Richard Martin was born in 1824, near to, and partly educated in, the city of Dublin, Ireland, is eldest son of sheriff Martin, and eldest grandson of Col. Richard Martin, of Connemara, both of whom receive more detailed mention on page 92 of this volume. But for the barring of the entail by his grandfather and uncle the late Thomas Barnwall Martin, who was at the time of his death, and for many years previous, member of the county of Galway in the British parliament the subject of this sketch would now be the owner of the extensive estate of Connemara in Ireland, the inheritance from time immemorial of the Martins of Galway, in which event he would probably never have seen Canada, remaining instead simply an Irishman whose operations would be confined to a small island instead of being, as he now is, a Canadian with rather more than half a continent to operate in. As it was, however, when nearly ten years old he came with his father to Canada, settling near York, on the Grand River. After spending some few years there, he was sent to school in the winter of 1840 to the late Dr. Rae, of Hamilton. Later, he began the study of law with the late Samuel Black Freeman, of the same place, and finished with Judge Sullivan, of Toronto; was called to the Bar in 1846; and immediately began practice in partnership with the late George S. Tiffany, in Hamilton, and soon became a prominent member of the Ear, a position he has ever since retained, first as junior partner of the legal firm of Tiffany and Martin, afterwards as senior partner of the law firm of R. and J. R. Martin, and of R. and E. Martin, and at present of Martin and Carscallen.
Shortly after being admitted to the Bar, Mr. Martin was appointed a crown prosecutor, being the first outsider to receive that honor, and at once entered upon his duties, unsuspicious of the ill feeling created amongst the favored ones of the Toronto Bar, who had previously had a monopoly of all such government patronage, they rightly conjecturing that an. outside appoint ment might prove a dangerous precedent, injurious to what they considered their rightful perquisites. Mr. Martin’s circuit extended as far as Goderich, which was then considered to be in the wilderness, and almost wholly cut off from communication with the rest of the world. Upon his return, he found himself for awhile the best abused man in Canada, his name paraded in various newspapers, accompanied by all imaginable imputations of inexperience, incapacity, etc., but he soon quashed the “tempest in a teapot” effectually, and in a manner that some of his contemporaries very likely still remember.
The subject of this memoir, commenced his political life as a Baldwin Reformer, which he continued to be until that party was broken up, and its leader, the late Hon. Robert Baldwin, driven from public life by the crisis which converted what was left of that party into what is now known as the Grits. When that occurred, many, and among them the late Hon. Robert Spence and the subject of this memoir, left that party and became and ever after remained supporters of Sir John Macdonald. While Mr. Spence remained in public life, the subject of this sketch was continued by Sir John’s administration as one of its crown prosecutors, and as such was engaged in the conviction and dispersion of the notorious Townsend gang, the first aggregation of dangerous tramps known in Canada. Some of that gang were shot while resisting or evading arrest, two were hanged at Cayuga, and one imprisoned for life in the penitentiary for the robbery and murder of Mr. Nelles. In those days the stream of justice was not impeded or diverted by the influence of party partisans, nor by the mawkish skim milk and water sentimentality from which we at a later date have suffered so much, and the consequence was that for several years after those executions that species of crime was unknown in Upper Canada. When Hon. Mr. Mowat’s administration came into power, although politically opposed to that ministry, Mr. Martin’s name appeared at the head of the long list of Queen’s Counsel for Ontario, then published.
Mr. Martin was married in 1858 to Miss Cunningham, of Donegal, Ireland, by whom he has a family of four sons and four daughters.