The Jones Pages

William John Jones, Master Mariner

William John Jones was born on 27 February 1851 and was baptised at St Peter's Liverpool on 26 March 1851.
The 1871 census shows him as an Able Seaman aboard the Conqueror, a Mersey steam tug, 'Off the N W Lightship, Liverpool Bay.'
As a Master Mariner (98467), he qualified as Second Mate on 24th August, 1874.

Four months later (21st December) he married Elizabeth Thomas at St. George's Church, Everton. She was the daughter of William Jenkin Thomas and Alice Ilston. William Thomas was a Customs Officer and son of a tailor-turned schoolmaster. Interesting information (and unanswered questions) about Alice's forbears are in the Ilston part of our history.

1871 census
	    	William John Jones
1871 census record, showing William as a member of the crew of the tug "Conqueror"
Marriage Certificate, William
	    	John Jones
Marriage certificate of William John Jones and Elizabeth Thomas

William qualified as First Mate on 4th September, 1877 and as Master on 4th June, 1887.
On 22 February 1899 he obtained his certificate as Master of a Foreign Going Ship

The 1881 census shows William and family at 44 Lundie Street, Everton. His occupation is given as "Customs Officer". Also recorded is our grandfather, Ilston, shown as aged 5.

The 1891 census is the last one in which we have found William John at home. The address is 11 Clarence Grove, Everton, and he is described as "Seaman (Chief Officer)".

On census day in 1901 he was on board SS Renwick at the Wallsend Pontoons in the River Tyne, presumably loading coal. The Renwick was a 664-ton steamship (Reg. No. 97954), built on the Tyne in 1890.

In 1911 he is recorded on board the Cambro at Port Talbot. The Cambro, 1214 tons, Reg. 183161, was an iron ore carrier.

In 1901 eldest son George had his own home in Portsmouth with his wife Fanny and 3 month old son William. George himself was not at home on census day as he was serving in the Royal Navy on HMS Pallas, whose position at midnight of the day of the census was Puerto Cortez, Honduras. The 1911 census provides us with more information. Ilston, of course, is absent as he is in Aberdeen, having just married Elspet Fearnside. His sister Alice has married John Kavanagh, a baker, and they have a 3 year old son.
From the details given of the children of the marriage, we learn that there was another child whom we had not recorded. Elizabeth had six children, of whom five were still living. The sixth was Ann, born 30 September 1884, who apparently died in 1889, before reaching her fifth birthday.

Extract from Sale Catalogue

Board of Trade Medal for Gallantry in Saving Life at Sea.
Sold by auction in London, 28th March 2012, for £380.

(Dix Noonan Webb Ltd)

V.R., large, silver (William J. Jones, Wreck of the "William Connal"on the 14th February 1899)

"The S.S. William Connal, of Glasgow, was in distress in very stormy weather with a heavy sea running in the English Channel on the 13th February, 1899, and the S.S. Tregurno, of St. Ives stood by her throughout the night. Next morning eight members of the crew of the William Connal, including Mr W. J. Jones the First Mate, succeeded, by means of their own boat, in reaching the Tregurno. The lifeboat was, however, smashed alongside the Tregurno.

"There were still six men remaining on board the distressed vessel and the lifeboat of the Tregurno was then launched, being manned by the First Mate and Boatswain of that vessel, and First Mate, (Mr Jones) and the Second Mate of the William Connal.

William John Jones was awarded his first Board of Trade Silver Medal for Gallantry, when as Chief Officer on the Vigilant of Liverpool, he was rewarded for his actions in the rescue of the crew of the schooner Mariner, of Caernarfon, on 9th December 1894.

Board of Trade Silver

The "Vigilant," official number 87,981, was a British screw steamer, of the port of Liverpol. She was built of iron at Low Benwell in 1884. She was 1524 ft. long, 23.55 ft. broad, and 12.2 ft. deep. She was fitted with two compound engines of 65 horsepower combined. Her registered tonnage was 263.23 tons.

She was owned by John Bacon, Limited, of 14, Water Street, Liverpool. Crew of 12 - carried approx 425 tons coal etc. The "Mariner" was a 70 ton wooden schooner built in 1865 and registered at Caernarfon. It was carrying a cargo of stone and sand from Ramsey, Isle of Man, to Liverpool under the command of Hugh Jones.

On 11 December 1894, after leaving Ramsey, the winds increased to gale force. Sources suggest that the schooner either grounded on the Skerries or sprang a leak. The signals of distress were seen by steamship "Vigilant" off Millom. It was able to get sufficiently close to launch one of its lifeboats shortly before the schooner sank 27miles northeast of the Skerries. The crew were landed at Swansea the following morning.

It took a lot of searching, but eventually we found evidence of William John's death. He was working as Second Mate on the S.S. Mountby, 3263 tons, of West Hartlepool, carrying Admiralty stores from Swansea to Malta.

He died on board the ship on 2nd May, 1918 off Malta, and was subsequently buried in Gibraltar. His daughter Alice, and her husband John Kavanagh, visited his grave. Ironically, had William John been spared, and remained with the vessel, he would have become a war casualty. Mountby was torpedoed and sunk just over a month later, on 10th June 1918.

Thanks to our cousin, Christine Balmer, for helping piece together the elements of William John's life and death.

Official Record of the death of William John Jones
© The National Archives, BT334, Box 0083, Page 18.

Photograph of S.S Mountby
S.S.Mountby in the Avon Gorge.


11 September 2020