Winnie Roberts, B.A. (Wales)
County School Teacher and Mother
Aberdare County Intermediate School, 1896–1899

Winifred Roberts, c1903

Winnie Roberts, c1903

Mary Gwenllian Winifred Roberts, (Winnie), was born 28 June 1882 in Llwydcoed. She was one of the 53 girls and 89 boys who attended on the very first day of the Aberdare County Intermediate School on 29 September 1896. She arrived with her younger brother David Phillips Roberts1. They were the only children of William Theodore Roberts2 and his wife Mary Hannah, née Phillips3. Winnie’s mother died within a week of the birth of her brother in 1884, with the result that Winnie was sent off to spend her early childhood living with her paternal grandmother, Gwenllian Roberts, at Garth House, Llangynidr, Breconshire. Her extended stay with her grandmother resulted in the loss of her Welsh language, which she bitterly regretted in later life.

At some point during her elementary schooling Winifred returned to Aberdare, and like her brother attended the Higher Grade School, which at that time occupied part of the Town Elementary School, Clifton Street. In her second and third years at the County Intermediate School, at the ages of 15 and 16 respectively, she was awarded scholarships to cover the full tuition fees for her schooling. During the period when Winnie and her brother were at the Trecynon School their father was Headmaster at Blaengwawr Boys School, and he and his daughter lived at 343 Cardiff Road, whilst her brother was with a foster mother in Llwydcoed. Some years later, a cousin4 of Winnie arrived at the County School, and boarded with her father.

After spending three years at the school she gained her C.W.B. Senior Examination Certificate as well as passing the University of Wales Matriculation Examination in 1899, and after sitting the entrance examination was subsequently awarded an Exhibition of £10 a year for three years at University College, Bangor, as well as a scholarship of £30 a year for three years, awarded by the Glamorgan Education Board of Governors. Her name was the very first one on the School’s Honours Board that hung in the assembly hall.

Honours_Board The first entries on the
University Entrance
Scholarships Honours Board

At Bangor, she studied Pure Mathematics, Latin and French, graduating with an honours degree in French in 1903. Whilst there, she played hockey for the University Women’s team.

After university she returned to Aberdare and was employed as a teacher: at Aman school, 1903–05; and The Higher Standard Girls School, Gadlys, 1905–07. (later renamed Gadlys Secondary Modern School). During the summer of 1907, she decided to consider work in secondary schools and made the appropriate applications which were strongly supported by her former school headmaster W. Jenkyn Thomas, (by then a headmaster at Hackney Downs, London), and the Chairman of Governors at the Trecynon School, D.P. Davies, (Ynyslwyd). She was successful in gaining a post at the Ystradgynlais County School, where she was appointed as an assistant mistress.

During this period in Aberdare she visited France, (after the signing of the Entente cordiale agreements), Belgium and Switzerland either for holidays, (acting as translator for her uncle David Prosser Roberts), or for language summer schools. Also, in 1906, she was elected to the committee of the Aberdare Valley Teachers Association, and elected to be co-vice-president of the Past Student Society at the Aberdare County School. Ten years later, she used her language skills as a translator for Belgian refugees who had come to Wales.

However, by the autumn of 1909 she had decided to marry, and as was the custom at that time, she was obliged to relinquish her teaching post, which she did in December of that year. In a very complimentary farewell letter to her from the Chairman of Governors at Ystradgynlais she is referred to as being the Headmistress at the school. A former pupil of hers at this school spoke of her many years later as, “a tall reserved lady, very polite, most capable and a kid-gloved disciplinarian”.

Her marriage took place on 10 January 1910 at the Old Parish Church in Neath. The bridegroom was John Harris, MPS, (1874–1964), a pharmaceutical chemist in Ystradgynlais. He was a close relative of the Harris family who ran the Seven Sisters Hotel. Winnie had four children of whom just two sons survived into adulthood: David William Theodore Harris (1912–1993), who became a Consultant Psychiatrist; and Augustus John Harris (1913–1992 ) who after gaining a double 1st in Maths and Physics at U.C. Cardiff entered the Scientific Civil Service, serving with distinction at the Building Research Station, Bucknalls near Watford. Whilst there he worked on the destruction of concrete buildings—a study that was related to the subsequent wartime dambusters raid in 1943.

Winnie and John Harris enjoyed fifty-four years of married life in Ystradgynlais until John died in 1964. Winnie died one year later in 1965.


Winnie, middle row extreme right.
Member of UCNW Bangor Hockey Team
with UCW Aberystwyth opponents.

Winnie and Theodore

Winnie with her father
William Theodore Roberts
c1930, Barry Island


Ystradgynlais County School, 1909
Winnie, in black, as Headmistress, next to man holding a baby -
thought to be the headmaster, J. Walter Jones

Winnie and family

Winnie with her husband
John Harris and two sons,
Theodore & Augustus


  1. Winnie’s brother D.P. Roberts has a separate entry in the Former Pupils section of this website
  2. William Theodore Roberts, (1857–1945), was born in Llangynidr, Breconshire. He married Winnie’s mother Mary Hannah Phillips in 1881. Following her death, he married secondly Mary Ann Phillips in 1890. There were two children from his first marriage and none from the second. For many years he lived at 343 Cardiff Road, and later at 21 Montague Terrace.
    WTR succeeded as headmaster a Mr. Griffiths at Llwydcoed School, in 1882. Four years later there followed his long service as headmaster at Blaengwawr Boys Schools, from July 5, 1886, until July 26, 1907 (a period of 21 years); a further headship at the Town Boys’ School, (now Caradog Primary School), followed from August, 1907, until the end of August, 1911, when he was transferred to Park Boys’ School. Here he remained until he retired on the last day of 1920, after serving as headteacher of schools in Aberdare and district for almost 39 years.
    He died in 1945 at Pyle, Glamorgan.
  3. Mary Hannah Phillips, 1864–1884, was the daughter of Rev Morgan Phillips, (old) Gwawr Baptist Chapel, Aberaman.
  4. Augustus David Roberts, (1892–1972), arrived at the County School from Blaengwawr elementary school, and stayed at the Trecynon school from 1906 to 1910 — after both DPR and Winnie had left. He was the son of W.T. Roberts’ brother Augustus J. Roberts, (1854–1945). Whilst at school he stayed with his uncle at Aberaman. He became Rating Officer for Radnor before WW1, and from 1921 the County Librarian for Breconshire.

Acknowledgement: The writing of this account of the life of Winnie Roberts was made possible with information supplied by Dr David Harris to whom we are most grateful. Dr Harris, grandson of Winnie Roberts, qualified in medicine from Leeds University in 1968. He was Consultant Psychiatrist in hospitals in Ottawa and London (Ontario). He retired in 2009 and is now Professor Emeritus at the University of Western Ontario.


CR 31 May 2020