The Aberdare Boys’ Grammar School
1896 – 1978
A personal record of the life and times
Updated January 1st 2020
Welcome to the website of the former Aberdare Boys’ Grammar School. The web server continues to provide pages to visitors from all over the world, and the website continues to grow thanks to your contributions. If you have any photos or documents to share please let me know - my email address can be found in the panel on the right. Alternatively, you may wish to make a suggestion for an entry in the Former Pupils section, if so please let me have details, and a picture if possible. To see full details of what has been added recently, click the link shown below ‘Latest Additions’ in the column on the left. Thank you again to all those who have already made contributions by writing short articles or by sending in photos.
Tudor Barnes It is with sadness we report the death of William Tudor Barnes, aged 80. Tudor attended our school from 1954 to 1959 and graduated in history from University College, Cardiff in 1962. He worked as an archivist at the Lancashire Record Office in Preston and then the Carmarthen County Record Office before migrating to the National Library of Wales in August 1974, where he spent the rest of his career before retiring on his 60th birthday on 30 September 1999. He retired back to Aberdare to live at The Lakeside, Glandare, where he and his wife Julie lived for just over 20 years. We send our condolences to his wife, son and daughter, twin brother Stephen and the wider family. The funeral arrangements are being organised by Richards Funeral Services Ltd, 74 Harriet Street, Trecynon, Aberdare, CF44 8PL. Donations to The British Heart Foundation. The funeral took place on Wednesday 29th January at Llwydcoed Crematorium.
ZipWorld: Rhondda Cynon Tâf CBC Planning Committee have approved plans for ZipWorld to open zip lines on the Rhigos Mountain. It is expected that this leisure facility will be constructed and opened in 2020. If you don’t know what this company does see the ZipWorld website. The adventure business from north Wales is planning to bring its adventure experiences to south Wales by constructing a zip wire development at Rhigos Mountain and Tower Colliery, Rhigos. The development may include three separate zip wire courses, which will start at Rhigos Mountain and finish at a base at the former Tower Colliery site.
Memorial Garden Past Students living away from Aberdare may be interested to learn that a Combined Services Memorial Garden for those from the Cynon Valley who served, and who were casualties, in a variety of conflicts was officially opened in Aberdare on November 3rd. Further details are on this Wales Online webpage, and an interview with ex-servicemen involved with the project can be heard on this BBC Radio Wales page. The memorial garden is located in High Street near the central library and where a fish pond was once located many years ago.
Rhian Samuel was the guest lecturer at the Great
Hall at Swansea University on November 20th when she delivered
the Richard Burton Annual Lecture. Rhian talked about her life
as a composer of classical music in the USA and the UK, from
a time when women composers were an extreme rarity to today
when they are much more prevalent. Some of her compositions
were performed to illustrate her talk. A photograph taken at
the event can be seen on
Ron Jones Tribute has been paid to Aberdare-born
former international sprinter Ron Jones on the occasion of
his retirement from SportsAid Cymru Wales, (SACW). The charity
has helped many future Welsh Olympians and Paralympians forge
successful sports careers. Ron attended a function held in
his honour on October 20th at Park Plaza Hotel, Cardiff, where
guests included BBC broadcaster Roy Noble, who lives in Aberdare,
and Aberdare-born former Pontypridd MP, Rt Hon. Kim Howells,
R. Ivor Parry In the early 1960s, and over a
period of about three years, Ivor Parry delivered a series
of 72 adult education classes in which he set out the history
of Aberdare. In his class were Tom Evans, (Head of Geography),
and the dental surgeon Dafydd Roberts. The two ‘pupils’ made notes during
these lectures, but their notes were neglected until around
1993 when Dafydd decided to write them up with the help of
Tom. Although the finished work has been available in the
Aberdare Library for the last 25 years, the local history society
decided to make them more accessible by putting them on their website.
At just over 88,000 words, the work is a fairly comprehensive
account of Aberdare’s
past - although the early twentieth century coverage is variable,
and of course the latter part is not covered at all. If you
are interested, take a look at the contents page at the link
Terry Johns: During the summer Terry Johns, aka KT or Drac, published his second book. Terry, who was brought up in Baptist Place Hirwaun, attended the school 1955 to 1962, leaving with a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music in London. He became one of the leading French Horn players of his generation, in orchestral, chamber music, jazz, film and commercial music. He now composes, conducts and writes. His latest book is an autobiography detailing his extraordinary life as a musician in leading orchestras - playing across the world. The book is available from Amazon. Click or tap the book cover on the left for a better view.
Old F.E. College: The buildings of Aberdare F.E. College were cleared a year or so ago, and now construction work has started on the old site where houses will appear next year. The location is on the opposite side of Cwmdare Road from the location of the former Boys’ School. The photos were taken in the last week of September and again in the first week of December 2019, looking north, down and to the side of Cwmdare Road. Click or tap the small images for larger versions.
Good Old Days Variety Show
150th Anniversary of the opening of Aberdare Park To
mark this occasion a series of events took place in Aberdare on Saturday July 13th.
Past student Philip Rees, (ABGS 1958–65), and his team were instrumental in
organising the festivities. It was a busy day for the participants with an early
start in Victoria Square at 10am. In front of the statue of Griffith Rhys Jones,
(Caradog), several choirs assembled for photographs, and for singing some rousing
songs. At around 11am the choirs reassembled in the Library Square together with
the Llwydcoed Brass Band and a soprano soloist. For the next 90 minutes or so, we
were treated to a concert compared by Roy Noble. Then, after a hasty walk up to
the park lower gates, an afternoon of entertainment compared by Philip Rees commenced
at 1pm located around the bandstand. A re-enactment of the opening ceremony concluded
the afternoon’s entertainment in which local historian Geoffrey Evans took
the role of Richard Fothergill, M.P., and Rev Hywel J. Davies, (ABGS 1962–64),
played Henry Richard, M.P., — these men being the dignitaries who officially
opened the park, in the presence of Rees Hopkin Rhys of Llwydcoed, who was one of
the prime movers involved in the provision of the Aberdare’s Victorian park,
the first in Wales.
Click/tap the small pictures for larger versions of a few photos taken during the day’s festivities.
For a large number of additional photographs of the day see this
gallery from John Rees Photography.
Some Background Information about Aberdare County School
The school building was completed in July 1894 but, for reasons explained in the History section of this website, opened two years later on September 28th, 1896 as The Aberdare Technical and Intermediate Schools with Head Master W. Jenkyn Thomas and four assistant teachers: two men and two women. There were 141 pupils present by the end of the first term, 88 boys and 53 girls, taught in mixed classes for the majority of their subjects, although the building had separate entrances for boys and girls.
The school soon became known as The County School and remained so until the early sixties when the Grammar School name became more widely used. The pupils from the lower end of the Cynon Valley left in 1907 when Mountain Ash County School opened initially at Gwernifor, Miskin, moving to Dyffryn House much later in 1926. Then in 1913, the girls together with the women staff left for their own school in Plasdraw.
There was little significant change at the County School in terms of the nature of staffing and curriculum over the years until the Trecynon buildings were vacated in 1964 and the school relocated to the bottom of Cwmdare Hill.
In 1978 the Boys’ Grammar School closed and there was a fairly smooth transition to comprehensive status, when the Aberdare Boys Comprehensive School opened. Many of the existing staff were reappointed to the new school which was housed in the ex-grammar school buildings on Cwmdare Road, as the upper school. The buildings of Rhydywaun Secondary Modern School in Penywaun, which had also changed status, housed the lower school. The lower school at Rhydywaun was eventually brought to a new building at Cwmdare Road after two serious fires at Rhydywaun caused almost complete loss of its buildings.
From September 1st, 2009 Aberdare Boys Comprehensive School, was renamed Aberdare High School. The school adopted a new badge, which showed a similarity to the original grammar school design with ‘dragon and book’. The picture, above right, shows the school as it was in 1978, but additionally there was a large sports hall added to the site, behind the two-story block on the right. The new hall was both a school and a community facility.
In 2011, the decision was made by RCTCBC to close the Boys’ High School, the Girls Comprehensive (at Plasdraw and The Gadlys) and Blaengwawr Comprehensive School. It was intended that the pupils of all three schools would be housed in the new school to be built at The Ynys, near the centre of Aberdare, and which was initially planned to open in September 2014. By September 2014 Aberdare had three secondary schools instead of the existing five. The new Aberdare Community School did open in September 2014, but only in name, and a move into the incomplete new school buildings was deferred until 2015. The temporary homes of the new school were at the former Blaengwawr, Aberdare High and Aberdare Girls (Plasdraw) buildings. Pupils started moving out of these old buildings and moving into the new building in the summer term of 2015, with examination candidates remaining in the Cwmdare Road building to take their examinations. The Girls’ School and its 3 acres of land in Plasdraw was sold at auction on July 13th 2015 for £415,000. The Cwmdare Road Boys Upper School building is being demolished during the first three months of 2017.
Aberdare High School, The Lower School, Summer 2013.
If you have any comments, or contributions for the site, click here for a
form, or please contact the editor via email at: