60 Seconds with Gareth Jones OBE

Thursday, 20 May 2021

Apart from a year as a tennis coach, Gareth Jones has been a member of Her Majesty’s civil service for the whole of his working life. ‘I started as a computer programmer when computers could easily have taken up half a five-a-side football pitch,’ he says. ‘I’ve worked as private secretary to a cabinet minister in the Margaret Thatcher government. I’ve been registrar of companies for the UK. And I finally retired as director general for natural resources in the Welsh government. I now chair the board of a professional representative body

Now PGM of South Wales and Third Grand Principal, Gareth’s interest in Freemasonry began in the early 1980s when he was playing rugby for Cardiff High School Old Boys RFC. ‘Quite a few of the members were also in the Old Boys’ Lodge, Harlequins No, 5793 in Cardiff, and they were people I liked and respected. So after some discussion, my brother (Peter – now W Bro Peter Jones PJGD) and I approached one of our friends who was pleased to tell us a bit about it. In February 1984, Peter and I were initiated together, and we were subsequently passed, raised and exalted together too, with Peter (as the older sibling) installing me into the chairs of the lodge and chapter some years later.’

What inspires you about Freemasonry?

In my early days in Freemasonry, I was inspired by more senior members, some of whom were pretty good role models. More recently, I have been – and continue to be – inspired by young men, particularly those in our New and Young Masons’ Clubs. These members with their new, fresh ideas and refreshing attitudes towards the Craft and the Royal Arch are a reminder that we must constantly change to keep up with society, while at the same time holding dear those basic principles and values that encouraged us to join.

Has Freemasonry improved your life?

Apart from the natural improvements that stem from an understanding of what our beautiful ritual has to teach us, Freemasonry has provided a wide circle of friends for my wife and me. It has given us great opportunities to meet new people and enjoy the social aspects of the Craft. In my current roles as Third Grand Principal and PGM for South Wales, Freemasonry has also provided some much-needed structure since I retired from work full-time.

What do you enjoy most about being Third Grand Principal and PGM?

While I still enjoy our ceremonial, I especially like meeting our members across Provinces and further afield. I enjoy listening to their views, responding to concerns, making presentations at annual meetings and generally playing a small part in spreading good practice when and wherever I can.

How has the pandemic presented challenges for Freemasonry?

This last year has been like no other. Our inability to meet and to enjoy the organisations we love so much has been heartbreaking, frustrating and downright horrid. Freemasonry has, however, continued; we don’t suddenly become non-masons simply because we cannot meet. We must all have been heartened to learn about the wonderful work our members have done to help and support members and wider communities in their times of need. Freemasonry will continue stronger and better in the months and years to come.

Tell us about receiving your OBE...

I was honoured to receive my OBE in 2003 from HRH The Prince of Wales as a result of when I was Operations Director for Wales during the foot and mouth crisis. The day at the palace was a lovely experience for my family and me. We got to meet Sir Mick Jagger, who was receiving his knighthood, and Gerry Marsden, who was receiving his MBE.

Hopes for the future of Freemasonry?

I am a bit of a traditionalist, so my hopes for the future are pretty modest. I hope and trust we will never compromise on our underlying values and principles, and that our ceremonies will continue to teach us lessons that have stood the test of time over 300 years. Of course, we must adapt our practices to suit society around us if we are to remain relevant. But those adaptations must be done via evolution rather than revolution if we are to keep our older members engaged and supportive. After all, they are the ones who have acted as stewards of Freemasonry before our time, and we must be sensitive to their needs always. On a more personal note, I have a son who is a new Master Mason (and who probably thinks it is perfectly normal for the Deputy Grand Master, Second Grand Principal and Past Assistant Grand Master to attend one’s initiation) and is about to be exalted into the Royal Arch. I look forward to seeing his progress.

Best bit of advice you’ve been given?

Rule one: There is always a solution to any problem. Rule two: If you can’t find the solution, refer to Rule one.

What are your favourite ways to relax?

My wife and I love holidays, especially our annual skiing trip. Since lockdown, I have restarted my interest in playing chess and play once or twice a day against opponents across the globe. And as restaurants open again, my love of fine dining and good wines can once again be satisfied.

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