School Badges and School Houses

from Susan Dennis-Gabriel & Menna White (née Edwards)

Early Prefects Badge

This badge belonged to Ada Phillips and was sent in by her daughter Menna White (née Edwards). Ada was a pupil at the Girls’ School, and having been born in 1911, we estimate the badges date from the mid 1920s. Ada was the sister of David (Dewi) Henry Phillips, Aberdare Boys County School, 1937-42. He was a war casualty, and died aged 19 in 1945.

When at school Ada met Archie Edwards, who entered the Boys’ County School in 1922. The couple eventually married in 1936 in Manchester where they were both pharmacists. They enjoyed 53 years together. After leaving Manchester, Mr & Mrs Edwards ran pharmacies in Treorci, Treherbert and Cwmparc. Their daughter Menna taught for a brief period at Aberdare Girls’ Grammar School, as did Menna’s aunt Glenis Edwards, who also taught at Ystalyfera Grammar School. She died only recently in 2012.

To complete the story, Archie Edwards was the first cousin of Dr Llew Rees, of Rhigos and later of UCNW Bangor.

As to the badge itself: it is a prefects’ badge bearing the school motto, reproduced more clearly below. If this was Ada’s badge, then it would date from around 1928.

Badge 1 Badge 2

The badge on the left is the one shown on the front cover of the History of the Aberdare Intermediate Schools published in 1946. It shows a daffodil and a leek, both well-known emblems of Wales, and also the scroll of letters which was used on the school blazer and beret badge in the 1960s. This badge also appears on the title page of a school library catalogue, dated 1925, along with the abbreviation A.G.C.S. and the interpretation Aberdare Girls County School.  The school was known as a County School in its earlier years, and the term Grammar School was not introduced until 1944. The badge was still used well into the 1960s and possibly the 1970s despite the change of name. The motto may be translated literally as "Better Learning Than Riches". We believe that this was the version used on the front cover of school books as shown by the image on the right taken from the front of Susan Dennis’s report book dating from 1957.

These two badges were published on the front cover of the school’s Golden Jubilee booklet published in 1963. In the badge on the left the scroll of letters is the same as in the previous badge, but the image of the daffodil is very stylised and would be difficult to interpret without prior knowledge of what it is supposed to be. We don’t know why the badge design was changed for this publication. Perhaps it was an attempt at modernisation. In the badge on the right the daffodil and leek have gone and the lettering may be OGA, possibly meaning Old Girls Association, an organisation that played a large part in the production of the Jubilee booklet.

Badge 3 OGA badge
Badge 1960

In the late 1960s or early 1970s the school uniform was changed slightly and a new blazer (with piping around the edges) and a new tie (with diagonal stripes) were introduced. This possibly coincided with Mrs Tydfil Thomas’s appointment as Head of the school. A new blazer badge also appeared in 1978. A competition was run within the school to redesign the old badge and one of the fifth form pupils at the time, Jane Burnett, won with her design based on the concept of ecclesiastical windows, referring to the fact the school is near to the site of what local tradition believes to be the small monastic cell of St Elvan at Plasdraw. A picture of the new blazer badge is shown on the left (an extract taken from a photograph in the Rhondda-Cynon-Taf Libraries photograph archive). The motto on the badge is "Oni Heuir Ni Fedir" which may be translated as "Unless you sow, you shall not reap". If anyone could provide a better image of this badge we would be pleased to have a copy for this page.

In 2001, by which time the school had been renamed the Aberdare Girls School, a competition was held among the pupils to design a new badge. The winner was Bethan Lloyd of year 8 and an image of the new badge is shown on the right (from Peter Savan former head of ICT at the school). The badge is intended to be seen against a navy blue background when the lettering of the motto is more obvious.


Badge 2001


The Four House Poets of AGGS
From Susan Dennis

Alafon, Ceiriog, Islwyn and Goronwy are familiar names to everyone who attended the Girls’ Grammar School, and I, probably like most people at school, never had any idea who they were, apart from having been told at some stage that they were Welsh poets. They were the names of our school houses and are reminiscent of Sports Day and Eisteddfodau when one became really house-conscious and competitive.


My house was Alafon where my mother had also been placed thirty years earlier.

The poet Alafon (1847-1916) was really called Owen Griffith Owen. He was born at Pant Glas, Eifionnydd, where his father kept the local pub. He received little more than an elementary education and began working as a farm labourer when still a boy. When he was about twelve years old he moved to live with his aunt in Carmel, Caernarvonshire where he worked first in a quarry and later as a clerk. He was interested in literature and Eisteddfodau and began writing poetry and competing in Eisteddfodau at an early age.

When he was in his late twenties he decided to become a minister with the Calvinistic Methodists, and trained at Bangor and later at Edinburgh, and in 1883 took up his first call as minister in Ysgoldy, Caernarvonshire where he stayed for the rest of his life.

He was not renowned as an exceptional preacher, but was a good shepherd to his flock and a very popular and caring minister. He competed regularly at Eisteddfodau, and several times closely missed winning the crown and the chair. He published a volume of poems in 1912, remained unmarried and died at Ysgoldy in 1916.


Perhaps the best known to us today of the four poets was Ceiriog, John Ceiriog Hughes (1832-1887), born in the Ceiriog Valley in Denbighshire.

Ceiriog earned his living by being a railway clerk in Manchester and in London and ended up being Stationmaster in Caersws. He was well-known as a collector of Welsh folk tunes, and has taken his place in Welsh culture as the poet who wrote verses for many of the old harp tunes and made them into songs, “Clychau Aberdyfi”, “Dafydd y Garreg Wen”, “Llwyn Onn” are examples of the many texts of Ceiriog which have become familiar to lovers of Welsh folk music.

He wrote many poems which consistently won him prizes at Eisteddfodau, and was famous for his purity of diction and insistence on the vernacular. He did for Welsh poetry what Coleridge and Wordsworth did for English poetry, and made it accessible to the common man, avoiding a too lofty means of expression.


Goronwy Owen (1723-1769) was by far the most adventurous and colourful of the four poets, and also the earliest. He was born in Llanfair Mathafarn Eithaf in Anglesey into a poor family. His father was an artisan who could write simple poems in Welsh. His mother had been a maid in the household of the famous Morris family, one of whom, Lewis Morris took the gifted young boy under his wing and saw to it that he had an education at Friars School Bangor, where he learned Latin and Greek, and started writing poetry. After studying at Jesus College Oxford, he began working as a curate and from Anglesey moved to Shrewsbury and thence to London, but by now he had started drinking and leading a profligate life and Lewis Morris feared that he would lose his position as a curate and encouraged him to apply for a teaching job in America. His wife and one of his children died on the voyage. He remarried in America but his second wife died after a few months. He lost his job as a teacher because of his drunkenness and spent the rest of his short life as a parson in Brunswick County, where he married for the third time.

As a poet Goronwy Owen is remembered for his contribution to revamping the old poetic forms of Awdl and Cywydd and changing their subject matter from being used only in praise of rich patrons, to using the forms for wider subjects like religion and contemplation of life and nature. After he left for America a volume of his poems was published in Wales, and two more editions appeared in the 19th century after his death. He is commemorated in Brunswick County Virginia as a famous Welsh poet.


This was the bardic name of William Thomas (1832-1878), who was born in Mynyddislwyn in Monmouthshire. His father was a tramroad agent on a local estate in the Sirhowy valley and his mother was a farmer’s daughter from Mynyddislwyn.

Islwyn is remembered as having written one of the longest poems in the Welsh language, called “The Storm” which analyses his emotions after the sudden death of his fiancée. Islwyn became a mining engineer and he was educated at Newport and Cowbridge. He then decided to become a Calvinistic Methodist preacher and after he trained did not take a church but chose the life of a travelling preacher, first on horseback and later using the new railway. He met and married another lady a few years after his bereavement and settled at Ynysddu. He was a regular winner at Eisteddfodau, a celebrated poet in his time and also wrote for various periodicals. He never enjoyed very robust health but was very active in spite of that, and he burnt himself out at a relatively early age.


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