Neville Hall Jones 11 October 1937 – 15 October 2000 was best known as a school teacher, a theatrical producer of school plays, a keen football player (Soccer and later Rugby), a keen Badminton player, a Welsh Rugby fanatic, and a dear friend to everyone he knew through every aspect of his life.
Neville was the youngest of two sons to John Hayden Jones and Edna Monica Hall from the village of Milton, Stoke-on-Trent. There are many people who would have known Neville better than I in his later life, but I will try and summarise some of their comments collected through a request I posted recently on the Hanley High School Facebook pages – the response was fantastic almost 20 years after his death.
Neville was a pupil at the Stanfield County Technical School (SCTS) as a 13+ student in the 1950-1951 entry. SCTS had been the Junior Technical School operating in Moorland Road, Burslem with a reputation for preparing boys for entry into engineering, joinery and draughtmanship, and further education at the North Staffordshire Technical College in Stoke. The Headmaster Mr William Potts and his Staff had designs to make the school more academic. Whilst most of Neville’s class left to take up jobs at the end of the 1951-52 year, Neville was encouraged to stay on with a view to working towards taking the national examinations known then as the General Certificate in Education, initially at ordinary or “O”-Level. He joined another stream of boys with this aim and they completed their first GCE “O” Level exams in July 1954. Yet another stream of boys 1 year behind Neville took their GCE Exams in 1954 -55, and that year the group that Neville was in simultaneously formed the first Lower 6th Form doing supplementary “O” level studies. A larger Lower 6th Form commenced in 1955-56 combining the 1954 stream and those that stayed on from the 1954 -55 stream. The target for this group was to study for the GCE Advanced (“A”) level in the three sciences Chemistry, Physics and Maths in July 1957, a number of academic subjects like English Literature, Calculus and completion of the language requirements for entry into University. The author of this tribute and Neville were united in the same Class.
Thanks to the quality and interests of the teachers at SCTS this 1955 – 57 group became involved in all sorts of extra-curricula activities including fell-rambling in the Lake District, attending concerts by the Halle at Victoria Hall, attending the theatrical performances at the University College of North Staffordshire (UCNS), representing the school in Athletics, Soccer and/or Cricket, playing Tennis in breaks and/or after school at Burslem Park, participating in the United Nations Sponsored Council in Education for World Citizenship (CEWC), even in London, in a local schools program run by the Historical Society, and in excursions like visits to London and Parliament House.
In the term of 1957-58 Neville (NH), David (JD) and Alan (AJ) entered UCNS, and following their first University Year (the broadening Foundation Year) changed some of their directions to Physics and Geology, Physics and Mathematics, and Chemistry and Economics, respectively. After graduation from (by then) the University of Keele in 1961, this SCTS trio went in separate directions: Neville and David to teaching and Alan to graduate research studies in Chemistry.
Neville went to the University of Leicester to complete his Post Graduate Certificate in Education where he met his bride to be Pauline Johnson from Manchester. They each took teaching posts in the district of Chester in September 1962, Neville at Helsby Grammar School, and Pauline at Ellesmere Port. Neville also took up playing Rugby for Wrexham during this time. Neville and Pauline were married in 1963 and had two daughters born in November 1965 and February 1968.
1968 was to prove a significant year for Neville since the old arch enemy of SCTS in Soccer Hanley High School (HHS) had an opening for a Physics teacher, which he accepted commencing in September 1968. Neville was to remain as a teacher of Physics, Head of Physics, and Head of Science for the next 20 years at HHS. During this time most of the “old” named schools had become comprehensive, and their “6th Forms” had disappeared into a new College structure leaving HHS concentrating on “O” level education. Neville’s wife Pauline taught English at the “A” Level Fenton College from about 1980.
During his time at HHS Neville proved to be quite the drama teacher, producing a number of school plays often featuring children from poorer or dysfunctional backgrounds, kids unlikely to be supported by their parents to do drama outside school or those with behavioural issues.
Neville also led the HHS badminton team, and he played badminton for the old Hanleyensians for many years. He was also a frequent participant in organising school hiking trips.
I take this opportunity to quote from some of the tributes that came my way when I made an enquiry about Neville on the HHS Student Website:
· Adrian Delves I was at HHS from 1980-84 and he was my Physics teacher for each of those years. I guess it's his 'fault' that I'm a Physics teacher today.
· Malcolm Davis Was my form and physics teacher when I was there from 84 to 89. He was one of the best teachers and had the gift of getting the best out of you and making you understand things.
· Steve Hewitt Neville Jones was there when I attended from 1968-72. Lovely chap. He drew the short straw of trying to teach me physics O-level. That I scraped a pass is more down to his teaching than to my aptitude. I do remember some hilarious moments in his lessons.
· Kate Harrison I left in '87 and he was there then. He was an absolutely amazing and inspirational teacher. I adored him. He was my form tutor when I arrived there and taught me physics to O level (there was no sixth form there by then).
· Dave Amos Worked in the Physics Dept with Nev from Sept 1971 to 1983. Great man. Some sense of humour. He produced a scene from a play one year with some staff as “actors”. Dennis and I were involved, used to rehearse in his Physics Lab that was so funny.
· Andrew Orme Attended HHS 76-80 Neville taught me physics, or tried to! He was also a good badminton player and ran a badminton club which included myself, Ricky Hambilton, Peter Martin (sadly deceased) Rob Jones, John Harding, and Mark Dale.
· Gav Camm A great teacher with a fantastic sense of humour.
· Phil Teague Used to give kids shocks with his Van de Graaff generator if I recall. They probably wanted the shock though.
· Kenneth Edward Walton He was my form teacher from 77-81, and also taught Physics. Great teacher and role model, also a fanatical Welsh Rugby supporter. No one had a bad word for him.
· As a Postscript one of Neville’s daughters has told me that he had played Badminton a couple of days before he died.
It is evident that Neville loved his job and was an extremely dedicated and compassionate teacher not just of physics, but also of “life”. During the late 1980’s a number of Stoke-on-Trent Schools underwent amalgamations and name changes, and HHS was one of these when it was first amalgamated with Carmountside High School. Yet another amalgamation was in play to form Mitchell High School in 1988-89 with the abolition of the nearby Willfield High School. After having gone through the first merger Neville decided to take early retirement, at the age of 51. Mitchell High ceased operations in 2011.
From 1989 Neville visited a range of schools in Stoke-on-Trent to present talks about his second favourite subject Geology. In addition, he worked for the Education Department, and as a guide, at the Chatterley Whitfield Mining Museum (a site where coincidentally the author’s father was killed in 1945), and at the historic Ford Green Hall, Norton. He and his close friend George Hammersley (also a former teacher from HHS) attended a number of adult education courses concerning historical architecture in the district and a range of other art movements. They became involved in several research investigations, fulfilling part of their continued thirst for knowledge.
In discussion with Neville’s family I have elected to dedicate one of my art works to his memory. That work depicts “Striding Edge” that has to be crossed on the ramble from Helvellyn; an activity we both participated in together in November 1955. This dedication serves another purpose. It reminds me that the teacher at SCTS that had the greatest influence on both our future lives was Mr John S Simnett. English master extraordinaire, and constructor of student’s lives. I cannot help but feel that Neville modelled himself on John Simnett.
Dr Alan J Jones, Canberra, Australia, 2020.