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Marc Antoine (Mark Anthony) (1685 - 1720)

by Richard Pugh

If one follows the researches of Bernard Van Wickevoort Crommelin one could believe that the early Crommelins were crusaders. The martlets indicate this. Through the middle ages they were involved in deeds of valour. They had the desire and the will to survive.

Genealogical research consists of tracing the family back into the past, century by century but also of putting clothes on the lives of the family members. In these notes on the lives of the Crommelins in India, I shall attempt, briefly, to do this. Much more remains to be discovered. Some will already have read a brief note of the family in India from 1710 to 1932. These notes, to be written in installments, will cover:

1. The arrival of the Crommelins in India - Mark Anthony
2. Charles Crommelin - A Governor of Bombay
3. The Administrator - Charles Russell
4 . The descendants of the Administrator

To fly by aeroplane from London to Calcutta will not take longer than eight hours. To cross India from Bombay to Calcutta, by air, is about two hours. The chances of death, disease, piracy are never considered. The passenger is more concerned with the quality of the food, the wine and the videos. Mark Anthony took nearly a year on an East Indiaman, taking every imaginable risk. Why?

His family, though forced to flee from their home, were re-settling. The extended family had money, trading connections, influence; indeed Royal influence. He sprang from the junior branch of Adrian, and was the child of Peter Stephen. Within him was the driving force of Crommelin adventure and the desire to 'seek a fortune'!

He needed more than this. He required influence. It took influence - and money - to be naturalized by Act of Parliament (1707). It took influence and powerful backers to join the East India Company. He was sworn before the Court of Governors as Factor on Friday, 24th March 1709, aged 24. He sailed in 1709 to found a family who made and lost a fortune and who recovered to live comfortably into the age of easy travel and fast communications.

Mark arrived in Bombay in 1710 to find a small community under pressure from the Dutch, the French and the Portuguese. In Surat and Bombay, life was cheap and short. At that time the East India Company's 'factory' was in Surat, up the coast north of Bombay. Bombay was a group of islands under the control of the Governor and Court in Surat. It was not until the middle of the 18th century that Bombay became the centre of rule. The great Mogul empire was breaking up. Sikhs, Rajputs, Marathas and,' others were in rebellion. The East India Company clung to the coast of India surrounded by enemies and opportunities.

Mark Anthony survived the voyage, landed and took up his oppointment as fifth Junior Factor under the Governorship of William Aislabie. By 1713 he had become third Junior Factor. The ranks in the East India Company varied somewhat from one Factory/Fort to another. They were broadly:

  • writer
  • junior factor
  • senior factor
  • junior merchant
  • senior merchant
  • member of Council

By 1714 Mark Anthony had become second Junior Factor and 9th in Council under the new Governor, Stephen Strutt. He was becoming established. He had survived and was making his name. He was ready for marriage. In this he was lucky - English women were few - Mary Truman was at hand. They were married on January 5th 1714 (old style).

Little is known so far about Mary Truman or how she came to be in India. There were two Truman brothers in India but whether they were related is not known. She lived on after the death of her husband and married twice more. Some confusion exists when examining the later records of residents since their daughter was also named Mary.

In 1715 and 1716 Marc Anthony had risen to become 8th in Council and Accomptant. To keep pace with his career, a daughter, Mary, was baptized on November 17th 1715. The years 1717 and 1718 saw Marc a Senior Factor. In 1719 he disappears from the records. On July 11th 1718 a son, Charles, was baptized. Later he was to become Governor. On June 18th 1720 Marc Anthony died of consumption at age 35.

In 1714 a young chaplain, Richard Cobbe, came out from England to Bombay. He found a church with only the walls built, no work having taken place in twenty five years. In a sermon preached on the first Sunday after Trinity, 1715, he opened a subscription book to complete the church. The Crommelins contributed. The foundation stone was laid on November 18th, 1718.

On Christmas Day 1721 the Church was opened when the Governor, the Deputy Governor's wife, and Mary Crommelin stood as God-parents at the first christening.

That church is now St George's Cathedral, Bombay

The chances for a Crommelin in India were slim. The life of an average European was estimated at two monsoons! A son two years of age living in a deathly climate survived his father. He not only survived but lived on to develop a great career of interest and influence and to have a son from whom the English and Australian families sprang.

Bombay Cathedral