Mr James Marks was born in Wishaw near Glasgow, Lanarkshire, Scotland on 10 October 1884.1
He was the son of Irish parents, Robert John Marks (b. 1860) and Mary Jane Ferguson (b. 1865), natives of counties Londonderry and Tyrone, respectively, and he had six known siblings: Sarah (b. 1886), Matilda (b. 1889), Robert (b. 1891), Mary Jane (b. 1895), Isaac (b. 1897) and William (b. 1899).
The family appear on the 1891 census living at East Park Street in Cambuslang, Glasgow and James' father was described as a steel worker. The family later moved to Munro Place, Mill Road, Cambusnethan, Wishaw, Glasgow and show up at that address on the 1901 census. James was described as an iron worker and his father as a travelling sewing machinist.
James later moved to the south of England and enlisted in the Royal Marine Light Infantry's Portsmouth division on 1 November 1904. He then joined the Royal Navy as a stoker on 12 January 1906, his first ship being Nelson and was described at the time as standing at 5' 8¾", with dark brown hair, blue eyes and a fresh complexion. He would also serve aboard Victory II and Sapphire and made several voyages aboard Canopus which would prove to be his last ship with the Royal Navy; of differing conduct, he was shown to have spent at least one spell in the cells for misconduct, including abandonment, and also several spells of hard labour on account of his demeanour. His poor record of behaviour saw his eventual discharge on 25 March 1909.
He was married in Portsmouth in mid-1908 to a native of that city, Minnie Renyard (b. 17 February 1885) and the couple had one child, a son named Ronald James, towards the end of the year on 19 October. James is absent from the 1911 census but his wife and child are listed as living at 14 Landport Street, Landport, Portsmouth, the home of Minnie's father William George Renyard.
James and Minnie were reportedly estranged from each other by the time of the Titanic disaster; current-day family attest that the marriage between James and Minnie was a shotgun wedding and once James was let go from the Navy in 1909 he abandoned his wife and child and there was little to no contact between them.
When he signed-on to the Titanic, on 4 April 1912, James gave his address as 93 Livingstone Road, (Southampton). His last ship had been the Avon and as an assistant pantry steward he received monthly wages of £3, 15s.
James Marks died in the sinking and his body, if recovered, was never identified. His parents later benefitted from the Titanic Relief Fund as Class G dependents. They continued to live in Lanarkshire; his father died in 1918 and his mother in 1934.
His widow Minnie was later remarried in 1921, becoming Mrs William Butler and she had a son named Anthony John (1922-1995) the following year. She died in Gosport, Hampshire in 1971.
James' son Ronald later joined the RAF, working in communications and spent much of the time between the two Wars in Palestine. The outbreak of the Second World War saw him serving in Malta during the period that the island was blockaded by German forces. He later returned to the UK and was reportedly involved in the D-Day Landings in 1944. During peacetime he returned to England and was married in 1947 to Sheila Catherine Laura Irvine (1919-2006), a native of Oxfordshire, and the couple had two children. Ronald retired from the RAF in 1963, having risen to the rank of Wing Commander, and he then joined the Allied Radio Frequency Agency, part of NATO, in a civilian capacity. He died in Brussels, Belgium in 1972.
Graham Marks (Grandson of James Marks)
- Confusion over birthdate. Sometimes listed as 9 November 1884 but it appears he was in fact born on 10 November 1884.