Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Anthony Toomey & Martha Cross - An Ill-fated Love

This is the story as written in the copy we received with the family tree.

" 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 1768, 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 Trallee, 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 "Purcell's 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 reasons he employed my great grandmother 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 inquired 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 years after the General had left Ireland for his only son, born after he had left (Mark Toomey of Eagle Hill) was at that time bound to a shoemaker to learn a trade as his mother of course had no means to leave him or give him a profession.

The mode of communication between Ireland and India that time was much slower than now, and it was many months before the General was communicated with, but when he was quite satisfied 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.

My Great Grandmother (Martha Toomey nee Cross) received after his death some few personal effects of his and over 20,000 Punts in cash, so I need not tell you my Grandfather gave up the shoemaking trade and lived a private gentleman all the rest of his life. "



Who wrote it? Prefacing our copy someone has written...

"Family tree written by we believe George Toomey, Great Grandson of Anthony Toomey"

I don't know who 'we' is but I don't agree with what they believe . The above story is only part of the family tree and further on the author quite clearly states ............"Mark Toomey, my father, was a solicitor...."
This Mark Toomey , a grandson of Anthony and Martha, did not have a son called George. I think the confusion comes from the fact that the tree was being written in response to a request from the grandson of George Toomey (the above Mark Toomey's brother) for information about the family.
It was likely written in the early 1900's when the author was himself rather elderly , it was unfinished and thus never sent which is  perhaps fortunate - if it had been it might have disappeared and we would never have known of this extraordinary story.

Can we believe it?   It is the stuff of romantic novels , a sad tale of lovers torn apart with a rags to riches ending ............a story of such drama one can imagine it being told and retold and handed down through the family but how much of it is true?

More to come!

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