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Martin Shortland-Jones (1930-2000)

(extract from the Eton Fives Association Annual Report 2000/01)

The untimely death of our President, has left the Eton Fives' world bereft.

That he was a superb player and that he contributed so much to the game makes his passing hard to bear, but more difficult for those who knew him well is the loss of a good friend, particularly to anyone in need.It was fitting that Martin was President. Previously a Vice-President and Honorary Secretary of the EFA, he always strove to be doing something for the game he loved and for over fifty years his interest never waned.

From Captain of Fives at Harrow he went to Cambridge and on at least one occasion was first pair with the legendary Peter May in the University match. But it was with his lifelong friend and fellow Harrovian,D. J. S. Guilford, that he won the Kinnaird Cup in 1959 and 1960. Those were competitive times and David and Martin became known as the gentlemen of the game, both were Jesters, although Martin would not be without cunning and guile if challenged by subtleties from others but sportsmanship and fairness were just two of his hallmarks.

When he was appointed to Ipswich School he transformed the game there and later achieved the same at Berkhamsted, where he formed the Essjays - a play on his initials - friends to provide extra games against schoolboys. They were followed by delightful evenings over a convivial meal. He then moved to Eton, again with a dramatic effect on the game there. In 1965 he was in the EFA team which toured Northern Nigeria.

Martin's illness had just taken a grip when he was due to attend the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Torry Hill court as a guest of our Patron - a day which would have fascinated him. The unique occasion was marred only by his absence. It has been gratifying to know that his devoted wife, Anne, continues to take such a keen interest in the game and apart from joining the EFA in her own right, she had kindly donated a cup in Martin's memory for the Veterans' Competition and his two Kinnaird winner's cups for the School Championships.

Martin's life has been one of service to others and other following tributes acknowledge the many facets to it. We send our sincere condolences to Anne and express our gratitude that she so willingly supported Martin in all that he did for the game.

Gordon Stringer

Address by David Guilford for the funeral of Martin Shortland-Jones:

We have come to say farewell to Martin, but most of all to thank him for all he added to the lives of family, friends and pupils, three groups very closely intertwined.

That he and Anne have experienced such a frightful five months is indeed cruel - they least deserved it. I admire the way in which they faced their ordeal with courage, tenacity and an amazing lack of self-pity.

I have known Martin since we were both thirteen and a half-plus (and it is strange that he shared my Mother's birthday, and Anne shares mine). I knew his parents, and still visit his aunt, who would, I know, have liked to have been here to say goodbye. At school then, for five years, at Cambridge together for three of the four years - Martin got ahead of me there - we met regularly when he was at Ipswich and Berkhamsted - at Eton together for thirty years, in the same department. We'd been taught our classics by a superb team - the school's best ever I suspect - a team which included a Newcastle scholar and a Newcastle medallist, and which may have sown seeds in our minds, unknown at the time, of teaching at their Alma Mater.

Over fifty years, then, and there have been many, many happy occasions. None happier than an engagement drink at Eton and his marriage to Anne here in Ipswich. How proper that he should choose to share his life with the daughter of his first Classics Head of Department and that they should be married in the School Chapel. Martin asked me to be Best Man: I was deeply honoured. I remember it all so clearly. Later, when we arrived back at school, Martin brought round a parcel in which were a pair of Coalport cups and saucers with a small bowl. These, he said, were a small present for my part, humble and inadequate, I add, at the wedding. Little did he known that earlier I had spied them in a local antiques shop, drooled over them and thought it an extravagance for me to buy. Martin instinctively knew how much I would love them. My grandfather had worked at Coalport: almost all my Coalport collection is in the attic of my cousin's home in Shropshire, but not Martin's cups, which have always been on show these last twenty-eight years. The gift was typical of Martin's kindness and generosity.

Indeed, I have another memento of Martin, which I use all the time. Years and years ago I bought a cabinet from him. It now houses sixteen volumes of my stamp collection - his schoolboy collection was merged into mine some forty years ago - and only recently I came across an album sheet headed by his Mother's quite delightful script.

There were happy trips to Nigeria, Hong Kong, Greece, Sicily and France - all quite different. And what a happy Silver Wedding, too.

Classical alliance having been established, Ablative Absolute, involvement in the Classics prospered for the Oxbridge pair. Wonderfully conscientious and successful teacher of old and young alike, Martin was always adding to his repetoire. The home in Malta provided even more opportunity for Continental travel - prior to his wedding he had masterminded and led groups of schoolboys, selected, I should add, to Greece. On one occasion, when Martin's father, who for some time had much needed the care and attention Martin had devotedly given him, finally died, Martin had to delay his departure and I, with a colleague from Berkhamsted, was left in charge of some Etonians, only to be confronted with a rail strike in Milan - not a situation I enjoyed. Luckily others laid on buses to get us to Brindisi to catch the ferry. On another occasion, at Malea or Kato Zacro in Crete, as Martin enthused about a Minoan bath, a would-be classical scholar provocatively, tongue in cheek, quietly murmured to me, 'Another heap of old rubble, sir'.

Such was the thirst to improve their knowledge that to and from Malta, there was ever a detour to see some Roman site that was new to them.

Martin was a wonderful photographer too. Their slide library was huge, and how the pupils benefited. His was the first colour TV in Eton; he shared that, too.

Of course, Martin loved to drive, and he was a real expert, as is Anne, who once negotiated us through Paris, The lure of a motorway sign, on one occasion, though, caused a hurried and embarrassing retreat from the middle of a Walsall housing estate - the motorway unfinished, had just petered out. It was good for me that Martin didn't like being driven; I revelled in my good fortune.

In addition to his teaching and the administration of text books and of the Classical Library, both with Anne's support, Martin was responsible - at various times - for teaching aids, travel awards, pavilions and dances the last two conjure up a wonderful picture of boaters and blazers and Fred Astaire, but he assured me that it wasn't like that! And, of course, he coached Cricket and Fives with great success and unbounded enthusiasm.

Of Martin's prowess at Fives everyone knows. Not everyone knows, however, that he played for Suffolk on occasion at Squash and Badminton, and that he was no mean cricketer. A colleague of ours, a distinguished Oxford cricketer, once reported that Martin was the slowest bowler that he had ever come across, but that was not quite fair. In his penultimate year at school many considered him the best spin bowler - Harrow played two slow bowlers at Lord's, they bowled two overs between them, the school lost by plenty, and both bowlers were dropped from the XI the following year! Maybe, the many were right.

His real love, though, was Fives. He was a quite outstanding player, and he won the very highest honours in the game. He was a supreme organiser, too. He became Secretary and finally - such was the confidence he inspired - at a time of great change to the administration of the sport, President of the Eton Fives Association, a fitting reward for his untiring devotion to the game. It is ironic that it was while he was presenting a trophy that he had the first intimation of his illness.

Martin's work away from school and Fives was outstanding too. His unstinted efforts on behalf of the Society of Schoolmasters and the Professional Classes Aid Council revealed the compassion for the less privileged in the career, and the time he gave to the Windsor Festival and to Valletta Cathedral provided yet further evidence of his concern for things that really matter.

Before and after marriage Martin was an attentive host. He was a splendid cook. He knew and enjoyed his wines. Many from home or away shared their board, and Sunday nights at 4 Gulliver's were a haven for those who enjoyed spirited conversation and refreshment before the new week's toils.

Anne's involvement in, and enthusiasm for, Martin's interests made life so much richer for them both. They had much still to look forward to. The past few months have been traumatic, but Anne can look back with pride on the role she has played throughout in so warm and generous a partnership.

There will be a void in the lives of us all. We will all miss the professionalism, the integrity, the understanding - no-one had a readier ear, more time or more concern for those who were in trouble or needed advice, young or old alike - the humour, and, when something appealed to his sense of fun, that glint in his eye.

Farewell, good friend.

Service of Thanksgiving:

A Service of Thanksgiving for the life of Martin (21st June 1930 - 25th September 2000) was held at Eton College Chapel on Friday 26th January. Over two hundred family and friends were in attendance. The Conduct began the service by saying the bidding prayer:

"We are met here in the presence of God to give thanks for the life of MARTIN SHORTLAND-JONES

We remember his intellect and the diversity of his interests, which lasted to the end of his life;

His prowess at all games, especially at Fives, his time as Secretary and then as President of the Eton Fives Association, and the enthusiasm with which he taught others to play; his love of cricket, his bowling of exceptional slowness and guile, and, later, his umpiring in Malta:

His enthusiastic and meticulous teaching of Classics and his deep love for all things Greek and Roman;

His administrative skills, used to such good effect here at Eton, in Church affairs in Malta, and as Joint Chairman of the Education Committee of the Professional Classes Aid Council, where he represented the Society of Schoolmasters and Schoolmistresses:

His understanding of those in trouble or of those who needed reassuring, especially amongst his pupils; his high expectation of his pupils, but also his manifest kindness;

His love of Baroque music, photography and travel;

His delight in precision and in subtleties, in wine, in speed and in friendly outmanoeuvrings.

And we give thanks for the happiness of his marriage to Anne, for the companionship they shared, for their hospitality and for the fun their company provided for others.

Finally, let us pray that God in his mercy will grant him that peace which passes all understanding in the Kingdom of eternal love."

David Guilford, The Provost and Lord Kingsdown gave the Readings.

On news of the seriousness of MJSJ's Illness, Gordon Stringer wrote to him:

Dear Martin,

Since I spoke to Anne I felt I must write but I haven't been sure what to say. Anyway, here goes.

You must know that your many friends in the Fives' world are thinking of you and I hope that the inner strength that both you and Anne have always had will support you fully in your circumstances.

We go back such a long way. It was '57 or '58 that I first noticed you in a game at Cambridge. Not knowing your name, I was intrigued watching to see that you hardly missed a shot. You once told me of your first attendance at an EFA AGM as a very nervous Cambridge undergraduate. Who was to know then what lay ahead - the Presidency, Kinnaird champion twice, one of the only pairs (with D. J. S. Guilford) to take a game off the May brothers in the final one year and one of the only pairs (with A. G. Phillips) ever to beat Hughes and Campbell on their own courts. But, as you know only too well, that is only a small part of the story - what you have achieved for Ipswich, Berkhamsted, Eton and the EFA could fill a book.

As President of the EFA you have deservedly been a popular choice. When you invited me to become a Vice-President I was - and still am - very touched, as nothing like that had ever entered my head. I cannot thank you enough for welcoming me back to the fold. It came at a time when business was not good and it did much to renew my self esteem. It is typical that you are stll researching Fives for the archives at this difficult time. I hope that I and indeed others - can make more of a contribution to the EFA. Your example alone warrants it.

You will recall ringing me once to partner you in the Midland Tournament. I was so flattered to imagine that you must have thought how much my game had improved, until your next question was: 'Could I offer a bed for the night?'

I still have your letters from when we corresponded regularly at length in the '60s over Fives. I made the point that I enjoyed writing to the second greatest authority on the game.

Most notably I always valued the many times at Colenorton and Gulliver's. You and David Guilford put up with a lot from me, but above all you both made the Fives admin fun - at least for me! Do you remember when I surfaced one morning and you were on the 'phone but you signalled for me to help myself to the cooked breakfast? When you finished the call and you were satisfied that I had had sufficient to eat, you then made it clear that I had eaten yours as well. You must remember insisting one year that I draw the Kinnaird entries straight from the hat, seeds apart, without any adjustments and you personally would supervise me. My protests were in vain until someone was drawn against you with whom you'd had a row on court the week before and you decided to leave me to use my own judgement after all.

Apart from our obvious Fives link, I have treasured your hand of friendship. You have always been concerned about my personal welfare, both family and work. Even in business, you always had a common sense answer to problems which I threw at you. There was the time a sales meeting was called at my flat in Birmingham, which I felt was a gross intrusion by the company's sales manager. As the letter said at my flat and not in it, you suggested that the meeting be held on the doorstep.

Talking of 44 West Point, I hope you and Anne might have forgotten your visit there once for which Margot attempted to bake a cake. It exploded in the kitchen just before you arrived.

How much I enjoyed our one-to-one at the meal you insisted on treating me to after the '98 AGM - I was looking forward to returning that hospitality last year, but your unavoidable absence meant the evening was an anticlimax for me.

Although we haven't been in such regular contact latterly, I am only too well aware of the bond that has always been there and I feel as if my right (or left) arm is being cut off, but this is nothing to how you and Anne are having to cope.

There is much more which could be said - what lovely evenings those Essjay matches were, and the trip to Nigeria - but at least you know how all of us are feeling.

I will remember your friendship as one of warmth and inspiration.

Kindest wishes to you both,

Gordon (and Margot)