was born in London in 1937, with Irish ancestry through his maternal side, but grew up in rural Oxfordshire.
On leaving school he served two years as an able-seaman in the Royal Navy, aboard HMS Maidstone, a submarine depot ship which had been based in Malta in 1939. He then went to his local University on a state scholarship to read Natural Sciences. At Oxford he also gained an interest in folk music and learned to play the accordion for folk and Morris-dance groups.
Jeal then went to Bangor, North Wales to study for a PhD in embryology, and also founded a folk club. He then moved to Ireland, obtaining a lectureship in zoology at Trinity College, Dublin, where he has remained ever since, apart from a ten year period when he worked part of each year in the University of Jamaica assisting in research on coral reefs.
In Ireland he has maintained an interest in Irish traditional music in general and the native Irish bagpipe, Uillean Pipes, in particular. Sadly, he never learned to play one!
In 1977 Professor Jeal and his colleague Karl Partridge published a seminal paper on the żaqq in the Galpin Society Journal, documenting all their findings. Forty years later they returned, to tell the story of their ‘quest for the żaqq’ and to summarise the results of the research.
In 2010 he was contacted by researcher Steve Borg, regarding research material on the żaqq and other Maltese folk instruments. This amicable exchange led to a suggestion by Borg to Partridge and Jeal to bequeath their field documents to the National Archives of Malta, as part of the nation’s collective memory. The bequest was made on the 16th May 2013.