Rowland Jones – Old Boy of Barnsley Holgate Grammar School

By Jane Ainsworth.

I received an exciting New Year ‘gift’ when I was contacted ‘out of the blue’ (actually South Wales) by Robert Briggs, one of the nephews of Rowland Jones. Robert’s older brother David had recently given him and their eldest brother Michael’s widow a copy of my book Great Sacrifice, which they had all enjoyed reading.

All three brothers had attended Barnsley Holgate Grammar School, Robert had been Head Boy for his year and David had taught there for six years. They had participated each year in the Remembrance Ceremony of calling out the names of the Old Boys on the First World War Memorial and they were, therefore, shocked to learn so many years later that ‘Jones R’ was related to them.

Robert was pleased that I had found some information that was new to them, especially about their grandfather Sam Jones, who was an early Labour Councillor and the first Socialist Mayor of Barnsley. As custodian of their family archives, he wanted to share some information with me.

Unfortunately, the family photograph of the soldier I used in Great Sacrifice is not of Rowland Jones, although the one from the newspaper that I found is. 

Also, the child who died in infancy was a boy called Jesse not a daughter Jessie, a mistake that I recently found was made in the local newspapers at the time. Intrigued by the family story and to do justice to his memory, I ordered Jesse Jones’ death certificate. This recorded the result of the Inquest held by Thomas Taylor, Coroner, that on 26 September 1894 Sam and Annie Jones’ son ‘accidentally drowned by overbalancing himself into a Peggy Tub Head in Water 1 Minute’ at 20 Smithy Green, Monk Bretton, aged one year and ten months. Sheffield Evening Telegraph reported details of the accident the day after Jesse’s death:

‘Annie Jones …had, during the day, left a peggy tub containing water in the garden adjoining their house and, about half-past five her [son, Jesse], aged about one year, was playing about the garden when [he] began to look into the tub, and stretching over to play in the water overbalanced [himself], and fell into it. Shortly afterwards [his] mother found [him] head downwards in the tub, dead.’

Sam and Annie, whose daughter Olive was 13 months old at the time, must have been devastated to lose their firstborn child in such a tragic way. They also suffered the loss of their third child and second son, born a year after Jesse’s death, when Rowland was killed in action in the First World War.

Serendipitously, my husband Paul and I had booked a short break in Laugharne for the end of January and I arranged to visit Robert to view photos of Rowland, his British War and Allied Victory Medals, dog tags, Memorial Plaque and Scroll in addition to various documents obtained by the family while undergoing research.

Robert subsequently very generously emailed me jpegs of the photographs and other memorabilia. As Great Sacrifice will not be reprinted I am not able to publish any corrections or new information in my book. However, with the approval of Robert and David, I agreed to write this blog and to use some of their precious family photos so that their uncle can be remembered properly in the centenary year of his death.

ROWLAND JONES was born on 4 October 1895 in Barnsley; he attended Barnsley Holgate Grammar School for one year, aged 14, before starting work in the same colliery as his father, who was Checkweighman at Wharncliffe Woodmoor Colliery. When Rowland enlisted at Barnsley on 28 February 1916, aged 20, he was an Underground Haulage Hand living at Gilsland House with his parents and siblings. After undergoing training, he was granted a Commission on 26 June 1918 as a Second Lieutenant in the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment (West Riding). Rowland had only been on the Western Front in France for about a fortnight when he was fatally wounded. He died on 13 October 1918, aged 23, just nine days after his birthday and less than a month before the war ended.

Rowland was buried in the Rocquigny–Equancourt Road British Cemetery, and, after the war ended, his father visited the grave on the Somme. Sam Jones was one of the Aldermen of Barnsley involved in the erection of Barnsley’s Cenotaph, behind which the impressive Town Hall was subsequently built.

Rowland Jones is remembered by name on the headstone of his parents’ grave in Monk Bretton Cemetery, the BHGS War Memorial in the Cooper Gallery (former Grammar School premises) and on the Painted Pillar, which lists 200 names, in the War Memorial Chapel in St Mary the Virgin’s Parish Church in Barnsley.

He is remembered by his family and I hope that his story will live on because of Helion & Company publishing my book … (A few copies of Great Sacrifice are still available).

Photographs of the Jones family and memorabilia are used in this blog by kind permission of the Briggs family, who have copyright.

Order a copy of Great Sacrifice here.

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