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Biographical entry Jones, Hugh Owen (1918 - 2013)

MRCS LRCP 1941; MB BS London 1941; FRCS 1947; MS 1949.

12 May 1918
Monmouth, Wales
3 December 2013
General surgeon and Vascular surgeon


Hugh Owen Jones was a general surgeon in Cardiff. He was born in Monmouth on 12 May 1918 and brought up in a school house in the tiny village of Goytre near Pontypool, where his father, William Lewis Jones, was a schoolmaster. His mother, Rebecca Jane Jones née Davies, was a nurse. The toilet for both the schoolchildren and the teacher's family was a bench over a trench, where they turned the soil and then grew vegetables. Hugh loved telling of running beside the first bus to the village, which theatrically caught fire and melted its glass windows.

He went to school at Haberdashers' Aske's West Monmouth School in Pontypool. When his brother, Peter Henry Jones, who became a thoracic surgeon and was also an FRCS, went to Westminster Medical School, Hugh was asked if he too wanted to be a doctor and replied 'I am not averse'. There were inadequate funds for two students and Hugh was funded by a scholarship, which he won by learning the entire Gospel according to Saint Matthew. This became a reservoir of biblical wisdom and pithy quotes, passed on to his children and grandchildren. He and his brother Peter lived in the attic of a hotel run by an expatriate Welshman, sending their weekly laundry home by train to Monmouth for their mother to wash.

Hugh trained as a medical student and then as a surgeon at King's College Hospital, where his grandson later worked. He soon decided on a career in surgery and studied under many famous surgeons of the time, including Cecil Wakeley, Clement Price Thomas and Russell Brock.

He served in the merchant Navy at the start of the Second World War, and then in the Army in India, where he fell in love with his wife Pauline (née Jackson), a newly qualified doctor, also trained at King's, smoking Passing Clouds cigarettes on the steps of the Taj Mahal Hotel in Delhi.

He was appointed as a consultant surgeon in Cardiff in 1952 and remained in Cardiff until his retirement. He had a busy general surgical practice, including operating lists at hospitals around the city, including Caerphilly and Llandoch. He would often come home saying that he had needed to 'drive like Jehu' (Second Book of Kings 9:20) over the mountain to perform an emergency operation at Caerphilly Miners' Hospital. He was a committed teacher and retained a wealth of connections with past trainees who settled all over the world. One of his trainees recalls him saying: 'I don't mind if you make a mistake whilst learning providing it is an error which I can easily correct.' Hugh developed an interest in vascular surgery. His son recalls being taken into the operating theatre as a child to watch a novel balloon angioplasty clearing a femoral arterial clot and the blood decorating the operating theatre wall.

Hugh worked for the Medical Defence Union well into retirement. He was actively involved in the development of the Heath Hospital in Cardiff. He and his wife were active members of the Surgical Travellers Club.

Hugh had wide interests, including learning Russian, sailing, navigation, silversmithing, beekeeping and wood turning. He survived more than 30 years after a soft tissue sarcoma was successfully resected from his arm. On retirement to an 18th century cottage in mid-Wales, he put his many talents and skills to use in the beautiful remote setting and was active well into his 90s. In retirement, Hugh and Pauline started a whole new shared career as foster parents for a series of very young babies. He was an inspired father and grandfather, nurturing and encouraging everyone, but particularly children, building enchanting log cabins in the woods, massive dams in the stream and an impossibly long rope slide into the valley. Hugh Jones was a lover of nature. He was always filled with wonder. He found everything and everybody fascinating. He never failed to make those close to him feel important and worthy.

He gently faded and died peacefully on 3 December 2013 in Cardiff, aged 95. He led a full life. He was survived by his widow Pauline, three children - Penelope Anne, a general practitioner, David Andrew, a haematologist, and Helen Mary, a social worker - nine grandchildren (including one doctor) and one great-grandchild…and a wealth of biblical aphorisms.

Bing Jones
Malcolm Wheeler

The Royal College of Surgeons of England