Adams, James Williams (DNB12)

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ADAMS, JAMES WILLIAMS (1839–1903), army chaplain in India, born on 24 Nov. 1839 in Cork, was only son of three children of James O'Brien Adams, magistrate of Cork (d. 1854), by his wife Elizabeth Williams. Educated at Hamlin and Porter's School, on the South Mall, Cork, he proceeded to Trinity College, Dublin, where he graduated B.A. in 1861. He always excelled in athletics, and was regarded as the strongest man in Ireland, vying with his friend Frederick Burnaby [q. v.] in gymnastic feats. He was ordained deacon 1863 and priest 1864 and served curacies at Hyde, Hampshire (1863-5), and at Shottesbrook, Berkshire (1865-6). In Oct. 1866 he became a chaplain on the Bengal establishment under Bishop Robert Milman [q. v.] at Calcutta. Here he had a severe attack of fever, and after sick leave to Ceylon was appointed to Peshawar. There he was indefatigable in visiting the out stations Naushahra and Kohat; he did much in restoring and beautifying the church and the cemetery at Peshawar, and received the thanks of government for his exertions in the cholera camps during two outbreaks. Save for some months at Allahabad (March to Dec. 1870) he remained at Peshawar till December 1872. He was then stationed at the camp of exercise at Hassan Abdul army headquarters till March 1873, and in 1874 he was sent to Kashmir on special duty. Here he built, in great part with his own hands, a church of pine logs, where services were frequently held for the numerous visitors to Gulmarg and Sonamarg; it was subsequently burnt down by accident.

In January 1876 Adams was appointed to Meerut, and in December took charge of the cavalry and artillery camp for the Delhi durbar on the visit of the Prince of Wales (afterwards King Edward VII).

Subsequently he had experience of much active warfare. In Nov. 1878 he joined the Kuram field force under Sir Frederick (afterwards Earl) Roberts, and was engaged in all the operations in the advance on Kabul. At Villa Kazi on 11 Dec. 1879 he risked his life in rescuing several men of the 9th lancers, who were in danger of drowning in a watercourse while the Afghans were near at hand. Lord Roberts witnessed Adams's exploit and recommended him for the Victoria Cross, which he received from Queen Victoria on 4 Aug. 1881. He also took part in the march of Lord Roberts from Kabul to Kandahar in August 1880, and was present at battle of Kandahar on 1 Sept. 1880. On returning to India after furlough in 1881 Adams spent a year at Lucknow. During three years (1883-5) at Naini Tal he was instrumental in the erection of an east window and reredos in memory of the victims of the great landslip. In 1885 he accompanied the field force under Lord Roberts up country in Burma, and he took part in the operations there. He had already received the bronze star for the Kabul - Kandahar march and the Afghan war medal with four clasps, Kandahar, Kabul, Charasiab, and Peiwar Kotal; he was now awarded the Burmah field force medal.

Through twenty years' service in India Adams was 'the idol of the soldiers.' In 1886 he settled in England, and from 1887 to 1894 he held the rectory of Postwick near Norwich. After two years' rest in Jersey he became in 1896 vicar of Stow Bardolph with Wimbotsham near Downham Market. He was appointed in 1900 honorary chaplain to Queen Victoria, and King Edward VII made him chaplain in ordinary in 1901. In 1902 he left Stow for the small living of Ashwell, near Oakham. There he died on 20 Oct. 1903. On 30 June 1903 Dublin University had conferred on him the honorary degree of M.A. While in England on furlough he married on 16 Aug. 1881 Alice Mary, daughter of General Sir Thomas Wiltshire [q. v.] She survived him with an only daughter, Edith Juliet Mary.

Three brass tablets were erected to his memory one by the patron, Sir Thomas Hare, in Stow Bardolph church; another by Lord Roberts in a little church in the fen district of Stow, built as a memorial ; and the third in Peshawar Church, put up in 1910 by friends who had known 'Padre Adams' in Peshawar or during the Afghan war.

[Private information from his widow; Army Lists; The Times, October 1903; H. B. Hanna, The Second Afghan War, 1910, iii. 181; Lord Roberts, Forty-one Years in India, pp. 142, 143, and 275; Burke's Baronetage.]

H. M. V.