FEATURES of the Aberdare Boys’ Grammar School Past Students’ Association annual dinner this year were the presence of the Chairman of the Aberdare District Council, Coun. Cliff Edwards, J.P., as an old boy, to propose the first toast to “The School,” and the presentation of a pipe to the school caretaker, Mr. David Jones, who is retiring after serving the school for 36 years.
Presiding was the headmaster, Mr. J. Warren, M.Sc.. B.A., who welcomed the advent of “a revived and revitalised Past Students’ Association.”
Coun. Cliff Edwards said that when he was a student in 1924-27 he never for one moment visualised that forty years hence he would be speaking at a past students’ dinner as the chief citizen of Aberdare.
He added, “I consider this to be one of the greatest honours to have come my way during my year of office. To be able to come here and share the company of some of the contemporaries of my County School days has given me as much pleasure as any one of the other more outstanding experiences of my busy year as Council chairman.
He was also delighted that some of the masters he knew at the school when he was a pupil were also present.
“Nothing has given me a greater thrill as a member, and now Chairman of the Aberdare District Council, than the joy of meeting former pupils of the school as I have gone to various cities and towns in Britain on Council business,” he went on.
He noticed that among those present that evening was Mr. Llew Rees, of Rhigos, whom he had had the pleasure of meeting some time ago in North Wales.
Mr. Edwards said he considered it a great privilege indeed to be one of the Aberdare Boys’ Grammar School’s many past students.
At the moment the school was on the threshold of new premises. It was good to be able to say that, at long last, the contractors were on the job.
He continued: “I live at Broncynon Terrace, overlooking the site of the proposed new school. I must say that I am very glad a start has been made, because we have been looking forward to it for a long time.”
The headmaster, responding to the toast, said that Coun. Edwards was a rare example of an ex-County School boy who had devoted his leisure time to serving the public as a member of a local authority.
“We have plenty of officers in local government and plenty of critics of local government, but far too few former pupils of the school who have served as councillors,” he added.
Coun. Edwards, as Council Chairman during the past year, had nobly maintained the dignity of the town — without his stewardship as a chairman, and as a councillor for a decade and a half, had been a credit to his old school.
Last year, said Mr. Warren, they had been looking at the plans for the new school. By now the buildings had started to become a reality.
It was pleasing, too, that the school continued to maintain its academic record. Last year Kenneth Williams had gained an open scholarship to Bangor and Swansea, and in company with Derek Davies, he had also gained a Miners’ Welfare Scholarship. K. T. John [sic] had gained entry to the Royal Academy of Music, and Terry Hughes had been awarded an open scholarship in history and Welsh.
The rugby season had been an unparalleled one in more than one respect, first of all for the number of games which had not been played, and secondly for the reason that finally the school had conquered the bogey at the bottom of the Neath Valley — for the first time in the history of the school the First XV had defeated the Neath Grammar School First XV (applause).
The Past Students’ Association, naturally, were interested in the school’s present policy of calling on the services of distinguished past students at each year’s School Prize Day. In this respect it was good to know that there were sufficient very distinguished past students to keep the headmaster and the governors supplied with notable Prize Day speakers for many years to come.
Welcoming the revived and revitalised Past Students’ Association, Mr. Warren paid tribute to the work of the efficient and energetic secretary, Mr. Philip Walters, and the chairman, Mr. David Owen.
The association’s chairman, Mr. David Owen, responding to a toast to “The Association,” proposed by the former sports master, Mr. E. J. Excell, M.B.E., said he was pleased to be able to report that membership had doubled during the past year — and when the annual meeting was held in the summer, no fewer than 50 people turned up.
Mr. Excell had said it was a pleasure to look round and see members of various school cricket and rugby teams present that evening, and it was delightful to know that the Past Students’ Association had been given a new lease of life.
“I hope the association will go on from strength to strength,” he added. Don’t think only of rugby and cricket — think of other things as well.”
The toast to “Our Guests” was proposed by Mr. J. Duncan Evans, who referred in particular to the people gracing the top table — the headmaster; Coun. Clifford Edwards, J.P.; old boy Mr. Keith Rowlands, who had been to South Africa with the British Lions during the previous winter — and the man who was to respond to the toast — Mr. J. B. G. Thomas, the “Western Mail” rugby critic.
RETIREMENT TRIBUTE TO SCHOOL CARETAKER
R ESOUNDING cheers greeted the school caretaker, Mr. David Jones, as he stepped forward to accept a modest gift — a pipe — from the funds of the Past Students’ Association to mark his retirement next month after serving the school for 36 years.
After he accepted the gift, Mr. Jones proceeded to make a speech which proved the highlight of the evening. Crammed with recollections of his three-and-a-half decades at the school, it was, as everyone expected it to be, brimful of philosophical observations which embraced the thrills and the ups and downs of school life, and it also flashed the spotlight on changes in educational facilities and on the improved economic circumstances of the parents of the boys since the time when he first came to the school at the height of the industrial depression.
Responding, he likened himself to a linesman at a football match, commenting: “It is his duty to run the line between the players and the spectators, and for 27 years I have been running the line in this school — between the masters and the boys and the boys and the masters.”
Mr. Jones said he had to admit that, like most linesmen, he had deliberately ignored a lot of infringements.
More seriously, as many linesmen had seen the players on the football field go all out, he had also seen the staff — “always a wonderful team in this school” — go all out, in the interests of the boys and for the reputation of the school; and in days when things were far more difficult for most people in these valleys than they were today, he had also seen parents go all out to give their sons a better chance in life.
He had seen tremendous changes, not the least of them being the fact that unlimited opportunities which awaited qualified men today, whereas only a few years before the war, because of the depression, a number of young men found themselves sitting about in the Park without a job months and years after they had graduated.
After recounting a series of delightful anecdotes which featured the five headmasters he had served as well as many of the masters and several of the boys. Mr. Jones, reflecting on his job, said: “I think I should say this. No one should accept a job like mine unless he likes boys. Perhaps in that respect I was fortunate to have come from a large family, where we knew the meaning of give and take, something which is an indispensable factor of life in every school — you know what I mean, the ability to be pulled down as you are running for the line, to collect a mouthful of mud and then come up smiling,”
Mr. Jones is a first-class ambulance man, having been an official of the St. John movement for many years and a past Superintendent of the Trecynon Division. Several times on Thursday evening there were references to the expert and sympathetic attention he had given to countless boys who had met with accidents in school.
A member of the staff who had also known Mr. Jones as a pupil at the school said this after he had concluded his speech and had sat down: “I am sure of this, our school will never be the same without Dai Jones. He will be missed.”
And a young college student who left school only three years ago sitting not far away, said, “I was one of the supplementary postmen last Christmas. I had to call at Mr. Jones’s house. When he saw me at the door I had to go in and have a cup of tea and something warm to eat.”
In making the presentation to Mr. Jones, Mr. David Owen said, “There are students all over the world who remember you with the greatest affection.”