired; others think so yet manage to drag through their work. Life to them is a dreary business, brightened only when bedtime comes round. The sleep-at-all-costs folk have now a champion to admire. His name is Thompson. He went to bed in 1877 and did not leave until a fortnight ago! This, it is thought, establishes a world's record. Thompson, who lives with his mother, Clare, Lurgan in Ireland-to be sure! was a boy of eleven when he went to bed. He was looked after by his mother, and his presence in the house was hardly known to the villagers. He would have remained in bed for the rest of his life, in all probability, had not a crisis occurred in his domestic affairs a fortnight ago. Mrs. Thompson was at that time taken ill and had to be removed to the infirmary. Left helplessly alone, Thompson was compelled to get up. A search was commenced for the suit which he discarded 29 years ago, but he was unable to dress without assistance. Two neighbours were called in, and the work of squeezing him into the suit occupied the three men a whole evening. When dressed he was too tired to walk, and an ambulance had to be brought to convey him to the union. He reposed there until his mother was well enough to leave the infirmary, when he followed her home. He was compelled to walk this time, as the guardians refused an ambulance. The facta of the case came out on Thursday night, when the relieving officer applied to the guardians for relief for Mrs. Thompson, who has only occasional help from some more energetic sons who have emigrated to Australia. She was allowed 1s. 6d. a week. The recital of the story convulsed the guardians. Inquiries show that numerous medical men have tried their hands at stimulating Thompson out of this chronic lethargy. Irritating plasters were applied, but they had no power to irritate him. Mild electrio currents left him unroused, and the doctors are now content to let him enjoy the serene calm they were unable to disturb. Thompson is quite healthy and suffers only from chronic laziness. He has remained in bed since his return home, and the suit of clothes has again been put away. He has said nothing about his outing, but he looks very bored, especially when you mention the word guardian.

 

Irish News and Belfast Morning News

Tuesday 19th February 1907

THE RESTFUL LURGAN MAN

Disappoints photographers

Quite an army of photographers and interviewers have been wasting their more or less valuable time hovering around the dwelling of George Thompson, the Lurgan man who is said to have wakened up after 30 years somnolence to find himself famous and much sought after. At present after all his years of rest in bed, he is being hunted about by enterprising photographers an equally active reporters, desirous of circulating all the details that count secure regarding this modern Rip Van Winkle; but George, it appears, is not to be caught, and all attempts to snapshot him or interview him of ended in failure.

Derry Journal
Wednesday 20th February 1907

George Johnson, record breaker who earned for himself the title of the laziest man alive for having remained in bed for 29 years, has now resolved not to go to bed anymore. Thompson has reached the mature age of 42. The sight of the green fields and the busy world during his walk home from the workhouse has completely changed his dream. He is determined now to make amends for the years mis- spent in bed

Belfast Weekly News

Thursday 21st of February 1907

The Lurgan Sleeper

Doctors Unsuccessful experiment

Further particulars to hand reveal some interesting facts regarding George Thompson, of Clare, Lurgan, the man who, as reported at Lurgan Board of Guardians last week, lay in his bed for 29 years. It now appears that in the year 1876 Thompson, who is apparently bordering on 50 years of age, first gave way to a fit of laziness, and up till three years ago, when his mother’s illness necessitated her removal to hospital, successfully overcame all attempts made to compel him to forsake his beloved place of slumber. The medical officer of the district a number of years ago, being unable to diagnose the disease from which Thompson was supposed to be suffering, applied several irritating plasters to his body, but Thompson, after their removal, calmly remarked to some neighbours who had called to see him, “the doctor thought to make me rise, but he can't”. Since his temporary stay in the workhouse Infirmary, during his mother’s illness, he has worked occasionally with his landlord, but the habits of a quarter of a century are not readily shaken off. Recently he was sent to break lumps in a field in preparation for a crop, and shortly after he was found peacefully slumbering in a ditch. When remonstrated with he unblushingly said that he had lived without working all his day, and he supposed he would have to do so till the end.

Belfast Telegraph
Sunday 23rd February 1907

LURGAN GUARDIAN AND THE SLEEPER

HIS PHOTOGRAPH FOR THE BOARDROOM

After usual weekly meeting of the Lurgan board of Guardians , the case of George Thompson, whose slumberous repose for a period of 29 years has gained for him some notoriety came up for discussion. Mr James grew J.P. said he observed a lot in the papers during the week about the “sleeping boy of Clare”. He would like to know had he returned to bed once more. Relieving officer Johnston replied in the negative. Mr Johnston: “Oh, he says he won't go to bed anymore. (Laughter). Mr Grew: “Is he in receipt of outdoor relief?” Mr. Johnston: “No, he is not; but his mother was granted 1s 6d last Board day. Mr. Grew: “Whether it is true or not I do not know; but I heard that the man received a telegram on Wednesday offering him eight guineas per week if he would exhibit himself at a music hall. (Laughter) Relieving Officer Johnston stated that Thompson had been offered 10s last Sunday to allow himself to be photographed but the money proved no inducement He (Mr. Johnston) knew nothing about the other offer. Mr. Grew said he would like the relieving offer to make more inquiries. (Laughter). He was not joking. He understood that the offer was genuine and, if so, the man should be in a position to support his mother. A Guardian – He wouldn’t appear for £80 a week. (Laughter). Relieving officer Johnston said he would make inquiries into the matter and report to the Board. Mr. Grew: “You might bring a copy of the telegram with you”. Mr. Johnston – And also his photograph. (Laughter) We can hang it up in the Boardroom. (Laughter) The matter dropped.
Our Lurgan correspondent wrote yesterday that Thompson definitely refused to accept the offer from Manchester.

IRISH NEWS AND BELFAST MORNING NEWS

Monday 25th February 1907

MOB ATTACKS HIS RESIDENCE

A Disgraceful Scene

Interest in George Thompson’s long spell of slumberous response has not been permitted to subside judging from the conduct of a number of blackguards – another name is fitting – who, in a true Presbyterian spirit of keeping the Sabbath holy, attacked Thompson’s residence yesterday. It appears that yesterday afternoon, a large crowd from a certain Orange district in Lurgan and from Portadown congregated at the Clare. They came on foot, on bicycles, and in cars, their object being to inspect and pass judgement on the unfortunate Thompson. They assembled at the house and demanded the appearance of Thompson, who, however, refused to come forth, and instead bolted the door. The crowd, being incensed at his refusal to show himself, began to throw stones and other missiles at the door and windows, at the same time uttering filthy expressions of disbelief on Thompson’s record of somnolence and seclusion. In the meantime, the poor old mother, over whose head eighty summers have come and gone, was beseeching the crowd to desist from the blackguardly conduct. Her entreaties were unavailing, and, fearing serious destruction to her home and hurt to her son, she ran to neighbouring houses and besought them with tears in her eyes to go and clear away the roughs. The neighbours were too few in number to cope with the assailing party, which numbered between thirty and forty, and, beyond protecting against their unseemly conduct, could do no more. A doctor, fortunately, happened to be passing, and, observing the state of affairs, sent post haste for the police. The arrival of a few constables resulted in the disappearance of the mob. Some articles of delph in Thompson’s kitchen were broken by the stones thrown through the windows.

Saturday 23rd February 1907

LURGAN MAN’S RECORD

30 YEAR’S REST

WON’T GO TO BED ANYMORE

The case of the man Thompson, which was mentioned at the Lurgan Board of Guardians a few days ago, when the relieving officer told the board the remarkable story of his having remained in bed for 29 years, has, it appears, entered upon a new phase. Thompson, it will be recollected from the accounts published, is maintained by his old mother, aged eighty. She took ill and had to be removed to the Infirmary, and as he would not remain alone he had to be taken to the workhouse. The suit he had worn 29 years previously was hunted out, and with the help of two neighbours, after several hours struggling, he managed to get squeezed into it with infinite difficulty. These exhaustive and unusual toilet preparations for the workhouse depleted his energy, and the relieving- officer humanely brought the ambulance along to convey the weary Thompson to the rest and circulation of the union. He remained there for a couple of weeks, during which time his mother recovered, and at the end of a fortnight she returned home. The son did not follow her for a few days, and he was during that time presumably engaged in persuading the relieving-officer to draw him back in the ambulance. If this was so, the officer proved obdurate, for Thompson had to walk out to Clare where his mother lives, a distance of three miles. It was his first constitutional for 30 years, and what his reflections on his jaunt were may be conjectured. The sight of green fields and a busy world came to him as a revelation, oh he must have forgotten what the outer world look like 30 years before. His philosophisings have, however, being turned to good account, for today the information comes along from Lurgan that like Macbeth, he has resolved to sleep no more, and he cannot now be persuaded to return to bed. He is evidently bent upon making amends for the years he spent to such poor purpose, and it is possible that he may achieve as remarkable a record for sitting up as he has already done for bed-resting. The conditions are, however, hardly so well suited to the prolongation of the new programme.

Cottage

The illustration shows the thatched cottage at Clare, near Lurgan, in which George Thompson enjoyed his record “rest” of close on 30 years. Thompson is here seen entering his mother's house after attending to the feeding of the hands.

 

George Thompson Census 1901

 

1901 census show Goerge Thompson as 'invalade'

 

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