On 24 September, 1759, James Cook, accompanied by his servant, Joseph White, joined HMS Northumberland as master taking over from James Jones.
Jones had occupied the position since 1 May, 1758. On 26-27 May, 1760, after Northumberland had successfully reached Quebec to relieve the British garrison, various officers were redeployed, and John James joined the ship as third lieutenant. He remained until the return to Britain in late 1762. Cook was not to know that these two men were connected.
James Jones remained in the Royal Navy for only a few years after his time on Northumberland, as he applied for superannuation in 1763:
John Clevland. James Jones, a Master in the RN, has served 15 years, as listed overleaf, and is eligible for superannuation as sea officer of a 1st Rate. He has sworn he is about 58 years of age.1
Jones (born, therefore, about 1705) retired to his family home in central Wales at Rhayader in Radnorshire where he died 12 years later in 1775.
Will of James Jones, late Master in His Majesty’s Navy of Rhaeadr, Radnorshire.2
In his will he wrote, “I hereby name and appoint my kinsman John James now or lately Lieutenant of his Majesties ship the Levant sole heir of all my real and personal estate and executor.”
That was the same Lieutenant James who had sailed on Northumberland. So, James Jones and John James were related, though the exact relation-ship remains unknown.
John James (born 1737) had joined the Royal Navy in 1751. He received his lieutenant’s com-mission in May 1758. He was appointed as third lieutenant to HMS Sutherland, which was part of the flotilla dispatched to Canadian waters.
According to family tradition James was present at the siege of Louisbourg in 1758 and the battle of Quebec in 1759. He is supposed to have helped carry Wolfe’s body off the battlefield on the Plains of Abraham.
After his time on Northumberland, James served successively on HMS Coventry, Romney and Tweed, through to 1775 when he was first lieutenant on HMS Levant. Apparently, by 1775, his health had deteriorated, and, with the benefits of his kinsman’s will, he was able to retire from the navy to live on his new properties at Rhayader in Radnorshire, Wales. He developed Penralley house and estate outside Rhayader.
In 1780, James married Jane Probert (born 1757), the daughter of Evan and Margaret Probert of Gloucestershire. Together they had eight children. Son John Jones James sailed with the East India Company before dying at sea and being buried on St. Helena in 1837. Another son, Horatio James, became a commander in the Royal Navy. Two other sons (both Hugh) died young, while four sisters (Jane, Catherine, Margaret and Sarah) never married.
John James died in 1790, aged 52, and was buried at St Clement’s in Rhayader. Jane James died in 1844.
- The National Archives (TNA). ADM 354/170/267. 10 January 1763.
- TNA. PROB 11/1008/256. 9 June 1775.
Originally published in Cook's Log, page 9, volume 38, number 4 (2015).