The Aberdare Boys’ Grammar School
1896 – 1978
A personal record of the life and times
Updated August 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.
During the lock-down Cynon Valley Museum volunteers have been
busy writing up some aspects of local history. Their results have been placed online at
Another online local history resource is the transcript of Rev
Ivor Parry’s evening class lectures. The 72 lectures were delivered between
1962 and 1965. Notes were taken by attendees Tom Evans, (Geography),
and Dafydd Roberts, (dental surgeon). Their notes can be found here:
John Canter ABGS 1964–71. We were saddened
to learn of the death of John Canter in the first week of June.
He had been in hospital for several weeks before he died. John
was a most accomplished violinist, and was a member of the
Glamorgan Youth Orchestra and National Youth Orchestra of Wales
while at school. After school he studied law at Birmingham,
but after one year there he transferred to London to pursue
his musical interests. He became a member of the orchestra
at The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. In recent times, he
had been living in the family home in Aberdare. John’s father
Wilf, also an old boy of the school, was chief clerk at the
Town Hall in Aberdare, and his mother Kathleen was a soprano
soloist of some distinction. The photo of John was taken in 1969.
Nicola Hughes The death of Nicola Hughes occurred, after a short illness, at the end of May. Nicola came from Mountain Ash and worked in the office of ABCS from 1993 until 2014, when she transferred to the new Community School. We send her family our sincere condolences.
Stephen Lewis ABGS 1958–64. It is with
great sadness that we report the death of Stephen on 24th May
2020 at a Care Home, in Wells, Somerset. He was 72.
Roy Leach We have heard the sad news that Roy Leach has died. He had been ill for some time. He was brought up in Trecynon and went to Park School before entering the grammar school in 1955. In 1963 he went on to U.C. Swansea where he studied Biology. After leaving Swansea he became a teacher and spent most of his career as Head of Biology at Pen Y Dre High School, Merthyr Tydfil. He lived in Cwmdare. He was a long time member of Cwmbach Male Voice Choir, and a keen snooker player and fisherman. He was also a very enthusiastic golfer and played at Aberdare Golf Club where at one time he was co-opted onto the Greens Committee to give advice on grasses and tree planting. He died on April 15th after a long battle with cancer. He leaves a wife Susan and two daughters. His funeral was on April 29th at Llwydcoed Crematorium. Arrangements were by Richards Funeral Services of Harriet Street, Trecynon. Roy can be seen here with a small group of biology students in 1962–63.
Brian Welsby We have also been informed of the death last Easter Monday of Brian Welsby at the age of 84. Brian transferred to ABGS from a nearby grammar school in 1950. He and his family lived in Trevor Street, Foundry Town. He left for Caerleon Training College in 1954. Brian and his late wife lived in Aberthin near Cowbridge. Brian can be seen in this photograph of sixth formers and senior staff dated 1954.
St Elvan’s Church The Cynon Valley Leader in its issue of 26th March reported that work has begun on the £1.8m development project to transform St Elvan’s Church. As well as structural repairs, it will gain an exhibition and heritage centre, a tourism and information desk, café, and rooms for hire that will enable social activities, community events, and concerts to take place. The contract for the work has been awarded to Henstaff Construction of Cardiff, a Welsh construction company. St Elvan’s Church is Grade II* listed and was built in 1852 to designs by London architect Andrew Moseley. The ring of eight bells and clock were added in 1858; extensive repairs took place in 1869; re-roofing and enlargement in 1884; and further enlargement in 1910–1912.
Alistair Wilson We have only just heard that Dr Alistair Wilson, Astrophysicist and champion weight-lifter, died aged 77 at Perth, Western Australia on October 8th, 2019. Alistair was a son of Aberdare GP Dr Alistair T.M. Wilson and his wife Olive, née Greening. Alistair was at school 1955–60, and a graduate of London and Cambridge Universities. Some details of one of Alistair's books is in our library. The photograph is taken from the 1957 school photograph.
Gordon Fithen Lyndon Harries informed us recently of the death, on December 29th 2019, of his old friend Gordon Fithen aged 91. Gordon attended the school 1939–46 and was brought up in Elm Grove, Gadlys. At school he played rugby and can be seen in the Rugby first XV 1945-46 photograph on this website. His father H.H.J. Fithen also attended the school 1913–15. After university at Swansea, and a career in the Royal Air Force, Gordon joined Rolls Royce plc as General Manager responsible for Management Development and Training for the Company. Gordon attained the rank of Air Commodore in the RAF. In his retirement he lived in Thorpe at the southern extremity of the Peak District National Park. There is to be a memorial service for Gordon at St Clement Danes, the Central Church of the Royal Air Force situated on the Strand, in May this year.
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 were 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. Tudor is No. 234 in the 1957 Panoramic Photograph, with names added.
Lyn Jones Allen Prowle reminded us that Lyn Jones, (ABGS 1951–59), celebrated his 80th birthday on August 20th last year. Lyn emigrated to Australia as a young man, and took with him his all-consuming interest in weightlifting. He competed for 20 years and has over 50 years of coaching to his credit, indeed he became Coach of the Australian weightlifting team. Lyn has been holding positions in the International Weightlifting Federation, IWF, since 1984. Starting as President of the Oceania Weightlifting Federation and IWF Executive Board Member – until today when he is Member of the IWF Coaching and Research Committee. He is the author of IWF Coaching Manuals and has been a lecturer for decades, travelling the world and teaching weightlifting to several generations. When in Aberdare he lived in Bond Street.
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.
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.
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