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William Trimble (1802 - 1888):
Printer; journalist; newspaper proprietor and editor

William Trimble was the principal motor behind the newspaper The Impartial Reporter, the third-oldest newspaper in Ireland and the one held in a single family for longer than any other British or Irish paper: four generations after William Trimble the Reporter was still in the hands of the family. The “Impartial” in the title he described this way: “Regardless alike of the frowns of party, and the smiles of power, we shall state our own convictions on all subjects which come under our review. We shall defend the Protestant when we consider him in the right, and the Roman Catholic may expect similar treatment.” 

Trimble was born in Diamond, Pomeroy, Co. Tyrone, eldest son of James Trimble (1774–1860), militia officer, petty sessions clerk, and elder of the Secessionist Presbyterian Church (that is, seceding from the mainstream Presbyterian Church because of such disputes as over the Westminster Confession of Faith). In 1815, William Trimble was apprenticed to a printer in Dungannon, County Tyrone, William Canning, who died in 1819; Trimble then completed his apprenticeship in Dublin. The Impartial Reporter was founded in 1825 by a group of landlords, professional and commercial individuals who hired Trimble as editor and printer, and, using not quite state of the art equipment, he produced the first edition on 19 May 1825. An historian of Irish newspapers has described him as a “strong wily man” who when accepted the post travelled with his wife on the overnight post chaise from Dublin, which meant an overnight journey of some 21 hours. But Trimble was well used to such early starts, having through his religious commitment risen for many years at five o’clock to read six Bible chapters before work. 

In 1834 the paper’s publisher, John Gregston, died and Trimble, believing that the paper was to be sold to a rival, was able to raise enough capital to buy it himself, and he dedicated his considerable energy to it, including contributing a large part of the copy. Although the Reporter flourished (there was a scare at the end of the 1830s with a financial crisis caused by a bank failure; Trimble secured a cancellation of bank debt which aided him to see the crisis through), Trimble had other business activities as fallbacks if necessary, including publishing books and some small farming. Over four decades he was the undoubted chief of the enterprise and a well-known figure round town, increasingly eccentrically dressed and possessed of having a strongly colourful, not entirely pacific, personality. 

Trimble, politically, was in favour of some reform suggestions of Daniel O’Connell, the leading politician in Ireland of the time (such as in the area of equal suffrage across religious groups), though he did not support O’Connellite wishes for an Irish devolved administration of some sort in Dublin; he had been a member of the Orange Order (a Protestant religious and political organisation with a mass membership) in his younger days though he repudiated this membership later.. He was especially concerned with questions relating to land ownership and management, taking very much the side of the small farmer and not that of the large landholder. 

He had a total of 26 children from his two marriages. Of these, William Copeland Trimble eventually took over the Reporter, and Samuel Delmege Trimble ran newspapers in two other Ulster counties, Donegal and Armagh. Trimble himself died at the considerable age for his time of 85.

Born: 23 April 1802
Died: 27 January 1888
Richard Froggatt

Professor Sir Peter Froggatt


Hugh Oram: The Newspaper Book: A History of Newspapers in Ireland 1649-1983; Dictionary of Irish Biography