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13 February 2015

Robert McCloy writes:

THE Revd Maldwyn Lloyd Jones died on 27 December, aged 97, in Langland Bay Care Home, Swansea, some 61 years after his ordination in Brecon Cathedral.

Born in Fochriw, Glamorgan, he was brought up in a close-knit and relatively prosperous family. While his father, from North Wales farming stock, necessarily moved to employment in the South Wales coalfield, becoming an under manager, his mother's family were, he remembered, "a cut above" his father's. Her father was a local entrepreneur with a stake in many activities.

The family moved in 1925 to Banwen, in the Neath Valley. An idyllic childhood embraced discussions with Eddie Crowden, the curate, who became Vicar of Oystermouth, and was destined to be pivotal in Lord Williams's life. It was, however, Jonathan Davies, the sagacious incumbent at the Welsh-speaking church in Coelbren, who became Maldwyn's mentor in his teens.

With a prodigious memory, Maldwyn attended Neath Grammar School, the source of his love of mathematics and poetry. Thence he matriculated at St David's College, Lampeter, for which he had a lasting affection, later becoming the Vice President of the alumni association. His gregarious nature, energy, and performance skills marked him out as someone with considerable pastoral sympathies.

He served his title at Gorseinon, where he learnt the importance of visiting, a life-long discipline. Thence, he joined the staff of Kingham boarding school in the Oxford diocese, as chaplain and mathematics master. This gave full scope to his brilliance as a teacher and his rapport with the young.

The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, taking advantage of his fluency in languages, recruited him to serve in South America. He became chaplain to the British embassy in Brazil, and served the wider expat community with zeal and good humour. There followed a posting to the Falkland Islands, where he took temporary charge of the cathedral, gave the Governor spirited support, and went about on horseback, assiduously visiting his scattered flock.

In due time, his long-standing intention realised, he joined the Royal Navy. This was his true spiritual home, and was particularly suited to his gifts: deep pastoral concern for all, be it ordinary sailor or admiral; a natural commitment to order; an enjoyment in the etiquettes of rank; and a capacity for keeping the wardroom entertained. The convention of the chaplain as the confidant of all suited a personality that was both patrician and plebeian. Newly appointed commanding officers, as a priority, would seek Maldwyn's posting to join them.

In years to come, he would recall with affection his naval service, which included service aboard HMS Newcastle in her bombardment of North Korea. It was in that commission that he developed a disciplined regime of providing holy communion at 7 a.m., promptly announced on the ship's Tannoy, as was a short Bible-reading and prayer session at 12.25 p.m.

After supper, he would visit the midshipmen and, subsequently, sailors in the mess decks. Compline and serious music followed at 9.15 p.m. Thereafter, he systematically invited groups of sailors to join him for discussion, coffee, and biscuits between 11.30 p.m. and midnight.

On Thursdays, he would hold a prayer group, again announced at 9.15 p.m. He gave priority to seeking the bereaved and unhappy. He sought to know each of the 850 crew by their Christian names.

Maldwyn witnessed the atomic-bomb trials, which had lasting effects on his eyesight, and preached in a crowded Honolulu Cathedral to American and British sailors. Ever anxious to develop his skills, he trained as a Royal Marine commando padre, earning the famous green beret. He took part in the Suez invasion, tending the fatally wounded on the beach.

Understandably, the Navy subsequently put him in charge of training new chaplains. In retrospect, he believed that HMS Tiger was his happiest ship, and spoke of the very positive relationships between officers which made this possible.

On leaving the service, he found ready employment in teaching, including an engagement in a private school in the United States. He now resolved to put his skills into relating to young people rather than parochial ministry. After an intensive TEFL course, he joined the staff of Wandsworth Further Education College, where he quickly became a popular member of the common room, and the unofficial chaplain.

Latterly, he was to live in Tirley, near Tewkesbury, where he supported the parish church. In retirement, he was disciplined in keeping up with those with whom he had worked in the past. He was urged to produce a biography in which he could witness to his form of Christianity, which had at its centre a love of mankind and a tolerance of its foibles.

To the last, that spirit of tolerance prevailed, as he observed less than two days before his death: "I have been thinking much of all this talk about 'Religions of the Book': all those poor illiterate shepherds in Palestine! Surely it didn't all depend upon being able to read."

Maldwyn, who never married, leaves a large family, including his devoted sister, and nephews and nieces.

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