Obituary: Philip Jones, secretary of United Norwest and United Co-operatives

'Not only did Phil hold a remarkable number of senior roles; he carried them out with enormous energy, commitment and competence'

Philip Jones (1 August 1954 – 21 April 2019) was best known in co-op circles as the secretary of United Norwest and then United Co-operatives, having started his career as a management trainee. 

He served under Martin Beaumont from 1994, and subsequently under Peter Marks following the Yorkshire merger until his retirement in 2008.

Less well known to readers was his nine-year stint as a director of Progress Housing Group, latterly as chair; his 10-year spell as a trustee of St Catherine’s Hospice in Preston, ending as vice-chair; and the last decade of his life, setting up and chairing the Wigan Warriors Community Foundation.

At some point, he also fitted in playing tenor horn, first with Wigan Boys Club, then starting up Wigan and District Brass, and finally joining the Royal Doulton Band which took him to the Royal Albert Hall, Nashville Tennessee, recording 14 albums, and performances at the Queen’s Silver Jubilee, and Charles and Diana’s wedding.

Not only did Phil hold a remarkable number of senior roles; he carried them out with enormous energy, commitment and competence.  Former president of United, Bill Hoult, recalls: “He took us through three mergers, with Sheffield, Leeds and Yorkshire, introduced a pioneering employee share scheme, and oversaw the establishment of the Co-operative Charitable Foundation.”

This is Stephen Greenhalgh from St Catherine’s Hospice: “Philip was incredibly dedicated. He was usually on the last minute and I have fond memories of watching him scurry into meetings with a presence and energy that filled the room. Philip had always read his reports and papers in great detail and had a laser like ability to get to the heart of what really mattered.”

Jacqui de Rose at New Progress Housing: “I might have been the chief executive but there was never any doubt who was in charge. Phil did it in such a nice way bringing just the right mix of support and challenge to make sure that we were grounded and properly focused on our practical purpose – he is one of the most generous people I have ever met.”

And this is from the chair of Wigan Warriors, Phil’s great passion, where he was a lifelong supporter and the first chair of the club’s official charity: “He played a key role in setting up the award-winning Wigan Warriors Community Foundation in 2011 and he played a vital role in establishing the Wigan Warriors Community Foundation as the force for good it now is today.

“He had a real selflessness and passion for helping people, as his charitable work throughout his life proves. His work and efforts have enabled Wigan Warriors to enact a positive and lasting change by harnessing the power of Rugby League in motivating, educating and inspiring our local community. This will be his major legacy here at Wigan Warriors.”

Phil combined being warm-hearted, generous, caring and fun, with being outspoken and challenging when needed. He knew when to stand up to a chief executive, and when diplomacy was the way forwards. He was hard-working, courageous, and fundamentally committed to doing the right thing for everyone else, without regard for the cost to him.

Philip died from the same cancer as his beloved wife Lois 15 years earlier. Philip and their two boys, Chris and Rob, nursed Lois at home until the end, and this played a part in his subsequent commitment to the hospice movement. He was a devoted family man, to all generations, especially his granddaughter Kaci. In his later years, he found great comfort and happiness with Barbara with whom he travelled extensively.

Two days before he died, Philip received a letter in the post, informing him that he had been awarded the Order of Mercy. This prestigious national award is given by the League of Mercy, and has just a handful or recipients each year. Barbara read the citation to Philip and he understood it. 


In this article

Join the Conversation