Ken Griffiths was born at home in Oxford St, Gadlys on September 3rd, 1937. Over a period of 50 years Ken was, at various times, a pupil, teacher and governor of the Boys’ school. He was the only child of Gomer and Sarah Griffiths, of 58 Oxford Street. The Griffiths shared their home with another family; their son Viv and Ken grew up as brothers. Aberdare Park was their playground with its swimming baths and, in those days, dense rhododendron bushes providing ample opportunities for recreation and play. Ken attended the Infants and Junior departments of Park School, and passed the eleven-plus examination from there to ABGS in 1948, starting at the school on the September day he was eleven years old.
Throughout his days at the grammar school he was strong academically as well as an active sportsman. He participated in swimming, and in athletics, winning the County 400-yards at middle-school level. He also played in the 1955 School Tennis Team, and captained the School Rugby 2nd XV in both the 1954-55 and 1955-56 seasons. He is pictured in the team photographs for all of these teams on this website. Outside school he played soccer, and was selected to play for Aberdare Schoolboys.
Ken took his O levels in 1954, and A levels in English, French and Economics in 1956. On the strength of his A Levels he was awarded a George Hall Travelling Scholarship which enabled him to spend five weeks during that summer in Paris studying at the Sorbonne. Then in the autumn of 1956 he left for University College, Cardiff where he read French and English, graduating in 1959. His interest in sport continued during his days in Cardiff, but there his specialism was table tennis; he represented the university in this event.
Ken stayed a further year at Cardiff to train as a teacher. His placement was at Abertâf Secondary School in Abercynon.
From the age of twelve in 1959 Ken’s girlfriend had been Christine Edwards*. The relationship continued through their school and higher education years, although there was a separation of sorts, when Christine went to Swansea Teacher Training College to follow a course in Physical Education as her main subject - while Ken was at Cardiff. At the end of his Cardiff days, Ken and Christine married in the summer of 1960 at St Elvan’s Church, Aberdare. Ken spent the rest of that summer as a conductor with the Western Welsh Omnibus Co. before commencing his teaching career.
Ken’s first post was at Coed Eva Secondary School in Cwmbran, while his wife Christine was at Pontypool Girls’ Grammar School. Although the couple had started their first home in Pontypool, the pull of their home town was too great resulting in a move back to Aberdare, although Ken continued to work in Cwmbran. His interest in sport was maintained and he used the school’s gym for training and played in a table tennis league in the Cwmbran area.
In the summer of 1964, Ken’s all time idol Garfield Griffiths, Head of English at ABGS, vacated his post due to his decision to emigrate to Canada. The resulting reshuffling of staffing at Aberdare resulted in a vacancy at the school which Ken applied for and won. So, after a gap of just nine years he returned with great satisfaction to his old school as a member of staff in January 1965. He was appointed to ABGS to teach French and English; he also had a responsibility for a junior rugby team. At the same time he took up a post teaching evening classes at Aberdare Further Education College, teaching ‘O’ level English mainly to classes of aspiring nurses and policemen for whom the subject was to became a required qualification.
At Advanced Level Ken specialised in French in which he took a great delight. He added the care of the tennis team to his responsibilities, but exceptionally and possibly uniquely it was a mixed team with girls form Plasdraw, an arrangement no doubt facilitated by the fact that Christine had by this time become Head of PE at Aberdare Girls’ Grammar School. Indeed, because of this relationship, Ken found himself as mini-bus driver for the Saturday matches of Christine’s hockey and athletic teams - with their two sons Jon and Christopher in tow as well.
Back at the Cwmdare site of the Boys Grammar, Ken became a School Councillor, and also took on work in the Careers Department. When the school reorganised to become a comprehensive school in 1978, he became Head of Middle School, Years 9 & 10. Ken was a loyal member of staff, and carried out his responsibilities in a very competent and reliable fashion. In his role as Head of Year he had the remarkable gift of being able to defuse difficult situations, with either parents, boys or staff. When an individual had backed himself into a corner, he was invariably talked into acting more calmly and reasonably by Ken. He seemed to be able to charm, where others had failed to make any impact at all. However, in 1987 when he was just 49 years old Ken had a heart attack which, after a recovery, was the beginning of a long period of slow deterioration in his health. Even so, Ken made the best of the subsequent long school summer holidays and embarked upon a series of what he called ‘Long Haul’ holidays to such destinations as Canada, China, Thailand and the USA.
Eventually, due to ill-health, Ken had to retire in 1995 at the age of 57. At the same time he resigned his post as a School Governor which he had held for 15 years. However, he was delighted to be immediately co-opted back on to the Board of Governors, and he continued to serve his school in this capacity until 2009. In 1995, he began to compile, as editor, the Centenary Anniversary Booklet which was published in 1996. He was also active in the Past Students Association (PSA), and helped in the organisation of social events and in the fund raising for the trophy cabinet. In a recent PSA event in March 2008, he was a member of the group that organised the commemorative dinner for past student and Olympic athlete Ron Jones, originally of Cwmaman. Ken made a speech at both this event, and the centenary dinner which took place twelve years earlier just after he retired.
The family home is at ‘St. David’s’, Merthyr Rd, Llwydcoed where Ken and Christine raised their two sons, Christopher and Jon, who were both pupils at the boys’ comprehensive school. In recent years, Ken took a great interest in the upbringing of his grandson, and there were frequent visits and outings organised. Retirement also enabled Ken and Christine to spend more time at their cottage in New Quay, Ceredigion which gave them much pleasure.
Ken died on February 27th, 2011 at the age of 73, after a two-year period when his health deteriorated substantially although, due to his stoicism, this was not apparent to many of his friends. His funeral took place at Llwydcoed Crematorium on Wednesday March 9, 2011. It was officiated by Fr Bernard Jones, and the present Head Master of the school, Ian Machin, took part in the service.
We are most grateful to Ken and Christine for the many photographs they have contributed to this and the Girls School website over the past five years.
* Christine attended the National School, then Aberdare Girls’ GS, 1949-56, taking A levels in Art and History. She attended Swansea Teacher Training College 1956-58, and after a further year of study she began a teaching career that took her to Abercynon Secondary Modern, 1959-61; Head of PE at Pontypool Girls’ GS 1961-64; Aberdare Girls’ GS, 1964-88, filling various posts - Head of PE, Head of Year 11, Head of Upper School - completing a B.Ed, M.Ed. and ACP whilst there. Deputy Headteacher, Bedwellty Comprehensive School 1988 until retirement in 1997. She has been active since 1987 in the Cynon Valley Crime Prevention Association.