Killead was reckoned to have been a relatively prosperous place, with neat well kept houses, lime washed, and some thatched. It would appear however that by 1892, although the land was in good heart, the house had become neglected and was in a state of disrepair. At that time it was one and a half storeys and thatched, with a stable at one end and a byre at the other. Above the stable was a large room heated by the warmth rising from the animals beneath. The wooden floor of this room had traces of corn husks and chaff showing that at one time it was used for storing grain. There had been a large flagged kitchen, and at the rear of the house was found a circular horse walk for churning butter. When it was sold by George Nicholls there were ninety six acres; all good land.
It is not to say that William Nicholls, Arthur's father had the same amount of land. He is described as a 'small farmer' so others in the family may have added to the farm after his death. William remains a shadowy figure. We know that his family came over from Scotland around 1620 and were of Presbyterian stock. He settled in Killead, and married Margaret Bell of nearby Glenavy. She also was of Scottish descent, but of the Established Church. Before his wife died at the early age of forty four Margaret bore at least eleven children.
Margaret Bell had a sister Eliza and a brother John. However, it was her other brother, Alan, who played the most important role in her short life. He met a young girl called Harriet Lucinda Adamson and they married in Dublin on 5th April 1820. Harriet was eighteen at the time of her marriage. Born in York Street Dublin, she was of an old distinguished family with Danish origins. She lived in a large house where her parents entertained lavishly, inviting interesting and sociably acceptable people to their home.
Soon after they were married Dr. Alan Bell took his bride to live in Banagher where he took up his headmastership of the Royal School. Their new home was called Cuba House.
When Arthur was seven and his brother Alan nine, they had a visit from their aunt and uncle who had travelled up to Tully from Banagher. They offered to take the two boys back with them, bring them up as their own, educate them and give them a good start in life. It was a great opportunity for them, hut a hard decision for their parents to make. However, the Nicholls' house was bursting at the seams with children, and the only outlook for the boys would be the grinding life of farming. Their parents let them go. It must have been a bittersweet parting, for as far as is known they never saw their parents again, although the families kept in touch.
The two boys were extremely lucky to become members of this particular family, where they were lovingly accepted by one and all, enjoying a happy and carefree life with all the advantages of money and position. In Cuba House the boys were well and happy. They both proved to be good scholars and wanted for nothing. By now their aunt and uncle may have adopted them, but they were certainly treated as part of the family. Two years after their arrival in Banagher, their mother Margaret died.