Lives of the fellows

John Glyn Penrhyn Jones

b.19 February 1921 d.12 October 1973
MB ChB Liverp(1943) MRCS LRCP(1944) MRCP(1948) MD(1949) DCH Lond(1951) MA Liverp(1957) FRCP(1972)

Glyn Penrhyn Jones was born at Bethesda, Caernarfonshire, his father, Hugh Penrhyn Jones, being a civil servant, stationed at Bethesda, where he resided at "Bron Derw". His mother, Sarah Margaret, was the daughter of Griffith Roberts, a local bookseller.

He married Mair Elias (a trained nurse) on the 18th March, 1950. Her father, Richard Elias, was a noted farmer, who resided at Bryn Rhydd, Chwilog, Caernarfonshire. They had four children, two boys and two girls. One of the sons was destined to be a doctor and the eldest daughter a trained nurse and linguist.

True to the tradition of the Welsh community in rural Wales, Penrhyn Jones received his initial schooling at the Primary School at Bethesda, this school (Cefnfaes School) being endowed with the tradition of having keen and distinguished headmasters. From there he entered the old established Friars School, Bangor, and thereafter the Medical School of the University of Liverpool.

He had an illustrious academic career at the medical school, gaining the Junior Lyon Jones Scholarship during his first year. He graduated in 1943 and took the London Conjoint Diploma the following year. On graduating he became resident medical officer at St. David’s Hospital, Bangor, where he remained until he was called up for National Service in 1944. On being demobilized, with the rank of Captain, he embarked upon an industrious postgraduate training, taking the MRCP in 1948 and proceeding to MD the following year. In 1951 he took the Diploma in Child Health.

During this phase of his career he held registrar and senior registrar posts both at Bangor and Liverpool. In 1955 he became the Deputy Superintendent of the Llangwyfan Chest Hospital, Denbigh, holding the post for four years. In 1959 he was appointed the first Consultant Geriatrician to the Gwynedd area based at Bangor.

His appointment to Gwynedd to establish a Geriatric Service was widely acclaimed and he himself was proud of being given this task in his native district. With his intellectual brilliance, mastery of his subject, abounding energy and the ability to inspire affection, he established a comprehensive service in geriatrics that will remain his lasting memorial.

He was especially endowed with the qualities necessary for the care of the elderly, and his delightful sense of humour sustained him in his onerous task. He never spared himself, and he expected others to work with equal diligence. He scorned ostentation or superfluous frills, and somehow he was able to find it in his heart to suffer fools - but they had to be honest fools!

"The quality of life" was one of his favourite expressions - in his work, this was his yardstick. Thus he endeavoured to help the old to avail themselves of the opportunities and advantages of old age, and so he carried them along, to live to life’s natural end with dignity.

Penrhyn Jones was also actively engaged in attending and addressing meetings of various learned Societies; in particular he was loyal to the British Geriatric Society, The Royal Society of Medicine and The Merseyside and North Wales Society of Physicians. He acclaimed the prestige of the Royal College of Physicians, and was deeply proud of being elected a Fellow in 1972.

As a result of these activities, he produced not only a long series of papers but also two valuable books, his Survey of Patients in a Small Hospital for the Aged, and as co-editor, Helping the Elderly.

His activities were not confined to this country; he embarked upon lecture and probing tours of Scandinavia, USA and USSR.

He was keenly involved in the work of local committees, such as the Hospital Management Committee, the Medical Staff Committee, and with a wider vista the Advisory Committee in Geriatrics for Wales and the British Geriatric Society.

He was brought up in an area rich in Welsh culture, and he became rooted in the culture of his country. It is therefore not surprising that he developed an abiding interest in the literary arts and became a skilled writer. In 1957 he graduated MA with a thesis on the History of Medicine in Wales, prepared under the aegis of the School of Celtic Studies at Liverpool University. The standard of the thesis brought him also the Owen Templeman Prize, awarded by the University.

This was the beginning of his prolific output as a writer. He wrote books and many articles and lectures, in particular of medical historical interest. His two books are outstanding: Newyn a Haintyng Nghymru (Famine and Pestilence in Wales) published in 1962, was the result of careful research into the history of epidemic diseases and nutrition in Wales; in 1967 appeared Maes y Meddyg (Doctor’s Domain) a collection of essays on epidemiology, pathology and socio-medical historical and ethical topics.

All this activity led to radio and television work which made his name a household one in Wales. He, however, did not forget his grass roots, and would willingly lecture to small communities in rural Wales; but he also shared his knowledge and themes with societies such as The Rotarians, Round Table and Inner Wheel - such was the diversity of his interests.

The wider field of the arts also interested him and the intricacies of the works of such masters as El Greco, Cézanne and Turner, gave him abounding pleasure. His interpretation of such works produced in him a deeper appreciation than that of a passing onlooker.

He enjoyed discussing literature, the arts and the sciences - he was a man of strong convictions and of sound judgment. In particular he enjoyed poetry, both modern and traditional; rhyme, rhythm and alliteration were music to his ears.

He enjoyed the quiet of his hearth where he could read aloud the fascinating sounds of verse, or relax listening to tranquil melodies. But he also welcomed his friends to his hearth, where there would be a resounding discussion, fast and furious, intermixed with his contagious laughter.

He was not particularly interested in out-door activities except long country walks, with his family or friends - these would be a continuation of his avid interests in discussions, with an occasional stop to stare at the wonders of nature - its colour, its shapes and its abounding variety.

Those who knew him and his background cannot but believe that Penrhyn Jones’ particular personality was such that it could only have evolved in his native Wales - with its long cultural heritage.

None is indispensable but some are irreplaceable: by his very nature he was of the latter.

A memorial fund in his name was founded to help the Geriatric Service in Gwynedd and to support the arts in Wales. The inaugural memorial lecture was given on the 12th October, 1974, by Sir W. Ferguson Anderson and the second lecture by Professor Osian Ellis on music and the harp, on the 28th November, 1975.

O Vaughan Jones

[Brit.med.J., 1973, 4, 361]

(Volume VI, page 258)

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