Information on Jem’s boxing career and on his extraordinary fight successes is available in his autobiography, “Fifty Years a Fighter”, (recently reprinted), also in Graham Gordon’s book, “Master of the Ring” and on several web sites. However, Jem’s autobiography skirts round many issues and omits almost everything concerning wives, children, mistresses and doubtful financial dealings. Other authors have concentrated on his boxing and have only looked at his private life superficially, resulting in many errors.
This web site seeks to fill gaps and clarify the detail by doing the opposite. This site gives the background to Jem’s fights and the background to the organisation of prize fighting and boxing in the Victorian era, but does not go into detail about either. It concentrates on his private life and treats his career superficially. It does discuss his boxing, his influence on the sport, the political situation affecting his life and boxing in general and also the extraordinary manoeuvrings after his death. I have included a lot of visual material to illustrate the text and enough contemporary proof material to demonstrate the accuracy of many of the statements.
Unfortunately, because Jem was such a colourful character, his life and deeds have been used by several authors looking for an exciting subject. This has led to fictional literature about Jem which appears on the surface to be factual. An example of this is the William Bottle (Datas) account of a round the world trip undertaken in 1901/1902. Another example is Jeremy Poolman’s book “Gypsy Jem Mace”. Both of these examples contain accurate information woven into fictional accounts. A more subtle difficulty is presented by Larry Foley’s book “Captain of the Push”. This account gives facts which agree with outside sources reasonably accurately but Larry’s description of his relationship with Jem differs from Jem’s account and there is no way of knowing which is the more accurate. A further problem is brought about by the fact that Jem effectively lived serial “double lives”. This applied to both his financial and sexual dealings. He was, therefore, obliged to show different faces to different observers.
This site is copyright © Brian Pursall 2010. Individual items within the site may also be separately copyrighted.
I am well aware that there may be errors on this site (“to err is human...”). If anyone feels that any information is incorrect or incomplete, I would welcome the opportunity to make corrections to the site. Please note, however, that while statements of opinion are of interest and may be acted upon, statements together with valid sources will be acted upon unless there are more plausible contradictory sources. I have been researching Jem since 2007 but fresh evidence is always welcome. There is a contact feature available on the “Links” page.
There are a few conscious omissions. There are some events that have been described by others which I have researched, but failed to find any corroborating evidence. I have omitted such incidents unless logic leads me to believe the reports must be accurate. However, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. I am willing to be convinced.
An example is that several authors have stated that Jem bought (or was gifted) gold mining shares. I can find no evidence. Has anyone got proof, for example his name on a shareholder list?
I have tried to make the site an accurate reference document, not a literary masterpiece.
As further evidence has come to light I have upgraded the site accordingly. The availability of Islington voters lists and some Islington school records has enabled a better picture of Jem’s last few years. (Oct 2013) The reprint of Jem’s autobiography has enabled his early life to be clarified. (Apr 2015)