Anthony Toomey and Martha Cross: A Love Story – Finding the Proof

The place to start would be the family story itself so here is the story that has been passed through the generations about Anthony Toomey and Martha Cross.

“Anthony Toomey who filled the Office of Physician General at Bombay in the East India Company Service, a native of the County Kerry married about the year 1780, Martha Cross, daughter of George Cross Esquire of Rathconnell in the County Kildare, she being a Protestant and he a Roman Catholic.

By the influence of the said Anthony Toomey’s sister, who held a high position in the Convent Tralee, County Kerry, he got a position in the East India Company’s Service and left for India. His wife, being with child, did not go with him but in time she was safely delivered of a boy whom she got christened Mark Toomey and brought him up in her own religion, a Protestant.

Shortly after the birth of her child she got what purported to be an official account of her husband’s death in Bombay of yellow fever, and from what transpired afterwards, he (Anthony Toomey) must have got a similar official notice of not only her death in childbirth but also the death of her child.

Without a husband (as she thought) and estranged from her family by her marrying a Roman Catholic, she was obliged to earn her bread as best she could, and took the position of Housekeeper to a Mr. Purcell of Athy, County Kildare, a wealthy man who ran a number of mail coaches in Ireland at that time that were well known as “Purcells Coaches”

The town of Athy had a Military Barracks and Mr. Purcell always called on the Colonel and Officers of every new Regiment stationed there and invited them to dinner. He being a self made man, felt highly honoured at having them at his house, and the story goes that the young Officers used to laugh amongst themselves at the expense he went to to entertain them with the finest of wines, etc. – indeed it is more than surmise to say that the reason he employed Martha Toomey was to assist him in such entertainments which of course he did not quite understand.

A new Regiment came from India and was stationed at Athy Barracks and Mr. Purcell as usual invited them to dinner and after dinner, as was fashionable then, there was general wine taking all round and the host, Mr. Purcell said “May I have the pleasure of a glass of wine with you Mrs. Toomey”. On hearing the name of Toomey one young Officer said to the other “That reminds you of the name of our old friend the General”, whereupon Mrs. Toomey enquired who the General was and was told he was Physician General in the East India Company Service at Bombay to which she exclaimed, “My husband”, but the Officer said “Oh! Pardon me Madam, General Toomey’s wife and child died in Ireland soon after he arrived in Bombay. He got official notice of the fact.” She asked did they know what his name was and they told her “Anthony”, and she said “It is my husband and I got official notice that he was dead”. It was quite clear to all present that a swindle had been perpetrated on both of them and Mr. Purcell set about the next day to try and solve the mystery.

This must have been many years after the General left Ireland for his only son, born after he left (Mark Toomey of Eagle Hill) was at the time bound to a shoemaker to learn a trade as his Mother of course had not means to leave him or give him a profession.

The mode of communication between Ireland and India at the time was much slower than now, and it was many months before the General was communicated with, but when he was quite satisfied in his mind of the truth of the statement he sold off and prepared to leave Bombay and return home, but unfortunately he died a month exactly before he should have started home.

Martha Toomey received after his death some few personal effects of his and over 20,000 Pounds in cash, so I need not tell you that Mark Toomey gave up the shoemaking trade and lived a private gentleman all the rest of his life.”

It is believed that my Great Great Grandfather Mark Anthony Toomey (1844-1916) wrote this story. He was the Great Grandson of Anthony Toomey. The story could have been written between 1890 and 1916.

So here I am presented with this family story and what to do next. First step is to check out the East India Company records to see if Anthony Toomey can be found. A book called “Roll of the Indian Medical Service, 1615-1930” by D.G. Crawford was checked and Anthony Toomey was in the East India Company Medical Service in Bombay. He was born in 1746 and was an Assistant Surgeon as of 18 April 1771. Anthony was involved in the Second Mainsur war 1781-82 and became a Physician General on 13 January 1790. He died in Bombay on 16 January 1797.

Another useful book was “History of the Indian Medical Service 1600-1913” by D.G. Crawford. In this book I found more detailed information of Anthony’s time in India and a monument inscription that was on his tomb and where he is buried in Bombay. This also explained the sketch I have of Anthony’s tomb in Bombay.

This information does call into question the date of marriage of about the year 1780 but I continued.

If he did leave 20,000 Pounds to his wife and son then there must be a probate record of this fact. The National Archives of England has Documents Online and there is an index of Prerogative Court of Canterbury probate records. There is a notation for Anthony Toomey of Dublin so I purchased a copy for 3.50 GBP. This was the gold mine that connected the two sides.

The will which was written on 5 January 1796 states that he divides his estates in half, one of which goes to his wife Martha and the other to his son Mark Toomey. If one or either dies then the other gets the entire estate. If Mark had married or had children it would be divided up equally amongst them. The cash value of the estate was not mentioned. If the estate was worth 20,000 Pounds then in today’s money the estate would be worth 643,400.00 Pounds. I found this out by using the Currency Converter on the National Archives website.

So Anthony Toomey of the East India Company Bombay did have a wife Martha and son Mark. When the will was written Martha and Mark were living in County Dublin.

A Catholic in Ireland at this time had a hard life. Catholic emancipation did not happen until 1829 and even then it was still difficult. They were excluded from parliament, holding a profession and not many actually owned land. If Anthony had a medical education he probably had to go to Scotland or the continent to receive it. Martha had strength of her convictions and a true love of the man to marry Anthony and be estranged from her family.

A quick Google search provided proof that “Purcell’s Coaches” did exist and were based out of Dublin.

The decedents of Mark Toomey were from County Kildare and could be found in the Ballyshannon and Fontstown area of the county.

As mentioned in the above story, news did not travel quickly between Ireland and India at that time so who knows how long it took for the news to reach Anthony, for him to be sure it was true and be able to arrange to get home. We know that he knew about his wife and child when he wrote the will on 5 January 1796 and that he died in Bombay India on 16 January 1797.

This story was written about 75 years or more after the event. It had gone through several generations to get to my Great Great Grandfather. If he wrote it when he was older then he may have remembered things differently. Whether the events in the story are true is not known. Either way it is a great story to have and some evidence has been found to corroborate the story. Finding information for this early a time period in Ireland is difficult but I keep looking as you never know what else may appear around the corner.

©2010 – Blair Archival Research

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