David Hopkin Samuel
Headmaster & Musician
David Hopkin Samuel was born in May 1912 at 17 Front Long Row, Abernant, the home of his parents David John and Mary Ann (Polly) Samuel and of his maternal grandmother, Elizabeth James. His parents lived for a time at Wenallt Road, Abernant, but by the early 1920s moved to what would be their lifelong home at 5 Agents Row. His father worked as a coalminer.1 DHS was educated at Abernant Primary School, where his headmaster was Tom Davies2 of Cefn Bryn, Abernant Road. He entered Aberdare Boys County School in 1924. The photograph shows his parents with him proudly wearing the cap (with tassel) which he acquired on admission.
Leaving in 1929, he spent a year as a student teacher at Town National School Aberdare. He attended Bangor Normal Teacher Training College from 1930 to 1932, where he sang in and accompanied the College chamber choir. He was scrum half in the college rugby team, but a bad break of his left arm ended his playing career. The team was captained by another ABCS former pupil, wing forward Absalom Williams who was killed in World War II when his plane was shot down over the North Sea.
His first appointment as a schoolteacher was at Hugon Road Boys’ Secondary School in Fulham, west London, where he stayed until 1938. During this time he provided the piano accompaniment at the Fulham schools musical festival. He returned to Aberdare in 1938 when he was appointed Music and Physical Education teacher at Aman Secondary School, Godreaman.
Once home he became engaged to Gwenllian Forey, BSc, of Moss House Abernant, who was until 1940 biology mistress at Tywyn County Intermediate School in Meirionethshire. They got married in March 1940 when he was called up for war service in the RAF3 and she was obliged to resign her teaching post. While stationed at Hereford he was able to obtain leave passes for 48 hours, which allowed him to travel by 3-speed pushbike to Abernant and back. During his RAF service he was the accompanist for the Male Voice Choir at Hereford No. 4 Wing. Two of their children, John and Rhian, were born in 1941 and 1944 respectively, while their third child, Mair, was born in 1948.
Following demobilisation, he returned to his teaching post at Aman School, but the young family soon moved from Moss House, Abernant, where John was born, to Bryncarnau, Park View Terrace, which was to be the family home for the rest of his life. As sports master at Aman School,4 he was deeply involved in schoolboy soccer and cricket, collaborating with colleagues Don John of Gadlys school and Nick James of Aberaman school.
DHS received his early musical education from Tom Thomas, the organist at Bethel Welsh Baptist chapel Abernant, but Tom Thomas died suddenly just as his former pupil was returning home from war service. That meant that David was soon appointed organist at Bethel, a post that he held until his death in 1975. He received tuition on the Harrison & Harrison pipe organ at Calfaria, Aberdare, from Edgar de Lloyd. He was often the organist at various cymanfaoedd canu.5 Originally Bethel’s organ accompaniment was provided by a Kelly harmonium, but in 1970 the chapel was able to acquire a Conacher pipe organ from a redundant chapel in the Cymmer Valley. A team led by Jeff Lloyd of Cwmdare and volunteers from the Bethel community dismantled the organ and undertook major structural works at Bethel, which entailed removal of part of the gallery.
In 1954 he was appointed headmaster of his old primary school at Abernant, succeeding the aforementioned Nick James. Every child that came under his tutoring in Abernant was taught to play the descant recorder.
In 1966 he was appointed headteacher of the much larger Cwmdare primary school and it was a matter of delight to him that his wife, Gwennie, was able to join him for periods on the staff during the protracted absences for health reasons of other teachers. She had resumed her teaching career in 1954 and served in a number of local schools including Aberdare Girls’ Grammar School and Ysgol Gymraeg Aberdâr at Ynyslwyd.
DHS was an active member of the Aberdare branch of the National Union of Teachers, serving as its Treasurer and President, for which he was presented with an inscribed salver in 1970. Earlier, he was very active in local causes like the ‘Save the Trees’ campaign in Abernant and the opposition to the Aberdare Town Plan (1957). In March 1975, while still in post at Cwmdare, he was at the organ at a morning service in Bethel Abernant, when he suffered a major heart attack. He died at St Tydfil’s hospital in Merthyr a fortnight later. He was 62 years of age.
John, his son, was at the Bethel organ for the funeral service conducted by the minister, Rev Idwal Wynne Owen. W.R. Thomas of Ynyslwyd, who had been at the organ for the wedding in March 1940 was at the organ at Llwydcoed crematorium.
1. His father worked as a coalminer firstly at Blaennant colliery Abernant and thereafter until his retirement at the Empire colliery, Cwmgwrach, to which there was a good train service from Abernant station.
2. Tom Davies was the father of David Herbert Davies, (ABCS 1915–20),
predecessor of DHS as headteacher at Cwmdare School.
Tom Davies was also the father of Prof. Mansel Davies (ABCS 1924–30) and Rev Merfyn Walter Davies (ABCS 1918–22)
3. He was stationed at RAF bases in Padgate, Hereford and Halton.
4. At Aman School Secondary School the headmaster was D.T.H. Price formerly Geology and Geography master at ABCS, 1937–48.
5. For some 20 years he was the secretary of the Aberdare Town Baptist annual cymanfa ganu, held on the first weekend of May, concluding on Mabon’s Day. He succeeded as Secretary Ernest Evans, coal merchant, of Noddfa, Trecynon.