1975 - 2011

“Respect, gentle and modest” – three words used to describe Mark Jones, chosen by his widow and relayed by the priest during his eulogy at his funeral.  And these were just a subset of the many words of admiration and yes, respect, that all those present had for their departed friend, who had passed away after a long battle with cancer on 5th July, aged just 36.

Mark Alexander Sinnett Jones was born in 1975 to Irene and Stephen, being one of four brothers.  They lived in Chislehurst where his mother was a ringer.  He was taught to ring from the age of 10 at the parish church of St Nicholas under the expert guidance of Colin Wyld.  His first peal was Plain Bob Triples in May 1990, which was conducted by Colin and is recorded on the wall in the tower.

He went to St Olave’s Grammar School in Bromley where he developed into a talented musician with remarkable expertise in the piano and organ.  He won the School Prize for Musicianship and in November 1993 became the first pupil to play for the School’s Annual Commemoration Service at Southwark Cathedral.  At the end of his final term at school, the orchestra performed the demanding Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No 3, with Mark as the piano soloist.

He matriculated in 1994 to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he studied Music.  He joined the University Guild and rang with them as often as commitments to his musical duties would allow.   At Cambridge he met Lucy Weston, herself a ringer and musician of talent, who was a member of Magdalene College choir.  Their relationship blossomed and they were married in 2007 at a beautiful service of fine music at Durham Cathedral.  They were married by a school friend of Mark’s, Fr Crispin Pailing, who had the sad duty of also presiding over his funeral four years later.

After Cambridge, Mark returned to Chislehurst and resumed his full support for the local band.  He taught a number of ringers and he would often arrange quarter peal bands to help them progress on 6 and 8 bells.  He was a big supporter of the Lewisham District and served as its first Membership Secretary, creating the database now used by the district to track its members.  He also took over the reigns as Master of the District Choir that used to sing for the Carol Service, and reminiscent of the film “Sister Act”, he managed to work some miracles.

He didn’t neglect his own ringing.  Apart from Cambridge, his main 12-bell training ground was Southwark, and Phil and Gwen Rogers and Michael Uphill were key influences in his development.  He became a solid and reliable striker and handler of a bell and soon became an essential part of the Southwark team at the time.  He took part in its early ventures into the National 12-Bell Striking Contest and was present in all of the Cathedral Society’s early peals of maximus.  He was duly elected a member of the Ancient Society of College Youths in 1999 and regularly attended their Tuesday evening practices, advancing his skill and repertoire.

Like his music, Mark was particular about his peal ringing, and of the 117 peals he rang, 37 were for the College Youths, with 29 for Kent and 27 for the Cambridge University Guild.  He rang in many impressive peals on all numbers.  On six bells he rang the 41 surprise minor (all the work) and various other peals of spliced minor.  On eight bells he rang several peals of 23-spliced, including the compositions by Chandler, Hull and Smith.  His finest hour on twelve bells was perhaps a peal of Pipe’s cyclic 7-spliced maximus (the “Red” series). Indeed, it was after ringing such an advanced peal that he was heard to comment how nice it would be to attempt a peal of (just) Bristol Maximus!  Mark clearly didn’t need the stepping stones afforded to most other ringers of this repertoire!

Mark and Lucy moved from Chislehurst to Bromley.  When other musical duties allowed (he was frequently engaged to play the organ at one church or another) both Mark and Lucy supported the band at Bromley Parish Church, where Lucy also sang in the choir.  A few years later they then moved to Elmers End and they also supported St George’s Beckenham.  Their love of real ale would often lead them to CAMRA celebrated pubs such as The Red Lion in Bromley or The Jolly Woodman in Beckenham.  They shared a love of fine wine and good food, and delighted in hosting dinner parties for their friends.  Photography was another passion of his and he collected a fine portfolio of images that he had captured.

Mark was always in demand as an organ recitalist, and he was booked for performances all over the country.  When asked how he ever found time to practise, he replied “I don’t.  My recitals are my practice.”  Such was his talent.  He worked with the London Ringers’ Choir which sang each Advent at Cripplegate, quickly winning the respect of the church’s equally discerning Director of Music, Anne Marsden-Thomas.

The news that Mark had been diagnosed, shortly after his wedding, with the rare form of cancer known as sarcoma, came as a great shock to many.  Typically Mark fought his way through the chemotherapy, the operation to remove the tumour and the subsequent radiotherapy.  As unpleasant as this road was, Mark remained an inspiration, and the news that he had been given the all clear was received with universal delight, although recovery from the treatments themselves then took some time.  He and Lucy made full use of his renewed health, attending ringing events that in the past had been impossible such as the Cambridge University Guild Dinner, and going away on holiday.  He was also able to return to work (he worked at Boosey & Hawkes for several years, but latterly moved to First Title), return to the ringing room and return to the organ stool.

Alas, this window was all too short.  The cancer returned much more quickly, he was diagnosed terminal and four weeks later passed away at the Royal Marsden Hospital.

Mark’s funeral was held on Thursday 21st July in a packed St George’s Beckenham.  He planned the service himself with a long list of musical items that a large choir, made up of some of his many choral friends, expertly delivered.  Unsurprisingly Bach featured no fewer than four times, such was his love for the great composer.  Even his bellringing instructions were carried out to the letter (“no odd bell stuff, muffles or crap ringing”).  And with great poise and dignity, his widow delivered the reading “Footprints in the sand”.  This remarkable and moving service was indeed a fitting concert to bid Mark farewell, after which he was afforded the honour of being laid to rest in the ancient churchyard of St Nicholas, Chislehurst.

Mark was simply a nice guy, a modest guy, and a guy with a passionate and accomplished talent on the organ, the piano, as a choir master and even composer; he was an accurate, reliable and technically very competent ringer; loving son, conscientious godfather and devoted husband; a man of standards.  He was also a good friend to those who were fortunate to count him amongst their friends.

There is no doubt that as the diapasons swell in the halls of Heaven, the celestial choir had better be on its toes, because they have Mark to deal with now.  Yet at last he can rest in peace.


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