John Ivor Jones was the son of Hugh Madoc Jones and his wife, Mary Catherine. He was born about 1898 on the small island of Gorad Goch, in the Menai Straits. The island is sometimes written as Ynys Madawg, a Welsh variation of Madoc, and the Madoc Jones Family had lived there for three generations. Ancestry census records show that his father and grandfather had also been born there.
In the 1901 census for Wales, available on Ancestry, we find the family on Ynys Madawg, Anglesey. Head of the family, Hugh Madoc was 48 years old, and described as a fisherman, who had been born at the Menai Straits. Mary Catherine was 42, and had been born at Llanddeusant. Their children were Madoc William age 6, Dilys Williams age 5, and John Ivor who was 2, the place of birth of all these was described as the Menai Straits. The parents spoke both Welsh and English, while the children spoke only Welsh.
The family were still living on the island in the 1911 census. Madoc Jones, now 58, is described as a fishmonger, Mary is 52, while Madoc William 16, and John Ivor 13, both born on Gorad Goch Island, were at home. Their sister Dilys, now age 15 and a commercial student, was staying with an aunt at Birkenhead. Everyone now spoke both languages, and Mary had given birth to three children who were all living.
At some point after this, John Ivor must have moved to Prestatyn, where he was living when he signed up for the Army. From the website Soldiers who Died in the Great War, the details listed above are confirmed, and we are told that his place of residence was Prestatyn, although his place of birth was Menai Bridge, Anglesey, and that he had enlisted at Rhyl.
His Service Records have survived, but some of them are badly damaged, with parts missing. However, we do learn that he was attested and signed on 16th January 1916 at Rhyl, and was approved at Wrexham on 12th April 1916. His service record starts from 14th April 1916 at Kinmel Park.
He was passed for Class 1 service. His height was 5ft 10ins, his weight was 147 lbs, his chest measured 35 ins, 38 when expanded, and his development was good. He had some slight defects with his upper teeth, and his heart impulse was forcible (it looks like this but barely legible) and he enlisted for the duration of the war. His age was 18years, 9months and 10days, his trade was a bank clerk, and his religion was Calvinistic Methodist.
A casualty form informs us that he joined the depot at Rouen on 25th august 1916, he was posted to the 14th RWF and then immediately to the 1st RWF on the same day, 2nd September 1916. He joined his battalion on 3rd September1916. There is no more legible information in these records about his actual service.
There is an article in the Prestatyn Weekly 24th March 1917:
The staff at the local LCM Bank have been heavily hit with the news that Private J.Ivor Jones was killed in action in France on February 27th. He left Prestatyn in May last year.
There is a card for our soldier in the Roll of Honour in the Hawarden archives. His name is just written as Ivor, which must have been the name he was known by. It gives his address as “Bronwylfa”, High Street, Menai Bridge, and also as L.C.M. Bank, Prestatyn.
His period of service is given as May 12th, 1916, till February 27th, 1917, when he was killed in action.
The card was signed on June 5th 1920, by D. Jones.
There is an entry for John Ivor on the Army form which required the names of all living relatives of the deceased soldier. His father in now named as Hugh Madoc Jones, his mother Mary Catherine, and sister Dilys Williams Jones were named, and his brother’s name is given as Tudor William Jones, who was now living in Sandbach, Cheshire.
There is a letter from the War Office to the records officer in Shrewsbury, stating that any articles of personal property should be sent to Ivor’s father at the address “Bronwylfa”, in Menai Bridge, so the family must have left the island.
In the UK Army Register of Soldier’s Effects, we see that his father, Hugh Madoc, received a sum of £6 6s 7d on June 15th 1917, and on 24th October 1919, a War gratuity of £3.
There is a tribute and commemoration to John Ivor on the Llanfair PG Roll of Honour, Anglesey.
Ynys Gorad Goch, where John Ivor was born and brought up, can be seen in the Menai Straits by most visitors to Anglesey, and appears frequently on photos of the Straits. Three generations of his family earned a living there from fishing.
Known in English as Red Weir Island, which is a literal translation, it is also known as Whitebait Island. It is situated in the stretch of the Straits called the Swellies, between Thomas Telford’s Menai Suspension Bridge, and Robert Stephenson’s Britannia Bridge. Access is only by boat.
Local tradition holds that the Island supplied fish and smoked herring to a number of monasteries from the thirteenth century, and ever since then has been used as a fishing trap. During the high tides, fish would swim into the traps set near the island, these traps consisted of a basket weave fence below the water which caught the fish as the tide ebbed, which prevented them from escaping because of a very strong current. The catch would then be collected at the subsequent low tide.
In the early twentieth century, with the growth of tourism, people would travel to the island to taste the fish. A bell by the shore summoned a boat to carry visitors to the island to enjoy a ”Gorad whitebread tea” prepared by the lady of the house, this was a pot of tea, brown bread and butter, and whitebait fried in a basket, price one shilling.
More recently, the island has been used as an outward bound centre for young people, and is now a private home.
John Ivor’s hometown of Menai Bridge was host to 63 Belgian refugees, men women and children, who came from German occupied Mechelen (Malines). There was enormous sympathy for the Belgian people, and they received a warm welcome in Menai Bridge when they arrived in October 1914. They came by train and were greeted in French by the Bishop of Bangor, and from the station, vehicles took them to the town, and on both bridges they passed a guard of honour provided by the Royal Welsh Fusiliers. At the New Hall in Menai Bridge they were given a meal, welcomed by a crowd of people, and when a local band played the Belgian national anthem, many of the refugees cried. They were housed in the town.
The Belgians were so grateful for the town’s hospitality that they built a promenade along the Menai Straits from Ynys Tsylio (church Island) to Carreg yr Helen, completing it in 1916. A popular walk today, it is called the Belgian Promenade, or the Belgian Walk. Most of the Belgian men were skilled craftsmen often in marquetry (fine woodwork).
The Walk remains another reminder of the Great War in Menai Bridge.