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A Tribute to the late Reverend Victor Jones

By the Founders of the Friends of St. Mary's Church at Caerau

Read at the celebration of Father Jones's life on 4th June 2011

Bore da – good afternoon. We are gathered here to remember and celebrate the life of the Reverend Victor Jones, known to us as Father Jones, who passed away in Spring of last year, 2010. This setting, here on the site of the little St. Mary’s Church on Caerau Hill, is especially appropriate, because Father Jones loved this place, and his ashes have been scattered here, as he requested.

In the late 1950s, this church had been severely damaged and partly dismantled by vandals and thieves following its closure in 1957, after the opening of the new St. Timothy’s Church in Heol Pennar. Father Jones, who was then a young man, led the rebuilding of St. Mary’s, and did a lot of the manual work himself over the next couple of years. His hands were raw by the time it was finished.

The restored St. Mary’s was re-opened in 1960, and was really beautiful, as you can see from this photograph. You can see more pictures and read all about this, and the subsequent fate of the church, on the Friends of St. Mary’s web site and in this book by Delia Jay and Rosemary Lewis. Some of you may have a copy of the book. The print run is all gone now, but copies to borrow are available in the Grand Avenue library.

After only a few years in this parish of Caerau-with-Ely, Father Jones felt called away in 1962 to serve as a chaplain in the Royal Navy, based at Gosport in Hampshire and serving abroad for some of the time. The parishioners of Caerau were sad to see Fr. Jones and his family leave. He returned here nearly 50 years later in August 2009 to a gathering of his old parishioners and newer residents, arranged by the Friends. By that time, the little church had been sadly reduced again to its present ruined state.

Father Jones found this ruin very painful to see. He was in his eighties and had been unwell, but he remained mentally strong and we could all see that he still radiated his great strength of character and religious belief. He was deeply moved to find that so many people had turned out to “welcome him home” in grateful remembrance of his work 50 years before, --- both his church rebuilding work and his community building work with young and old in the parish.

Later that afternoon, Father Jones told us that this “homecoming” was the greatest day of his very eventful life. It feels right that we now remember him here at his final resting place.

Delia and Rosemary are the two childhood friends who started the Friends of St. Mary’s --- more than 15 years ago now --- trying to save this 750-years-old church from complete destruction. Delia and Rosemary first met Father Jones when they were children and he became curate of the modern St. Timothy’s Church in this parish. Although a prefabricated building, it was light and airy with plenty of seating capacity, and on Sunday mornings St. Tim’s was full and the sound of singing could be heard from outside. After services were over, there were the Sunday schools for the various age groups. Father Jones’s wife, Margaret, ran Sunday School for the under eights in the afternoon. Several activities took place during the week, including Scouts and a youth club for the young people, and Fellowship Clubs.

In addition to this busy life, Father Jones managed to lead the restoration of St. Mary’s. The result inside the church was a really beautiful chancel and nave --- we have photographs here for you to look at. Everyone admired Father Jones for his Herculean effort. He added a vestry (completely destroyed now) to give a cruciform shape to the church. This left the small room at the foot of the tower available to house the lovely old Sutton stone font (later smashed by vandals), providing a private space for baptisms.

While Delia and Rosemary were campaigning to save St. Mary’s, they re-established contact with Father Jones in the early 2000’s at his new home in the pretty village of Findon, West Sussex. We twice visited him in Findon. His pastimes included making and playing the violin, and cooking. He was a very good cook and made delicious cakes, which we were privileged to sample on our visits to him. During these years, his dear daughter, Ruth, passed away after a long illness and this was a particularly sad time for him. His younger daughter, Helen, is a nurse, and his son, Christopher, lives in Australia with his family.

Father Jones made many friends in Findon, where he attended the local church and cared for the sick and needy of his adopted parish. In 2006, the Findon priest moved to another parish, and while the diocese searched for a new vicar, Father Jones gladly conducted the church services without payment --- it was his dedication to the Anglican faith and the parishioners that mattered to him.

Father Jones was a charismatic leader, who inspired all who knew him, not limited to those to whom he administered the Christian faith. He listened to and helped people with their personal problems and successfully reached out to include a very large number of people from different walks of life, especially the young. He was always popular and in demand, but he also successfully kept a discreet distance.

Father Jones was unwell for several months in 2009 - 2010. A few weeks before he died, he told Delia that he could not look after himself any longer and was hoping to move into a home for retired clergymen. He requested that no-one should attend his funeral in Findon, as he was a modest man, but in the event, the parishioners decided they would attend anyway, as a mark of their respect and affection. We believe Father Jones would have been pleased and touched by this gesture, and by the memories of him that we share here today.

Delia and Rosemary, and Tony.