Jem opened a boxing school in Cape Town.

In 1903 he fought an exhibition bout with Jack Valentine.

He fought an exhibition bout with Billy Clark.

On 18 Jan 1904 he fought an exhibition bout with Jack Valentine.

Some confusion has been caused among historians about this period  partly because original sources of information from South Africa are very scarce and partly because, in order to make a buck, a journalist and friend of Jem’s called Datas (real name, William Bottle) wrote a totally fictitious account of Jem taking a round the world trip at this time. Unfortunately, he was widely believed. The practice of writing fiction about well known figures is common. (It is easier than finding out the real facts).

On 4 May 1904 Alice wrote to her brother Samuel Frederick Belwood Douglas Stokes, and sent him a postcard for his 21st birthday (on 26 May 1904).

The boxing school was not successful and with Alice again becoming pregnant, they decided to close it and return to England.


On 17 Sep 1904 they arrived back in Southampton on board the Union Castle line “Kenilworth Castle”. The ship was very new having only been put into service that year. The passenger list showing Jem & Alice is below

Jem and Alice lived in a flat in Huguenot Building, Queen Victoria Street, Cape Town. This was new expensive property facing a park. A picture is opposite and following is a description from the Government Gazette.

This predominantly Edwardian building was erected by the Synod of the Dutch Reformed Church to commemorate the arrival of the French Huguenots (1688). The foundation stone was laid on 24 Aug 1899 and the building was officially opened on 15 Oct 1903. The mortal remains of President S.J.P.Kruger lay in state here from 1 Dec to 6 Dec 1904.

On 28 Nov 1903 Jem and Alice boarded the Union Castle line “Avondale Castle” in Southampton bound for Cape Town, South Africa. A postcard of the ship is opposite

1903 - 1910 …… South Africa

Graham Much, who is descended from Nellie Gore’s family, told me that there is a belief in his family that several of Jem’s children made the trip from Liverpool to Southampton to “see off” their father on his latest adventure. I can think of no way of proving or disproving this, but it seems very plausible.

The term was widely used when someone of little consequence died or the physician did not wish to commit himself to a more exact cause.

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When they returned Jem and Alice moved into a rented flat at 9, Colebrooke Row, Islington, London. Unfortunately Hitler knocked down No 9, so a picture of No 15, Colebrooke Row follows. This is the house that Alexander Mcleish and Polly lived in, and in which Jem and Alice’s children spent most of their childhoods.

The adjacent picture dates from about this time.

On 23 Nov 1904 Jem gave an interview to “The Sportsman”.

On 3 Feb 1905 a daughter was born, whose name was registered as Ellen Norah Mace. The name is a clear reference to Jem’s previous daughter by Nellie with whom Jem had bonded during her early life in Australia and who had unfortunately died as a teenager while visiting her grandparents in Ireland. She was known by the shortened form  “Ella”. She is referred to in the 1911 census as “Ella Norah”. I can find no record of any of Jem’s children being baptised.

Throughout 1905 Jem continued fighting exhibition bouts, in particular in April with Wolf Bendoff. Since he was now 74, he was not the force he was in his youth, and the exhibitions did not attract the publicity of previous years.

On 26 Jan 1907 he was performing at Billy Le Neve’s boxing booth at Olympia.

On 23 Mar it was reported in “Mirror of Life” that Jem was planning a boxing school at 6, Spur Street, Leicester Square.

On 15 Dec he had his own boxing booth at Olympia.

Jem, Alice and their family remained at 9, Colebrooke Row, Islington until Alice’s death in 1908. Mr J Pitt Hardacre, an actor manager wrote the following in a article in the Adelaide Advertiser on 22 Nov 1911.

On 14 April 1908 Polly was officially granted burial rights for Alice. Grave No 4653p, Section X, Block 3. Her burial plot and tombstone were provided by Alexander McLeish. The inscription  highlights the children’s affection for her, but pointedly, does not mention Jem.


Alex had been obliged to bear much of the financial burden of keeping Alice and her children. He was clearly unhappy with Jem’s inability to provide even for Alice’s funeral. Alex was also a Scottish Presbyterian and Jem’s anti-Christian attitudes would also not have been popular.

On 6 Feb 1908 Jem and Frank Bradley were filmed sparring by the “Gaumont Picture Co.” at Chrono House, Piccadilly.

On 15 Feb he was performing at Olympia (presumably in Billy LeNeve’s boxing booth).

On 22 Jan 1908 Alice Caroline died at 9, Colebrooke Row, Islington from tuberculosis at the age of 36. On 27 Jan she was buried in Finchley cemetery.


Alexander Mcleish was a grocer born in Midlothian, Scotland in 1854. He married Alice’s older sister Mary Ann (known as Polly) Stokes in Glasgow on 13 Dec 1892. Polly had “female” problems and hence was childless. Polly became one of the first women to have a successful hysterectomy. When Alice died, Alexander Mcleish gave up his grocer’s shop in Glasgow and he and his wife temporarily moved in with Jem at 9, Colebrooke Row to look after the children.

On 9 May 1908 “The Sportsman”, aware of his growing financial problems, organised a shilling subscription for Jem.

Jem’s book “Boxing”, a text book on boxing technique was published in about 1890. His autobiography, “Fifty Years a Fighter”, was published in 1908. In it, Jem details his career, but mentions almost nothing about his private life or his financial dealings. Surprisingly, he does not even mention Alice or any of his three wives. The only woman he mentions is Adah Menkin. I am sure this went down like a lead balloon in several households. The books were poorly marketed and provided little income. Below is a photograph of both books from a recent sale.

Above is the front cover of a 2014 reprint of Jem’s autobiography.

On 12 Feb 1909 Jem made headlines by applying for the newly instituted, means tested, old age pension in Camberwell. It seemed unbelievable to most of the population that someone who had once been famed for the grandeur of his lifestyle could have sunk so low.


It is slightly odd that he should have applied in Camberwell since he was a registered voter in Islington. He was presumably temporarily living with his daughter Adelaide Turvill at 102, Barry Road, Camberwell.

During 1909 he gave exhibitions in Hull and Coventry.

Following are two pictures of Jem taken in his old age.

On 2 Apr 1910 he gave an interview to the “Manchester Guardian”

Jem was, by 1910, virtually destitute and toured with his Gypsy relatives, William and Nora LeNeve, proprietors of “Sullivan’s Circus”. The circus toured during the summer and spent the winter in caravans. At the time of his death, Jem and the LeNeves were living in caravans on a site in Princess Street, Jarrow which had previously been a mining spoil heap. It was referred to, somewhat unkindly, as “Jarrow Pit Heap”.    


On 30 Nov 1910 Jem died at the age of 79. The cause of death was given as “senile decay”.

In 1909 Jem moved to 15 Colebrooke row and remained a registered voter there until his death. Alexander and Polly McLeish moved next door to 16, Colebrooke Row.