To a great man, who had an amazing life and was huge in the history of (Old) Dartfordians RFC, amongst much else....thank you Arthur from all at the Club and from all who have had the benefit of meeting or hearing from from. R.I.P.
''Good morning. I speak now on behalf Margaret, my sister Helen and our brother Richard, and I draw attention if I may to Brian and Jennifer, Dad’s siblings, who happily are in our number today.
Those of you who saw the announcement in The Times of 8th June will have read that Jones, Arthur Bamford was a Crayfordian, Dartfordian, Royal Engineer and family man. These are, of course, not in order of importance, but I’ll use them as a framework for these remarks.
He in born Crayford on 5th July 1923, 96 years ago today, to Bill and Jessie, two of the most wonderful, caring, busy, entertaining and generous people you could ever meet. He was very proud of being a Crayfordian, of its place in history, of the to-ings and fro-ings that gave the community life, of the characters from shop keeper to parish Squire, and nothing gave him more pleasure than to regale his eager audience with his reminiscences from playing in the River Cray as a youngster to later cycling up to the heath to watch anti-aircraft guns trying to bring down the enemy before they got to London, and as they returned looking for likely targets, with Crayford, with its armament factory buildings, always a likely target.
He talked of lying in the back garden of the family home on Green Walk, just a short distance down the hill from here, between the wars, watching aircraft which had been built in Crayford – biplanes I suppose – conducting target practice exercises dropping sand bags on each other. Just think about that for a minute. Of the town policemen breaking up fights on Crayford bridge by throwing the combatants’ clothes, and a few combatants too most likely, into the river before marching them up to the courts next morning. To the lovely fetes held in the old rectory gardens under spreading trees and, on the other hand, clambering over and tunneling through broken bricks and woodwork of bombed houses trying successfully and sometimes unsuccessfully to locate and save victims as their voices became weaker and weaker. Of the fire station lodged under this very grave yard at the top the hill with the engine ready to roll down it when needed, and of the difficulty many families had in those days to feed and clothe themselves properly. “Gi’s the core Jonesey”, boys would say as he finished his apple not properly realizing their situation. He felt badly about that later. And of so many of his contemporaries who went and didn’t have the good fortune to return from the second war. I might say he regretted what Crayford has become – with the focus of activity having moved from the High Street – now a relative wasteland, in his opinion – to the other side of the Cray, and the domination today of the motor car and big box stores that have changed the character of life here, hopefully not for ever.
In 1935 he won a place at the Grammar School, not at the first attempt, the first having been thwarted, in his mother’s opinion at any rate, by his father having fallen foul of the Squire when he blocked him entry to Toc H because he would not respect the sign over its door that “All rank abandon ye who enter here”. None of that would surprise me. And so began an 84 year story of a Dartfordian, and a relationship with the school that saw him as a boy, teacher, governor, elder statesman, living link to the past and talisman with an almost mythical relationship with the institution, its pupils today and for
generations previously. Only last November did he concluded a 25-year run of delivering thoroughly researched extraordinary speeches to mark Armistice Day as he strode past the microphone again to take up a position where he would address the assembly with neither notes and nor any pupil missing a word. You could hear a pin drop.
May I thank Grammar School Headmaster John Oakes, who with many of the staff is here today, for having made the school choir and quintet available, according to Dad’s wishes.
Dad was an ever-present supporter of the teams – summer and winter, rain or shine – up at the school field and in 2000 the new sports pavilion was named after him on the happy occasion of the school playing a match, watched by himself and Mum Margaret, against the AY Jackson High School team from Canada containing two of his grandsons Russell and Gareth, with AY Jackson suffering a heavy defeat on the occasion I might say, but the score seemed insignificant to me in the celebrations.
He was at the school when from the old school buildings there was a clear view up to the far end where the sixth form centre now is and this field is where much of the sports and extra-curricular activities took place: Officers Training Corps, athletics, cricket; and he told me shortly before he died a story from a school sports day which, in those days, included parental involvement including one remarkable race called ‘blind steed’ in which fathers raced the 100 yard dash blindfolded and with reins attached at one end to the arms of the steeds and on the other in the hands of the sons trailing behind. Off went is father, in his customary full-blooded manner with Arthur barely keeping up and hanging on. Soon afterwards, Dad recalled, three other steeds fell having been trampled by his father, then veering towards the dignitaries in the stand who were leaning nervously out of the way of potential catastrophe, then veering infield only to eventually to be brought to a stand directly in front of the scorer’s table manned by then deputy head Mr. Norris as he too was preparing to evacuate.
He was Sergeant in the OTC remembered by his brother Brian in full uniform, with red sash, immaculately wound puttees and mirror finish boots. Of course, this is where his involvement in Rugby Union Football began, in the second XV and with a game or two in the first he knew this was the game for him. Having left school, he went to work for the Midland Bank, banking being one of the traditional career choices of Grammar School boys in those days. He played for the Bank and for the Old Dartfordians which had been founded in 1924 and after the war captaining the club 1949-50. But I think he was just as happy in the lower XVs later in his career with younger players benefiting from his guidance and protection. This was evidenced later on when the 1st XV were playing at home, he was just as likely to be found on the C team touch line playing at the same time. You HAD to beat Gravesend at all costs. Just like England HAD to beat Scotland, “3-0 will be fine” he said “with the ball never coming out of the scrum”. On one occasion he was captain the C XV finding only nine of his team had shown up. The opponents Gravesend had arrived with more than fifteen and had offered players. “No thank you” said he, and Dartford were nine were up at half time, alas not at full time. He
played for Blackheath for a few seasons and was selected for the combined London Old Boys to play against the touring South African Springboks at Twickenham on their 1951/52 tour, only for that game to be cancelled by fog.
Naturally Arthur became involved in the organization of the Rugby Club, and of the Old Dartfordians Association, being on one committee or other for fifty years. He was a living link to when games were played in Dartford Park, when the water for the tin bath was heated by a field kitchen boiler near the touch line. “Make smoke” was the call to the stoker when the opposition was pressing. Then to the former ‘new club house’ approximately under the roundabout just outside this hotel, and then the current club house, growing still, where Margaret and he have been commemorated in the recent renovations. The Dartfordian clubhouse was always more to him than a Rugby clubhouse. It was the War Memorial clubhouse. I hope new members appreciate its real significance to the early builders of the Association and the Club, a number of whom gave their lives 1939-45.
As Dad would say, King George VI wrote to him to invite him to join the army in 1942, and having assembled a bicycle pump successfully in aptitude tests he was destined for the Royal Engineers with whom he served until 1946. He was on a troop ship destined for the far east when the bombs went off in Japan. “The Japanese were retreating down the Malayan Peninsula” he later wrote, “when the ship’s radio informed us of the two atom bombs and we heard of the surrender over the Tannoy. I seem to remember the feeling was one of relief more than anything else, he went on, and we were each issued with a small bottle of warm American beer.” So with the troop ship now moored in Bombay, he disembarked through the Gateway to India arch. In truth he would have preferred to have seen posted overseas earlier, but in the Army you go where and when you are told, and India it was to be and he was posted for a commission in Queen Victoria’s own Madras Sappers and Miners by whom in later years he was appointed Honorary Colonel. He remained in India through partition, and to sit with Dad for any time at all was to be regaled about his times there building bridges, platforms, roadways, runways and railways. And he could entertain, as in the story of giving the steam engine driver a few rupees to sit up on the coal so that Dad could drive the train into Bangalore station, only to overshoot on the first effort, and overshoot also in reverse on the second, and on each attempt looking down the platform at dozens of the local citizenry, knowing what was going on, doing forward rolls and later group backward rolls down the platform having elected to make a jump for it knowing full well what the outcome would be of British soldiers taking the controls. He had the honour and distinction of representing the Madras Sappers Association in the VJ Day Parade celebrations and march past in front of the Queen in 1995.
Wartime service over he returned to civilian life, secured his Bachelor of Science in Engineering from the University of London in 1951 and secured a position as Lecturer at the North West Kent College of Technology (happily just over the road from the Grammar School in Dartford) and at Erith Technical College where he met his beloved Margaret, and so to the most important aspect of this account. They were married in
1952, settled in Hillingdon Road, Barnehurst, where they lived the rest of their lives together and raised Richard, Helen and me.
Alas, neither Mum nor Richard are well enough to be with us.
As one of Mum’s cousins, Marjorie, who is with us today writes, he was reliable and well balanced, kind and generous, had a lively sense of humour and established a wonderful home for all of us. His legacy lies in the happiness he brought to Mum and to how together they created and environment in which it was easy to flourish.
He had the unerring ability to weave himself into the fabric of anything with which he was associated or became involved. He set high standards and expectations at the Dartfordians Club, without which the club would not be where it is today. But Rugby wasn’t always the common denominator. He also founded the Neighbourhood Watch in Hillingdon Road and it was duty of care and remembrance that made Mum and him what must have been world record holders for money raised by the poppy collection annually. Many won’t know that he was also connected with the North Kent Schools Football team for a while – why, to help provide an opportunity for local boys to express themselves on a playing field, as in Rugby, when otherwise they might have found it difficult to excel in something. To me he was a prime candidate for public honours and recognition.
And when he was responsible for collecting subscriptions at the Dartfordians, no one escaped. I once turned up at a fancy-dress party at the Clubhouse in an Arthur Jones overcoat, polished shoes, and with Brylcreamed hair parted down the middle while carrying a club subs receipt book. It was a powerful mix of elegance and menace. I collected a number of dues that night.
We took him to Darent Valley hospital in a great deal of pain on Sunday 26th May and when, in the hours that followed, it became clear that he was not going beat the pancreatitis he came without hesitation to terms with his condition. He told the doctors that it was time, that he had had a good run and he decided in his own words to “declare his innings”. His concern was only that this was the decision of a coward, so that he would not be able continue with the fulfilment of his responsibilities. Believe me that I assured him that it was not and that Helen, Audrey and I would continue to take care of Mum and that he should have no fear of that. In his final hours, the drink he craved most was, in BLOCK CAPITAL letters, COLD – FULL STOP – FIZZY – FULL STOP – LEMONADE. He passed at 11:30 pm on 30th. If you are able to join us at the Black Prince, venue of Mum and Dad’s wedding reception and their 50th wedding anniversary, you will find on each table some COLD – FULL STOP – FIZZY – FULL STOP – LEMONADE for which to privately toast him.
On behalf of Mum, Richard, Helen and I, may I thank many of you who have provided such wonderful care and attention in recent days, and written lovely letters and cards that will be treasured always. Thank you also to some who may have recognised their words as I have used them today.
Most importantly, on all our behalves, and of the other countless individuals who were part of his life and would want to be remembered to him, I say thank you to Arthur Bamford Jones; to husband, father, father-in-law, brother, grandfather and great grandfather, uncle, friend, leader, inspiration and mentor, for a life well lived in which you cared for us and for innumerable people and institutions, elevated expectations, gave guidance and support, stood up for what you believed, let everyone know about it, and ensured the caring and loving environment we all enjoyed.
Thank you, Arthur. Thank you, Dad.''