Harry Tompkins is a British Customs agent that tracks Jamie Fraser's smuggling and seditious printing activities in Edinburgh. Young Ian Murray notices the man, and follows him down the Royal Mile to the print shop.
Little is known about Tompkins's history, except that he is an agent for Sir Percival Turner.
Events of the Novels
In November 1766, Tompkins makes his way down the Royal Mile of Edinburgh, asking at the various taverns about the names Jamie Fraser, Jamie Roy and Alex Malcolm. Young Ian, who notices the stranger and thinks it best to follow him and find out what mischief he may be after, trails Tompkins all the way to Jamie's printshop in Carfax Close, where the man proceeds to break in and help himself to some seditious pamphlets that Jamie had printed. When Ian confronts him, Tompkins turns and fires his pistol, but the shot goes wild and instead just as Tompkins attempts to use his pistol as a club, Ian picks up the lead dipper, which splashes hot molten lead onto Tompkins' face. Screaming in agony, Tompkins stumbles about and knocks over some live coals, whose sparks ignite in the barrels of alcohol-based ink. The entire printshop is soon afire, and Ian manages to escape with some minor burns and singed hairs, believing that the man must have perished in the fire.
He did not, however, as Claire discovers many months later when she encounters Tompkins aboard the Porpoise, and realizes he is the same man that Ian followed to the printshop; his physical appearance matches Ian's description, in addition to newly healed burn marks on his face. Claire discovers from Elias Pound that Tomkins works as a customs agent for Sir Percival Turner, visiting the shipping ports near Edinburgh looking for illegal activity. Under duress, Tompkins admits to Claire that while small smugglers are arrested and prosecuted, the ones with larger operations are used to enrich Sir Percival's coffers. They are given the opportunity to pay large bribes to Sir Percival in exchange for him turning a blind eye to their activities.
Tompkins explains that he was pressed into service aboard the Porpoise at Edinburgh. Despite protesting that his position working for Sir Percival meant he was protected and could not be pressed, he had no written documentation to back up his statement, and so ended up as a seaman, working as a forecastle hand. When the Porpoise encountered the Artemis at sea, Tompkins recognized Jamie as a known criminal and informed the captain, who did not immediately act on the information.
He goes on in detail about Sir Percival's ambitions to gain elevation to the peerage; when Sir Percival heard that a seditionist was working out of Edinburgh, he realized that if he could be to one to apprehend this person, he might be rewarded with a peerage. He made little headway in learning the identity of the seditionist, however, until one of Jamie's associates tipped off another one of Sir Percival's agents that Jamie Roy the smuggler was the same man as Alex Malcolm the printer, and his real name was Jamie Fraser, a convicted Jacobite.
Tompkins does not know which one of Jamie's men tipped off the agent, but he tells Claire that the man was English. Tompkins tells Claire that although he did not take part in the ambush at Arbroath due to his injuries, he had heard that Sir Percival had learned from this Englishman that Arbroath was the fallback landing place for Jamie, and so had warned Jamie of an impending ambush so that Jamie would change his plans to Arbroath and not suspect Sir Percival. Tompkins also tells Claire that the customs officer killed at Arbroath was killed by another customs officer on instruction from Sir Percival; as a result of the printshop fire, Sir Percival had no evidence that Jamie was a seditionist, and instead sought to frame him for the murder of the customs agent.
Tompkins aligns his purpose with that of his superiors, doing their bidding even when removed from his usual line of work. Whether this arises from a personal sense of duty or merely enjoyment is not certain, though the distinction may not be relevant.
Tompkins wears his lank brown hair in a seaman's pigtail, and is blind in one eye. He has a long nose and large, transparent ears, which reminds Claire of a rat. After the fire in the print ship, his face is disfigured by burn scars.
- Harry is a Medieval English form of Henry, from the Germanic name Heimirich which meant "home ruler", composed of the elements heim "home" and ric "power, ruler".
- Tompkins is a patronymic form of Thomas, from the nickname Tom, and the added diminutive suffix "- kin", meaning near relative, plus the suffix "-s", itself a short form of "son". Thomas is ultimately of biblical origin, deriving from an Aramaic byname meaning "twin".
English actor Ian Reddington portrays Harry Tompkins on the Outlander television series.