Edward Booth Jones was born in Llandudno, Caernarvonshire, Wales, in 1876, the second son of John and Sarah Jones of Trinity Square, Llandudno. The family later moved to Mostyn Street, Llandudno, before moving to Rhos-on-Sea, Denbighshire, in North Wales. John Jones was well known in the area as a successful agriculturist, animal breeder and butcher and Sarah Jones' family was similarly well known as the owners of Dinarth Hall, in nearby Colwyn Bay, Denbighshire.
Edward Jones decided not to go into the family business, and instead became articled to Messrs. Hall, Wateridge and Owen, who were auctioneers of Shrewsbury, Shropshire. At some stage he decided to combine his second forename – Booth, with his surname, to become Edward Booth-Jones. Presumably this was to appear more aristocratic in the art and antique business.
It was whilst living in Shrewsbury that he met his future wife, Millichamp Letton Percival who lived in nearby Newtown, Montgomeryshire, Wales. They married in Newtown on the 22nd March 1902, and they had two children, Ailsa, born in 1906 and Percival, born in 1909.
Having served his articles, he decided to enter the antiques trade and he became associated with George Wynn, Antiques Dealer, of Meadow Place, Shrewsbury. Some three or four years later, having gained the necessary experience, he then set up a highly successful business in Manchester which he later sold before moving to London, where he set up his business in fashionable Bond Street. In the meantime, he had bought The Old Palace in Chester, Cheshire, the ancient and historic mansion of Penrhyn Old Hall, Denbighshire and the former house of Richard III at Sandside, Scarborough, Yorkshire. Whilst conducting business in London, he lived at Old Palace Terrace, The Green, Richmond, Surrey, presumably naming the house after his Chester acquisition.
In October 1914, he went to the United States of America on board the RMS Mauritania to establish business links there and took the whole family with him. They moved into the home of Dr. and Mrs. P.A. McCarthy of 136, Price Street, Germanstown. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Edward Booth-Jones opened an antique shop in Germanstown Avenue and held private sales in galleries in Philadelphia and New York.
For their return home to England, Edward-Booth Jones booked second cabin passage on the May sailing of the
Lusitania from New York to Liverpool. This was scheduled to leave New York at 10.00 a.m. on the morning of 1st May 1915 and having arrived at the liner’s berth at Pier 54 in time for this sailing, the Booth-Jones had to wait until just after mid-day before the Lusitania actually left. This was because she had to take on board passengers, crew and cargo from Anchor Liner
Cameronia which the British Admiralty had requisitioned for use as a troop ship at the end of the previous month.
Then, six days later, on the afternoon of 7th May, the Lusitania was torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine
U-20 off the southern coast of Ireland and only hours away from her destination. All the family members were killed as a result of this action by the enemy! Edward Booth-Jones was aged 38 years.
One surviving second cabin passenger, a Mrs. Secchi stated afterwards that the last she saw of Mr and Mrs. Booth-Jones was when they were putting on lifebelts at their cabin door. The children were not with them and although she was certain that the parents had perished, she thought that the children might have survived.
This proved not to be the case, however and despite Edward Booth-Jones' brother Griffiths Jones travelling to Queenstown to search for them, only the bodies of Mrs. Booth-Jones and Ailsa were recovered afterwards, that of Edward Booth-Jones and his son Percival were never recovered and identified. They were nevertheless commemorated on the grave of Mrs. Booth-Jones and Ailsa in Queenstown. The inscription on the headstone, which is very weathered and indistinct, reads: -
"TOGETHER IN LIFE, IN DEATH
THEY ARE NOT DIVIDED"
IN LOVING MEMORY
MILLICHAMP LETTON BOOTH JONES
AND HER DAUGHTER
WHO TOGETHER WITH HER HUSBAND
EDWARD BOOTH JONES
AND SON PERCIVAL
LOST THEIR LIVES ON THE
S.S. "LUSITANIA" MAY 7TH 1915.
The Scarborough Mercury for 11th June 1915 told a story which might have explained what happened to Edward Booth-Jones and his son Percival, however: -
As reported some time previously the bodies of Mrs. Booth Jones and her little daughter, victims of the Lusitania crime were found and interred, and it was stated that the body of Mr. Booth Jones ..... had also been found, but this, it was discovered later, was a mistake.
Hence his body and that of the little boy have not been recovered but a pathetic incident of the child is told by one of the stewards. He states that shortly after he came to the surface he saw “a dear little fellow” in the water close to him. He got hold of him and lifted him on to a plank which (the steward) was holding on to. He was a bright little fellow, but the little chap kept crying. The steward tried to pacify him, and “to this I think I owe my own life as talking to him and trying to comfort him made me forget my own trouble.”
A gentleman drifted by, and with a smile said the child was his boy. The steward said the boy was all right, and asked the man if he could take him. “I’m afraid not,” was the reply, “but do your best to get him ashore, and good luck to you.” The steward continued to talk to the boy, “and the father, for about ten minutes longer, hung on close to me, and then all at once he seemed to go to sleep, and up went his arms and he died. He continued to float close to me all the afternoon. I kept the boy for two hours after that but I could not keep life in him. He gradually faded away in my arms and the sea was washing over the pair of us.”
When there was no hope of life, he kissed the child and the latter sank. The steward recognised from photographs, the man and boy as being Mr. Booth Jones and his son.
The family is also commemorated on a large memorial on the family grave in St. Asaph's, The Parish Church of Rhos-on-Sea, Clwyd. The memorial itself is in white stone, with cast bronze figures forming the centre piece, with family details inscribed on bronze panels on its base. The details relevant to those lost on the ship state: -
ALSO IN MEMORY OF EDWARD BOOTH
......... WHO WITH HIS WIFE AND TWO
CHILDREN WERE DROWNED IN THE
LUSITANIA MAY 15 1915
The date of the sinking is obviously wrong and should read MAY 7th 1915.
1915 was not a good year for the Jones family. Edward Booth-Jones' sister Sarah Hannah (Macintosh), had died in February of that year, aged 40 years.
His father had died in January 1908, aged 62 years and his mother died in July 1931 aged 77. His elder brother Thomas John Jones, who took over Dinarth Hall on the death of their father and received property taken from the bodies of Millichamp and Ailsa Booth-Jones, died in September 1937 aged 63.
Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths, 1881 Census of England & Wales, 1891 Census of England & Wales, 1911 Census of England & Wales, New York Passenger Lists 1820 – 1957, Cunard Records, The Cork Examiner, Daily Mirror, Newcastle Daily Chronicle, North Wales Weekly, Philadelphia Public Ledger, Scarborough Mercury, Surrey Comet, Wellington Journal and Shrewsbury News, The Welsh Coast Pioneer, Deaths at Sea 1871 – 1968, UniLiv D92/2/91, UniLiv. PR13/6, Graham Maddocks, Geoff Whitfield, Michael Poirier, Jim Kalafus, Cliff Barry, Paul Latimer, Norman Gray.
Copyright © Peter Kelly