Master Mariner George Jones – Tragic Hero

What’s in a Name……Captain George Jones (1829-1904) Master Mariner and Quay Warden of Carmarthen.

“Out of the deep I cry unto thee O Lord”

George Jones, passed away on February 20th 1904 aged 73. To say he had a remarkable and eventful life is an understatement and even today, much is not known about his true exploits which would excite any Hollywood movie director. Apart from his own demise which is explained below, you cannot feel saddened by the early deaths of two of his young children, Margaret aged 4 years and George aged 6 years who both died three weeks apart in 1864, their mother Jane living until 1913 aged 84. During the continuing restoration of the cemetery the foundations of the family headstone has been strengthened and also uprighted as it was leaning badly.

the headstone before being repaired and levelled.

The inscription on the slate headstone gives little away about the true demise of George senior except the words as quoted above “Out of the deep I cry unto thee O Lord” ….this is his brief story…….

FATAL ACCIDENT TO MR. GEORGE JONES. Carmarthen Quay Warden Drowned. A feeling of general sorrow has been caused in Carmarthen by the sad fatal accident which happened to Mr George Jones, the quay warden, on Saturday evening. Mr Jones, who was formerly an experienced seaman, has lived here nearly all his life, except when aboard ship, and he was loved and respected as one of the kindest and most upright men in the town. He leaves a widow, two sons, and two daughters, with whom the most sincere sympathy is felt by people of all classes. The deceased, in his seafaring days, was shipwrecked several times, and once he was among only a few survivors who were rescued from the ice after the loss of the vessel. During the Crimean campaign he was taken prisoner of war by the Russians, and was kept in close confinement for over 15 months. The privations which he and his mates endured were terrible. He was a son of Captain Rees Jones, proprietor of the Old Bull Carmarthen, a public-house done away with now many years. Details of the unfortunate accident by which he lost his life will be found in the report of the inquest;

On Monday afternoon, at the Town Hall, Carmarthen an inquest was held before the coroner, Mr Thomas Walters, on the body of George Jones, 22 Quay Street, who had been found drowned in the river the previous afternoon. The deceased had been Quay warden for about two years. He was 74 years of age, and possessed a medal and clasp for service in the Crimean campaign. The first evidence was given by deceased’s wife at her house. Her name is Jane Jones, and she said that deceased was 74 years of age. At 7.30 p.m. on Saturday he left the house to see about some steamers coming in, which was part of his duty as quay warden. She never saw him again. Her husband suffered from giddiness. Griffith Lewis, Oak Villa, Mill-street, fisherman, said that on Saturday night at eight o’clock, he and William Rees were down on the Pothouse to move a schooner containing manure, and just by Spillers and Bakers’ Stores met Mr Jones, who asked them who was going to move the boat. In about five minutes they saw a hat floating past the boat on the side of the Quay. At the same time, a man named William Robinson called out, “There’s a man in the river,” and a witness said, “It is George Jones.” They searched the river and as they found nothing they went up to the house, and asked deceased’s wife where her husband was, and she said “In bed.” A woman from next door went to look and saw no one. John Owens, 6, Jones’ place, said that he and others went to search for the corpse on Sunday afternoon. About 30 or 40 yards below the place where deceased was supposed to have fallen in the river, witness and John Evans picked up the body. Mr John Morgan, Blue-street, foreman, said that the jury returned a verdict of “Accidental Death.” They desired the coroner to inform the Town Council of the desirability of having lamps fixed at the spot where deceased fell into the river as it was very dangerous. Griffith Lewis said this was the second fatal accident within twelve months. A lot more shipping was done there now than formerly. It was a most dangerous spot without light. Mr Walters said he would convey their statement to the Town Clerk. The funeral, which was public for men, took place on Tuesday afternoon last. It was very largely attended, and respectable. The principal mourners were: First carriage-Mr Rees Jones, Aberystwyth (son); Mrs. J. Jones, London, and Mrs. M. Richards, Narberth (daughters); Mr Willie Jones, Sheffield (son); and Mr T. W. Richards, Narberth (son-in-law). Second carriage- Miss Nanno Morris, Mr J. Jones, Quay-street; Mr J. Jones, Wood’s-row; and Mr William Lewis, Pensarn (cousins). Among the floral emblems were a wreath sent by “The Children,” and a cross from his son-in-law. The Rev. Owen Jones (curate) officiated.

The above was extracted from The Welshman 26th FEBRUARY 1904 

George Jones sailed on at least 15 different vessels during his maritime career to places such as Nova Scotia, Quebec, and New Orleans to name but a few. One of the vessels he was on – The Prince Rupert was wrecked off the coast of New Zealand on September 4th 1841, having been driven onto the rocks at Mouille Point, a notoriously dangerous stretch of water in a storm suffering many casualties. He himself being a good swimmer survived and swam ashore. Another ship was sent to pick up the survivors but many on board were fearful for their lives due to a Maori Massacre that had recently taken place and refused to leave their cabins.

The restored slate headstone after being repositioned and uprighted.

George Jones was Quay Warden of Carmarthen from 1901 to his death in 1904 which was in effect a key position of supervising the incoming and outgoing vessels from the very busy Quayside ensuring that the Quay and waterways were kept free of any obstacles that may cause danger to shipping etc. It’s interesting to note the following article that appeared in the Carmarthen Journal prior to his appointment which gives a “flavour” of the types of candidates that were then being considered for the post….May he and his family rest in peace………….

There will probably be several applicants for the post of Quay Warden. One applicant, at any rate, I believe is Mr Edward Harries, “sand and clay,” who has already temporarily performed the duties of Quay Warden. Another candidate, I hear, is Mr Arthur James Davies, a person who has practically been brought up on the Quay, and has been associated with river matters all his life. He is about 36 years of age, and has saved numerous lives from drowning in the river. In 1892 he was publicly presented at a concert in the Market-place with the Royal Humane Society’s bronze medal for his gallantry in rescuing a little boy from drowning in the Towy. He had saved a large number previously and has saved several since. Only one other person in the town holds this highly-prized medal and his name is John Rees, of Mill Street, the one-armed swimmer.