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Bobi Jones (1929-2017)

February 2018 | by Dafydd Ifans

Scripture records the Lord Jesus as saying: ‘I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children’ (Matthew 11:25). Bobi Jones, no doubt, was the exception to the rule, as he was a man of exceptional intellect and creative ability, but he was also a beloved child of God.

Robert Maynard Jones was born on 20 May 1929 to English-speaking parents in Cardiff and learned to speak Welsh as a teenager at Cathays High School. He went on to gain a first-class honours degree in Welsh at what is now Cardiff University.

After teaching Welsh at schools in Llanidloes and Llangefni and at Trinity College, Carmarthen, he moved to Aberystwyth in 1958 to lecture, firstly in the education department, and subsequently in the department of Welsh, where he served as professor and head of department between 1980 and 1989.

Aberystwyth

During his time in Llanidloes, in the early 1950s, he was converted one Sunday evening, as the Lord’s Supper was being celebrated in China Street Welsh Calvinistic Methodist Chapel. From then on, he and his loving wife, Beti, sought to follow the Lord.

Having arrived at Aberystwyth, they established a weekly Welsh-language seiat or society meeting in their home which attracted believers from a range of denominations in the area. This meeting lasted until a Welsh-language Free Evangelical Church was set up in Aberystwyth in 1967.

The 1970s saw a work of God among Welsh-speaking university students in Aberystwyth. Instrumental in this blessing was the involvement of both Bobi Jones and his great friend and colleague, Prof. R. Geraint Gruffydd.

Sundays, in those days, comprised four meetings: church services at the Welsh Evangelical Church at 10.00am and 6.00pm, a Sunday school for students led by Bobi Jones at 2.30pm in the Welsh-language hall of residence, and then the Welsh-language Christian Union meeting at 8.00pm, attended by both members of staff, whose presence afforded much credibility and status to the meetings.

Bobi Jones also held a prayer meeting in his room at Old College before lectures began every morning, which proved a great source of interest to those who lingered on the Quad Gallery to see who the attendees happened to be!

From the late 1960s onwards, Bobi Jones was greatly influenced by his first cousin, Rev. Geoffrey Thomas, who had been appointed minister of Alfred Place Baptist Church, Aberystwyth in 1965. He was introduced to the works of Dutch Reformed theologians and philosophers such as Cornelius Van Til, Hans Rookmaaker and Herman Dooyeweerd, as well as the English-language spiritual classics which were being published increasingly by the Banner of Truth Trust.

Scholarship

Through his reading, Bobi Jones became convinced that every sphere of the Christian’s life should be brought under submission to God. His raison d’être was the cultural mandate of Genesis 1:28, which he often quoted: ‘Be fruitful and multiply, replenish the earth and subdue it’.

The scale of his response was remarkable. He was probably the most prolific author the Welsh language has ever seen. His work included literary criticism, novels, short stories and a substantial body of poetry. Several of his poems have been translated into English by Prof. Joseph P. Clancy.

Bobi Jones himself was also responsible for the excellent translation of a number of Welsh hymns into English for Christian Hymns. His bibliography until 2010 is no less than 50 A4 pages long! After 2010 he turned to the latest technology and established a website for his own work: rmjones-bobijones.net

In addition, Bobi Jones helped found the Academy for Welsh Writers, and also CYD, a society for Welsh learners to meet and practise speaking Welsh. A Fellow of the British Academy, he was an expert on bilingualism and child language. Ironically, while he was an ardent Welsh nationalist, during the term leading up to the investiture of the Prince of Wales in 1969, he taught Welsh literature to Prince Charles.

William Williams

His later life was dogged by severe pain at the base of the spine that made sitting and travelling nigh impossible. Fifteen years ago, he made a full recovery from intestinal cancer, but the same illness returned last year and finally claimed his life.

During his final years, Bobi Jones wrote two large digital volumes on the hymn writer William Williams of Pantycelyn, whose work he cherished. It is no surprise that, of the two hymns in his funeral on 30 November 2017, one was by Williams. Surely both poets are now fully exercised praising their mutual Lord and Saviour!

Bobi Jones is survived by his wife Beti; Lowri and Rhodri, their children; and by five grandsons, one of whom, Rev. Gwydion Emlyn, is minister at Caerwent Evangelical Baptist Church, Monmouthshire.

Dafydd Ifans