Jones, Alfred Lewis (DNB12)

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JONES, Sir ALFRED LEWIS (1845–1900), man of business, born at Carmarthen on 24 February 1845, was son of Daniel Jones of Carmarthen by his wife Mary, eldest daughter of Henry Williams, rector of Llanedi, South Wales. Ho was one of nine children, most of whom died young, and came to Liverpool with his parents when two years old. Here after being educated at different schools he began to earn his living in 1860, when he became first a ship's apprentice and then a clerk to the firm of Fletcher and Parr of Liverpool, which did business in a small way with the West Coast of Africa as agents of the African Steamship Co. Of an evening he attended classes at the Liverpool College. His energy was rewarded by his becoming manager of the firm; but owing to some changes in the business Jones on 1 Jan. 1878 started on his own account as a shipping and insurance broker, gradually making for himself a good position. Messrs. Elder, Dempster had absorbed much of his old firm's business, and in 1876 he boldly offered to take control of their concern or buy them out. Quickly raising substantial capital, he became in 1879 junior partner and was soon the master spirit of Messrs. Elder, Dempster's business. His first aim was to monopolise the whole shipping trade of the West African ports, and with this object he absorbed competing lines, British for foreign, including the British and African Steam Navigation Company, for which he paid nearly 1,000,000l. From shipping he passed to promotion of the general trade of the West Coast ports, including banking arrangements and hotels. In 1894 he started oilmills in Liverpool for the manufacture of the West African produce, and purchased mines in South Wales from which to draw steam coal. In 1897 he founded the Bank of British West Africa.

Jones's chief success was in revivifying the Canaries, which about 1880 were on the verge of bankruptcy. Visiting them in 1884 on coaling business, he urged their people to grow bananas; then he brought their fruit, especially bananas, to England, inaugurated a tourist traffic, employed the islands as sanatoriums (cf. Taylor's Canary Islands, London, 1893, p. 67) for invalided officers from the West Coast colonies, and established a coaling station and works at Las Palmas.

In 1900 Mr. Chamberlain, secretary of state for the colonies, invited Jones's co-operation in developing the trade of the West Indies. Although by no means satisfied with the government subsidy, Jones energetically carried out the contract which he undertook in 1901 to inaugurate a new steamship service with Jamaica. He built a new class of steamer, and gave liberal terms to tourists, for whom he bought new hotels at Constant Spring and Myrtle Grove. His new line he worked from the docks at Avonmouth, near Bristol, thus restoring to Bristol its ancient West Indian trade. He established a branch house at Bristol and formed a branch firm named Elders and Fyffes, which popularised the Jamaica banana in the West of England. He many times revisited the Canary Islands, and twice he was in Jamaica, the second time during the serious earthquake in Kingston in January 1907.

In the interest of the colonial territories with which he was in contact, Jones, readily following the lead of the colonial office, helped to found in 1899 the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, to which he gave generous support. The London School of Tropical Medicine had been established the year before. Again, in June 1902 he founded and acted as first president of the British Cotton Growing Association. In June 1903 he became chairman of the Liverpool Institute of Tropical Research. He was also president of the Liverpool Chamber of Commerce, and a member of Mr. Chamberlain's tariff commission formed in 1904. He was consul in Liverpool for the Congo Free State.

Jones was made a K.C.M.G. in 1901, and was elected an honorary fellow of Jesus College, Oxford, in 1905, by way of acknowledgment more especially of the services he rendered to tropical medicine. He also received foreign decorations from Belgium, Spain, Russia, Portugal, and the Liberian republic. He died on 13 Dec. 1909; from heart failure at his residence, Oaklands, Aigburth, Liverpool, and was buried at Anfield cemetery, Liverpool. He was unmarried; his sister, Mrs. Pinnock, lived with him from her early widowhood.

Jones's organising capacity was very great, and his energy tireless. With cheery and vigorous self-assertiveness he combined genuine benevolence and public spirit. The Alfred Jones professorship in tropical medicine at Liverpool University was largely endowed by Jones, who bequeathed his fortune of some 600,000l. for educational and scientific purposes tending to benefit Liverpool or the West Coast of Africa.

A portrait in oils, presented by the merchants of Liverpool, hangs in the Walker art gallery of that city. A memorial to include a statue is proposed at Liverpool.

[Liverpool Courier, 14 Dec. 1909 (which has autobiographical notes); Times, 14 Dec. 1909; Who's Who, 1909; a sketch in Pitman's Commercial Reader, p. 118; private information from Mrs. Pinnock; personal knowledge.]

C. A. H.