From the mid-seventeenth century to the early part of the nineteenth, the Cuppage family of Silverwood House was one of the leading families in the Lurgan area. In those days, it was the custom for the male members of this family to enter one of the professions - the Church, Medicine or the Army, mainly the Indian Army. A Rev. John Cuppidge was Rector of Lurgan in 1687.
In a siege of Vellore, India, when the besieged garrison was on the verge of starvation, one of the officers, a Cuppage of Silverwood House, crept (or led a small party) through the enemy lines, under cover of darkness, and brought back some provisions. So grateful were his brother officers that they gave up all their silver, had this melted and made into a decorative urn, about eighteen inches high.
This was suitable [sic]presented to Cuppage. The urn remained in Silverwood House until the House passed out of the possession of the Cuppage family.
The roll of churchwardens of Shankill Parish, Lurgan includes the names of four members of the Cuppage family:
In 1819, an Adam Cuppage was co-partner with William Brownlow and Joseph Malcomson in the ownership of a Lurgan bank.
To the Cuppage family, "commerce" was taboo. When one of the members entered upon a commercial career, probably in Banbridge, he was disowned by his father. Eventually he emigrated to the New World (Canada or United States?) and it was there in 1861 that Alexander ("Sandy") was born, "his hair was thin, and yellow to match his skin - a poor little wheezy delicate thing".
The family met with very hard times, farming on their new homeland, and Sandy became a victim to most of the diseases associated with childhood. In his early thirties, he contracted diabetes, and he claimed to have cured himself of this disease, after doctors had held out no hope of his recovery.
On inheriting Silverwood House and land shortly after the end of the First World War, Alexander Cuppage came to Lurgan with his family. The family became attached to High Street Methodist Church, and Mr. Cuppage formed a Men's Bible Class there, which he named "The Fellow Travellers' Bible Class". (The name "Fellow Travellers" had not then the sinister connotation it has since acquired). This Bible Class was affiliated to a Canadian Bible Class Organisation.
Some years after coming to Lurgan, Mrs. Cuppage died, and a few years later Mr. Cuppage visited his former home town in Canada. There was a young woman there, who had often heard her aunts speaking in glowing terms of the young Alex Cuppage with whom, as a girl, she had "kept company". This young woman met him during his visit, became the second Mrs. Cuppage, and accompanied him on his return to Lurgan. One of the terms of this marriage was that they should return to Canada after a few years and settle there.
During his stay in Lurgan, Mr Cuppage published two booklets and two books of verse. In his late sixties or early seventies, he had "a vision" that he could carve a crucifix out of wood, with a pocket knife, and he set himself to this task, carving crucifixes out of different kinds of wood, and even going to the trouble and expense of carving one out of cedar of Lebanon.
In one of his books, there is a poem, "The Crucifix I carved":
From out His Word my mind conceived,
The Saviour's form - from head to feet.
In untrained skill, as I proceeded
I pencilled all - His cross complete.
Thus I depict Him on the cross -
My Saviour Lord, whom I adore,
By grace divine at countless cost,
In wondrous love my sins He bore.
I carved His head, in grace so fair,
And with the hair, once wet with blood -
The crown of thorns had pierced Him there,
When in the Judgment Hall He stood.
The eyes that wept for other grief,
carved them closed so peacefully -
In mortal years their vision brief,
But now behold eternity.
The arms I carved them outstretched wide,
Reaching afar to all mankind;
They beckon those for whom He died,
To come and full atonement find.
I carved the hands - the nail pierced hands,
Carved them nailed to the cruel tree -
The hands that reached to lowest man
In wonderful humility.
I carved the form - not robed as King,
But stripped of all the honour due,
I marked the place the spear went in -
His wounded side, for me, for you.
And earnestly I strive complete,
That sacred form in detail grim;
I chipped and carved the pierced feet;
In full the symbol speaks of Him.
Thus is complete my crucifix -
I carved it all - I know not how,
I would of Him a memory fix -
His feet, His side, His hands, His brow.
As I behold, I think of Him -
His boundless love recounting o'er,
He conquered death, He cancelled sin,
He lives and loves for evermore.
The two houses in Bengal Place, Lurgan, now forming the Orchard County Hotel [since demolished - Ed.], were built by one of Mr. Cuppage's uncles, Adam Cuppage, and the name "Bengal Place" was, no doubt, an echo of the family connection with India.
There was a tradition that one of Mr. Cuppage's ancestors, an officer in the Indian Army, had married an Indian Princess. When this officer was returning home from India, his Indian wife was not allowed to accompany him and, as the boat carrying her husband and children was leaving port, she cast herself into the sea and was drowned.
One thing is certain and that is, Alexander Cuppage accepted that he had Indian blood in his own veins and he believed that it accounted for the strain of mysticism in his make-up. At one time he became involved in Spiritualism and on one occasion he was told by a medium that one of his poems was not original, but that it had been written by an Indian poet some two thousand years earlier. Later, Mr. Cuppage abandoned Spiritualism on detecting some fraud on the part of a Spiritualist medium.
In fulfilment of their marriage agreement, Alexander Cuppage and his wife returned to Canada in 1939 and settled in Orillia, Ontario. It was there on 14th May, 1958, that he died in his ninety eighth year, having appeared on Toronto television a short time before his death. So passed a very fine Christian gentleman, the last member of the Cuppage family to occupy Silverwood House, Lurgan. (Silverwood House was demolished a few years ago to make way for the Silverwood Industrial estate, but both gate lodges are however standing).