Local athletics followers will remember with affection and sadness the life and death of Les Jones, former head boy of Portadown College who died under sad circumstances in March 1992 at the age of 48.
The story went full circle this week when Les’s family presented a cheque for £5,000 to the Mary Peters Trust (Mary being an ex-head girl of the College) as they wound up the trust that had been founded in Les’s memory.
Les was one of Britain’s most celebrated athletics administrators. He had been chairman of the NI Amateur Athletics Association, and rose to the position of team manager of the GB athletics team after the Seoul Olympics in 1988 – which would have seen him in that position for Barcelona 1992.
But in March 1992, he was found dead in bed on board the team’s hotel ship in Italy, a profound loss to British athletics, to Portadown and to his family.
The cheque was handed over to Mary by Les’s daughter Kerri - his wife Lesley Harkness as well as officials of the Mary Peters Track in Belfast were there. It took place in The Les Jones Room at the venue in front of a photo of Les. Mary and Les were soul mates in the athletics world, given that she was Olympic Gold Medallist (Munich 1972) head girl at PC, five years before Les’s stint as head boy. They both rose to great heights in the athletics admin world.
Les rubbed shoulders as an administrator with the likes of Steve Cram, Steve Ovett, Brendan Foster, Zola Budd, Liz McColgan, Linford Christie, Colin Jackson, Steve Backley, Said Aouita and Ingrid Kristiansen. A memorial games took place on August 31 that year and lots of the athlete took part. It was from the money raised at that meeting, plus donations, that his wife decided to set up the Les Jones Trust.
Said Lesley, “When we closed the trust there was still a sum of money in our account.
“With interest, this totalled £5,000 and it was agreed to hand this over to the Mary Peters Trust as this carried out a similar function to ours.”