ON THIS DAY, August 28, in 1810 my 3rd great-grandfather Lt. Col. Thomas Walsh was buried at St. Andrew’s Church, Farnham, Surrey. He was only 33 years old.
Thomas is one of my most interesting and hence favourite ancestors largely because of his family’s history but also because of the chase he led us on to discover his story.
Born of Irish stock (Walsh being about the fourth most common name in Ireland), it was surprising to discover after much searching and false clues, that Thomas was born in France and christened Francis Thomas Joseph David Walsh.
His family was exiled to France after his 2nd great-grandfather James Walsh was dispossessed of his lands in the Walsh Mountains of Kilkenny in the mid-1600s. Along with other Irish families they sought refuge in the St. Malo area of Brittany. Here they became quite prosperous providing naval services to the French, in ship-building, as privateers and even slave trading. His great-grandfather Phillip was captain of the ship that conveyed the defeated James II from Kinsale Ireland to France, after the former King’s unsuccessful bid to reclaim the throne of England. For services rendered by the family Phillip’s son Anthony Vincent Walsh was named as Earl Walsh by the titular King James III. Thomas’s father Anthony John Baptist Walsh was the second Earl Walsh who after a successful career in the service of the King of France and being honoured as Count Antoine Walsh, knight of the military order of St. Louis, retired to the West Indies where he died in 1798.
Thomas was born in 1777 in St. Georges-sur-Loire, France and at the age of sixteen despite the anti-British family history, had already embarked on a career in the British army, most likely with the Walsh Regiment of the Irish Brigade in the West Indies. He was later described as displaying “early professional promise” and by 1798 he was a Lieutenant in the 88th Regiment under fellow Irishman Major General Eyre Coote, serving (against the French) in Egypt during the Napoleonic wars. In 1803 he published, the “Journal of the late campaign in Egypt: including descriptions of that country, and of Gibralta, Minorca, Malta, Marmorice and Macri”.
By 1805 he had been promoted to Lt. Col. and again served under Coote this time in the 56th Regiment in Jamaica until about 1808 or 1809. It was during this period that his liaison with A.E. French produced a daughter, Eliza Thomasina, who was born in Spanish Town, Jamaica on March 3, 1808. Eliza’s mother was most likely Ann Eloisa (or later called Eliza) French who was a”quadroon”, or one quarter African, of slave descent. In Thomas’s will be see (below) his desire for Eliza to be raised in at home, in Ireland.
Thomas returned to England as assistant adjutant general under Coote, but on August 23, 1910 he was killed by a fall from a gig near Guildford in Surrey. Family members in Ireland were deeply touched by his death and arranged for a monument to be erected at St. Andrew’s Church in Farnham. (Fuller details are set out in the Eyre Coote Papers held in the William L. Clements Library University of Michigan).
In accordance with his wishes, the young Eliza was returned to Ireland and presumably grew up with Walsh relatives at Belline in Kilkenny before marrying Henry Harrison Briscoe in 1830.
The family tree below shows that Thomas died “s.p” ([Latin]sine prole; without offspring or died without issue) which we now know is not correct.