The Aberdare Boys’ Grammar School
1896 – 1978
A personal record of the life and times of the
November 1st 2023
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.
Robertstown Tramway Bridge
Repairs to the Robertstown Tramway Bridge and its abutments appear to be complete. It is now resplendent in a black protective paint, and there are substantial new side railings - probably required by modern H&S regulations. Thanks to Geoff Abbott for the photographs. (11/2023)
Radio 3’s long-running series ‘Composer of the Week’ featured
five Welsh composers during the week September 25th-30th. The fourth hour-long
programme, broadcast on Thursday, September 28th, featured the music of Rhian Samuel,
who was brought up in Abernant, and who was a former pupil of Aberdare Girls’ Grammar
School. The programme also included several spoken inserts when the programme host,
Donald Macleod, interviewed Rhian. (Rhian’s father, D.H.Samuel, has just
been added to the Former Pupils section of this website.) The programme episode
will be available on BBC Sounds for most of October at the following link:
Gwendolen Rees Aberystwyth University has renamed
one of its major buildings in honour of Gwendolen Rees, FRS, a former pupil of
can read the university’s account of the naming ceremony at the following link:
Fossil We recently reported on the severe damage suffered by the calamites
fossil tree that stood in the grounds of the Cwmdare Road School. The fossil has
been repaired and erected back in its original place. Black mortar has been used
to secure the many segments back in place - and it looks better than it did with
the white mortar. Whether it is as high as previously ...
A reunion for pupils who entered either ABGS or AGGS in the years 1971 to 1974 took place on September 30th. It was organised by Paul Harris, (ABGS 1972–79). We hope to have a report on the event soon.
Robert Servini, (ABGS 1954–61). An interesting
six-minute video has just been uploaded onto YouTube in which Robert Servini discusses
‘The Story of Italian Migration to the South Wales Valleys.’ It’s
well worth taking a look. You'll find the video at
Brynley F. Roberts, CBE The death has occurred
in Aberystwyth on August 14th of Bryn Roberts. Professor Roberts was an eminent
scholar of Welsh and ‘One of the giants of Celtic studies’.
He was Professor and Head of the Department of Welsh, Swansea University; a former
Librarian of The National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth; and a former pupil of
ABGS. He has an entry in the Former Pupils section of this website. We extend our
condolences to his wife Rhiannon and his two sons. The funeral took place at Capel
Y Morfa, Portland Street, Aberystwyth on 4th September 2023.
The BBC has placed a tribute to him on their website; it will be the first of many.
Melville Morgan, ABGS 1951–58, passed
away peacefully on Saturday July 22nd at the Royal Glamorgan Hospital Llantrisant.
He was brought up in the Gadlys and attended Park School, before ABGS. He won a
George Hall Travelling Scholarship on leaving school and went on to university
in Cardiff. He taught French in Aberdare Girls’ Grammar School in the 1970s.
He and his wife Christine lived in Trecynon. The funeral was held on August
16th at Llwydcoed Crematorium. Mel is pictured on the right in 1958,
and more recently on the left.
John Bowen, ABGS 1947–1954. John was the son of the ABGS deputy headmaster J.T. Bowen, who taught at the school from 1918 until 1958. John was brought up in Plasdraw and attended the National School in Cardiff Street before ABGS. He graduated in Law at UCW Aberystwyth and was articled with Marchant Harries & Co, Aberdare 1957–60; then assistant solicitor with G Houghton & Son London, and Gamlen Bowerman & Forward Lincoln’s Inn London 1960–64. In 1964 he returned to Wales to join Morgan Cole, firstly in Pontypridd then Cardiff, and became a partner 1966–99, and eventually chairman of the Management Board, 1989–99. There were many other positions including a directorship with the Principality Building Society; chairman of The Employment Tribunal, and an Audit Commissioner. He was made a Fellow of Cardiff University. Most recently he lived in Gwaelod-y-Garth, near Taff’s Well. The photos show John in 2008 and 1954 respectively.
Kevin Headford It is with sadness we report the sudden death of Kevin Headford, ABCS 1989–94. He was just 45 years of age. Kevin was brought up in Hirwaun, and recently lived in Cwmbach. At school, he was a talented football player, and can be seen as captain in the team photograph of the 1991–92 XI, and as the capped player in the 1993–94 XI photograph. He also has a place on the sporting individual achievers page. As an adult, he continued with his sporting interests and gave time to a local football club in Llwydcoed. He was very well known and liked both socially and at work. The funeral took place on 7th July 2023, at Llwydcoed Crematorium. It was a large funeral and attended by many of his friends and acquaintances. He is survived by his wife and two sons. We send our sincere condolences to his family and his many friends.
The Proclamation of next year’s National Eisteddfod of Wales took place in Aberdare on Saturday, June 24th 2023. The last time the Proclamation took place in Aberdare was in the summer of 1955.
Aberdare town centre was packed with onlookers on Saturday June 24th, as members of the Gorsedd paraded through the streets before the Proclamation ceremony, which took place at the Ron Jones Athletics Stadium at The Ynys. The town was bathed in brilliant sunshine, though the high temperature was rather challenging. Three former ABGS students were spotted amongst the bards, as well as former student Elfed Davies who was praised by the Archdruid in his speech during the ceremony. He pointed out that Elfed is the last survivor of the 1955–56 Aberdare National Eisteddfod organising committee, thereby linking the old with the new. Also in the parade was another Aberdarian, D. Wyn Rees who attended MAGS in the late 1960s. Regrettably, ABGS past student and member of the Gorsedd, John Samuel, (ABGS 1952–60), was unable to attend due to illness.
Aberdare Cenotaph The town was also busy on Sunday 25th June 2023 when citizens, members of the armed forces and veterans commemorated the 100th anniversary of the unveiling of the Cenotaph in Victoria Square. There was a parade and service at the cenotaph. In the afternoon, there were family events to include various stalls, displays, choirs and a band.
The Fossil Tree
There are no prizes for spotting the difference in the ‘before and after’ pictures of the calamites fossil tree that stood on the site of the former Aberdare Boys’ Comprehensive School in Cwmdare Road. On the left we see the fossil as it has been for many years having been transferred under the initiative of the late Mr Tom Evans, (geography), from the grounds of Brynawel House, Clifton Street, where it had stood from around 1880. It was almost twice as high originally, and the mortar joints suggest that it had suffered a previous accident. The plaque on the ground alongside is not connected with the fossil; it is the plaque that was placed alongside the centenary tree in 1996. The tree did not thrive and died many years before the school closed.
On the right, we see the situation that greeted residents of Y Dolydd on the morning of May 21st. The pieces have been collected, and a decision has yet to be made about what happens to them.
Photos: D.L. Davies & John Lewis
Martyn Gough We were very sad to receive the
news of the passing at the age of 57 of The Venerable Martyn Gough, R.N., formerly
Chaplain of the Fleet, and later Chaplain to the Royal British Legion. He died
on April 28th, 2023. His loss will be felt by many. He was brought up in King Street,
Cwmdare, and attended Cwmdare Primary School before entering Aberdare Boys’ Grammar
School in September 1977.
Dennis Williams Gareth Williams has informed us of the sad news that his father, Dennis Williams, died on April 19th 2023 at the age of 95. Dennis was very proud of his Aberdare roots particularly of the Boys’ Grammar School that he attended from 1940 to 1945. He played Rugby for Aberaman RFC and he is pictured on this website as a member of the ABGS 1st XV for 1944-45. He trained as a primary school teacher at Trinity College, Carmarthen before working at various schools in Essex where he met his future wife, an Abergavenny girl. By the mid 1960s, he and his family had settled in Oxfordshire, by which time Dennis had left teaching to become a civil servant. Upon retirement, he and his wife moved back to Wales to live in Brecon, which incidentally allowed him to revisit Aberdare. He had a strong Christian faith and preached voluntarily until his 85th year in many local churches, principally at Dowlais Top. His funeral will take place at Brecon Elim Church on May 17th at 1pm.
James Meredith We have been informed of the sudden death at the age of 49 of James Meredith, ABCS 1985–92. James was the middle brother of three, who all attended the school. The funeral took place on Friday 14th April 2023, at Llwydcoed Crematorium. We extend our sincere condolences to James’ family and friends.
The Clock Tower House After a recent magnificent
restoration and substantial enlargement the ABGS clock tower house has been put
on the market. It’s possible to view the
property, including 53 exterior and interior photographs, on the Rightmove website
at the following link:
Martin Wyatt We report the death of Martin Wyatt on February 5th. His funeral service took place at St Fagan’s, Trecynon, and was very well attended. Martin attended ABGS 1961–65. After leaving school, he served his apprenticeship with the Thomson press and later became Head Compositor at the Leader office, and then transferred to the Celtic Press with the move to Dowlais. After he retired, he devoted himself to part-time work with ‘Busy Bodies Fitness’ in Aberdare, while Abernant residents may remember him working behind the bar at the Rhoswenallt Inn and the Golf Club. Most recently he lived in Cwmdare, and attended St Fagan’s where, as a volunteer, he served as manager of the church hall. In addition he had been a member of Cwmbach Male Choir. We extend our sincere condolences to Martin’s family and friends.
Fothergill Park WDL Homes of Penderyn is set to start preparatory work on its 299-home development at Abernant on the former Aberdare General Hospital site. The company has secured planning consent approval from Rhondda Cynon Taf Council. The scheme, to be known as Fothergill Park, will provide a range of homes with one to five bedrooms. Some 269 will be for private sale, with 30 designated as affordable housing. The first homes are due to become available in spring 2024 with all homes scheduled to be completed in 2028. The same company is completing a 94-home estate called College Gardens on the site of the former Further Education College on Cwmdare Road.
Rhondda Cynon Taf National Eisteddfod 2024 News is eagerly awaited of the location of the Proclamation Ceremony which is to be held in the summer of 2023, as well as of the location of the Eisteddfod itself to take place in August 2024.
Cynon Gateway North On February 14th, 2023,
the Welsh Government announced a halt on all new road building in Wales. Amongst
the projects that would be put on hold was the Cynon Gateway North bypass, which
was to link the existing Aberdare bypass, near Penywaun, to the upgraded Heads
of the Valleys road at Croesbychan. Further details can be found at the link below,
Extension of railway line to Hirwaun ? RCT County Borough Council has secured £239,633 to fund further studies on development work necessary to extend rail services from Aberdare to Hirwaun. If the extension is eventually realised, it will be part of the South Wales Metro, which aims to run four trains an hour up the Cynon Valley. The extension would also involve the preferred option of building new stations at Llwydcoed, Hirwaun Station Road/Penyard and Hirwaun (Tower Colliery). Basic railway line infrastructure already exists, and until recently was used for coal trains taking coal from Tower to Aberthaw power station. The line was originally part of the Vale of Neath Railway which enabled trains to run from Neath to Aberdare, and on to Pontypool Road, and The Midlands.
Dr Mike Thomas — In the King’s New Year Honours List 2023, we were pleased to see Mike Thomas awarded an MBE for his services to the Choirs of the Pelenna Valley and the Cynon Valley. He is currently the musical director of both the Cwmdare Choir and the Cwmbach Male Choir, as well as Pelenna, a choir based in his home village of Tonmawr. Mike was a teacher at Blaengwawr Comprehensive School for 31 years, retiring in 2014 as its deputy headteacher. He has two sons: William, a former organ scholar at Oxford, and Jac who plays the trumpet professionally.
Robert M. Jones
School friends of Bob Jones might like to catch up on his activities by
visiting his website, link below.
A new Aberdare railway platform
A new arrivals platform is about to be constructed near Aberdare station. It will be situated slightly down the line from the existing Aberdare station, adjacent to the Sobell Leisure Centre car park and Aberdare Community School. This is in preparation for the new Metro system with its electric tram-trains running at greater frequency.
We regret to record the deaths of three people who were associated with the school.
Aberystwyth University’s 150th Anniversary Former students who went to UCW Aberystwyth will probably be aware that the university is currently celebrating the 150th anniversary of its founding in 1872. In addition to several events taking place in Aberystwyth and elsewhere, a commemorative book has been published to mark the anniversary. The book is called Ceiniogau’r Werin: Prifysgol Aberystwyth mewn 150 Objects / Pennies of the People: Aberystwyth University in 150 Objects, and details of how to obtain it can be found here. You can find out more about the anniversary by clicking or tapping here.
Aberdare Golf Club, 1921–2021
Gwyn Evans, (ABGS 1959–1966), has recently brought out a new book that charts the history of the Aberdare Golf Club
in Abernant over the one hundred years since its establishment in 1921. The 59 pages contain many old photographs, tables with names of
captains, champions and Presidents, etc. The golf course is described in some detail in an early section, and in later sections, the
clubhouse, the Ladies Section, Club Honours, Cups & Trophies, and of course Dai Rees, the son of the club professional.
Rhigos Road Video An interesting video about the mountain road between Rhigos and Treherbert, opened
in 1929, was uploaded to YouTube a few weeks ago. Coincidentally, the road has been closed recently due to rocks falling onto the
Robertstown Bridge Repairs to the ironwork of the 1811 Robertstown tramroad bridge damaged in the storms of February 2020 have been delayed. During the storm a large tree fell onto the bridge deck. The whole of the ironwork structure was removed for offsite repairs. As well as the bridge itself, there is substantial scour damage to the northern masonry abutment. This too needs urgent attention. See the RCTCBS news release here.
St Fagan’s Church Grant although not on the scale of the huge grant to St Elvan’s Church, it
was reported in mid-August that St Fagan’s Church, Trecynon had been awarded £10,000 by the National Churches Trust for essential
repairs. The news reader Huw Edwards who is Vice President of the Trust, is reported to have said, “I’m delighted that St Fagan
Church is being helped with funding for urgent roof, rainwater goods and other repairs. This will safeguard unique local heritage and keep the
church open and in use for the benefit of local people.” (The photograph of Huw Edwards in the article linked to below is from his
London Welsh Chapels book, (2015)). St Fagan’s was financed by the Hon. Robert H. Clive and consecrated in 1854. However, in 1856 the
church was burnt down, but was rebuilt with funding from Lady Harriet Clive, (Baroness Windsor).
The Caradog Festival. The photograph shows the final item of the day-long activities in Aberdare on Saturday, July 16th. The venue is the library square with Green Street Methodist Church in the background. Combined choirs forming a group of around 200-300 choristers gave a programme of popular songs. Throughout the day there had been simultaneous performances at four different venues: St Elvan’s, the market car park, the square opposite Lloyds Bank, as well as the library square. There was a relaxed atmosphere in the town on Saturday as both Canon Street and High Street were closed to traffic. The festival occupied three days, with a concert in St Elvan’s on Friday Evening, and a Cymanfa Ganu on Sunday.
Mrs Prudence Williams
We report with sadness the death on July 19th, 2022 in Ysbyty Cwm Cynon of Prudence Williams. She was 99 years of age. Mrs Williams was Chair of Governors at ABGS, and can be seen in this capacity in the 1976 Certificate Ceremony entry on this website. As Prudence Doughton she married Harold V. Williams in 1944; the couple raised two children. She became a long-serving Protectionist Town and County Councillor. She was a past pupil of AGGS and can be seen in the 1938 Album in the 4 alpha class photograph. Mrs Williams was a lifelong member of Bethel Welsh Baptist Chapel, Abernant; and at the time of her death, she lived alone at 18 Fothergill Street, Abernant. She is survived by her son. Her funeral took place at Green Street Methodist Church on Tuesday, August 2nd.
Mrs Tydfil Thomas, OBE, JP, MA. We regret to report the death of Mrs Tydfil Thomas, former
headmistress at the Girls Grammar, and later Comprehensive, School in Aberdare. She died on July 6th, 2022 aged 97. Her funeral will take
place on Thursday 21st July at 3 pm at Llwydcoed Crematorium.
CaradogFest The programme of events for this large celebration in Aberdare July 15th-17th can be
found at this link
Proposed Reunion/Reception at the Old Boys’ Grammar School Clocktower House. The owners of the clocktower house opposite the bottom gates of Aberdare Park would like to cordially invite former pupils of the Old Boys’ Grammar School to a reunion/reception at the building. No specific date has been proposed for the event, but this notice serves to gauge if there is sufficient interest to run this small event. If you would like to register your interest, please contact Adrian Harford by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or send a message using the feedback form on this webpage - on the right.
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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