Deeply committed and straight-talking Presbyterian minister

Stewart Jones: September 8th, 1957 - July 12th, 2014


The Reverend Dr Stewart Jones, who has died in a diving accident in Donegal Bay, was a straight-talking Presbyterian minister who combined academic distinction with a love and aptitude for the pastoral care of his flock; and with being an expert diver.

At the time of his death he was minister of Donemana, Co Tyrone, and Presbyterian chaplain to Derry’s Altnagelvin hospital. His work helped make Donemana a vibrant congregation, reaching out into the community.

Excellent diver The Rev Jones held Masters degrees in Theology, Information Technology and Arts, and a D Phil in History. He had written books on the history of Ulster unionism, the history and politics of the Middle East and on Biblical Studies, Through The Bible in 365 Days.

Additionally, he was among the best-qualified divers in Ireland. He took up the sport in his early 40s, mastering it to become a top-class instructor. On the week after his death, he had been due to undertake another training course.

Stewart Robert Jones was born in September 1957 in Bessbrook, south Armagh, eldest of three children to Jimmy Jones, a landscape gardener and scout leader, and his wife Bea (nee Stewart). He received primary education at Bessbrook Primary School, where a teacher inspired his future studies – by disparaging his academic ability. His secondary education was at Newry High School. On leaving school, he felt the call to the ministry, combining studies at Queen’s University and Union Theological College.

He began his ministry in east Belfast. Then he became minister of Second Castlederg, Co Tyrone, and Alt, Co Donegal. His Castlederg congregation had suffered badly in the Troubles. That ministry was followed by Kilcooley in Bangor. Donemana and Altnagelvin were his final charges. He helped build a relationship between the Donemana congregation and Mtunthama congregation in Malawi.

His last words summarise the man. He was diving with a younger friend when the two were caught by a freak wave. He told his companion: “I’m done. Save yourself.”

He is survived by his wife, Patricia; daughters Anna, Esther and Rachel and grandchildren Josh and Lily.