Mr Richard May (aka John Adams) was born in Pancrasweek, Bradworthy, Devon, England in the closing months of 1885.
He was the son of John May (b. 1862), a farm labourer, and Mary Elizabeth Slee (b. 1863), Devonshire natives who had married in 1882. He had five siblings: John Henry (b. 1883), Ethel Mary Elizabeth (b. 1891), Elsie Rebecca (b. 1896), Sarah Jane (b. 1897) and Mabel Grace (b. 1900).
He appears on the 1891 census living at Week Hill Cottage, Pancrasweek and on the following 1901 census at Burmard House, Holsworthy by which time he was described as a carter on a farm. His family appear on the 1911 census living at Week Park, Black Torrington, Highampton, Holsworthy but Richard is not listed with them.
Richard worked as a farm hand and at some time moved from Devon to live in Yeovil, Somerset.
In 1911, he went by John Adams and lived as a boarder in the family of one Wyndham Burden, 27, a fruit and vegetable dealer and greengrocer, at Kinson, Walls Down, Dorset (Kinson became part of Bournemouth in 1931). John Adams was described as an unmarried farm hand aged 25 and a native of Pancras Week, Hants (?) Devon.
The Western Chronicle 19 April 1912 stated he had booked his ticket at Messrs. Bell & Co., and gave his home as the village of Wallisdown [Walls Down].
The Courier (Waterloo, Iowa) 26 April 1912 stated he was coming to work for Ed. Haring on the C. B. Gingrich farm south of La Porte. Mr. Haring had met him in England two years before the disaster and Mr. Adams had expressed a desire to come to the USA to work, and Mr. Haring had sent him money for the passage over the Atlantic as well as railway fare from New York to La Porte. Mr. Adams' mother lived in Dorchester, England, according to the article, although other sources give her address as Bournemouth.
He boarded Titanic at Southampton as a third class passenger (ticket number 341826 which cost £8, 1s) under the name of John Adams. There is speculation that he was fleeing a failed relationship and it is believed he was heading for La Porte, Indiana.
Richard May (aka John Adams) died in the sinking. His body was recovered by the cable ship MacKay Bennett (#103) on 23 April 1912 and buried at sea the following day.
NO. 103. - MALE. - ESTIMATED AGE, 28. - HAIR AND MOUSTACHE, LIGHT.
CLOTHING - Grey suit; soft striped shirt; brown boots.
EFFECTS - One silver watch; one nickel watch; two coin chains; pouch; two knives; purse $15.00 in gold; $3.00 in bills and coins.
THIRD CLASS TICKET NO. 341826.
NAME - JOHN ADAMS.
The Mansion House Titanic Relief Fund paid £20 to his "mother" "Mrs Adams", at Heath Cottage, Alum Chine Road, Bournemouth, Hampshire.
His father died on 8 January 1918 and his mother on 16 November 1940. Richard has a memorial on his their gravestone which is located in the churchyard of the Methodist Chapel in the small hamlet of Lana near Pancrasweek, Devon. The inscription reads:
In Loving Memory of