Encyclopedia Titanica

John Adams

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.


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.





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:

© Steve Coombes, UK

In Loving Memory of
Beloved husband of
Mary May
of Week Park, Black Torrington
died January 8th 1918
aged 56 years. - Also of Richard, beloved
son of the above
who lost his life on the Titanic
April 15th 1912
aged 28 years. - Thy Will Be Done.



  1. Or La Porte City, Iowa?

Comment and discuss

  1. Jon Stagg

    Jon Stagg

    Has anyone carried out any research on John Adams? Reason I ask is that I'm trying to verify the truth of my late grandmother's story that her sister left the country under an assumed name with her fiancee and was lost on the Titanic. The sister's name was Elsie Rodd, but was known as Elsie May. We dont know the name of the fiancee. What she did tell us was the fiancee came from a Yeovil family, but was living in Bournemouth immediately before they left. Gran said there was some kind of problem with the fiancee's family disowning him because they considered the match below him. Gran's family... Read full post

  2. David Huffaker

    One possible link to the Adams name - his maternal aunt - Sarah Jane Slee married William Adams in 1889 in Dorset.

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Titanic Passenger Summary

Name: Mr John Adams (Richard May)
Age: 26 years (Male)
Nationality: English
Marital Status: Single
Embarked: Southampton on Wednesday 10th April 1912
Ticket No. 341826, £8 1s
Died in the Titanic disaster (15th April 1912)
Body recovered by: Mackay-Bennett (No. 103)
Buried at Sea on Wednesday 24th April 1912

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