Richard Washington-Jones (1918-2001) served in the Merchant Navy, played rugby for London Welsh and then became a headmaster in Venezuela.

Richard was the son of a graduate of St David’s College, John Washington-Jones and his wife, Myfanwy. At the time of his birth, his father was a curate, working in Blaenavon.  Although his son was christened Thomas, he was commonly known by his middle name Richard. In 1919, the family embarked for Patagonia, where John worked as Vicar to the Welsh colonists. Richard’s earliest memories were of Patagonia. The family returned to Wales when he was eight. His next home was in Cwmafan, near Neath. Richard attended Christ’s College, Brecon, were he was a precocious sports star. He twice played in the Brecon v Llandovery annual rugby ‘derby’ and three times in the cricket match. (On each occasion he lost at rugby but won at cricket!))

Like his father, Richard studied at St David’s College, Lampeter. An outstanding sportsman, he captained both the rugby and the cricket teams. At this time, he was popularly known as ‘Washy!’ He graduated in 1939, wearing his father’s hood. The hood was to be worn a third time, when his own son Niall graduated from St David’s College in 1969.

Washington-Jones became a deck hand in the Merchant Navy in 1940; he sailed three times to Gibraltar on the S.S. Lapwing. When the ship was torpedoed on its fourth journey, he received a cheque for the loss of his suit and his mandolin. However, he had been recalled from the ship to receive his Lampeter Graduation Certificate! This may have saved his life! After that, he joined the RAF as a physical training instructor; his rank was flight lieutenant. However, to his great disappointment, colour blindness meant that he was not allowed to fly. However, he and one of his friends used to give Erroll Flynn fencing displays at parties. It was while serving at Tremorfa RAF Camp, Cardiff, that he met Leading Aircraft Woman, Olivari Dottie. They married on August 12 1944; Richard’s father and uncle officiated at the service. Richard and Olivari were to have three sons, Richard, Nicholas and Niall.

After he and Olivari were demobilised in 1945, Washington-Jones went on to Christchurch College, Oxford. Despite spending a great deal of time playing rugby, he managed to gain his Diploma of Education. His first teaching post was at Emanuel School, Wandsworth, where he taught religious education and rugby. Alongside this, he played rugby for London Welsh for three seasons. After that he taught English and rugby at the Merchant Navy Training Ship, HMS Worcester. This was moored at Greenhythe.

Like his father, Washington-Jones worked in South America. He became Headmaster and Director of Education for the seven schools of the Royal Dutch Shell International of Venezuela. He loved Venezuela and especially appreciated being able to explore the jungle. He supported an orphanage caring for indigenous children who had been abandoned. Indeed, Washington-Jones was decorated by the Venezuelan government for his services to the community.

Washington-Jones returned to Britain in 1962; his last full-time post was as Headmaster of Forest Grange Preparatory School, Horsham. On his retirement, he returned to within a few miles of his birthplace, Blaenavon. He commented ‘I never expected to end my life as a happy man, but I have.’ He died peacefully on December 1 2001. His son Niall remembers that he was a convivial man who liked a drink and a laugh, known for his energy, enthusiasm, vitality and sense of fun.

Sources

Washington-Jones, N. (2020). The long arm of Lampeter academicals. The Link, 76, 17. Retrieved November 16 2020 from https://www.uwtsd.ac.uk/media/uwtsd-website/content-assets/documents/alumni/lampeter-society/the-link-summer-2020.pdf