Mr John “Jack” Butterworth was born in Macclesfield, Cheshire, England on 6 February 1889.
The youngest boy in a family of fourteen children, he was the son of William James Butterworth (b. circa 1854), a butcher, and Mary Jane Jervis (also spelled Jervas) (b. 1853), natives of Macclesfield and Church Hulme, respectively who were married in 1872.
His siblings were: Sarah Elizabeth (b. 1874), William James (1875-1877), Harry (b. 1877), Laura (b. 1878), Ann (b. 1880), Amelia (b. 1882), Mary Jane (b. 1884), Alice (b. 1886), twins Arthur and William James (both 1887-1887), Charlotte (b. 1891), Ethel (b. 1893) and Bertha (1894-1895).
The family are not identifiable on the 1891 census, but when young John was enrolled as a student at St George’s School in Macclesfield in November 1895 his home address was given as 41 Old Park Lane, Macclesfield. Only months previous his mother had died aged 41.
Butterworth’s widowed father never remarried and he and young John appear on the 1901 census as residents of 20 Paradise Street, Macclesfield. His elder sister Laura ran the house whilst his other sisters all worked in silk and shirt-making. By 1911 the Butterworth home address was 12 Lord Street but John was absent and presumably at sea.
It is not clear when Butterworth first went to sea but it is clear that by 1912 he had been so for at least a few years. Working mainly out of Southampton, he became engaged to a Miss May Evaline Hinton (b. 1890) of Woolston, a domestic maid.
When he signed-on to the Titanic on 4 April 1912, Butterworth gave his local address as 270 Priory Road, St Denys, Southampton. As a first class steward he received monthly wages of £3, 15s. His previous ship had been the New York, the same vessel that Titanic had a near-collision with whilst leaving Southampton docks. Shortly after departure Butterworth wrote to his fiancée, posting his letter in Queenstown:
RMS Titanic. Queenstown. 12th [sic] April 1912
My Darling Girl,
We have been having a very fierce time in this steamer. I suppose you heard of the accident that occurred to the New York as we sailed this ship carried so much water between the Oceanic and New York that the York broke all her ropes and sailed all on her own, you could have tossed a penny from our ship to her she was so close, it was a good job she did not hit us as it would have been another case of the Hawke collision.
Well, dearest how do you feel? pretty lonely I guess after me being home for so long, but still we cannot grumble my dear as we have had a real good and happy time and I am so happy to think everything is all right. Well there is one consolation about it I shall soon be with you again all being well.
We do really enjoy ourselves when I am home, well I do not see why we should not anyhow, and again I think it does us both good for me to go away for a little stretch don't you dear? There are quite a lot of American Line men here so it is a little better for us to see a few old faces.
Our shore steward was aboard yesterday before we sailed and he saw me, so he said ''hello have you signed here?'' so I said ''yes!'' and then he said ''see you come back in time for your own ship'', so of course I thanked him and said ''yes'', which I may do if things do not turn out good here.
Will now close sweetheart take care of yourself dear, love to all at home and fondest love to yourself dearest.
Yours always - Jack
PS Don't forget to get me a Plymouth football paper.''
Fellow steward Percy Edward Keen recalled that shortly after the collision with the iceberg he tried to rouse Butterworth from his slumber, stating:
I got up and proceeded to dress. The shock had awakened several of my companions, but others were still asleep, and I roused them one by one. Steward Butterworth was in a deep slumber, and when I shook him hard and shouted in his ear: “Wake up, old chap, the ship’s stopped, something has happened,” he answered me drowsily and when at last I got some sense into him and saw him begin to put on his clothes we were ordered to come on deck and bring wraps with us, I never saw Butterworth again.
Jack Butterworth died in the sinking. May Hinton received his letter on Saturday 20 April 1912, her 21st Birthday, whilst she received notification from the White Star Line the same day that he was not among the survivors.
We regret to learn that another Macclesfield man, namely John Butterworth (23), whose parents reside in Lord Street, is amongst the missing members of the Titanic crew. He was employed as a saloon steward. — The Advertiser, 19 April 1912
His body was later recovered by the Mackay-Bennett (#116) and buried at sea on 24 April 1912.
NO. 116. - MALE. - ESTIMATED AGE, 26. - HAIR, RED.
CLOTHING - Dark clothes with steward's jacket; black boots.
EFFECTS - Cigarette case.
NAME - G. BUTTERWORTH. 270 Priory Rd., St. Dennis.
Number 326. Butterworth, William James, Father. Class D dependent. — Mansion House Titanic Relief Fund Booklet, March 1913
The letter to May Hinton and a photo postcard of Jack were sold at auction by Christies in 2003. Miss Hinton had married in 1915, becoming Mrs William Harold George Webb and raising a family. She died in Southampton in 1963.