My Life – Page 05

Frances Edwards, Mrs Thomas Lionel. 

As we have seen my ancestor Frances Edwards (1808-1884) the Lieutenant-Colonel’s second eldest daughter married Thomas Lionel (1798/9-1885) on 6 August 1785, at St. Mary’s Church, Fort St George, Madras.

Thomas Lionel (1762/3-1810).

Thomas Lionel’s father, also Thomas Lionel (1762/3-1810) was possibly born in England in 1762/3 and by 1785 was in the Army Ordnance and by 1785 was in Madras because on 6 August 1785 he married Elizabeth Young at St Mary’s, Fort St George, Madras By 1810 he was a Conductor in the Ordnance Depot, Madras. He died and was buried at Negapatam, a seaport and industrial town in Madras, on the Coromandel Coast. It was originally settled by the Portuguese in 1612, but taken by the Dutch in 1660 and finally by the British in 1781. According to the East India Register and Directory 1811, p.235 ‘Invalid Conductors of Ordnance… Thomas Lionel, Negapatam..’

The children of Thomas Lionel (1862/3-1810) and Elizabeth Young.  They had four children.

The eldest was Ann Lionel (b.1789) born 2nd March 1789, baptised on 6 February 1803 at the Garrison Station, Veprey, Madras. Nothing more is known.

The second child was Charlotte Lionel (b.1793) who was born on 28 October 1793  and was baptised on 6 February 1803 at the Garrison Station, Veprey, Madras. Nothing more is known.

The third child was Jane Lucretia Lionel (b.1798) who was born on 26 March 1798 was baptised on 6th February 1893 at the Garrison Station of Veprey, Madras.

The final and  youngest, their only son was Thomas Lionel (1798/99-1885) who was baptised on 25 February 1805 at St Mary’s Church, Fort St George, Madras. On 4th June 1827 he married Frances Edwards (1808-1884) the daughter of Lieutenant Colonel John Edwards at St Mary’s Church, Fort St George, Madras By 1837 he was an Examiner in the Accountant General’s Office; in 1857 an Examiner in the Accountant General’s Office, Chintaprepettah. He died on 22 September 1885 at the age of 86 at Cuddalore, Madura and was buried on 23 September 1885 at Cuddalore.

The children of Thomas Lionel (1798/9-1885) and his wife Frances Edwards (1808-1884).  They  had six children.

1.Frances Lionel (1828-1833), born on 20 March 1828, baptised at Veprey on 24 August 1828 and died aged 5 years and 33 days and was buried on 22 April 1833 at St Mary’s Church, Madras.

2.Thomas  Lionel (1830-1911) born on 8 March 1830 and baptised at Veprey on 20 May 1830.  By 1857 he was a Clerk in the Examiner’s Account General’s Office, Chintadrepettah.  On 30 September 1862 he married Catherine Sinclair (1846-1900) at St Andrew’s Church, Madras who was the daughter of John Sinclair, a draughtsman in the Chief Engineer’s Department who married Margaret Bird in 1843. Catherine Sinclair was born on 16th February 1846 and was baptised on 6th May 1846 at St Andrew’s Church Madras. She died on 29 March 1900 aged 54 of cancer at Conoor and was buried on 31 March 1900 at Conoor.  In 1911 Thomas Lionel (1830-1911) retired as Manager of Messrs Franck & Co, Madras and died on 14th August 1911 and was buried on 15 August 1911 at Cuddalore, Villupuraum.  Thomas Lionel (1830-1911) and Catherine Sinclair (1846-1900) had five children, all of whom died at an early age. What a terrible story of loss.

3.James Home Lionel (1837-1843) born on 6 June 1837 and baptised on 5 October 1837 at Veprey, Madras and buried on 19 January 1843 aged 5 years and 7 months at Chaplain’s Station, Madras.

4.Anne Elizabeth Lionel (1839-1843) born in August 1839 and died aged 3 years and 5 months, the same day as her elder brother James on 19 January 1843 and is buried with him at Chaplain’s Station, Madras.

5.John Lionel (1843-1906). My direct ancestor. See below.

6.Nathaniel Lionel (1846-1846) born on 24 August 1946 and died aged 1 hour. Was buried on the same day at Chaplain’s Station, Madras.

John Lionel and Susan Lydia Gibson

John Lionel (1843-1906), the fifth child of Thomas Lionel (1798/9-1885) and his wife Frances Edwards (1808-1884), married three times,

(i) on 31 March 1869 in Madras he married Mary Elizabeth Dean (1842/3) who died of a fever two years later; there were no children.

(ii) on 11 December 1872 in Madras he married Mary Jane Harman (d.1875) a widow who died of childbirth in 1875 the daughter Mary Harman Hamilton Lionel survived

(iii) and finally he married my direct ancestor in Madras on 25 May 1877, namely, Susan Lydia Gibson (1859-1912). Susan was the daughter of Joseph Gibson (b.1818) and Lydia Le Marchant (1836-1907).

Joseph Gibson (b.1818) was a Quarter Master Sergeant, 39th Regiment of Native Infantry and eventually a Sub-conductor (1852) and then a Conductor (1859) of the Ordnance Depot, St Thomas’s Mount, Madras.

Joseph Gibson (b.1818) was the son of George Gibson (1763/4- 1847) who by 1818 was a Conductor of Ordnance, 1837-38 Deputy Commissioner in the Ordnance Depot, 1840-43, Lieutenant Deputy Commissioner, and finally in 1847 in the year of his death, Captain and Deputy Commissioner of the Ordnance, Fort St George, Madras. George Gibson married Mary Thomas on 2nd February 1801 at St Mary’s  Church, Fort St George, Madras.

Joseph Gibson (b.1818) married twice.
First wife of Joseph Gibson (b.1818)Margaret Keilly (1826-1851) aged 14 married on 8th January 1840 in Bellary, Madras. She had been baptised on 4 October 1826 at Musulipatam a seaport on the Coromandel Coast which had been settled by the British in 1611. She died in Vellore on 26 July 1851 and is buried at Chaplains Cemetery, Vellore.
Second wife of Joseph Gibson (b.1818):  Lydia (Le) Marchant (1836-1907) married at  St Andrew’s Church, Madras she died of an inflammation of the bowel aged 70 on 13 April 1907and was buried at St George’s Cemetery Madras on 14 April 1907. Joseph and Lydia were the parents of Susan Lydia Gibson (1859-1912) who had been born on 11 February 1859 and baptised at Tongoo, Bengal. She died of a heart disease on 15 November 1912 and was buried on 16 November 1912 at St Andrew’s Church Madras. Susan Lydia Gibson my great grandmother married John Lionel (1843-1906) as his third wife on 25 May 1877 at St Andrew’s Church, Madras.

The children of my great-grandparents John Lionel (1843-1906) and Susan Lydia Gibson (1859-1912).  They had six children.

1.Jeanette Bertha Sylvia Lionel (1878-1910), born in Madras on 15th May 1878, baptised in Madras on 6 July 1878 and died of fever aged 32 on 11 May 1910 and was buried in St Andrew’s Church, Madras on 12th May 1910. Jeanette married on 24 May 1899 at St Andrew’s Church, Madras, Robert John McMahon (1873-1911) who had been born on 23 October 1873 in Madras and had been an Assistant Station Master, M.R.C. 1909 and was a Sub-Inspector of Police in Madras when he died of Kala-azar on 19th April 1911 and was buried on 20 April 1911 at St. Mathias, Kilpauk Cemetery, Madras.  They had three children. The two surviving children Coleen Esme Gweneth McMahon (1902-1985) and Robert Spurling McMahon (1909-1983) were orphaned at the age of 8  and 2 respectively and had been placed in the Madras Civil Orphanage Asylum until rescued from there by my grandparents their aunt Beryl and her husband Allan Walton, my grandparents, who brought them up and educated them. Coleen married on 18 April 1927 Patrick Lionel Borghona at Christ Church, Madras, and finally settled in Whitefield, Balgalore. There were no children. Robert never married. He joined the Calcutta police as a sergeant aged 21, was posted in Bahrain for a period and then returned to the Calcutta Police in 1948/9. Came to England in 1950 and settled in Mitcham,Surrey. Died aged 74 at St George’s Hospital, Tooting, London, on 14th November 1983.

Robert John McMahon (1873-1911) and Jeanette Bertha Sylvia Lionel (1878-1910)

2. Henry St Clair Gibson Lionel (1882-1920). Born in Madras 12 February 1882, baptised on 17 May 1882. Royal Garrison Artillery Regiment. Discharged on 31 July 1907. Joins Madras City Police. Police Court Inspector 1920. My grandmother, his sister Inez Beryl Lionel (1896-1933) came to live with him where she met my grandfather also in the police, Allan Walton.  Henry died on 15 June 1920 and is buried at St Andrew’s Church. Madras.  Never married. No children.

3. Lilith Constance ‘Girlie’ Lionel (b.1883), who was born in Madras on 24 December 1883, baptised on 16 August 1891 at St Andrew’s Church, Madras. Married Simpson.

4. Aileen Olga Lionel (b.1891) born in Bangalore 6 June 1891, baptised on 16 August 1891. Married on 9th April 1917 in Karachi to Paul Mitchell Lorne Lyons (1885-1960). They had a son Lieutenant Richard Michael Lyons (b.1920).

5. Inez Beryl Lionel (1896-1933)

My grandmother, born in Madras on 2nd December 1895, baptised on 28 January 1896 in St Andrew’s Church Madras married Allan Walton and died of smallpox on 24 April 1933 and is buried at Tondiapet, Cemetery, Madras

6. Leslie Godfrey Harold Gibson Lionel (1901-1901)

The sixth and final child  of John Lionel (1843-1906) and Susan Lydia Gibson (1859-1912) was Leslie Godfrey Harold Gibson Lionel (1901-1901) born in Madras on 24 June 1901, baptised on 17 August 1901. Nothing is know about him.

My grandmother, Inez Beryl Lionel (1895-1933). 

It was Moodovailah Coppagee’s great-granddaughter Inez Beryl Lionel known in the family as ‘Bobby’ whom Allan my grandfather was to marry less than eighteen months after taking up his new post in the Madras City Police. My grandfather was indeed a fortunate man. My grandmother was the youngest member of the Lionel family in Madras. She was much loved by all who knew her.  Well educated, well-spoken and possessing a wonderfully considerate and loving nature, she brought a new dimension into the life of my grandfather in his post as newly appointed Sergeant Walton.

Henry St Clair Gibson Lionel (1882-1920).

One of my grandfather’s mentors in the police and with whom my grandfather became friends, was a fellow sergeant Henry St Clair Gibson Lionel, my grandmother’s brother, with whom she lived.  Sadly I have no photographs of Henry, but I do have two documents relating to him. Both are dated 31st July 1907. From these it appears he was a Gunner with the 52th Royal Garrison Artillery and had joined up in Madras on the 24 July 1901. His army number was 8661. His conduct is stated to be ‘Exemplary’. He was at the time of the date of the documents serving in Rangoon, Burma, was 5 feet 7 inches tall and had black hair and brown eyes. Having served for 6 years and 7 days he was now being discharged ‘at his own request on payment of Twenty five Pounds’ presumably for the purpose of joining the Madras City Police. His father had died in September 1906 and it is likely he went to join the police so that he could live in Madras with his mother Susan Lydia Gibson (1859-1912) and sister, my grandmother.

The Edmonds.

Their next door neighbours were the Edmonds.  Rita Edmonds in her hundredth year recalled the time when as a girl, she first set eyes on my young grandmother after she had moved in next door to them to live with her brother Henry and their mother. Rita peeped over the wall between their houses and saw her new neighbour brushing her long red hair. She dashed back to her parents to tell them that a princess had come to live next door. This was the beginning of a friendship between the two families which was to endure for the greater part of the 20th century and indeed still endures.  The Edmonds were soon to play an important part in my family’s life when a terrible disaster struck.

My grandparents get married, 1915.  My grandparents were married on the 29 September 1915 at St Andrew’s Church, Madras.

My grandmother was nineteen years old, my grandfather twenty-nine. It was sensed at the time that certain members of my grandmother’s family thought that she could have done better for herself. However, those who came to know my grandfather are sure that my grandmother’s acceptance of his proposal was a sign that his personal qualities far outshone his rank.


St Andrew’s Church, Egmore, Madras. Engravings by Julius Walter Gantz (1841) and J.B.Maxwell after John Gantz, c.1825. 

A policeman’s lot (i).  They settled in their allotted police quarters, which would have been my grandfather’s first home since leaving Yorkshire to enlist. My grandmother was, though very young, well versed in the management of a home in India while my grandfather attended to his often time arduous duties in the police. He was no linguist and never achieved any degree of fluency in Tamil, in his domestic life that mattered little as my grandmother spoke Tamil. On duty my grandfather relied very much on the Head Constables who served him over the years. He repaid them with fairness and consideration, as he did all the constables who served him. He never accepted gifts from anyone connected with his work, which for others in the force was regarded as eccentric if not downright foolish. The only exception was at Christmas when the Head Constables presented garlands of flowers and a cake to the family. My grandmother was much given to sewing and generally took an interest in my grandfather’s subordinates and recognising how much he relied on them, in turn cared for them and their families.  It was probably during one of these visits to the constable’s families that led to the cause of her death.


The McMahon childrenColeen Borghona, nee McMahon (1902-1985), who had gone to Aden when my father was thought to be dying was, with her brother Robert ‘Roy’ Spurling McMahon (1909-1983), the only children of my grandmother’s sister Jeanette Bertha Sylvia Lionel (1878-1910) who had married Robert John McMahon (1873-1911) a Sub-Inspector of Police in Madras.

24 May 1899, marriage of Robert John McMahon (1873-1911) and Jeanette Bertha Sylvia Lionel (1878-1910) at St Andrew’s Church, Madras

Jeanette Bertha Sylvia Lionel later Mrs Robert John McMahon: 1894.
I have included this photograph as it is one of the few I have of my grandmother’s siblings

Jeanette McMahon died of fever aged 32 in May 1910 and her husband Robert died the following year aged 38 of Kala-azar a disease caused by a sand-fly type parasite which was then the second largest parasitic killer in the world after malaria   Roy and his sister were left orphans at the ages of 2 and 8 respectively and were taken to the Civil Orphanage Asylum in Madras.  When my grandmother and grandfather found out about this – communication between family members was none too easy in those days – they instantly removed them and decided to bring them up themselves. The decision to undertake responsibility for them could not have been taken lightly.  This was during the early days of their marriage and the pay of a police sergeant was hardly princely.


Roy with the turkeys in the compound of the house just before his parents died

My grandparents paid for the children’s education and eventually Colleen was married from their house on 18th April 1927 to Patrick Lionel Borghona, a telegraphist and eventually they came to live in some style with many servants and a car and eventually settled down in ‘Brightlands’, 32 Main Road, Whitefield, Bangalore.  Roy left their home at the age of 21 and joined the Calcutta police as a sergeant  on 24th February, 1930 and served with the force for 30 years, at one point being seconded to Barhain. Roy remained a much loved member of the family and spent all his leave from the police either  with my grandparents or with his sister Colleen.


Roy in 1928, still living with my grandparents.


          Roy in the police: 1930

The Lyons family. While dealing with members of my grandmother’s family, mention must be made of a long lost member of the family my grandmother’s sister Aileen Olga Lionel (b.1891) who in 1910 married Paul Mitchell Lorne Lyons (1885-1960). My mother was named Aileen after this aunt. The Lyons had a son Richard Michael Lyons (b.1920). According to my grandfather the Lyons family lived in some considerable style both in India and later in England and I think my grandfather visited them in the hope of looking around to settle near them when he, Joan and Brian went to live in England    Sad to relate my grandfather felt that the family considered  him rather beneath their station and somewhat hurt he vowed never to have anything more to do with them. Following this all contact was lost.

Though almost every member of my grandmother’s family can be traced no contact has ever been made by the Lyons family. It was reputed that Aileen was the keeper of the family records and I hope that this will bring them back into the fold. I note that their son Richard has written an account of the Lyons family in India (1849-1947) (manuscript with the British Library – Mss EUR c517) and I dearly hope that we can manage to get in touch with his family and heal the rift. Also the family clearly kept records of the Lyons family and hopefully they also have some of the Lionel family as well.

Aileen Olga Lionel (b.1891) her husband Paul Lyons and son Richard

I have a postcard, in fact many postcards, send from various Lionel family members to each other.

This postcard of an interior of Fort Delhi, sent by Aileen Lyons to my grandmother

The Walton children (i).  My grandparents first child, my mother Barbara Aileen Walton (1916-1996), was born on 6th October 1916 and baptised on the 16th October 1916 at St Andrew’s Church, known locally as the Madras Church of Scotland.


My mother and her mother


My mother and her mother

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My mother with her  ayah

Bangalore. November 1917.  My mother aged 1 year and 1 month

Their first son Arthur Lionel Walton was born on 30 April 1918 but tragically died of dysentery at the age of eight months. On his death certificate are the usual chilling words “buried the next day”. The funeral took place at St Andrew’s Kirk, Madras, with which my grandmother’s family of the Lionels and the Gibsons had long established ties. Their next child Lorna Winifred Elsie Walton was born in December 1919, was baptised on the 11 January 1920 at St Andrew’s Church, Madras but died five months later on 21 May, 1920 of diphtheria; another childhood killer in India. In those days infant mortality was not uncommon in Britain, let alone India.

My mother aged 8 in Madras in 1920. My mother, right with Molly and Morris Locke

Their daughter Joan Anne Patricia Walton was born on 2nd September 1925

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My mother with her baby sister Joan.    Roy with Joan in the garden

My mother aged 8, Madras 1924

Beryl and Allan Walton with their daughters Joan and Barbara in Police Quarters, Pudapet, Madras, 1928

Police Quarters, Pudapet, Madras, showing the front gate and veranda and the outhouses in the garden with my grandfather’s pigeons 


My mother and her sister Joan. Taken at the Universal Studio, Mount Road, Madras: December 1928

A policeman’s lot (ii).  During these years of alternating joys and sorrows, my grandfather served the city of Madras conscientiously and well, with his duties and responsibilities always in his sights. His life was not without danger and covered the whole gamut of Indian affairs from communal disturbance, strikes at the Buckingham and Carnatic mills, general disorder, criminals large and small, and rabid dogs. On one occasion, surrounded by a hostile crowd intent on doing him serious harm, he jumped his horse over a cart intended to block his retreat and made his escape. On another he arrived at one of the foremost jewellery shops in Madras, to find the owner lying on the floor with his stomach slashed open. My grandfather saved the man’s life by pushing his intestines back and binding the wound until medical help arrived. When he recovered, the owner wishing to express his thanks sent Allan a series of handsome gifts of jewellery. All were returned. He and my father were scrupulous, almost too scrupulous. Many police colleagues were not so dainty and accepted all that came there way and managed to accumulate quite handsome fortunes which served them well after India became independent and they had to start up new homes and careers in whichever part of the world they settled in and living on their meagre police pensions.

  My grandfather with his police relay team whom he trained:1929  

There were other less dangerous moments. He told with humour of the time he was ordered to let no one pass along a particular route.  An important Indian official came along in a car and demanded to be allowed to continue. My grandfather leaned down from his horse, repeated his orders, and that was that.  His action caused some offence and he was later made to apologise, this he did without rancour and proffered his hand in friendship but it was refused.

On holiday with friends at Ennore, Madras. My grandfather at the back. my grandmother in the centre, front, my mother and her sister Joan on the right.


My mother and her sister Joan with ‘Socks’: Madras, 1929

My Grandfather. Madras City Police: 1930

A Medal for Gallantry.  My grandfather was essentially a modest man. Even those who knew him quite well were never aware that he was the possessor of the King’s medal for Gallantry.

My grandfather seated on the right wearing his medal 

The medal was awarded for ‘conspicuous gallantry in saving life and property’. He never spoke of it so I shall never know what he did to earn the medal.  What I do have is a letter from the office of the Madras Governor saying that “His Excellency the Governor has asked me to write and express on his behalf his congratulations to you on the decoration which you have just received. Letters of congratulations were also received from the Intelligence Bureau in Delhi and the Inspector of Police.

My grandfather with his medal

My grandfather relegated to the back row, medal or not

My grandparents had a final child, Harry Brian Walton who was born on 18 December 1931 and baptised at St Andrew’s Church, Madras on 7 Janusary 1932.

035  Brian with his mother, my grandmother.  In fact these were the last photographs taken of her



The Walton children (ii).  Both my mother and my aunt Joan caught typhoid known then as enteric fever. My mother in particular was reduced to a pale waif. Her one memory of the hospital is a sad one. Her ayah whom she loved and who had doted on her since her birth, slept on the floor at her bedside in the hospital throughout her illness. She had been instructed that under no circumstances was anyone to be allowed to feed my mother, as particular foods could, apparently, be fatal to her. My mother reviving from her illness saw the ayah eating some curry.  She said it smelt delicious – she could still remember the smell many years later. She implored the ayah to give her some. The ayah refused again and again, but at last she relented and in fact my mother as a consequence suffered a relapse. The nursing staff was furious, but her father was beside himself and instantly dismissed the poor ayah and my mother never saw her again.

Joan bitten by a dog. Meanwhile my mother’s sister, Joan, was bitten by a dog whilst visiting the home of family friends. She bent down to stroke the dog as the adults were playing Mah Jong.  It jumped up and bit her in the face.  She then had to endure the prescribed ten injections in the stomach, one per day for ten days. The dog was not rabid, but the anxiety of my grandparents may be imagined. Eventually both Joan and Brian joined my mother in Lovedale.

My mother goes to Lovedale After her bout of illness, my grandfather and grandmother decided for health reasons that my mother should be sent out of Madras and so she was sent to the Lawrence Memorial Royal Military School, Lovedale set in the wonderfully bracing and healthy air of the Nilgiri Hills. Thus began what were, she later recalled, the happiest days of her life.

The coat-of-arms of the Lawrence Memorial Military School, Lovedale

School emblem


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