Aberdare Boys Grammar School Back to previous page     Site Home Page
This account was written in 1996 by David Walter Morris. Born in 1912, he entered the school in 1924.
He went to University College, Southampton then taught in Surrey and Sussex.
He became Head of a Primary School in Pulborough, West Sussex, and whilst there,
he was heavily involved in local history and village life.
He finished his career as Headteacher of Windlesham Primary School in Surrey.
We believe that DWM died in 2003 in Devon.
 His father, J.W. Morris, was a shopkeeper in Commercial Street, running a hosiery and gents outfitters shop.

ABERDARE BOYS’ COUNTY SCHOOL

A FORMER PUPIL REMEMBERS THE 1920s.

It is now over seventy-two years since I became a pupil at the County School. In those days one sat the ‘Scholarship’ in one’s elementary school and one’s future educational life depended on the results of an examination which took just a couple of hours. At that time the population of Aberdare was 55,000 and only about 36 boys gained a scholarship to the County School. I managed to scrape in and, of course, was very pleased. There was no school uniform and most of the first years were still in short trousers but there was a school cap, the wearing of which was supposed to be compulsory. The cap was navy blue with two rings round it of yellow silk ribbon with the school badge in front. The two rings earned the wearers the sobriquet ‘County Ringworms’.

As far as I remember there were two Form Ones, no Form Twos (something we never understood), two Form Threes and Fours, Three Form Fives and Two Form Sixes. The Form Fives had the boys taking the Central Welsh Board School Certificate in them - one form held the Latin Highflyers, another the Modern students and the third, where I finished up, held those they were not sure what the future held for them!

During the time I was at the school I remember eighteen members of staff but they were not all there at the same time. I will write what I remember about them in alphabetical order except for the Headmaster whom I will take first. W. Charlton Cox followed Jenkyn Thomas, the first Head, in 1905 and remained in that position for thirty-one years. As far as I remember he had no nickname, so I will refer to him as the Head or Mr. Cox.  Mr. and Mrs. Cox lived in the house attached to the School but I seem to remember that later the School Caretaker lived there. Mr. & Mrs. Cox had four children and they all did brilliantly in their various fields, Arthur, Peggy and David, the three eldest entered the Medical Profession and Alfred, who was in my year, won a State Scholarship and went to Cardiff University and took his degree but I have the feeling that he, too, became a doctor. Every year the students in Cardiff held a Rag Week, ostensibly in aid of the Cardiff General Hospital, but it was thought by many to be an excuse for letting off high spirits and some unruly behaviour. Alfie Cox was very short-sighted and without his glasses could see little. He was taking no active part in the Rag when things got out of hand, the police came in, Alfie’s glasses were knocked off leaving him almost as blind as a bat, and, as he was groping around on the ground, was arrested and spent the night in the police station - an innocent victim of misfortune!

Two classic remarks I remember from the Head: ‘Boys will always wear the School cap. I will not have them wearing these collier boy caps’ - he was referring to the flat tweed caps put on by some of the boys when out of the School bounds. Mr. Cox was rather round-shouldered, not quite a hunchback. A boy stood in front of him, sagging at the shoulders, and he was informed ‘Stand up straight like me, boy!’. And now the Staff - they all seemed quite old to us but they cannot have been because they went on for years.

ABERDARE BOYS COUNTY SCHOOL

THE STAFF IN THE NINETEEN TWENTIES (In alphabetical order)

BOWEN, J.T.   Jack Bowen joined the staff in 1918 and was still there in 1952. As small boys of 11 or 12 we thought he was quite middle-aged although he was probably still in his twenties. He taught Welsh and I think some Latin. He got on well with the boys and he had a dry sense of humour. I used to have difficulty in doing my Welsh homework and would call on the services of our maid to help me. But she was little better than I was and her grammar was almost non-existent, Mr. Bowen suggested that I asked her to come with me to his Welsh lessons and she might show some progress! He was always known to the boys as Sarso - I think that this nickname came because there was a firm called Bowen in the Rhondda Valley which made a soft drink called ‘Sarso’. He married the daughter of Fred George the Undertaker during my time at the school.



Jack Bowen

John Thomas Bowen
1918-1958
Welsh, Latin, Scripture
From Llanarthney,
Carmarthenshire

DAVIES, D. TIMOTHY   ‘Tim’ lived in the end house on the left in Broniestyn Terrace with his wife and daughter Menna. Mrs. Davies was always dressed very fashionably and she put on airs. We were sorry for Menna for she never seemed to be allowed out on her own or to play with other children. I have no recollection of what happened to her in her teenage years. Tim taught the younger boys Maths - and also Welsh - he was quite stern in appearance and I cannot remember him making a joke or even smiling.

D Timothy Davies

David Timothy Davies
1906-1939
Maths, Welsh, and
originally in charge of
Pupil Teachers
From New Quay

DAVIES Mr.   Never did know his Christian names. He was our woodwork master and was only at the school for two or three days a week. He ruled supreme in the woodwork room in the top playground. I think he used to come by train on his teaching days from somewhere in the Swansea Valley. The sum total of our production in the woodwork room was one teapot stand and one eggholder. I’m sure that this is an exaggeration but that is all I can recall, I have said he ruled supreme but not with a rod of iron but with a rod of wood, a piece of 2" by 1/2" and a yard long carried under his arm when not in use! He kept his strength up by frequent visits to the store room where he fortified himself from a bottle. During the summer examinations, those not involved were taken down to our sports field in Robertstown to play at cricket or whatever, and Mr. Davies would be in charge and would be accompanied by his bottle of sustenance.

J J Davies

Probably John Jones Davies
appointed 1920
(we are not certain that the the person in this picture is Mr Davies)

ELLIOTT, A.W.   Nicknamed ‘Daddy’ almost with affection by those of us he took for Chemistry. He looked a typical chemist and was expert at making ‘stinks’. He lived next door to us in Broniestyn Terrace but retired I think about 1927. We enjoyed his lessons which were sometimes practical.

A W Elliott

Albert William Elliott
1906-1930
Chemistry & Biology
Initially from Crewkerne then Yorkshire

EVANS, SAM.   Mr. Evans took the place of Daddy Elliott when the latter retired and was of a much younger generation and got on well with us but although I can picture him, I cannot remember anything about him. Did not require a nickname - he was just Sam.

Samuel Evans

Samuel Evans
1928-1943
Chemistry
From Llanelli

EXCELL, E.J.   ‘Jimmy’ Excell was always spruce and well turned-out. He was responsible for all the P.E. and Games in the school and his interest and encouragement to all the physical activities brought success to the representatives of the school in Rugby, Cricket and Athletics.
The School Cricket and Rugby Teams had limited fixtures against other schools and as far as I remember these schools were Neath, Mountain Ash, Pontypridd, Cyfarthfa and Merthyr. The Rhondda Valley schools might just as well have been in Yorkshire for the contact we had with them. An Annual Event was the Inter-School Championships and for some reason Cardiff High School and, I believe, West Mon. Grammar School joined in. I remember one occasion when three or four of us walked and ran all the way to Mountain Ash (we might have had a bus a part of the way!) to support our team at one of these meetings. We thought that the Cardiff boys were very ‘posh’ because they had brought a tent with them in which to change and they also had a portable gramophone on which they played dance music. This did happen although it does not seem very feasible that we could have gone all the way to Mountain Ash after school to see enough of the sports to make it worthwhile. Perhaps we were let out early although the powers-that-be were not full of tricks like that! This is not much to do with Jimmy Excell except that he was responsible for all these events.
One of his duties was the responsibility for the registers and every morning after Assembly and during the first lesson he would visit every classroom with the registers, open the door, a quick check of the numbers and, if they agreed with the roll, go on to the next room. If there were absentees he would make a note to sort out later.

E J Excell

Ernest James Excell, M.B.E.
1922-1958
Physical Education
From Twyford, Berkshire

HOGGINS, R.V.   Known to all and sundry as Steve. Why ‘Steve’? At the time he joined the Staff the Champion Jockey in this country was Steve Donaghue and on his first day at the school our Steve arrived in riding breeches and boots - hence the name which stuck. To speak of him at the same time as a small, lightweight jockey is hardly appropriate as Steve was very big, bigger by far than any other member of staff. He was responsible for all the Commercial subjects in the school - the Modern side as opposed to the Classical side. He, too, and his family lived in Broniestyn Terrace and he had three sons. Sadly, he lost one of them during the 1939 - 45 War.

Ronald V Hoggins

Ronald Victor Hoggins
1920-1943
Commercial Subjects
From Dudley

JAMES, H.I.   I cannot remember when Mr. James came to the school - probably about 1928. Neither can I remember what subjects he taught - he was still on the staff in 1939. I know we all liked him in the short time we knew him.

Harold Ivor James

Harold Ivor James
1930-1949
Biology
Initially from Swansea,
then Llandovrey.

JONES, E. CEREDIG.   Ceredig Jones served in the First World War and was very badly wounded losing an eye. He had been fitted with an artificial eye and we were never quite certain which was which. Because of his War Service and his injuries he was something of a hero to us, He was a firm believer in classical education and was our Latin teacher. He started his teaching career in Aberdare and remained there for the whole of it, so obviously was very happy there.

E Ceredig Jones

Ernest Ceredig Jones
1919-1952
Latin
From Radyr
then Pontypridd

PHILLIPS, P.E.   Ted Phillips or PEP came to the school in the 1920s to teach French. He was the son of Arkite Phillips, a very good local musician who, at one time, was the leader of the orchestra in the old Empire Theatre. PEP courted and later married Dr. Blanche Thomas. Dr. Blanche was the local Medical Office of Health at the time, I think. PEP was a dapper little man and one got the impression that he was trotting along beside her. Anyhow, they were both very nice people. I seem to remember that they ran some W.E.A. (Workers Educational Association) Classes. PEP’s younger brother, John, was in my class and I remember one occasion during a French lesson PEP was carrying on at John, as is the wont of relations, for something like not paying much attention. John, who had had more than his share of teacher’s nagging, said ‘Oh, for Heaven’s sake, Ted, give it a rest’.

Peter Edward Phillips

Peter Edward Phillips
1925-1964
French & Music
From Aberdare
 

REYNOLDS T.B.   Bryn or occasionally ‘Bull’ was the French Master and had been at the school ‘man and boy’ for many years and as an ex-soldier he earned much respect although we were not aware that he had been a P.O.W. He had two nephews, Jack Reynolds and his younger brother, at the school during my time. I am sure that he gave us a good grounding in French. I even remember one question in our Oral French Examination. What do the letters T.S.F. stand for? Telegraphe sans fils - Wireless. For our French lessons we had two books - a small phrase book with about a thousand phrases in it, which we had to learn, and a textbook with hard dark green covers. I still remember many of the phrases we learnt and, when being faced with having to write an essay in an examination, I put down all the phrases I could remember on the back of the question paper, sorted them out, put in a few conjunctions and there was my essay. I don’t think the examiners were very impressed! What silly things one remembers! Bryn used to divide the class into two to test our homework by finding out how many of the phrases we had learnt. Competition was keen and I was keeping the score for our side. About half way through we caught up with the other half and I shouted out ‘ We’re Squits!’ When Bryn asked what ‘Squits’ meant and I explained he was not amused and I had to write out ‘Quits’ five hundred times. The green-backed textbook I have mentioned had been used by Bryn for years (at least, we thought so) for as he ploughed through it he made the same jokes, year after year. Some of us, the not-so-brights, had to take French again, and as he kept bringing out the same jokes and we ‘were not amused’ he became very irate!

T Brinley Reynolds

Thomas Brinley Reynolds
1913-1954
French & Junior Maths
From Aberdare

ROBERTS, AUBREY.   He had married my mother’s sister and they lived at the bottom of Broniestyn Terrace, opposite Timothy Davies. His wife was quite a good artist and with no family might have gone far in the art world, but they had four girls and a boy. Very sadly their daughter, Betty, caught meningitis and died at the early age of twelve. We were about the same age. It seemed so very unfair because she was a lovely girl with a sweet disposition. Aubrey, known as ‘Bobs’, taught us History but I am afraid never gave me a great love of it. He would produce a page or two of cyclostyled notes which we had to read and learn about for homework. Next lesson two or three of us would be called out to the front to be tested on our homework and every time I would be called out and, knowing this, I had rarely done my homework! He was very involved in Welsh Secondary Schoolboys Rugby and was on the Committee. He would go to all the senior International Rugby Matches at Cardiff Arms Park and the following week our favourite ploy (a word not known at time!) would be to ask him about the match and what went wrong.
Using the blackboard Bobs would draw diagrams to describe every move in the match saying ‘If x had done this or y had done that then Wales would have won the match’. With well-timed questions we were able to use up all the lesson time. With Jimmy Excell, he would pick the School Team, so what chance mine of being picked? But I did go on to Captain the College Second XV with the occasional game for the 1st XV. Bobs was a professed Liberal and member of the Liberal Club in Cardiff Road (which was open on a Sunday!) He was very proud of having been to Oxford but I never knew if he had ever played rugby there for his college.

Aubrey Roberts

Aubrey Roberts
1906-1945
History
From Swansea

ROBERTS, W.E.   This Mr. Roberts came towards the end of my time at the County School - I think he took English but I am not sure. He was a quiet, well-spoken gentleman and whatever I knew about him I have forgotten.

W E Roberts

William Evan Roberts
1929-1946
English & Latin
Initially from Maesteg
then Carmarthen

THOMAS, LOUIS M.   No nickname but probably just Louis. Taught English but I remember the Literature side of it, and that a bit vaguely. He was always very serious and quietly spoken. He produced the School Plays - I think every other year with the Girls County School performing in the alternate year. Our play was The Merchant of Venice and I was given the non-speaking part of the gaoler but I did help a bit with the scenery. Our costumes were hired from a firm in London and they did smell a bit! I think my costume was the most eye-catching of the lot as I had a steel helmet and breastplate and a tall halberd. When I came on with Shylock in the Court Scene - what did I do? Forget to put on my helmet! In the weeks before production, odd scenes were rehearsed at various convenient times and the players were taken out of their classes. I always found that I was needed for every scene and nobody found me out. We had a very good Portia - I think it was Anelif Rees who made a lovely lady. But the star of the show was Shylock and the part was played by Abe Blustein. It was not that a Jew was taking the part of a Jew, but that he was a truly wonderful actor. These days he would have got a ‘standing ovation!’

Louis M Thomas

Louis Meredith Thomas
1907-1946
English
From Llansadwrn,
Carmarthenshire

TOWLER, W.D.   Mr. Towler was our Physics Master and occupied the Physics Laboratory in the top playground. I know he had a nickname but I have forgotten it. To me he seemed to have a rather long nose or do I imagine this? One afternoon we had physics for the first lesson, the bell went and as I ran down from the top of the playground I slipped and fell outside the Lab door. For some reason I had a box of Swan Vestas matches in my blazer pocket. The fall ignited the matches and burnt my pocket but I managed to put out the fire. I went in and sat down and Mr. Towler came round sniffing and found the culprit with the burnt pocket. That is perhaps why I thought he had a big nose! We held a very modest School Swimming Gala in the small Park Baths. Mrs. Towler was supposed to have been a swimmer of some standing and so was asked to judge the events. I was entered in the one length Breast Stroke, and was winning, and just as I approached the end of the Bath, I must have turned my head to see if I had won. She disqualified me for turning my head! Probably technically she was right but I never forgave her because that was the only time in my life that I won a swimming race!

W D Towler

William David Towler
1920-1952
Physics
From Cardiff

WILLIAMS, E. Ogwen.   ‘Oggie’ Williams took Music, Art and Geography. He was another of the Masters living in Broniestyn Terrace. I think he must have been a widower for he had his two grown-up daughters living with him; the elder one was training to be a doctor. He was a quiet and kind Master but his kindness was abused by the ‘horrible’ boys who must have made his life a bit of a misery. Many of their silly exploits come to mind but they were so childish in retrospect that I shall not write about them. We always swore that he never marked any of the compositions we had done for homework and when he came to mark them he threw them all in the air and the marks were allocated in the order in which they fell. He was a collector of silver paper for the local hospital and we maintained that a couple of pieces of silver paper stuck on the back of ones homework would gain you a few more marks! Seventy years ago he wrote in my autograph album poetry he had made up incorporating all the initials of my names and I remember every word of the poem still!

E Ogwen Williams

Edward Ogwen Williams
1898-1932
Geography
From Bangor.
He retired from teaching in 1932, leaving Aberdare at that time to live in Whitchurch, Cardiff.
He died in 1937, aged 66,
in his hometown of Bangor.

WILLIAMS, WILLIAM R.   ‘Billy Two’ taught us Mathematics - whether it was his inspiring teaching I don’t know but Maths became my favourite subject. Almost bald-headed, wearing glasses, and with his staid walk he could have passed for a bishop. He, too, came to live in Broniestyn Terrace in the big house at the top. I suppose one could describe him as a very dignified gentleman and a good teacher. But although I could use logarithms I never understood how and why they worked and it was only when much later, when I had to teach logs myself, did I know what it was all about.
And so, with W.R. or Billy Two, I leave my brief comments about the Staff who were at the County School during my time there.

W Rees Williams

William Rees Williams
1904-1940
Physics & Mathematics
From Aberdare

Although I have written about the teaching staff there are two non teaching staff I should like to mention. In those days there were no school secretaries, no clerical staff, no maintenance staff but just the School Cook and the School Caretaker. The School Cook was Mrs. Griffiths, a motherly soul, whose domain was below stairs (but only about six of them). Some of our boys came from five or six miles away and could not have got home for lunch so brought sandwiches or had something cooked by Mrs. Griffiths but there were not many who stayed. I seem to remember that she sold sweets during break time in the morning but I am not sure.

Information about
Mrs. Griffiths
welcomed

Our School Caretaker was Mr. David Jones who came with his wife and son Howard to live in the Head’s School House. There were no Health and Safety Regulations, limitations on what one should do, hours to be worked etc. Like the teachers there was a job to be done and do it one did. Mr. Jones was a pleasant, helpful man, a stalwart of Trinity Chapel and an asset to the School. On one occasion I was helping him to get the scenery for the play down from the roof (quite unofficially, I expect!). The roof was not boarded over and, very unfortunately, my foot slipped between the rafters and went through the ceiling of the classroom below right above Mr. Towler’s head! The look of surprise on his face! Luckily he did not see who was on the other side of the foot!
Mr. Jones, with great presence of mind, told me to make myself scarce - good advice which I took promptly. Accepting responsibility, he went down to make his apologies for the accident, blaming the absence of light in the roof. A great man!

David Jones

David Jones - Caretaker
(lived in School House)
pictured at the tree-planting ceremony
for the Coronation in 1953


 

SOME FINAL THOUGHTS AND MEMORIES

The years that I was at the County School became the years of depression in South Wales. Jobs of any sort were difficult to come by and unemployment reached great heights. I remember some man coming from somewhere to talk to the boys and offering us the opportunity of emigrating to Canada and elsewhere. One of my class, Tommy Rosser, accepted the chance and went farming to Canada but we never heard what happened to him. During the 1926 General Strike there were no buses and some of the boys walked to School from Cwmaman and Abercwmboi. They took their time and arrived at the School about midday. They had a rest and then left for home so that they arrived there by 4.0 p.m. They probably had some fun on the way but they had made the effort! Another event that has stayed in my memory was the visit of Sir Walford Davies to talk about music. I can still see him, in the School Hall, standing at the Heads desk with the whole school there. He took his gold watch out of his pocket, lifted it up and asked the boys to listen to its chime - you could have heard the famous pin drop! A good way of gaining attention.

What were the opportunities in Aberdare open to the boys with School or Higher School Certificates at that time? Very few. For those who went to Universities or Colleges grants were very small and many parents made very great sacrifices to send their sons there. If you qualified as a teacher you had no hope of returning to Aberdare to teach for at least eight years so you were unable to help your parents. You were glad to get a job anywhere in the country. From amongst my classmates over a couple of years we had one clergyman, Ninian James, one dentist, David Tudor Williams, two doctors, Alfie Cox and Alistair Wilson and about a dozen non-graduate teachers, many of the latter going to teach in developing industrial areas like Dagenham. Of my fellow pupils who went on to take their degrees in Universities some became teachers and others branched out into other fields.

With dispersal all over the country, one soon lost contact with ones former classmates and the six years of the Second World War caused the almost final break with ones schooldays. For a time the very occasional receipt of a copy of the Aberdare Leader might remind one of someone one once knew but that was very rare. During the War, when trying to pick a Rugby team to play for the R.A.F. Station, I would ask, ‘What team did you play for in Civvy Street?’ I would get the answer ‘-School Old Boys or-Former Pupils’. But once having left Aberdare there was never any mention or communication about an Old Boys Association - more was the pity! Pictures in the Cynon Valley History Publication have brought back memories of the past and for those I am truly thankful.

David Walter Morris
1996

Photographs were extracted from the 1922 and 1936 staff groups, the 1938 panoramic school photo, and the 1954 Aberdarian.
Click here for the 1922 Staff Photograph
Click here for the 1936 Staff Photograph
Click here for the 1938 school panoramic photograph
Click here for the 1954 Aberdarian photograph

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