Band master East India

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    I’m researching a Joseph Magrath who went to East India in the 1840’s from Ireland and was employed as a band master to train the local regiments, probably those of the British East India Company. According to his grand daughter, writing in a letter to her niece in 1954, he earned a guinea a day on top of his pay. He was married and had two children, a boy William Francis born c. 1848 and a girl Ann Eleanor c. 1851. His wife died suddenly in India after a few years and subsequently while returning to Ireland, he became ill and died and was buried at sea. The two children survived the voyage and were adopted by their parents families back in Cork. They both appear in the 1901 and 1911 census. Ann Eleanor married a James Walpole in 1876, and one of her grand sons is a cousin of my mothers. Her father is mentioned in the civil registration of her marriage, and also mentioned in the civil registration of William Francis’ marriage to Amelia Saunderson in 1872.

    I can’t find any record of the marriage of the band master Joseph Magrath. His wife’s maiden name could be Mahony. I’ll try the RCB library as they were both members of the C of I.

    I’m curious as to the families short life and times while away in East India.

    I would be grateful for any help or advice to assist me to fill in the story, and to know who Joseph was married to.


    Here are a few ideas which might help:
    FindMyPast has the details of the baptisms and, where relevant, burials of this family. They can be searched under ‘British India’. At least three other children were born in India and Sarah died on 17 Nov 1851 at Peshawar having given birth on 8 Nov.
    Joseph was Band Master to the 61st Regiment of Foot and a google search will bring up that regiment’s history and where they served. It was a British regiment not a regiment of the East India Company Army.
    FIBIS (Families in British India Society) website and wiki will provide much background information to life in India.
    The National Archives at Kew may have a service record for Band Master Magrath. His marriage would be recorded on that if the service record still exists.
    Have fun exploring!


    Thank you HR.

    Do I need to subscribe to, or become a member of, Findmypast to access the family details ?



    FindMyPast is a subscription website but at the moment you can take a 14-day free trial.
    As you mentioned the RCB library, I take it that you live in Dublin. If so, once the National Library reopens, you can go online there free but it costs to have certificates printed off. If you live in UK, then I believe most main libraries have free access. The British Library holds the originals of these India Office records.


    Thanks again Hilary.

    I’m in Dublin.



    Thanks again for your help with my band master enquiries

    I’ll take out a sub to findmypast as I would lke to examine the actual family records as well as the search results.

    Can you tell me how you linked Joseph Magrath to the 61st Foot regiment ? Will that be revealed in the family records ?

    I’d like to know if he was a civilian band master as distinct from holding a military rank.


    I think you’ll find a subscription to findmypast helpful.
    The British India baptism records show several children of Joseph and Sarah Magrath/McGrath and each one gives Joseph’s occupation as Band Master 61st Regiment.
    I don’t know enough detail about military music in Victorian times to answer your question accurately but I think that it was unlikely that the Band Master, a senior role, would have been a civilian. It requires a great deal of military knowledge, regimental tradition and organisational experience to provide the range of activities expected of musicians in war and peace. This is above and beyond exceptional musical ability.

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