Myrddin Jones (27 Dec 1927 - 11 Dec 2018)

For Charitable
Donations To

Age UK Exeter

Funeral Service

Exeter Crematorium St Paul's Chapel Topsham Road Exeter EX2 6EU
28th Dec 2018
Funeral Director
M Sillifant and Sons

Myrddin Jones was born on 27 December 1927 in Cardiff, and was very proud of his Welsh heritage.
He did not consider himself clever at school, but excelled in English Literature in the sixth form and took his first degree at Cardiff University, before studying for an M Litt at Oxford. This is where he met his wife, Eileen, at the Celtic Society (she is Northern Irish). They got married in 1954 and moved to York then Hatch End, Middlesex, where he taught English at Harrow Weald School. They had their first daughter, Carolyn, in 1958 and Alison in 1961. In 1966 he took up a position as lecturer in English Literature at the University of Exeter. Reading some of the references that colleagues wrote for him, we can see how much they respected both his intellect and his ability to inspire his students.
During the girls’ childhood they spent some happy summer holidays walking in Switzerland, as well as Northern Ireland, Wales, the Lake District and Scotland.
Myrddin started experiencing memory problems relatively young and retired in his early fifties. He then spent a number of years as a volunteer driver for the RD&E and for the Estuary League of Friends. He valued this work and also felt that it enabled him to enjoy the Devon countryside while doing something worthwhile. He loved it when he had a long-distance job, sometimes even as far as Cornwall, and he could take a picnic and spend time in the countryside or at the coast while waiting to pick up the patient and return home. He also visited an elderly lady near Topsham and enjoyed walking her dog.
He was a keen walker and rambler, and particularly enjoyed viewpoints such as Woodbury, Mamhead and Haytor. He had an allotment for many years until ill-health prevented him from being able to turn over the heavy Devon soil. He also enjoyed creative hobbies – he was an accomplished woodworker, and our houses are full of beautifully crafted furniture he made over the years and a wonderful rocking giraffe. When he retired he took up water-colour painting, although due to his colour-blindness there were some interesting colour choices!
In later years he was a regular attender at the Age UK Sycamores (Lane) Club at Mount Pleasant, and often told us how much he enjoyed being given a meal and a cup of tea and taking part in the activities.
Myrddin was very proud to reach the age of 90. He died peacefully in his sleep, just before his 91st birthday, after a short stay in hospital.

On going through his papers, we discovered the following references and testimonials for him from colleagues as he applied for jobs in the course of his career:

Reference for first teaching job from G.L. Davies, his English master at Canton High School, written in 1953:
"As a pupil he was highly intelligent, always industrious and in every way reliable." Mr Davies goes on to list his exam results, and comments:
"That he achieved such a record under extremely bad conditions in a school that was almost completely destroyed by enemy action is a tribute to his mental poise and steadiness of purpose."

From Professor Llewellyn, University College, Cardiff, in 1953:
"Mr Jones is a most promising scholar. His criticism of literature is acute and free from extravagance. … I have respect and esteem for his personality and character. He is level-headed and unassuming, but he holds his opinions very firmly."

Reference for his second teaching post, by the headmaster of Nunthorpe Grammar School, York, in 1957:
"He brings to his teaching a scholarly mind and wide interests which appeal particularly to the able Sixth Form boy. In the lower part of the school, I have been impressed by the friendly, understanding approach he has to boys – and particularly to those who are at all ‘difficult’. … Although a rugger man, he has willingly taken his share of the Soccer coaching, and has been very successful."

A beautifully crafted testimonial written in 1965 by Arthur ‘Shove’ Halfpenny:
"Mr Myrddin Jones has been a colleague of mine on the staff of Harrow Weald County Grammar School for the past six years, during which time I have got to know him extremely well. He is one of the nicest persons I have ever met (and having reached the age of fifty-six, I have met quite a number of people in my time) and his friendship is to me a source of increasing joy. On first acquaintance one cannot fail to be impressed by his quiet, unassuming manner, his courteous, friendly disposition, his exquisite sense of humour, and his outstanding gift as a conversationalist, but the more one gets to know him the more one discovers deeper and richer qualities of character and personality.
He is a man of great intellectual stature, and at the same time of great intellectual humility; he possesses a scientist’s power of dispassionate factual analysis allied to an artist’s aesthetic sensitivity. He has the introvert’s intuitive understanding of the deep sanctuaries of the spirit, and the extrovert’s gift for establishing easy and friendly relations with all types of men and women, boys and girls.
His work in the Drama Club has been outstanding for the excellence of his productions, but far more remarkable is the way he has succeeded in giving to gauche, awkward adolescents, poise and self-confidence, and a serenity which has enabled them to move with grace and assurance on the stage of life.
It seems to me that both on intellectual and personal grounds he is splendidly equipped for a university or college post, and I know that if a kindly providence granted me to live my student days again, I should ask the further favour of having Mr Myrddin Jones as my tutor."

Dedication by Robert Cantwell in 1993 in the foreword of his book 'Ethnomimesis' :
"From my old friend Myrddin Jones of Exeter University in England, I took some ideas about rank, class and class relations that came as revelations to me but that I now recognise to have been part of an important tradition of British cultural theory. Indeed, as I think back, I realise I have learnt far more from Myrddin than I can express. He is a thoroughly excellent man, a model of scholarship, learning, energy, understanding, patience, generosity, and humour, whose example, though I cannot hope ever to approach it, has been consistently with me."

It had always been our understanding that he had taught the poet Michael Rosen at Harrow Weald. We contacted him and asked if he remembered Myrddin, and were amazed and gratified to receive this response within the day:
"First of all, let me say how sorry I am to hear this. I admired Myrddin very much, he was a breath of fresh air at Harrow Weald, clever, funny, kind, witty, interested, sympathetic.
When a group of us were fed up that the head-teacher wasn't prepared to make the effort to allow a school play to be put on - on account of the stage being used as an overflow classroom - he joined with a group of us pupils to demand that we could put it on somewhere else. I think it was Myrddin who came up with the idea of putting the play on at the other end of the school hall, so that we used the two entrances to the school kitchen (usually the in-out doors for school lunches!) as our entrances and exits for 'Much Ado About Nothing'.
I drove him up the wall on one occasion because he was trying to arrange rehearsal times, and he asked me to do a Tuesday night. I said, 'Sorry sir, but I do detentions on Tuesdays.' 'How can you know that you'll have a detention every Tuesday?' he said. 'I always do,' I said. He didn't know whether to laugh or cry.
I also remember he had a shortened tendon on his little fingers. Whenever we did imitations of him (I was in a bunch of people who thought that we were brilliant impressionists!) we always did his hands. I hope you don't find that disrespectful. I promise you we liked him very much indeed and I never heard anyone say a bad word about him.
Very best condolences to you and all your family, you can be proud of Myrddin and the effect he had on a generation of us at Harrow Weald."

James Hans wrote

Like Bob Cantwell, my wife Hilma and I had the pleasure of spending a great deal of time with Myrddin while we were in Exeter for the '80-'81 school year. In addition to being the go-to person for everything we needed, Myrddin was a true friend, taking us hiking at all his favorite spots, sharing his reading, and along with Eileen having us to his house. We visited Myrddin and Eileen in 2000 with our daughter, who remembers him as fondly as we do. Myrddin was one of a kind. He won't be forgotten by anyone in this family, that's for sure.

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Alison Organ wrote

Myrddin's friend Bob Cantwell from the USA wrote:
Thank you so much for letting me know about Myrddin. I am deeply saddened to learn he is gone. By all means quote my dedication to him—it was heartfelt. Indeed I wish I could have said more. I recall returning to the USA after a year in Exeter and laughing, as soon as I stepped off the airplane into Kennedy Airport, the silly swagger of American men and the universal chip they seemed to carry around on their shoulders. In addition to his considerable erudition and is immense capacity for the appreciation of a wide variety of things, everything from the Tors on Dartmoor to the gardens at Stourhead, not to mention the works of Thomas Hardy, Myddin impressed me profoundly, and I hope permanently, simply as a man, and the kind of manhood he embodied, which was kind, generous, and brave. I remember everything about him vividly, including the stout “Come in!” that always ushered me into his office.

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Carolyn Carr wrote

Myrddin's colleague Peter New wrote: Myrddin was by a long way my best friend during our shared working years (nearly 20), always a calm, gentle and understanding companion and colleague in times of various university and teaching issues. We taught the same area, so I saw very clearly that many intakes of students were crucially helped both by his stimulating, intelligent and lucid teaching and by his wise advice and generous support of them in times of personal difficulties. I have never met a more self-effacing person.

I was very grateful to him too for our continuing friendship when we were both retired and met weekly to chat about our recent reading, his allotment and bits of politics, whether over a cup of tea in my study or during a walk somewhere round the University estate. Latterly the
friendship was still there, clear in his eyes, even though his memory was struggling.

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Carolyn Carr wrote

Myrddin's colleague at Exeter University Alan Sandison wrote:

I was so sorry to get your message telling me of your Dad’s death. As well as being a good friend he was, I believe, responsible for bringing into the Department a stabilising and judicious influence which helped to keep a potentially unruly ‘workforce’ disciplined and focussed. Several of the older members of staff had left and at the same time, University expansion got under way and we had a rush of new and young appointees. So Myrddin’s arrival could not have been more timely.

For me it was to turn out to be the most enjoyable decade of my entire academic career - and this was largely because of the composition of the group of friends which formed in the Arts Faculty then. Not all were in the English Department, as that implies; people like Betty Powell and John Mackenzie were central to it but I have no doubt at all that Myrddin enjoyed the company and conversation as much as the rest of us did. It was a scholarly group but it was also great fun. Myrddin and I extended this camaraderie into the Western Highlands one summer, going on a walking tour in defiance of midges and downpours. I still remember his delight when we visited the island of Iona and were standing looking down into St Columba's cell when a white pigeon flew out of the top of the little structure . Neither of us was of a religious disposition but we were both pleased with the emblematic possibilities of this apparition!. We also visited the archaeologically venerable Standing Stones near Oban and Myrddin’s subsequent lengthy search through Oban for a piece of Celtic jewellery for your mother also comes back to mind.

Both your parents, as you will remember, visited Armidale when I was teaching there at the University of New England. Myrddin, in fact ,took a tutorial group for most of the term as I recall - and was extremely popular with his students.

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