Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Arthur Jones remembered

It was Arthur Jones who kept the Parish Walk going for so many years.

I have decided to republish the obituaries that were published on in June 2001.

Richie Stevenson

The whole of the local athletics community was deeply saddened last week at the news of the death of Arthur Jones.

Fast approaching his 90th year, Arthur seemed indestructible, although the constant ill health that he suffered without complaint for the last few years was obvious taking its toll. Arthur had been involved with fell running and walking for over 30 years. dating back to 1970 when he took part in the Inaugural Manx Mountain Marathon. He was persuaded to join the organising team in 1974, probably one of the best moves the organisers ever made, where he organised the marshals and then in 1977 became race secretary, a posi­tion he held with great success for over 20 years.

His influence on the local fell scene over a great number of years as MMMO secretary has been immense. His commit­ment, drive and passion - tem­pered with a great sense of fairness - provided the foundation upon which the whole sport has been built, winning him the respect of everyone.

Arthur was heavily involved in many other activities and he was able to use his gently persuasive talents to enlist many of his friends to marshal and officiate in the races he organ­ised. Many of these people have no particular interest in run­ning or race walking but will­ingly give up their time because of their fondness for Arthur. First and foremost he was a lovely man who did not have a bad word for anyone. His organisational skills were superb and the systems he put in place many years ago to ensure the smooth running of his events are still very effec­tive today.

Arthur was a tine gentleman and we are very fortunate that he became involved with the fells. He wilt be greatly missed by all who knew him. Everyone involved with ath­letics sends their thoughts to Arthur’s devoted wife Neil, and to Michael, Rosa, Doug, Barbara and grandchildren Juan and Chris.

Steve Partington

I shall always think of Arthur sitting behind a fold-up table at fell races. He and Walter Kennaugh were like Morecambe and Wise. Arthur was the straightman - doing the paperwork and handing the numbers out, while Walter took your money, slapped you on the back and grinned a lot. Whether a novice or an expert - their welcome was always enthusiastic and genuine. In races Arthur organised, nothing was left to chance. There used to be a race called the Port Erin Regatta Fell Race which went from Port Erin to the Sound and back. A straightforward six or seven miles in all. The last year it was held Arthur had a massed a team of a dozen officials and marshals!

Murray Lambden

The Parish Walk must be one of the only events where you have to hand your number in to be used next year and the year after and the year after......

This tradition goes back to the husbandry of Arthur Jones who maintained the Parish Walk after the “I don’t believe it can be done” early years until it became the mass participation event it is today. He hand wrote the numbers, reinforced them with tape, cut up a sheet of reflective strip and attached a piece to each one and, best of all, attached a piece of kitchen lino which had all the churches names hand written on.

In those days your card (or flooring) was clipped at each church and handed in at the end as proof that you had not merely driven around the course. I remember my fear as an 19 year old in 1976 when I suddenly realised as I approached Maughold that I had lost my card. As Arthur drove past me in the early morning sun (I wasn’t that slow - we didn’t used to start until 3 pm!) I wondered whether my blisters were all in vain and I would be disqualified. When I approached him beside his Ford Anglia (yes he did have a car before the Ford Fiesta was invented) I told him my story and I learnt that for all his ruthless efficiency, he also had a heart - I was allowed to suffered the final 18 miles or so as a concession!

It was always during the lonely parts of the Parish Walk you would see Arthur. He was a great delegator - so long as he had a purpose! If he didn’t set up his team of helpers (mostly his own age) to do the checking in at the churches he would not be able to slog the 32+ miles to Peel. This was a man in his 70’s that I recall ( a little later than the story above). He would get changed, collect all the result boards from the various churches (before computers) and sit at Lonan Church writing out the certificates for the evening prize presentation. In those days there was only four hours from the end of the walk until the presentation and Arthur would do a 7 hour session at Lonan. Mind you, there is a tale or two to be told of the walkers who had to knock on his car window to wake him up!

The Parish Walk was not always the success it is today ( I hope to publish some statistics before Saturday) and it was Arthur C Jones who kept it going. Sure, there were a lot of other people involved but no one wanted the responsibility of organising the event on behalf of Boundary Harriers. He continued to use his trusty duplicator, complete with stencils, long after photocopiers arrived on the scene. Never a man to spend 2p when 1p was enough, the supply of course instructions and entry forms were always a scarce commodity. I was involved in 1990 when CMI were brought in as sponsors. In return for what was, and I believe still is, one of the biggest sports sponsorships on the Island, I committed Boundary Harriers to a professional image in keeping with the superb organisation. I managed to obtain a course instruction sheet from Arthur and set about a rewrite complete with CMI corporate logos. I was amazed to discover that the course instructions still asked walkers to turn right past the shop at Patrick (which had closed some 20 years earlier) and walk over the level crossing at Ballaugh which had also ceased to exist in 1967!

I don’t think he enjoyed some of the changes - his daughter Rosa had provided the first computerised results a little earlier, when Skanco provided both software and hardware for the results, entry fees went up considerably, the number of walkers became a bit extreme for his helpers and eventually he stepped aside, although he continued his involvement with Fell Running for many years.

Another memory I have of Arthur is at the check in. Before we moved the start to the Villa Marina Gardens never mind the NSC, we used to start in the Villa Marina Arcade. We never had posh tables to lay out the numbers, but Arthur would stand over one of the high backed benches, his own number already pinned on, handing out the numbers before he joined the start line.

He dreamt of walking to Peel as an 80 year old but had his family persuaded him (!) not to try, he may not have reached the ripe old age of 89. Others will have written about Arthur’s contribution to the Arts, to Badminton, to the Southern 100, to the Southern Agricultural Show, his career with the Isle of Man Bank as a manager and the devotion to his family described by Richie.

For the past 10 years or so, I have always thought when I hear the honours list, that Arthur should be among them. Even on Saturday, when I was unaware of his death, the thought of finding out how to nominate him crossed my mind. What a shame that he was never honoured for his service to the community. While we talked about doing things, he got on and did them.

Arthur’s Family - Our Dad

It was just wonderful to see "Arthur" on the Parish Walk web site. Only three days before he died, he was checking with Doug and me that we would be able to take him to follow this year's Parish Walk. He was really looking forward to it - it was so good that, despite his debilitating illness, he was still able to look forward with pleasure to such events.His involvment in the organisation of the Manx Mountain Marathon never stopped. Only two weeks ago he was up at the Bungalow, looking at the course and considering ways of solving a potential problem caused by a newly erected fence.

When participating and organising sporting events became too difficult for him, he still retained his love of sport by following the progress of athletes, young (and not so young!), reading the sporting pages in the Manx press and attending the matches of Rushen United Football team, and, to his great delight he saw them win the Hospital Cup last month!

Now, Arthur's family would like to add an anecdote about the "trusty " duplicator referred to by you! This dreadful machine used to drive his wife, Nell, to despair! It mechanical eccentricities meant that it either threw out 20 sheets in one go, or nothing at all, and frequently the entire room appeared to be covered with black ink. Arthur would get into quite a rage with it - a rare side of him, possibly only ever seen by his wife and family and even then reserved soley for this particular machine! He could not get it to behave and so often Nell was left, quite literally, to pick up the pieces.

After his home was flooded in 1982, the family hoped against hope that this machine, which they had left, quite deliberately, to rust away in a warehouse while the house was being dried out and fixed, would be damaged beyond repair. But sadly no! It was cleaned, de-rusted and worked even more erratically than before. The situation was only saved in 1988 when the family bought a second hand photocopier as a Golden Wedding Anniversary present. Arthur thought it was for him - in fact it was really for Nell so that she could enjoy a little more calm in her life!

On a personal note, Arthur was always very fond of you, Murray, and was absolutely delighted when you took over the reins of the Parish Walk. We know he would feel very honoured by your tribute to him. With all best wishesNell, Michael, Barbara, Rosa and Doug

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