John (Johnnie) Hughes was born in Flint in April, 1882 and was the youngest of two children to Thomas Hughes and Catherine (Williams). Johnnie’s elder brother, John, died in November, 1881 aged 18 months.
Catherine was previously married to Thomas Davies, who died in 1877, aged 45, and with whom she had five children. She married Thomas Hughes in 1879 and they resided in Mount Street, Flint, and by 1891 they had moved to 30, Earl Street.
When in his late teens Johnnie was employed as a bricksetter, and 10 years later he was still a bachelor living with his parents, at 78, Earl Street, working as a bricklayer’s labourer at the Holywell Road Silk Factory, Flint.
On 5th January, 1913 Johnnie’s father, Thomas, died at his home and is buried in an unmarked grave in the Northop Road Cemetery.
Mr Hughes was a native of Bagillt and had been in failing health for the last 12 months of his life, death being due to a growth in his lungs. He was a faithful member of the Seion Chapel, and was highly respected by all who knew him. He was also a member of the Ancient Order of Foresters, and was the third oldest member of the Flint Branch, having been in membership altogether over 47 years. He was employed as a chemical labourer at the Alkali Works.
Johnnie married Eleanor (Nellie) Wellings at the Sion Welsh Congregational Chapel, Hill Street, Flint on 13th December, 1916 by special licence. She was born in Leaton, Shropshire, and was a daughter of William Wellings, licensee of the Windmill Tavern, Nant y Flint, and his wife Elizabeth, and a sister to Private Ernest Price Wellings.
Nellie’s niece, the late Mrs Ethel Salisbury-McLaren, related the story that, when Nellie and Johnnie married, the registrar failed to turn up, so Nellie wouldn’t consummate the marriage. Johnnie returned to his regiment and in the early hours of one morning paid Nellie a visit whilst on a 48-hour furlough. Nellie was living with her parents at the Windmill Tavern, Nant y Flint, where she shared a room with her sister. She turned him away and said she would see him the next day, which she did, and they went to the Registrar’s Office, for on the marriage certificate is a side note that states: “In entry No 125 Col 2 for Ellen read Eleanor corrected on the 15th January 1917 by me James Jones Registrar in the presence of John Hughes & Eleanor Hughes. The Parties Married.” It also states the Registrar was present at the marriage ceremony.
Johnnie’s service record confirms that while he was stationed at Kinmel Park Camp, Rhyl, he left the camp at 11:30 pm on 14th January, 1917; except he was AWOL (absent without leave) and not on a Furlough.
He returned to camp at 8:00pm the following day. Lance Corporal Evans and Sergeant Welch were witnesses and he was “confined to barracks” for two days as punishment.
Mrs Salisbury-McLaren also stated that, as long as she lived, Nellie never felt she and Johnnie were really married. She had a boyfriend, named Jack Griffiths, who had a false leg and owned a shoe shop in the town and whom she courted before her marriage to Johnnie, and after he died, but she refused to marry him.
Private Hughes’ service record is as follows:
Enlisted in Flint, 23rd August, 1916, with the 13th Battalion Cheshire Regiment, No. 54667, attached to the 12th Welsh Regiment, and posted to a home base; previously served 36 days with the 9th Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers; transferred to the 8th Battalion Welsh Regiment, Indian Expeditionary Force, 12th February, 1917; embarked Devonport, 9th March, 1917; disembarked Bombay, 7th May, 1917; arrived Depot Kirkee, 7th May, 1917; admitted to hospital in Kirkee, 12th July, 1917, suffering from malarial fever with symptoms of vomiting and hallucinating. On enlistment he was 5ft 6 3⁄4ins, chest 39 1⁄2ins, weight 156lb, had flat feet, and his physical development was good; his wife, Eleanor, was awarded a widow’s pension of 13s 9d per week with effect from 28th January, 1918.
Private Hughes died on 20th July, 1917, at 10pm, at the Deccan British War Hospital, Poona, India, of Malaria.
He has no known grave but is commemorated on the Kirkee Memorial, Poona, India, on Face 6.
He is remembered on three war memorials: Flint Town, Seion Chapel, Hill Street, Flint and Oddfellows Hall, Flint, and was awarded the British War Medal and Victory Medal. He is also commemorated on the North Wales Heroes’ Memorial Arch, Bangor.
Private Hughes’ name was engraved twice on the Flint Town memorial because his mother and his wife put his name forward, and since they both gave a different address it wasn’t noticed they were one and the same.
Johnnie’s mother, Catherine, died on 1st September, 1931 and is buried in the Northop Road Cemetery, but not with either of her husbands.
Mrs Hughes, who was in her 92nd year, claimed to be the oldest inhabitant of the town. A native of Nevin, Anglesey, she had spent most of her life in Flint, having lived in the town for over 70 years. She was well known and highly respected in the town and district, and had been a lifelong member of the Seion Welsh Congregational Chapel, where she took an active part in the work of the cause. She retained all her faculties up to the time of her death, and she was remarkable for an extraordinary and vivid memory of events in the distant past.
Her daughter, Annie Davies, was engaged with the Friends of Armenia Society in the Syrian Mission Field during WW1 and for many years later. She died in 1958, aged 83, and was buried with her mother.
Nellie died at 11, Cilfan, Flint, in July, 1967, and was buried in the Old London Road Cemetery. She was a member of the Darby and Joan Club and the Parish Church.