Jem’s death was registered by Norah LeNeve on 2 Dec 1910 and William LeNeve informed the press.
Jem’s fame was such that obituaries appeared in every major newspaper in the whole English speaking world. It is difficult to imagine anyone, whose major achievements were 40 years previously being such a celebrity that they would receive that kind of coverage.
On 6 Dec 1910 Jem’s funeral was held in Liverpool. His Plymouth Brethren preacher son, Alfred, officiated. It is very unlikely that Jem would have wanted a Christian burial, but he was dead, so he could not argue.
The Liverpool Daily Courier reported that the following principal mourners were at the the funeral.
Mrs Mace.................(this has to be Nellie, other possibilities were dead),
Rev Alfred Mace........(Jem’s oldest surviving son by Mary Ann),
Mr J Mace................(presumably James Mace 2, Jem’s second oldest surviving son by Mary Ann),
Mrs Shepherd...........(née Elsie Theodora Mace, Alfred’s oldest daughter),
Mr J F Mace.............(John Farnham Mace, Alfred’s youngest son),
Mr W Turvill............ (William Turvill, husband of Adelaide Mace, Jem’s oldest daughter by Mary Ann),
Mr & Mrs A McMillin.......(née Amelia Martha Mace, Jem’s oldest daughter by Hannah, & her husband),
Mr T McMillin & Mr W McMillin.....(grandsons),
Mr Mace......................(it is not certain but this is probably Nellie’s son, born John George F Lee),
Mrs A Mace..................(Hannah Ada Mace, Jem’s 2nd daughter by Hannah),
Mr E McCall..................(Nellie’s brother in law)
Mr Taylor & Mr Foster.....(it is not clear who they are, but presumably friends or relations of Nellie),
Mr & Mrs LeNeve............(Jem’s circus owning gypsy relations),
Mr Sam Nixon,...............(one of Jem’s Australian managers)
Mr Charles Nixon............(presumably a relation of Sam),
There was also present a large number of the boxing community, including ex Detective Inspector Hale and Commander McNab RNR. The funeral directors were R. McDougall & Co. Ltd. of Renshaw Street.
Alice’s family were conspicuous by their absence. Since Alice was now dead and Jem & Alice’s relationship was probably viewed as extra-marital by Nellie, it is likely they were not invited.
The original plan had been to bury him in the McMillin family plot in Anfield Cemetery. He was actually buried in an adjacent pauper’s plot No CH594 with no headstone. The reason given was that no member of any of Jem’s four families were willing to foot the bill. However, judging by subsequent events, it is much more likely that Nellie did not wish to have a constant reminder of her errant husband, and did not wish for the grave to become a pilgrimage site for “undesirables”. A picture follows.
Following is the front page of “Boxing” magazine issued on 10 Dec 1910, following Jem’s death.
Jem had become an embarrassment to all his immediate relatives. The religious ones wanted to distance themselves from Jem’s anti-Christian views and his “immoral” lifestyle. All wanted to distance themselves from his outlaw past and implied Gypsy ancestry. They wanted to pretend he had never existed. The family’s feeling ran so deep that it echoed down the generations. One of Jem’s grandsons was told not to tell anyone at school that his grandfather had been a boxer.
At the time of Jem’s death, the situation in America was changing. America was becoming more powerful. American media, and in particular, the Hollywood film industry, became all pervasive worldwide. Hollywood needed all American Heroes to help their home box office receipts, so they neatly forgot Jem Mace and extolled the undoubted virtues of the long line of All American Heavyweight boxers that followed him.
For Jem’s image, this was a double whammy. He was, for many years, relegated by American media to virtual invisibility, only to re-emerge in recent years as historians and boxing fans have looked again at the history.
On 25 Apr 1987, a modernistic, life-size, bronze statue by New Orleans Sculptor Paul Perret was unveiled at LaSalle’s Landing, Kenner, Louisiana, to commemorate the 1870 World Championship fight held there.
Bearing in mind the fact that, at the time, both of the contestants were English and were fighting there contrary to American law and against a background of official opposition, the ostentatious display of American nationalism seems odd. Two pictures follow.
On finding out that Jem’s grave was unmarked, some members of the boxing community offered to fund a gravestone. Family members, presumably primarily Nellie, refused to allow this. Leading to the ludicrous situation where one of the most famous men on the planet was buried in an anonymous plot and many of his family tried to pretend he had never existed.
On 20 Jul 1912 Loftus Lambert backed by Jem’s boxing supporters, frustrated by Nellie’s refusal to allow a memorial in Liverpool, had a memorial erected in Norwich Cemetery. Where it remained until 1968 when it was removed to allow the construction of a Cremation Chapel. It was stored until 1976.
On 10 Apr 1976 it was re-erected in St Mary’s Church graveyard, Beeston, next to his father William’s grave. Pictures of the memorial and the church follow.
Archives of Memorabilia are at:
The Swaffham Museum, 4, London Street, Swaffham PE37 7QY
Norfolk Millenium Library (Local Studies) Forum, Norwich, NR2 1AW
In 1986 the Beeston Parish Council decided that, as Beeston’s only claim to fame, Jem deserved a better memorial. So they erected a replacement. Following is a picture of the unveiling ceremony performed by Mr S. H. G. Clarke, chairman of Beeston Parish Council. The rector Rev A. G. N. Daynes is far left.
Following is a picture of the replacement memorial.
Even at the time of his death Jem remained famous, as this cigarette card, from a series of famous sportsmen, published by Mecca cigarettes about 1910 demonstrates.
In 2002 Jem’s remains were removed from the “pauper’s plot” and re-interred in the McMillin plot in Anfield Cemetery.
On 31 Nov 2002, 92 years after his death, a suitable headstone was unveiled over his remains. It was paid for by subscriptions organised by the Merseyside Ex-boxers Association and bears a beautifully worded (but misspelled) inscription. A picture follows.
Alex and Polly continued to treat Jem and Alice’s children as though they were their own for the rest of their lives. This is a picture of Mary Ann (Polly) Mcleish née Stokes.
After Jem died Alexander and Polly Mcleish gave up their flat at 16 Colbrooke Row and moved into 15, Colbrooke Row with Jem and Alice’s children.