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Father Jones Remembered: A Celebration

June 4th 2011

The morning of June 4th dawned warm and dry, and we arrived at St. Mary’s early to meet with the family of Father Jones, noting that the repairs to the tower and elsewhere had been completed, the site cleared of debris, the grass cut and hedgerows trimmed. Apart from some recently sprayed orange graffiti, the whole hilltop was looking at its very best.

In the presence of Father Jones’s brother Peter, sister-in-law Jean, and niece Gaynor, Sean Gilmore, a talented young violinist, played the hauntingly beautiful and poignant ‘Adoration’ by Borowski and also Meditation from the opera Thais by Massenet while Delia read the following passage of Father Jones’s memoir:

Listening to the tributes.
'The walls of the church were now finished, and that was how I felt. It seemed to me the work was endless and progress so slow I had a break and came up to the church a few days later one sunny afternoon, not to work, just to look. As I stood there thinking and praying and feeling very low, “Can I finish it? Will I finish it?”, then the answer came in a wonderful way. I was standing facing the east wall, the sun was high in the afternoon sky. Then the shadow of that cross appeared on the east wall, where the altar would be. It was as if God had spoken to me direct. “You will finish it.” And I never had any doubt after that moment. If you think about it and of all the conditions that had to be met for it to happen, then it was a supernatural event, a miracle. It had never happened before and it would never happen again. The roof had to be off, the sun had to be shining in a cloudless sky, the position of the sun was critical and, lastly, I had to be there at the exact moment. Those conditions were all met that day.'

With this in mind, we looked at the beautiful recent photo by Kevs Ford of the sun shining through the remaining window of the church tower. Peter and Gaynor then scattered Father Jones’s ashes at his chosen spot close to his beloved old church, in accordance with his last wishes. A memory for the whole community, in which The Friends are proud to have played a part.

In the afternoon, about 50 people -- former parishioners, local residents and their children and The Friends and Young Friends supporters -- arrived for the Celebration of Father Jones’s life. A Marquee had been set up in the centre of the medieval ring work, where tea and coffee and delicious light lunches of local organic burgers and Welsh cakes were generously provided by Unity and Ely & Caerau Communities First, led by Dave Horton and Simon Murray.

Children and the Young Friends, sheltering from a small shower of rain under the marquee, made delightful paper doves, guided by Theresa Condick, Sue Brooke, and Cath Little. The rain soon stopped and tributes to Father Jones were read by The Friends, and by Viv Head, who also recalled a very amusing story from one of the Scouts camping trips he attended as a boy with Father Jones as “Skip”.
Sharing memories.

Professional story-teller Cath Little fired our imaginations by speaking as Caerau Hill itself remembering the peoples who had come to it over the ages – Iron Age folk, Welsh Kings, Romans, Normans who first built the church, Victorians, and finally Father Jones and the post-war parishioners. Cardiff archaeologist Dr. Oliver (Olly) Davis spoke of his exciting vision for a heritage project entitled "Caerau and Ely Rediscovering." This would link the Caerau Hill Camp site with other historic and archaeologically important sites around Cardiff to form a “heritage trail” encouraging interest and preservation and possibly including an archaeological survey of the Caerau site. Olly invited people to join him afterwards in a short tour of the site to learn more of its archaeological importance.

Following the tributes and talks, Cath invited everyone to gather in the body of the church to share memories and hopes for St. Mary’s future. Delia remembered the ‘Whitsun Treats’ and produced her ticket from 1958 when she and lots of other young children were taken by lorry from St. Tim’s to a field of buttercups just beyond the Culverhouse Cross roundabout on the Barry road where trestle tables awaited, groaning under the weight of fish paste sandwiches, jellies, massive slabs of fruit cake, brightly coloured ‘pop’ and tea urns. After the food was consumed, games were played and before the children went home, they were presented with a small toy – Delia’s was a wooden spinning top. Other people also recalled their Whitsun treat experiences, one of them being held in the farmer’s field next to St. Mary’s. Many more reminiscences were shared, including those who had married in St. Mary’s, and those with other memories and documents and photos of their connections with St. Mary’s, St. Tim’s and Father Jones. Cath invited the Young Friends to express their hopes for the future of the site, and they asked particularly that their famous landmark be looked after and protected for them to enjoy as they grew up.

The Celebration concluded with the planting of an oak tree, assisted by the children, which was generously donated by Cath Little and her partner Luc who had grown the tree from an acorn. Olly then took a group on the promised short tour of the iron age fortress ramparts and other archeologically interesting features, which are unusually well preserved on this site.

Finally, our grateful thanks to Martin Birch and his team from Bereavement Department for getting the repairs done and the site beautifully tidied, and our heartfelt thanks to all of you who helped to make the day special, and also to all The Friends and Young Friends who attended this truly joyous occasion.

Victor Harvey Jones
1925 - 2010

See more photos in our celebration gallery...
See our letter in the South Wales Echo
See an article about the day in The Bridge