Mr 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. By 1912 he had moved to live at Heath Cottage, Alum Chine Road, Bournemouth, Dorset 1.

He boarded Titanic at Southampton as a third class passenger (ticket number 341826 which cost £8, 1s) under the new 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 2.

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. Heath Cottage on Alum Chine Road was occupied on the 1911 census by an elderly couple, John and Mary Noble, natives of Somerset who had one child who remains unidentified. Is it possible that it was their child with whom Richard had a relationship?
  2. Or La Porte City, Iowa?

References and Sources

Record of Bodies and Effects (#103)
Contract Ticket List, White Star Line 1912 (National Archives, New York; NRAN-21-SDNYCIVCAS-55[279])
Record of Bodies and Effects: Passengers and Crew, S.S. Titanic (Public Archives of Nova Scotia)
Mansion House Titanic Relief Fund Booklets and Minute Books (p.25)

Documents and Certificates

(1901) Holsworthy, Devon - 1901 Census


(1912) A Postcard from Titanic
Search archive online

Comment and discuss

  1. Jon Stagg said:

    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

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Gavin Bell, UK
Steve Coombes, UK
Chris Dohany, USA
Rodney Hale
May Hardy
Craig Stringer, UK
Brian J. Ticehurst, UK

Link and cite this biography

Encyclopedia Titanica (2015) John Adams (ref: #619, last updated: 11th September 2015, accessed 11th June 2021 16:34:41 PM)

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