by Grahame and Rosslyn Thom
William, the eldest son of Thomas and Eliza Kenny, was probably born at Roxburgh, Ballinrobe, in about late 1757. Nothing is known about his early years, except to say that he would have received a good education. William’s mother Eliza Coote was a first cousin of General Sir Eyre Coote MP (1726-1783) who served in India in 1754-1762, then 1770 and finally as Commander-in-Chief in India 1777-1783. It is likely that Sir Eyre Coote provided advice to Thomas Kenny about career opportunities in the army for his sons, and as a result made arrangements for William to go to India with the intention of joining the East India Company.
In 1775 William became a cadet in the Company and on 28 September 1776 he was commissioned an Ensign in the Madras Native Infantry Regiment. He was promoted to Lieutenant on 8 December 1780.
The miniature painting held in the family of an army soldier looks to be of a young William Kenny. All Madras Native Regimental uniforms had red coats and could be identified by the colours of the facings and lace on the coat. In the painting it appears the coat has black facings and gold lace, especially when it is appreciated that no facings of uniforms were blue. In the early period of William’s career from 1776 to 1786 the only regiment with black facings and gold lace was the 5th. It is possible the painting was done just before William married.
On 29 August 1781 in Madras, William married Martha Cuming (nee Jennings), the widow of William Cuming (see next chapter). William and Martha’s first child Anne, was baptised on 6 December 1782 in Madras. Then Eyre Evans was born at Madras on 19 December 1783 and baptised at Madras by Rev William Gericke, a Church of England missionary, on Wednesday 7 April 1784, as recorded in the British Library, India Office, London. Descendants of Eyre Evans Kenny in Queensland, hold the Kenny bible and it is recorded in this bible that Eyre was baptised on Friday 9 April. Also the bible states that Captain Phillip Mayne, Captain Eyre Evans Crow and Mrs P Mayne were sponsors of the baptism.
Their third and fourth children Martha and William were both baptised at Hurst, Buckinghamshire, England, on 14 September, 1785. Maybe Martha went home for these births or they were born in India and baptised in England during a visit.
In India, promotion for William came quickly. On 14 July 1793 he was promoted to Captain; on 29 November 1797, Major and on 10 December 1799, Lieutenant Colonel. We know that at the end of his career William was in command of the 1st battalion of the 11th Madras Native Infantry Regiment. Prior to 1796 this battalion was the 21st which had been raised in 1786. It is likely that William was a Lieutenant in the 21st Battalion having transferred from the 5th.
It has been recorded that William “fought many battles under his uncle Sir Eyre Coote.” For William this would have occurred before Sir Eyre Coote’s death in 1783, during a short period of six to seven years.
The English East India Company was formed in 1599 and received a royal charter in 1600 to trade in the East Indies. Trading posts were then established in India. Other countries, such a France, Portugal, Spain and Holland also established trading posts. Treaties were enacted between the local rulers and the Europeans. It was the breaking of these treaties that lead to armed conflict from time to time.
War between France and England broke out in 1745 and this lead to some minor clashes in India. Also the Europeans in India gradually became more involved in local politics. War in Europe broke out again in 1757, resulting in Robert Clive taking the initiative in India. After a number of skirmishes Clive defeated the French at the Battle of Plassey in Bengal in June 1757. Historians have agreed that this Battle marks the beginning of the British Empire in the East.
Expansion and conflict then took place regularly over many years. Clive sent Sir Eyre Coote to southern India and he had decisive victories over the French and their native allies on the Coromandel coast in 1760/61. From this time the French in India limited their involvement to a few small colonies, such as Pondicherry.
Sir Eyre Coote returned to India as Commander in 1779 and it was not long before he was undertaking military operations. The Sultan of Mysore. Haider Ali, was creating a large kingdom in southern India, and Coote moved against the Sultan in 1781, resulting in the crushing and decisive defeat at Porto Novo in June that struck the first heavy blow against Hyder. The battle was won by Coote against odds of five to one, and is regarded as one of the greatest feats by the British in India. It was followed up by a hard-fought battle at Pollilur on August 27, in which the British won another success, and by the rout of the Mysore troops at Sholingarh a month later. His last service was the arduous campaign of 1782, which seriously affected Coote’s heath, and he died at Madras in 1783. It is reasonable to assume that William took part in these campaigns.
Haider’s son Tipu became Sultan in 1782 and was a popular and successful ruler. This caused the British to again become concerned with the Sultan’s improving position after the second Mysore war. Tipu initiated military campaigns which resulted in his defeat in the third Mysore war which took place from 1789 to 1792. It is likely that William took part in this war too as the 21st was one of the Native Infantry Battalions that fought in this campaign.
Again during the 1790s, Tipu’s position improved and forced the British to take action. The 11th Madras Native Infantry (previously the 21st) was attached to the army of the Nizam of Hydrabad, and as the Nizam’s army was part of the forces brought together, William would have been present with his troops in the siege and capture of Srirangapatna, the fourth Mysore War. This battle took place in the months of April and May 1799, between the combined forces of the British East India Company and their allies, numbering over 50,000 soldiers in all, and the soldiers of the Kingdom of Mysore, ruled by Tipu Sultan, numbering up to 30,000. The War came to an end with the defeat and death of the Sultan in the battle. This single victory paved the way for the British supremacy of India. Another Regiment present at Srirangapatna was the 73rd Regiment which included William’s son Eyre.
Second Anglo-Maratha War 1803
In western India, after the death of Nana Phadnavis in 1800, there was infighting between the Holkar and Sindhia chiefs. The new Peshwa, Baji Rao II murdered Vithuji Holkar, brother of Jaswant Rao Holkar in April 1801. Holkar defeated the combined armies of Sindhias and the Peshwas at Poona and captured the city. Peshwa Baji Rao II, sought the protection of British through the Treaty of Bassein in 1802. Lord Wellesley, the Governor General of India, was determined to support the Peshwa, and his brother Major General Sir Arthur Wellesley (later the Duke of Wellington) led a force, which reinstalled Baji Rao in Poona, without opposition, on 13 May 1803, under the protection of the East India Company.
However, the treaty was not acceptable to the Marathas chieftains Shindia and Bhosales. The Treaty considerably extended British influence in western India, but Lord Wellesley was still concerned about possible French interference, given the French influence within the Maratha forces. This directly resulted in the Second Anglo-Maratha War in 1803.
Sindhia and Bhosale tried to win over Holkar but he did not join them. Even then the Marathas chiefs were not able to unify themselves and thus the challenge to the authority of the Company brought disaster for both the Sindhias and Bhosales. War began in August 1803.
On 6 August 1803 Arthur Wellesley received news of the failure of negotiations, and marched immediately upon the fortification of Ahmednagar. On 8 August he stormed and took the city, laid siege to the Ahmednagar fort, and accepted its surrender on 12 August. This success had a profound effect upon the Maratha chieftain Gokhale, one of the Peshwa’s supporters whose forces were present with Wellesley; he wrote that `These English are a strange people and their General a wonderful man. They came here in the morning, looked at the pettah-wall, walked over it, killed all the garrison, and returned to breakfast.’ Wellesley encountered the army of Sindhia and Ragojee Bhonsla at Assaye on 23 September. The latter numbered between 40,000 and 50,000 men, while Wellesley had 7000 soldiers. Despite the difference, Wellesley was determined to attack; as Colonel Stevenson’s Hyderabad force was not within range of support. This force included the 11th Madras Native Infantry under Lieut. Colonel William Kenny, who had led a night attack at Barramgaum on 9 September.
Despite sustaining heavy casualties in their frontal attack, the small British and East India Company force won a considerable victory; it was Wellesley’s first major success. As the remnants of the army of Sindhia and Ragojee Bhonsla retreated they were chased by Colonel Stevenson’s force.
Wellesley then followed and joined up with Stevenson. They faced the Raja of Berar’s army, which included large numbers of Sindhia and Bhonsla’s cavalry and made a stand at Argaum on 29 November 1803. The Raja’s army numbered probably between 30,000 and 40,000, Wellesley’s army about 10-11,000 including Kenny’s 11th Madras Regiment. Wellesley ordered a frontal attack; the Marathas broke, abandoning 38 guns and Wellesley’s cavalry did severe damage in the pursuit. Wellesley suffered barely 360 casualties in all.
After the battle of Argaum, Wellesley marched to Gawilgarh. This fortress crowns a peak of the Satpuras which juts out over the plain of Berar from the Chikalda plateau, to which it is connected by a narrow neck. The stronghold consisted of a complete inner fort which fronts to the south where the rock is most steep, and an outer fort which covers the inner fort to the north and northwest. All the walls are strongly built and protected by ramparts and towers. Entry is through three gateways, one to the south leading to the inner fort, one to the northwest, and one to the north which opens towards the Chikalda plateau. This last was the only one where a real assault was possible and even here it presented considerable difficulty owing to the precipitous nature of the approaches from the plain.
Heavy ordinance and stores had to be dragged by hand by Stevenson’s force for over 20 miles by roads hastily constructed by the troops; but the guns were in place near Labada village on 12 December and on 13th opened fire. On the 14th the breaches were pronounced practicable and the assault set for the following day. The main attack was entrusted to Stevenson’s force now deprived by illness of its Commander. Wellesley’s division watched the southern approaches from the plain below. The command of the storming party was given to Lieut. Colonel William Kenny, while two detachments of Wellesley’s division were to co-operate at the same time, one under Colonel Wallace by an attack on the south gate, the other under Colonel Chalmers, against the northwest. At 10 a.m. the storming party advanced on the walls where a strong defence was expected, but the outer wall was carried without much difficulty and the main body of the troops followed them. The troops then occupied the hill within but found themselves separated from the main fort by a steep ravine, down which many of the enemy were trying to escape towards the Wasali gate. As they opened the gate they found Colonel Chalmers facing them and were driven back into the ravine with heavy loss.
Kenny, almost by himself, found a track which crossed the ravine, and the 94th soon after found it too, raced after him to the inner wall. This was unbreached, but they succeeded with scaling ladders in obtaining a footing on the wall in spite of stiff defence. Kenny fell wounded in front of the Delhi Gate. The enemy Infantry fought to a finish and the British troops pouring in over the wall annihilated them. The defence and the whole campaign was over and two days later the treaty of Deogaon was signed. The total British casualties were 14 killed and 112 wounded, including Lieut. Colonel William Kenny who had lost his right hand and his left thigh was dreadfully shattered. William was removed to the City Dispensary Compound at Ellichpur.
The following is an extract from the order of the day :-
G.A.O. Camp at Deogaum, Thursday, 15th Dec. 1803.
“Major-General Wellesley has great satisfaction in congratulating the troops under his command upon the brilliant success of this day.
In the course of this short but laborious siege, Major General Wellesley has, with pleasure, observed in all, a most anxious and zealous desire to forward the service, the most steady perseverance in the performance of laborious services which would be thought impracticable by other troops, and that gallantry which they have shown so frequently during the campaign, and which has carried them with honor through so many difficulties.
The most laborious and brilliant part of the siege of Gawilghur fell to the lot of the subsidiary force serving with the Soubah of the Deccan, under the command of Colonel Stevenson; and Major-General Wellesley adopts this mode of declaring that he never witnessed such laborious and persevering exertions as were made by this corps to bring their ordnance and stores to the point of attack.
The gallantry with which the attack was made by the detachment under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Kenny has never been surpassed.”
William died on 30 April 1804 and as a mark of respect he was buried in the City Dispensary Compound at Ellichpur, and a large white-washed tomb surrounded by a wall, was erected. The inscription has been removed.
It is likely that Martha did not remain in India long after her husband’s death. Records at the India Office of the British Library in London reveal that Martha was admitted for pension from the Lord Clive Fund on 2 October 1805 but there are no other details about this pension.
In 1814 Martha supported by her children took legal action through the Six Clerks Office in the Court of Chancery against the executors of her late husband William Kenny’s will, David Courtney Kenny and William Dillon Massey, known as Cromwell Massey. It would seem that Henry Evans one of the executors appointed in William’s will, had been replaced by Massey. The outcome of this action is not known.
Colonel Cromwell Massey 1742-1845, had served in the Madras Army of the Hon East India Company and is well known for having kept a miniscule sized diary while held captive at Srirangapatna from 1780 to 1784.
When Martha died she was living in Holland Street, Kensington, London and passed away on 8 March 1819 aged 71 years. She was buried in the nearby St Mary Abbott Church, Kensington, on 15 March 1819.
Mr Edwin Edmund Larcombe, later a very good friend of William’s grandson Herbert at Blacktown, NSW, wrote in 1935 in the Parramatta Historical Society
Journal (see article later in this book) that :-
“Mr. Kenny’s grandfather was Lieutenant Colonel William Kenny, who also served in India in the hill country, east of Surat, against the Mahrattas. The Nizam or Viceroy of the Great Mogul, wishing to reward him for services rendered, presented him with a valuable ring, a purse of gold and a handsome Arab steed. The ring was made of gold and had an oval platinum seal on which were engraved certain Arabic characters. It was a hundred years old, at the time of presentation. Although not of great monetary value, it conferred some special rank upon the bearer, and would admit him to an audience with the Nizam at any time. On showing it to a native his services could be requisitioned, and a parcel or letter, sealed with it, would be certain of immediate delivery, free of cost, throughout the Nizam’s dominions.”
The ring, somewhat altered, is in the possession of Kenny descendants in Queensland. They also hold an old piece of paper inscribed in the local language and said to explain the purpose of the ring.
Kenny descendants in Sydney hold a miniature painting thought to be of William Kenny. On the back it states “To Mr Kenny” – this could be William’s writing – sending the painting home to his father.
William’s will made on 18 January 1804 states
In the Name of God amen. I William Kenny Lieutenant Colonel in the Companys Service being in sound mind make this my last will annulling and doing away all former Wills or promises, I may have made. First – I will and direct that after my Funeral Charges and Just debts are paid the Remainder of my money In Companys paper and Cash Bonds and running accounts with Messrs Harrington & Co the amount that may be produced by the sale of my Houses, Furniture, Plate and Camp Equipage of every description and whatever Prize Money I may be entitled to shall be lodged to the best advantage by my two Executors Captain Henry Evans and Captain David Kenny until it amounts to the sum of (£13,000) Thirteen thousand pounds Sterling at which time it is my will that (£2000) Two thousand pounds Sterling be paid to my Daughter Ann Poole and (£2000) Two thousand pounds Sterling to my youngest daughter Martha Kenny the remaining (£9000) nine thousand pounds Sterling, to remain at interest during the Life of my Beloved Wife Martha Kenny that interest to be paid to her unlefs it is her particular desire that the principal should be paid immediately to our two sons Lieutenant Eyre Kenny and Lieutenant William Kenny both in His Majestys Service, in the 73rd Regiment in which Case, I leave to my Son Eyre Kenny (£5000) Five thousand pounds Sterling and to my son William Kenny (£4000) Four thousand pounds Sterling, and I make this my last request to my Dear Brothers Captain Henry Evans and Captain David Kenny to see this my last Will carried into Effect and I beg my Brother Captain H Evans will accept of my large dark Gray Horse, and my Brother Captain David Kenny will accept my large Colt the large white horse and young Colt I desire may be sold and the amount paid to my two Executors which I beg they will accept of my watch I leave to my Son William Kenny my Pistols Swords and double barrelled Guns to my Son Eyre Kenny.
Ellichpur 18 January 1804
8 o’clock PM
Signed and sealed in presence of
Lieut. 1st Batt 11th Regt N I
Lieut. 2nd Batt 11th Regt N I
Examined Compared and Carefully Collated with the Original Will proved in the Supreme Court of Judicature at Madras on the 20th July 1804 and attested to be a true Copy and probate of the said Will was granted to Henry Evans one of the Executives therein named the 2nd day of August 1804 Reserving a power of granting a like Right of Executorship to the other Executor in the said Will named when he shall appear and apply for the same.
Martha’s will states
This is the last Will and Testament of me Martha Kenny of the Parish of Saint Pancras in the County of Middlesex Widow I do hereby direct that all my just debts and Funeral and Testamentary Expenses shall be fully paid and discharged and settled thereby I do hereby give and bequeath unto my Brother in Law John Inge of Great Russell Street Bloomsbury Situate in the County of Middlesex Esquire his Executors Admons and Assigns All and every my Goods Chattels Monies Securities for Money, Money in the Funds Interest Dividends Monies secured to me under the Will of my late Husband William Kenny Esquire late a Colonel in the Service of the Honorable East India Company Debts and Personal Estate whatsoever In Trust that he the said John Inge his Executors or Admons shall and do with all convenient speed after my decease make Sale of such parts of unsold Personal Estate as are saleable either together or in parcels to any person or persons whomsoever for the best price or prices in Money that can be reasonably had or obtained for the same and shall and do collect get and receive all the residue of my said Personal Estate and shall and do distribute and divide the Monies arising from or by such Sale or Sales and which shall be collected and got in as aforesaid and all other the monies arising from the said residue of my said Personal Estate unto whom and amongst my two sons Eyre Evans Kenny and William Evans Kenny and my two Daughters Ann Poole the Wife of Thomas Poole Esquire late a Colonel in the Service of the Honorable East India Company and Martha Jennings Corfield the wife of Joseph Corfield of Great Coram Street Russell Square in the said County of Middlesex Esquire to be paid to my said Sons and secured to my said Daughters as soon as conveniently may be after my decease the shares of my said Daughters Ann Poole and Martha Jennings Corfield to be secured to them for their respective use and not to be subject or liable to the Controul Debts or Engagements of their present respective husbands or any future husband or husbands which they or either of them shall or may hereafter happen to marry and to be at their absolute disposal and subject to their respective appointment as to the shares which they shall be respectively entitled And I do hereby declare that the receipt or receipts of my said Daughters signed respectively with their proper hands shall be a good and sufficient discharge or good deed sufficient discharges for so much of the interest dividends and proceeds of the respective Shares of my said Daughters of and in my said Personal Estate as shall be therein respectively acknowledged or expressed to be received I appoint the said John Inge sole Executor of this my Will and I declare that he shall not be answerable for involuntary losses and that he shall be allowed and may retain to and reimburse himself all his costs charges damages and expenses to be occasioned by the due execution of the Trusts hereby in him reposed And I hereby revoke all my former Wills In witness whereof I the said Martha Kenny the Testatrix have to this my last Will and Testament contained in two Sheets of Paper fixed together at the top with my seal set my hand to the first sheet thereof and my hand and seal to the second and last sheet hereof this twenty first day of April One Thousand eight hundred and ten. Martha Kenny.
Signed sealed published and declared by the said Martha Kenny the Testatrix as and for her last Will and Testament in the presence of us who in her presence at her request and in the presence of each other have hereunto subscribed our Names as Witnesses as we have likewise done to a Duplicate of the said Will at the same time. Edward Inge. James Augustus Wood Clerk to Mr Inge Senr.
31st May 1811.
As the Cottage Great Coram Street Russell Square was bought of Mr Joseph Bristow by my Son in Law Mr Joseph Corfield in my name solely for the purpose of my being able to give and assign the same in case of his death to Mrs Martha Corfield his Wife and as the cottage was never paid for namely 100L but with the proper monies of the said Joseph Corfield his Executors and Admons for the remainder of the term of years unexpired and do direct my Executor immediately to assign and make over the said Household Cottage to the said Joseph Corfield his Executors Admons and Assigns for the term unexpired of the Lease from the said Joseph Bristow to myself being and as informed about 90 years at a Ground Rent of 16 Guineas a Year. Witness this 31 June 1811 to the Codicil of M. Kenny. Wm Gathorne.
28 April 1819.
Appeared Personally Richard Chase of Kensington Square in the County of Middlesex Esquire and made oath that he knew and was well acquainted with Martha Kenny formerly of the Parish of Saint Pancras but late of Holland Street Kensington in the County of Middlesex Widow deceased and he also knows and is well acquainted with her manner and character of handwriting and subscription having several times seen her write and also write and subscribe her name and having now with care and attention viewed and perused the paper writing hereunto annexed purporting to be and contains a Codicil to the Last Will and Testament of the said deceased the said Codicil beginning thus “31st May 1811 As the Cottage Great Coram Street Russell Square” ending thus “at a Ground Rent of sixteen Guineas a year[”] and thus subscribed “Martha Kenny” the Deponent further made Oath that he doth verily and in his conscience believe the name “Martha Kenny” so set and subscribed to the said Codicil to be of the proper handwriting and subscription of the said Martha Kenny deceased. Richard Clare. Same day the said Richard Chase was duly sworn to the truth of this Affidavit Before me J. Dobson Sur[rogate]. Present John Bishop Not[ar]y Pub[lic].
On the 3rd May 1819 Admon with the Will and Codicil award of the Goods Chattels and Credits of Martha Kenny formerly of the Parish of Saint Pancras in the County of Middlesex but late of Holland Street Kensington in the same County Widow deceased was granted to Eyre Evans Kenny and William Evans Kenny Esquires the Sons two of the surviving Residuary Legatees named in the said Will having been first sworn duly to administer John Inge Esquire the the sole Executor and Residuary Legatee In Trust having first renounced the Probate and execution of the said Will and also the Letters of Admon with the said Will annexed of the Goods of the said Deceased.