Wales v Scotland - Alexander Jones

Alexander Fletcher Jones was born in 1854, the fourth son of William Jones of Lochmaben. He was educated at Oswestry School becoming the first pupil there to be awarded a scholarship. Jones was admitted as a Scholar of Brasenose College at Oxford University, aged 18, in the autumn of 1872. A fantastic academic, he obtained first class honours in Mathematics in 1875 and Natural Sciences in 1876 remaining at college until 1877.

In his time at Oxford, Jones played football with one report describing him as "an admirable centre player" (he played at centre forward). He was selected in January 1877 to play for North Wales against Sheffield. Jones impressed sufficiently to merit a call up to the Wales full national team for a game on 5 March 1877 against Scotland. This was Wales’ second ever international game having lost 4-0 against Scotland in Partick the previous year. The game involving Jones was therefore the 1st international played in Wales. The venue was The Racecourse in Wrexham.

With Jones lining up as the ninth name on the team sheet, he and his team mates improved on the previous year’s effort with, "the Welsh team (performing) more brilliantly than ever before". The improvement though was insufficient to prevent defeat. Scotland captain, Charles Campbell, a future President of the SFA, put his side ahead with the only goal of his 13 caps. Scotland scored a second by virtue of an own goal by William Evans who like Jones was at Oxford University.

Jones and his team mates though have some respectability in the result. In the early days of international football, Scotland took a lot of beating. Campbell for example in his 13 games for Scotland only once tasted defeat. This was largely due to the superiority of the Scots passing tactics. This was opposed to England for example whose players adopted a more James McFadden like approach of a man trying to win the game single handed when in possession of the ball. Scotland’s next game was a 7-2 win over England. In Wales’ next game, again against Scotland, they were blitzed 9-0.
 
In May 1877 two months after his international debut, Jones took up a position in Bristol at Clifton College as a master. Whilst there, he joined the 2nd Gloucestershire Engineer Volunteer Corps. Jones was promoted to the rank of Second Lieutenant in January 1878. In the same month he played football for nearby Shrewsbury Town. It was though from his military service that the tragedy occurred that meant Jones would not be available for international football after his debut appearance.

On 16th February 1878, two parties of the Clifton College Cadet Corps journeyed to Avonmouth to the firing range. The Cadet Corps was attached to the Administrative Battalion of the Gloucestershire Engineer Volunteers. Jones was in command of one of the parties with the other under the charge of a Sergeant William Elton. Both parties returned on the 5.35 pm train from Avonmouth.

The train stopped at Sea Mills. Sergeant Elton was in conversation with one of the cadets, Edward George Hemming. Hemming in looking to demonstrate his perceived short comings of another boy was waving around his Sneider Enfield rifle. In the hurry to catch the train, Hemming had failed to unload the weapon which duly went off. The bullet shot through the wall to the next compartment and killed Jones instantly. He was 24.

The inquest followed at Clifton College two days later. The Coroner made it bluntly clear from the beginning to the jury that he was expecting them to return a verdict of accidental death. Summing up he said, “In a case like this one could not help feeling deep sympathy with the family of the deceased but he could not help thinking that they should extend their sympathy to the young man who had been the innocent cause of the death of this young officer”. The jury obliged as per The Coroner’s direction.

At least one article asks a couple of questions that introduce some controversy into the events. Firstly is the suggestion that Fletcher as the senior officer involved should have ensured both parties and not just his own had rifles unloaded and cartridges returned at the cease fire. Secondly the question is asked as to the impartiality of The Coroner at the hearing in his overt sympathy toward Hemming. Hemming’s father was a prominent QC in the area.

Jones is commemorated at Oswestry School by means of a memorial window and at Clifton College with a brass plaque in the ante-chapel:


In memory of Alexander Fletcher Jones, B.A.
A Master in this College, Who was killed by the accidental discharge of a rifle at Sea Mills, February 16th, 1878, Aged 24 years.
"Peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits." — Jas. iii. 17

 

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