Mr John Richard Jago Smith (Postal Clerk) was born in the village of Lanarth near St Keverne, Cornwall, England on 7 March 1877, later being baptised on 31 December that same year.
He was the youngest child born to John Smith (b. 1844) and Mary Augusta Pengelly (b. 1849), both natives of St Keverne who had married on 20 April 1871. His father was a farmer of 100 acres and employed three men and one boy.
The youngest of four children, John siblings were: Susan Mary (b. 1873), Helena Augusta Fanny Maud (b. 1874) and James Sydney (b. 1875).
John appears on the 1881 and 1891 censuses living with his family at Trevithian in St Keverne and by the time of the latter record is described as a farmer's son, indicating that he had left school and was helping work the family farm. The family farm later became Trebarveth in St Keverne. Apparently not content with life as a farmer, John later went to work for the post office and began working in 1898 as a sorting and telegraph clerk and was listed as such when he appeared on the 1901 census, boarding at 14 Thorn Terrace in Liskeard, Cornwall.
His mother died in 1910 and his widowed father and unmarried sister Susan appeared on the 1911 census living at Trebarveth. The whereabouts of John at the time are not clear but it is believed he was working in the Southampton branch of the post office, later working for the sea post department which placed clerks on various mail carrying vessels.
By early 1912 Smith was engaged to be married but the identity of his fiancée is unknown. Still a resident of Trebarveth, Smith also resided at 45 Atherley Road whilst in Southampton.
In April 1912 Smith was assigned to service aboard Titanic along with his colleague John Bertram Williamson and they were joined by three American postal clerks, William Gwinn, John March and Oscar Woody. Their accommodation on the ship was close to the third class accommodation on F deck. The post sorting room on Titanic was located in the fourth compartment, forward on G deck. Almost directly below, on the Orlop deck, was where the mail was initially stacked along with the first-class baggage. The two levels were connected by a wide companionway. After the collision the Orlop deck was one of the first to be flooded and it was from here that Smith and the other clerks laboured to bring 200 sacks of registered mail, weighing upwards of 100lb each, up to the higher level of G deck. Their labours were in vain as barely 5 minutes passed before the water level had reached the top of the steps on G deck. At about this time Smith left the others and ran upstairs and told Fourth Officer Boxhall that the sorting room was rapidly filling with water. Boxhall ordered him to report to the Captain while and he went below to check. Afterward, Smith returned below to his colleagues but by now, barely 20 minutes after striking the iceberg the sorting office was already two feet deep in water and before long it was completely flooded. Smith and the others then attempted to take what mail they could up to the D deck level in the hope that the bags could be off-loaded through the first class entrance, but this turned out to be a forlorn hope.
Smith, alongside his four postal colleagues, was lost in the sinking; his body, if recovered, was never identified.
On 5 May 1912 all ranks of the Southampton postal staff attended a service at St Peters Church in Southampton in memory of their colleagues who had worked unfailingly in their duty right up to the time of the ship sinking. The Postal and Telegraph Services later placed a memorial plaque in the church at St Keverne in memory of John Richard Jago Smith.
His father later resided at Church Road in Landewednack, Cornwall; he died on 23 August 1920. His sister Susan Mary remained a spinster and remained living at Trebarveth; she died on 11 December 1959.
Family Grave at St Keverne
Plaque at St Keverne
© Stephen Coombes, UK