My chief officer in the African was a man I have mentioned before, E. T. Jones, who wore an abnormally large black beard, from which he had acquired the soubriquet of “Black Jones.”
I had the very highest regard for him in every way. When we arrived home in February 1881, as a matter of course I went to London to see the directors. At that time the Roman had been chartered to take out troops to Natal.
There was then no master appointed to her, and I was questioned as to the ability of my chief officer, to which I replied that he was as good a man as I was. But, said one director, “is that the man with a black beard that looks like a pirate?” and the conversation closed with a laugh, and the intimation that they would come to Southampton to see about it.
When I returned that evening I got hold of Jones, and much against his will took him to a barber’s and had his beard off. It was a time for heroic measures, for that use of the shears probably decided the matter in his favour.
As, however, it would not do to send out troops with a man whose first voyage it was in command, he took the African and I the Roman, with orders to change again on the coast.