The Jones Pages

3. Grandparents and Parents

Ilston Jones
A photo of a young Ilston (from Margaret's collection)

Born in Liverpool on 19th May, 1878 Ilston Jones did not live to see any of his grandchildren. He died in Southampton in 1932.

He was first recorded on the census in 1881 at the age of 5. In 1809 he is shown as a grocer's apprentice and in 1901 he is still at home at 22 Clarendon Road, Liverpool and is listed as a grocer's assistant. Only a couple of months later the Edinburgh Gazette listed his official appointment as a Customs Boatman. (25th June, page 715)

It appears that Ilston was serving at or near the port of Aberdeen, as it was there that he married Elspet Fearnside on 7th May 1910. She was the daughter of James Fearnside, owner of a blanket mill at Strachan in Kincardineshire. (See the Fearnside Family History.) Before her marriage she had been living in the home of her uncle, Andrew Reith, a grocer in the Rubislaw area of Aberdeen. Ilston and Elspet moved into an apartment at 2 Fonthill Road, Aberdeen, and it was there that the marriage took place. Their first child, James Ilston Jones, was born on 7th March 1911 at 10 Great Western Road, Aberdeen.

It can't have been long after James's birth that Ilston was transferred to North Shields. He was there a year later (25th May 1912) when Andrew Jones, their next child, was born. Andrew was born in Cults, at Sunnybank, a house built by Elspet's uncle Archie Frazer, a Canadian pioneer, for the unmarried Reith girls (including Elspet's sister Isabella).

Andrew's birth certificate records the "domicile" of his parents as "4 North View, Preston, Northumberland." (According to the Royal Mail, today's version of that address is North View, Cullercoats, North Shields.)

Photograph of Sunnybank,
Sunnybank, Cults, birthplace of Andrew Jones
Andrew Jones Birth Certificate
Details from Andrew Jones's birth certificate

Andrew died in Southampton at the age of 22, apparently as a result of waiting in a downpour for a girl who "stood him up". Strangely, a similar fate befell his cousin John Ilston Jones, who died in Liverpool at the age of 21.

The year after Andrew (1913) came the birth of Auntie Beth, or Elizabeth Elspet Isabella Jones. She and her husband Charles Birchley (married 1942) emigrated to Victoria, Australia, where their family flourishes.

Helen Jane Jones was born in May 1915, only to succumb to influenza three and a half years later. Last of the family to be born was Grace Jones, in 1920. She continued the family's connection with the sea by marrying master mariner Ralph Arthur Curry in Southampton in 1945.

Photograph of North View
North View, Cullercoats (Google StreetView)

Some time in the 1920s Ilston and family moved from North-East England to Southampton, where they occupied a terraced house in Langhorn Road, Swaythling. James (our father) studied at Taunton's School and in later years proudly wore his Old Tauntonians tie .

One of his teachers was Horace King, later Labour M.P. and Speaker of the House of Commons. James went on to study at University College, Southampton, where he met Maisie Agnes Beer, daughter of Matthew and May Beer of Southampton.

Maisie Beer with
				James Jones's Triumph Car 1934
This photograph, of Maisie beside James's car, appears in a recently published (June 2014) book on pre-1940 Triumph motor cars. It is one of a few pictures I was able to supply to the author. Apparently, images of a 1927 Super Seven are very rare. This was taken in 1934 and is one of a collection of photographs taken on outings prior to their marriage.


Maisie and her firstborn
Maisie with her firstborn - the photo is entitled "Happiness 1938"


Peter and Margaret
Peter and Margaret

Maisie taught at an elementary school in inner Birmingham and James eventually became a surveyor with the Ordnance Survey.

The couple was married at Shirley Parish Church, Southampton on 1st December 1936, the day after the Crystal Palace burned down.

One of the drawbacks to being an O.S. surveyor was that one had to move around the country, following the work. They started their married life living in Free Trade Street, Rochdale.

They were not there for long. Soon they had moved to Edinburgh and, on 16th November 1937, their first child, Peter Colin Jones, was born. Starting a family, it is not good to be moving every few months, or spending long periods apart. So James managed to obtain a position in His Majesty's Stationery Office in Edinburgh.

H.M.Stationery Office,

  • Frank Charles Ashford
  • Eric Beaumont
  • Maureen Vivienne Cottrell
  • Frank Alfred Dismore
  • Cyril James Hancock
  • James Ilston Jones
  • Gladys Margaret Kenworthy
  • Dennis Courtenay Megan

(The London Gazette, 8 July, 1938)

Their second child was Margaret, born on 14th June 1939.
Unfortunately, dreams of a settled family life were not to last. The Joneses, like so many others, found their lives torn apart by war.

James in uniform
The picture on the mantelpiece

As a child, I remember Dad coming home on leave, including a summer holiday at our grandparents' home in Southampton. I remember farewells when he left by bus from St Andrew Square in central Edinburgh. I recall one occasion when his bicycle was loaded onto the roof of the bus. We also travelled around the country and stayed for short periods in Huddersfield and Scarborough. Of course, I had absolutely no idea what awaited Dad at the other end of those journeys.

Edinburgh, Dad and Peter
Edinburgh 1941

In 1944, Dad was sent, firstly to India and then to Burma, leaving Maisie pregnant with their third child. A distressing time under normal circumstances but, unlike many, we did not lose close relatives, nor were we bombed out or witnesss violent action.

He became WOII Foreman of Signals with the No.1 Special Wireless Group, South East Asia Command. I remember a letter from him illustrated with drawings of elephants and other wonders, and telling of train journeys lasting for days. (We thought Edinburgh to Southampton was a long journey!)

He went to places such as Imphal, Kohima and Meiktila. We never heard stories of military derring-do, only occasional humorous anecdotes concerning his fellows. Later I served in the Army with an RSM who had been in the same unit as Dad, who told the same tales about the same people! One thing neither of them did was to talk about their actual military experiences. Having learned more recently of the horrors that took place there, I now understand why.

James and Children, Southampton
Southampton 1942

Army testimonial

Allan James Jones was born on 26th January 1945. It was a cold day and had been snowing heavily. Coming home from school with snow inside my Wellington boots I was met by our neighbour Mrs. Meg McQuattie who said "come and see your baby brother." I don't remember my reaction, but it was probably much like that of any other 7 year-old in similar circumstances.

I learned later that Dad was not pleased that Allan had been blessed with James as a second name. But he was a long way away and could do little about it. He seemed to be against the idea of passing names from one generation to the next. I remember asking him about the name Ilston which he described as a "family tradition". Why, I asked, was I not called Ilston? His reply was "I wasn't going to lumber a son of mine with a damn-fool name like that!" I wonder what his reaction would have been when Allan changed his name by deed-poll to Allan James Ilston-Jones, or when his great grandson was named Darius Ilston Jones.

It was not until nearly a year and a quarter later that James Jones met the youngest member of his family. He was met on the doorstep by a terrified eight year-old who ran into the house calling "Mummy, Mummy, there's a man at the door!" That lack of recognition from his eldest child must have hurt.

Image of
				Burma Star     The Burma Star
Allan in the burn
Allan in the Braid Burn

Maisia and James at Colley
Maisie and James
on the North Downs at Colley Hill

Not long after he returned to his civilian employment in Edinburgh, James was appointed to an Executive Officer post in HMSO. This meant a move to London and he started by living in digs, whilst looking for suitable accommodation for the family. In April 1948, the family moved into their new home in Wavertree Road, Streatham Hill.

James worked in a number of locations in central London and by the mid 1950s reached the heights of Assistant Director of Supplies. He worked long hours but at weekends we often escaped to the North Downs and other places outside London. In common with many others, we suffered frequent chest complaints in the worst of the London fogs. At one point Margaret was seriously ill with pleurisy and she and Peter suffered lung damage that has remained with them throughout their lives.

In 1955 he was appointed Director of the Northern Ireland Office of HMSO. The family followed in early 1956 and occupied a detached house in Ward Avenue, Bangor. James became involved in yachting and Maisie followed the example set by her father by becoming Secretary of the Bangor Horticultural Society, a post she filled with some distinction.

On 31st May 1963, The London Gazette recorded the award of an OBE to
James Ilston JONES, Esq., Chief Executive Officer,
Northern Ireland Office of H.M. Stationery Office

In March 1971 James retired from HMSO, on reaching the age of 60. For some months he undertook consultancy work for the police authority, in connection with the introduction of a new computer system. In 1972 he was appointed the first Chief Electoral Officer of Northern Ireland, a post he occupied until his death on 12th March 1976.

While he used to refer disparagingly to the OBE as representing " other b-----'s efforts", largely in recognition that the award " came with the job", I believe he was pleased with his appointment as a Commander of the Order. It was recognition for an important contribution he made to public life when he could have been enjoying a well-earned retirement.

cbe badge
Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire

James Jones, Chief Electoral Officer
"Official" photograph on appointment

				Mains Road         Craiglockhart School
(Left) Colinton Mains Road, Edinburgh, our home throughout the war.         (Right) Craiglockhart School attended by Peter and Margaret.
Photographs by Margaret Ravey.

Dulwich College
Dulwich College, Peter's school in London.
(Right) St Martin in the Fields High School for Girls, Margaret's school.

St Martin's


12 September 2020