Downey, Thomas

Also known as: Thomas Downing

Collection date: Oct 1908

Area: London


Thomas Downey (Downing) at Marylebone workhouse (c1836-1912): age 72, 8 songs on several visits commencing 3 Oct 1908: Sharp published 2 of Thomas’ songs in the Journal of the Folk-Song Society 5 (1914), namely ‘Rambling Sailor’ FT1953 and ‘American Stranger’ FT2005.

In fact Thomas’ surname was definitely ‘Downey’ and Sharp eventually got this right in the 2 songs he collected in March 1909 (FT2106,7). There was nobody called Downing in the 1911 census for the Marylebone workhouse in Northumberland Street. But Thomas Downey, aged 74, widower, labourer born in Marylebone was listed (RG14/557 p26). He was in fact in the workhouse in the 1901 census (RG13/109 f93 p36).

Sharp noted in FT1945 that Thomas was born and bred in Paradise Street, Marylebone of Irish parents. His birth date would have been c1836. Sharp noted on FT 2107 that at some point Thomas spent 12 years in the navy, probably this was as a young man. He married Bridget Lawless on 10/1/1870 at Christ church Marylebone and recorded his father’s name as John Downey. In 1871 the couple were at Cirencester St, Marylebone - he was a porter, she was a charwoman. The couple had 3 children but Bridget died in 1890 and Thomas was looking after a son Thomas, 10, and a daughter Mary, 7, in the 1891 census. It’s not clear what happened to the children but Thomas ended his days in the workhouse, dying on 9/10/1912.

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