“If you reach 80 and still playing [sports] you either have to be healthy or foolish.”
Canon Ivor Jones may have uttered those words jokingly, but in fact he was well into his 90s when he stopped playing tennis, having played his last cricket match a decade earlier.
Those were some of the memories Jones, a lifelong member of the Barbados Cricket Association, relived yesterday at the Christ Church Parish Church Centre where he was joined by Governor General Sir Elliott Belgrave family and friends to celebrate his 100th birthday.
He also recalled his path to the priesthood, which he said started as a young boy, while his father was headmaster of the Holy Innocents Boys School, and his mother was also a teacher there.
“They used to take me to the church every Sunday, and I used to go and I used to listen to the teachers and I would say to myself, ‘Man, I can preach better than that. I feel I can do better than that. And that’s how I got into the ministry of preaching.
“I have preached in every Anglican Church in this island of Barbados,” he added.
Jones was ordained a deacon in 1941 and a priest the following year. And for 30 years between 1979 and 2009, he also conducted faith healing – a period he described as “a lot of years to be able to preach”.
Apart from his duties in the Church, Canon Jones was also a teacher at Harrison College, and like his father, also married a teacher, Anna Sealy.
“We started in Tobago. She had a private school in Tobago, took that private school over to Barbados, when I was a teacher in Harrison College, and she was a teacher of this private school. And people are still going to that school and it is still called the Jones’ private school.”
Jones’ wife died in 2003 after 58 years of marriage. Their union produced four children – Geoffrey, who lives in England; June, Valerie and Angela.
His last daughter, Angela Bryan, described her father as a “kind, loving, caring man”, who is also very faithful and positive.
“Whatever you do for him he’s always appreciative; it’s always ‘thank you’ and so on. He has remained very sound of mind throughout his latter years. He suffered a major illness about eight years ago, but since then he has recovered quite well enough to be coherent and aware of his surrounding.
“He plays the piano still, beautifully. [He plays] all the hymns, some from memory and some which he can read the music. He also plays the pipe organ in the church and people love to hear him play; especially Christmas Eve, he will play the carols before the service started,” she told Barbados TODAY.
On becoming Barbados’ newest centenarian, the retired priest said he was just thankful to reach the milestone that he had desired.
“I thank God that I lived to be 100. But I always wanted to be 100, so when last year I was 99 years old, I said I hope I reach the hundred. I don’t know how many more years I will [have] but at least I reached 100.”
He also reflected on the state of today’s society, telling reporters it was different to the world in which he grew up.
“We lived in an age when people shared what they had with other people. It was a lovely age. If you had pumpkins and I didn’t have any, you would get some to me. Nowadays it ain’t so. Nowadays you getting young people shooting one another.”
Governor General Sir Elliott Belgrave told the gathering he was happy to join in the celebrations.
“He has had a wonderful life. I regretted at the time that he didn’t make Bishop . . . but life goes on. When you miss the bus you must get a taxi or you walk.
“Since I’ve been Governor General I have visited several Barbadians who have attained the ripe old age of 100. Some of them I have never seen before, but he is one whom I have seen and admired. It’s a pleasure to visit the people of Barbados who have reached this age, who have helped to develop Barbados, because it is on their shoulders that we stand,” Sir Elliott said.
As for Canon Jones’ family, Angela said they had been receiving calls “from all over the world” today.
“The cricketers have been calling, the tennis players have been calling, the students from Harrison College, and then the parishioners. So it’s been wonderful,” she said.