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Thomas Acquin Martin

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Sir Thomas Acquin Martin (1850–1906), engineer and industrialist

1850 born at Sutton Coldfield, son of Patrick William Martin, leather manufacturer, and his wife, Mary Anne, née Bridges.

Educated at Birmingham Oratory School, Edgbaston

Started work for Walsh, Lovett and Co in Birmingham.

1869 married Sarah Ann Harrby of Hoarwithy, Herefordshire. They had a daughter and five sons, four of whom entered their father's business.

1874 Martin went to Calcutta to open a branch of Walsh Lovett. Displaying exceptional business capacity, he soon founded the firm of Martin and Co., Clive Street, Calcutta, and Laurence Pountney Hill, London, which played an important part in the industrialization of India.

1887 Martin was appointed agent-general by Abdur Rahman Khan, amir of Afghanistan; he sent Thomas Salter Pyne to Kabul, the first European to reside there for any length of time since the Second Anglo-Afghan War. Pyne, on behalf of Martin's firm, built an arsenal, a mint, and various factories and workshops for the amir, subsequently introducing, as state monopolies, a number of modern industries.

1889 the firm took over the management of the Bengal Iron and Steel Company, which inaugurated iron production at Burrakur.

The firm also pioneered the construction of light railways along district roads in India, to serve as feeders of the main lines. Many jute mills in Bengal were constructed by the firm, and up to Martin's death in 1906 it had the management of the Arathoon jute mills, Calcutta.

Three large collieries in Bengal, and the Hooghly Docking and Engineering Company, were also under its control. The Tansa duct works, providing Bombay with a constant water supply from a lake 40 miles distant, was engineered by the firm, as was the supply of water to the suburbs of Calcutta, and of a large number of Indian provincial towns, including Allahabad, Benares, Cawnpore, Lucknow, Agra, and Srinagar (Kashmir).

With Edward Thornton as principal architect, the firm erected chiefs' palaces and important public buildings in various parts of India, particularly in Calcutta, where it acted as contractor for the All-India Victoria Memorial Hall.

1889 The firm admitted into partnership R. N. Mukherji, an able Bengali.

1895 Martin was appointed chief of the staff of Prince Nasrullah Khan on the prince's mission to England; during the visit, Martin was knighted. Martin's younger brother, Frank, accompanied the Prince on his return to Kabul.

1899 Frank Martin succeeded Pyne as engineer-in-chief.

1906 Died at home on the Isle of Wight



1906 Obituary [1]

Sir T. ACQUIN MARTIN, who died on April 29, 1906, did perhaps more than any living Englishman to foster the native industries of India. As the head of the great contracting firms of Martin & Co., and Walsh, Lovett & Co., of London, Birmingham, and Calcutta, he took a leading part in the construction of railways, waterworks, and public buildings throughout Upper India, and in developing the local manufacture of steel, iron, and jute. In his capacity of agent-general to the Ameer of Afghanistan he was entrusted with all arrangements for the Shahzada's visit to London in 1895, and received the honour of knighthood in recognition of his services on that occasion.

Though he was still comparatively young, his health had been sapped by hard work in a tropical climate. In 1905 he was attacked by a complication of maladies, which were attended by great suffering. He has left a blank in the lives of numerous friends, who were attracted by his personal charm.

He was elected a member of the Iron and Steel Institute in 1894.



See Also

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Sources of Information

  • Biography of Sir Thomas Acquin Martin, ODNB