FORE! Mark Jones heading back to the golf course after over 27 years at Wirral Hospice St John’s

Published on: 30/06/2023

Our long-time facilities manager, and former golf professional, Mr Mark Jones, is retiring after more than 27 years’ service at the hospice.

It’s going to be strange because Mark’s been a huge part of making the behind-the-scenes maintenance and on-site events back-up facilities work for all of that time.

Whatever the challenges, Mark faces them with an amiable disposition, sage experience and practical problem-solving. We’ll miss him a lot.

Mark’s heritage as a ‘Fir Bob’ (a descendant of a family whose roots are established in Higher Bebington and which refers to the fir-cones found in the woods nearby*) is ideal because he’s hoping that Brackenwood Golf Course, a stone’s throw from his house, will be reinstated soon and he will be able to saunter over, at his leisure, to work on his handicap once again! Maybe we should call him a ‘Fairway Bob?

You see, Mark was once a golf club professional. Although he’d been good at woodwork and technical drawing at the old Bebington Secondary School, and he’d seemed destined to follow in his joiner dad, Ralph’s, footsteps, he’d shown some prowess for golf from the age of 9 and by 16, via Brackenwood Juniors and Eastham Lodge Colts, he was interviewed to become the junior professional assistant at Royal Liverpool Golf Club. Oh Yes!

The senior assistant back then was John Hegarty who is now the professional at our world-renowned links and who will once again be welcoming the best players in the world to Hoylake for The Open Championship this year. The year that Mark retires? Now that seems like good timing!

By 1982, having gained all of his golf coaching qualifications from Lilleshall (now the national sports centre of England), alongside the training to run a business, Mark’s golf career was in full swing (full swing? Never mind!)

He was the pro for a number of years at, what is now, Wirral Golf Club, in Oxton, and as such spent time teaching, including some of his old teachers from Bebington who also recommended him to more local secondary schools to coach young golfers.

There are too many memories from his time here but Mark’s hole in one at Royal Liverpool on the 14th, as well as once repairing a club for six times golf major winner, Sir Nick Faldo are some outstanding ones.

The beginning of the end for his golf career was (against his Dad’s constant advice) playing football and injuring knee ligaments and then wrenching the same knee in a rabbit hole at a Pro-Am tournament at Heswall Golf Club.

It was a time for a change.

He’d inherited his dad, Ralph’s, ‘handiness’ (Ralph was a joiner and eventually a building surveyor for Port Sunlight Unilever Estates) and he fancied a role in something similar and for the next few years worked for a building company on the installation of the V6 engine plant at the Vauxhalls car plant in Ellesmere Port. This was followed by a couple of years working for an electrical contractor.

In 1996 a job for a handyman/porter for the hospice had been advertised and Mark was made aware of this at the time by his future mother in law Nona, who had been a cleaner at the Hospice for many years.

Mark was invited for an interview and by complete coincidence, Hospice Trustee, Mr Joe Maxwell, who was part of the interview panel had previously been given golf coaching by Mark!

Mark’s not sure it weighed in his favour (they were different days) but he was offered the role and on 1st April 1996 he joined the Hospice as handyman/porter.

He’s had four roles at the hospice, progressing at each stage; handyman/porter, caretaker, maintenance manager and facilities manager. He’s seen, and overseen, a lot of the changes to the buildings infrastructure.

In the spring of 1996 the newly expanded St John’s Hospice was officially opened after a capital appeal had raised the funds to re-model the Inpatients ward, daycare services (now Wellbeing Centre) and new meeting rooms and offices were built on top of the original ward.

Mark married his wife Marian in 1998 with many of his hospice friends attending. He’d won a fruit cake in a hospice Guess The Weight competition at the Summer Fair, made by colleague and nurse Pauline Connolly and a nice icing topped off a perfect wedding cake.

Mark is proud of all his achievements at the hospice, particularly his involvement with the numerous building projects. These included in 2004 the new Chapel extension (now the rear Hub), 2008 the new  2 storey Outpatients wing, in 2010 the total refurbishment of the Inpatient Unit which increased the number of single patient rooms and in 2014 which saw an additional 2 floors being built above what was the original Hospice building.

“In all those years I’ve been lucky enough to have had a fantastic and enthusiastic team of staff and volunteers to thank for their part in making my time at the Hospice such an enjoyable one”.

Although Mark is looking forward to playing some more golf you just know, being a handyman, that daughters Sian and Rhian will have jobs around their houses for Mark to help with and, we know, Grandad is going to be very busy.

Thank You Mark for all you’ve done for and with Wirral Hospice St John’s. Everyone here wishes you a happy, and hopefully not too busy, retirement!

*From a book called Fir-Bob Land written by a Mr Allan Alsbury and published in 1999