• Did you know my friend Rob? 13 June 2016 | View comments

  • 13th June 2016 | By David Jolley

    It was my sadness and privilege to attend the funeral of Professor Rob Jones at St Michael’s and All Angels Church, Beeston on Tuesday of this week (7.6.16).

    Rob and I came together as trainees in psychiatry in Manchester during the 1970s. At one wonderful time we, with Clive Hyde, formed the junior members of the ‘firm’ supporting Dr John Johnson who was the clinician who led and established the teaching service in South Manchester. We were proud to learn so much about the real characteristics and needs of patients and families and to make use of the understanding which came from the phenomenological school which JJ and others had been part of. We were and are its extension into the future.

    We were colleagues but the bonds were those of friendship and trust, shared visions and commitments.

    Rob diverted for a time to a research project with David Goldberg and Beverley Hughes (Now Dame Beverley) – this was to study the clinical, social and economics of life with schizophrenia amongst the clienteles of a District General Hospital Psychiatric Unit (Withington Hospital – now much reduced as Laureate House, Wythenshawe Hospital) and a District Mental Hospital (I think this was Prestwich Hospital – Salford/Bury – now replaced by a unit at Hope Hospital, though a Forensic unit remains on the Prestwich site). Their seminal paper, with Rob its first author, appeared in Psychological Medicine 1980 10(3) 493-505.

    So Rob learned the skills of clinical research from one of the masters of the art and in company with another outstanding social scientist. He came back to clinical work and, most happily for us all, joined our South Manchester Psychogeriatric Service as its Senior Registrar. From us he went to support Tom Arie as Senior Lecturer in the unique Department of Health Care of the Elderly. Together they have done marvellous things – establishing that department as an international leader in the fields of psychiatry of old age and the medicine of old age and emphasising the advantages of those disciplines working together as one unit. What a pity so few services have been able to follow this example – though its credibility is widely acknowledged. Frustratingly it is now common for the psychiatry of old age and the medicine of old age to be provided through different and potentially competing NHS Trusts! How absurd.

    Both Rob and Tom also contributed generously and effectively to the work of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, particularly the Special Interest Group – Section – Faculty of Psychiatry of Old Age. Rob was a loyal, honest, determined, reliable presence in all these settings over all the years. He was the man to turn to for wisdom and knowledge in matters of law. Many have been thankful and many have been inspired. Though experiencing ill health for a number of years, and despite being beyond the usual age of retirement, Rob was still working on a part time basis at the time of his death. It was in this role that his worth and stature were eventually acknowledged with the award of an Honorary Chair.

    But how little I knew him. How much there was to learn on this sad day. St Michael’s and All Angels graces Church Street. At right angles to this is Chapel Street where I parked near to the Methodist Church. At the end of Chapel Street is King George’s Park – where I was to spend a little time just to think, be grateful and feel very small. Beyond the hedge a buttercup meadow is home to three elegant ponies who played in the sunshine and the grass and the buttercups. This tiny, tidy, welcoming piece of earth has been the secure setting for his life and the family.

    The service began in Welsh: Ar Hyd y Nos – and finished in Italian – Nessun dorma. But most was conducted in English.

    There were caring words from family: his elder brother Michael, children Hayden, Rhian, David and Sian, son-in-law Mark. Tom Dening gave an appreciation of Rob’s professional life. A granddaughter sang: Be still for the presence of the Lord, the Holy One is here.

    The minister remembered his last meeting with Rob at his youngest grandson’s baptism in this church just a short time ago.

    We heard of Rob’s enthusiasms for nature, travel and athletic pursuits from his youth and continued through adult life – Inspiring others, taking delight in their interests, abilities and views. He edited his own newspaper from his bedroom whilst at school, cultivated pet mice, snorkelled for hours – and drew others to the joy of it. He ran for his health despite his health, worked on for this was his passion; knew music and culture as enrichers of all our lives. This is a great family and they shared their thanks and love and pride and anguish and acceptance in their loss. Diane, his wife, did not speak but her presence now and through all these things is a power for peace.

    Even in the direction for donations Rob’s generous commitment to local endeavour rings clear:

    The Trent Dementia Services Development Centre: www.trentdsdc.org.uk/. How wonderful to find that this DSDC has survived and is still an impressively useful resource

    The Radford Care Group Centre for Care: www.radfordcaregroup.org.uk/. Not something I know of – but again impressive and entirely in keeping with all that Rob stood for and stood by.

    By our friends we come to know a bit more of ourselves.

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