Tom Titanic: a Welsh hero remembered

On 15 April I went to Cemaes, the northernmost town on the Ynys Môn coast, with my cousin Alex Leslie, and my sister Lucinda Mackworth-Young. We were there because Cemaes is the town where Thomas William Jones was born, on 15 November 1877. Tom Titanic, as he’s remembered in Cemaes, was put in command of Lifeboat Number 8 when RMS Titanic sank on 15 April 1912. This 15 April we celebrated him for his courage and competence when he took twenty-eight people to safety in his lifeboat, on that terrifying night one hundred and eleven years ago.

Thomas William Jones c.1920 aged 43

I was asked to unveil a plaque in memory of Tom Titanic on the wall of the house where he was born and lived for the first sixteen years of his life, because my great-grandmother, Noël Rothes, was one of the passengers in his lifeboat.

Noël did her best to help Tom Titanic throughout that freezing night by comforting the passengers as best she could, and alternately taking an oar or the tiller.

Eric Torr has been working hard to make sure Tom Titanic’s memory is not forgotten. He persuaded Liverpool City Council to put up a plaque outside the house where Thomas Jones died, in 1967, and he was the driving force behind a new Titanic Memorial to both Thomas Jones and Noël Rothes, a memorial that faces Cemaes Bay. Below is a photograph of it, with Eric Torr on the left, and three of Noël Rothes’ great-grandchildren: me, Alex Leslie (my cousin) and Lucinda Mackworth-Young (my sister).

Many of Tom Titanic’s family gathered to witness the ceremonies which Carys Davies, one of the directors of the Cemaes Heritage Centre, together with Derek Owen, a local County Councillor and Community Councillor; Elfed, who ordered and put up the plaque (and gave me essential information about how to remove the veil when the time came) and Eric Torr organised. Here’s a photograph of the four organisers, with me, after my talk that evening. We’re holding a facsimile of the text for the Memorial above.

Carys Davies, Elfed, me, Eric Torr, Derek Owen

About forty people gathered outside No 4 Sea View in Cemaes, the house, below, where Tom Titanic was born, the house now owned by Louise Burnam who gracefully allowed us all to gather there.

Dafydd Roberts, Chairperson of the Isle of Anglesey County Council, and Aled Jones, a County Councillor, spoke in honour of Tom Titanic and the work done by the organisers of the day. Welsh harpists Wyn and Steffan Thomas, father and son, and two young sisters, Megan and Sali, led by Huw Roberts, played. They’re all pictured below and later, when we were having panad (tea and sandwiches) Megan and Sali’s sister, Manon sang for us.

Huw Roberts, below, also played Nearer my God to Thee the hymn it’s thought the band played on the boat deck as Titanic went down and we bowed our heads for a minute’s silence in memory of all those who died on that tragic night.

Schoolchildren from Years 4, 5, and 6 at Ysgol Gynradd Cemaes – the local primary school – recited a poem they’d written, and sang a song in Tom Titanic’s honour. (If you click on and enlarge the photographs of their poem, below, you’ll be better able to read their words and see their drawings. They’re wonderful.)

I spoke about the long night Tom Titanic and his passengers spent in Lifeboat Number 8, and the difficulties he faced and courageously overcame. Then I unveiled the plaque.

In the evening I gave a talk about how Tom Titanic and Noël Rothes worked together to save the lives of twenty-eight people, in Lifeboat Number 8 on the night Titanic sank, 15 April 1912: The Aristocrat, The Able Seaman and the tragic sinking of RMS Titanic. Afterwards Derek Owen presented me with a new version of the plaque Tom Titanic gave Noël, to thank her for her courage under what he called, ‘so heartrending circumstances’.

the new version

the original

And so, by the time the sun sank over Cemaes Bay, the bay Tom Titanic knew so well, his memory, his lifesaving legacy, his courage, competence and compassion as both able seaman and captain of RMS Titanic’s Lifeboat Number 8, had been remembered in very special ways throughout the day, in a manner fit for a true Welsh hero.

About Angela

I write fiction about the difficulty we have when we try to say what's in our hearts.
This entry was posted in BLue Plaques, History, Kindness, Places, Talks, Titanic, Travel. Bookmark the permalink.

4 responses to “Tom Titanic: a Welsh hero remembered”

  1. Howard says:

    What dates and venues for 2023 are you going to share with your 45 minute talk about your great grandmother and Titanic as keen to come and listen to this your talk. Thank you. Howard
    Ps can you share some names and what relationship to Tom of some of his living family members today. Again many thanks.

    • Angela says:

      Thank you for this, Howard. I tend to do the talk for private organisations (WIs, Probus Clubs, Historical Societies and the like). I haven’t got any public bookings at the moment. But if you’d like to book me for the talk I’d be delighted. And I don’t know whether the Jones family would like their details broadcast publicly (ie, here). I’ll find out.

  2. Caroline Wentzel says:

    Lest they forget. How lovely that gratitude persists and heroism is recalled. The wonderful thought is there is now another generation of youngsters who know and understand what the Titanic really means, not just a film with Kate and Leonardo So the memory will last at least another 100 years or so as the children can, I say I met the great granddaughter of a survivor and point to that house bathed in yellow. A beautiful day beautifully recorded .

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