50 not out – Derek Jones thanked for his half century as council’s sports development officer

Neath Port Talbot Council Sports Development Officer Derek Jones has been officially congratulated for his more than 50 years of dedicated service to local government.

Now 72, Derek was a 22-year-old newly qualified electrician destined for a job in the Port Talbot Steelworks when on March 4th, 1974, he changed his mind and became a sports instructor at the former Afan Lido Sports Centre.

That week, ex Conservative Prime Minister Edward Heath resigned and handed power to Labour’s Harold Wilson while Alvin Stardust, the Wombles and David Bowie were topping the charts.

On Tuesday, July 2nd, 2024, Derek was thanked for his half century of service by the Mayor of Neath Port Talbot, Cllr Matthew Crowley, in a reception at the Mayor’s Parlour in Neath Port Talbot Council’s Civic Centre.

Recalling the day he signed on for work at the Afan Lido, Derek said: “I loved sport and when I was offered the instructor’s role, my father said: ‘It’s a no-brainer…take the Lido job’”.

Derek said he has never regretted his decision having worked in sports instructing and development for Afan and Port Talbot Borough Councils and latterly Neath Port Talbot Council which was formed in 1996.

Derek, who grew up in the Sandfields and Aberavon areas represented Wales at gymnastics for 10 years and he also formed the Afan Lido Gymnastics Club which is still going 50 years later – both his sons helping with coaching.

In 2018 Derek won the Neath Port Talbot Council Citizens’ Award Staff Member of the Year title and he was also presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

He said: “It’s incredible how things have changed – particularly in terms of technology and people over the years. When I started we had Bryn (Uncle Bryn) Thomas in charge at the seafront who many people of a certain age will have fond memories of.

“I’m proud to have been a member for many years now of the council’s PASS (Physical Activity and Sports Team) and I’ve had a good relationship with line managers such as Paul Walker and Andrew Thomas.

“The team has helped generations of local children live healthier lives by getting them off the streets and into a variety of sports as part of our mission to promote better health through active living”.

Derek now works three days a week (though sometimes more) as part of a flexible retirement scheme but has no plans to stop work just yet. He explained: “I would have retired a long time ago if I was not enjoying the job.”