Lin Jonas – A Tribute by Joyce Gibson


I must have joined U3A just as Lin was taking up her new job in 1996. By the time I met her at my first NEC meeting four years later she seemed to me a very authoritative, very fair and extremely knowledgeable figure. I was already in awe of her reputation ! I was also woefully ignorant of the workings of the U3A and I have Lin to thank for her patient guidance in negotiating what proved, for me, to be a long and complicated learning curve.

I  soon realised that both she and Keith Richard, who was Vice-chair at the time, were determined to bring Northern Ireland into the fold. Before I knew it, Keith was proposing to run a U3A study day for us in Bangor. I accepted ‘with alacrity’.

Two more home-grown study days followed, one with the help of Ian Searle who later became National Chairman, and then came our very first residential Summer School. Run by a team from two locally based U3As, on each occasion Lin proved to be a tower of strength, providing unfailing support and advice and sending us copious boxes of equipment and merchandise from the National Office.

Eventually the Northern Ireland Region was officially formed and Lin came over to speak to us on various occasions at the invitation of the new Regional committee. The whole region soon learned to respect and usually to act on  her invaluable advice. Her visits (and her replies to telephone calls) were invariably extremely useful, packed, as they always, were with wisdom and encouragement for all.

Meanwhile, after my three years on the NEC came to an end, I remained on the national scene and accepted a proposal, no doubt at Lin’s instigation, to try to revive the post of ‘Subject Adviser for Modern Languages’ which unfortunately had lapsed through lack of a body to fill the role. Together we rebuilt the service.  For five years Lin gave me tireless support, helping me to design my newsletter, to distribute information, to run a study day in London and to keep comprehensive records of the many members who proved to be interested in languages.   After a few years I, with others, was invited to a day at her London club to show her appreciation of the work which some of the subject advisers were doing. She was always full of original ideas and obviously believed in giving credit where credit was due.  It was a great help to everyone there to feel appreciated, to meet up with fellow volunteers and to discuss with them and with Lin some of the problems they were encountering.

Participation as tutor of the French Group at two national Summer Schools again gave me the opportunity to meet and work with Lin . I particularly remember one baking hot Sunday afternoon just after my arrival at  the Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester. I had arrived early to prepare my classroom and sort out my copious materials and equipment. To my horror I had been allocated an attic room, the sloping window–lined sides of which reminded me of my husband’s greenhouse. The six sessions of my programme were largely based on visual aids, which in those days, depended on the quality of black-out!  Lin and I spent the rest of the afternoon having fun covering the windows with thick black paper. She must have been so busy with a hundred and one other tasks; she really was amazingly generous with her time!

Which leads me on to mention the fantastic job she did every year in finding venues for and running the National Annual Conferences and the two Summer Schools.  Of course many others were involved but Lin always seemed to me to play a large part as the brains behind every operation. Over the years I attended many National conferences and three summer schools all of which were always so relaxed and such fun. The Conference which will always stay with me was in Falmouth to mark 25 glorious years of U3A. This wasn’t just a conference but a cruise to Normandy and the Scilly Isles as well, my first ever. I can still feel the excitement of arriving at the University buildings to enrol and the comfort and well-being conveyed on hearing Lin’s familiar and capable voice directing proceedings as usual. She of course welcomed me like a long-lost friend.

I was so sorry that amidst all the hassle I neglected to take a photo of Lin herself but I think the on-board scene depicted in the photo reflects the atmosphere of those three fabulous days. You won’t believe it but Barbara Lewis, future chairman on the left, features by accident.  I didn’t even know her at the time!  I’m sure Lin was around somewhere.

My last involvement with national affairs and hence official contact with Lin, took the form of regional representative for that uniquely U3A institution known as SLP or Shared Learning Projects. Again Lin was a tower of strength.

Unbelievably, on one occasion, one of our teams had researched and  produced a book covering four aspects of the work of  ‘The Somme Centre’, one of Northern Ireland’s War Museums. However cuts had just been imposed on all such institutions and there was no money to spare for the proof-reading and printing of such inessential luxuries. Naturally everyone concerned was very disappointed. Lin again came to the rescue.

A long term loan was arranged and the National Office’s own printing press, in action at the time, published the book for them. Of course Lin saw to it that the book was expertly poof-read by a junior member of staff and produced to a very high standard. That is the sort of person she is. We and the Museum will be eternally grateful to Lin for her thoughtfulness and generosity.

Thanks for the memories Lin. I’d like to wish you all the very best for the future,

Joyce , with love and gratitude

Joyce Gibson

North Down and Ards U3A

Northern Ireland

June 2016