Gren Jones was born on 13 June 1934 in Hengoed, in the Rhymney Valley in Wales, the son of Harry Jones, a collier. Jones' mother was organist at the local Tabernacle, and as a child he was given paper and pencils to keep him occupied. Jones drew caricatures of the preachers and deacons in the hymn books, until he was discovered and thrown out. By the age of eight he was drawing pocket cartoons in the style of Ronald Niebour ("Neb") of the Daily Mail, recalling later that "Neb was responsible for my first interest in cartoons": "I used to go to my grandmother's, who would have the Daily Mail, and I was amazed how the cartoonist could do a different drawing every day."
In 1952 Jones joined the RAF for his National Service, and was sent to Malaya. Afterwards he became a sales representative, and from 1958 to 1963 was employed by Welsh Metals in Caerphilly as an engineering designer, although he admitted that he drew all the time, even in lay-bys when he should have been selling machine tools. His first published drawing was a joke cartoon for Spick & Span, and afterwards he sold his first news-related cartoon to the Birmingham Mail, with the help of John Philpin Jones ("Jon") of the News Chronicle, whose work he greatly admired. "When I first started I spent a lot of time with Jon," he recalled: "He said draw what you know. And I knew about rugby and the Valleys."
For a number of years Jones worked as a freelance cartoonist, drawing for publications such as Whizzer and Chips. In 1960 he also became one of the founder members of the "Knights Of The Round Table", a pop group that would later transform itself into the successful satirical group the "Barron Knights." But in 1968 he was given a staff job on the Western Mail and South Wales Echo. Here Jones produced a daily topical cartoon, but was perhaps best known for the strip "Ponty an' Pop" which he created for the Saturday evening Sports Echo. This featured the village of Aberflyarff in Scrumcap Valley on the River Efflew, with colourful characters such as Ponty and Pop, and Bromide Lil, the tattooed barmaid of the Golden Dap. Jones also drew cartoons for Wales on Sunday.
Jones saw himself as a topical cartoonist, not a political one. "I'm not trying to prove any points", he explained, "I try not to get into the political area as that isn't my audience": "I'm a newsaholic and I try to see all the late night shows. By the time I come into the office I'm sure I've got the right subject, but I check through the papers. From various headlines I try to create about six draft cartoons and then think which ones are the best or most important."
Jones drew the cover for Max Boyce's 1975 album We All Had Doctor's Papers, and when it proved a hit became the first cartoonist to receive a gold disc, from the record company EMI. He was voted CCGB Provincial Cartoonist of the Year four times, in 1983, 1985, 1986, and 1987, and in 1990 he was also awarded the MBE for his services to the newspaper industry. His strip "Big Deal", also known as "Threadneedle", was syndicated for thirty-five years, and he also produced golf, cricket and rugby sporting calendars, as well as some with a business theme - notably for Bemrose Publishers for 20 years. Jones was also official "war artist" for the Welsh Rugby Union.
Signing himself "Gren", or sometimes "Jones", he preferred to work in line and wash. He retired from the newsroom in 1999, aged sixty-five, but continued to work at home in Cardiff, producing a daily topical cartoon for the Echo. "I’m in my room for 7.30am", he explained in 2004, "and I watch the morning news and look through several newspapers. I usually have the cartoon ready by midday, but it can be a bit of a panic sometimes. I’m just as thrilled if I see a cartoon of mine in print today as I was 30 years ago."
Gren Jones died in Cardiff on 4 January 2007, and his funeral was held at Llandaff Cathedral. In 2008 he was commemorated at the Cardiff headquarters of Media Wales with a ten-metre long wrought iron cartoon, featuring his characters Ponty and Pop and Nigel the Sheep.
- BBC News Online, 11 June 1999, "Welsh cartoonist retires to 'Aberflyarff'."
- Mark Bryant Dictionary of Twentieth-Century British Cartoonists and Caricaturists (Ashgate, Aldershot, 2000), p.128.
- Emily Lambert "Cartoonist Explains Thrill of the Draw", Western Mail, 2 March 2004, p.13.
- Rebecca Williams "Celebrating a Local Legend", South Wales Echo, 6 March 2004, p.20.
- Jessica Flynn "Gren Jones", Press Gazette, 12 January 2007.
- Western Mail, 17 January 2007, p.10, “Farewell to a legend who became an icon.”
- Meic Stephens "Grenfell Jones: Cartoonist and satirist of Wales’ valleys", The Guardian, 13 March 2007, p.38.
- South Wales Echo, 16 September 2010, p.6, "On the Trail of Our Legend; Cartoonist's landmarks set to feature in walking route."
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