Stuart Griffith John came from a long-established Cynon Valley family. After his schooldays he spent almost the whole of his life in Aberystwyth as a student, administrator, lecturer, and stalwart of many committees at UCW Aberystwyth, (later Aberystwyth University).
He was born on April 14 1931 in Hirwaun, to Janet Enid, (née Jenkins), and Griffith George John1. There was also a sister, Pat, who was about five years younger than her brother. Griffith John was a civil servant, and worked as a clerk in H.M. Tax Office.
When Stuart was around four years of age, the family moved to Aberdare, where they lived at 34 Tanybryn Street in Foundry Town. In 1941, soon after his 10th birthday, he entered The County School for Boys, having received his primary education at The Town (Council) School, Clifton Street, now called Caradog Primary School — and having shared his classes there with Brynley F. Roberts2. He entered Form 1 alpha and by 1946 had sat his CWB School Certificate, passing in nine subjects including both music theory and practical. During his lower sixth year, he lost his mother at the early age of fifty-one. He took his CWB Highers in both 1948 and 1949, gaining passes in three subjects, English, French and a distinction in Latin.
In the autumn of 1949, he entered UCW Aberystwyth, and settled in the locality, which became his ‘home’ for the rest of his life. His degree course entailed a year in France, which he spent teaching in a senior secondary school. He then graduated with an honours degree in French in 1953. In the following year he gained a First-Class Teaching Diploma of the University of Wales, as well as a University Postgraduate Studentship, which enabled him to undertake literary research in Aberystwyth, London, and Paris. For this work, he was awarded the degree of M.A. (1956), for a thesis entitled, “The reflections of musical developments in French literature 1789–1815”. In the same year, he won a Nathan Scholarship of the British Institute in Paris, and for fifteen months undertook further research at the University of Paris, under the supervision of professors at the Sorbonne. Whilst in France he met a young New Zealander named Jenny who was also studying French, and who was later to become his wife.
On returning to Aberystwyth, he accepted a post as an Administrative Assistant in the University Registry, 1957–59. Then in the spring of 1959, he successfully applied for a lectureship and commenced his duties in the French department in the following October.
Following his appointment, he was subsequently appointed Senior Lecturer in French in the Department of French and Romance Studies until his retirement in 1995. A specialist in nineteenth-century French literature, Stuart served as Head of French and as Dean of the Faculty of Arts. His advice was much in demand on numerous university committees, and he played a significant role in the design of the Huw Owen Building. He was a tireless, dedicated and highly effective teacher, and was held in high regard by generations of students and colleagues. After his retirement, he was a member of the University Council, and for many years, was the Chief Marshal during the university’s annual degree ceremonies. In his retirement Stuart lived in Rhydyfelin, Aberystwyth.
In 1959, in the same year as Stuart became a lecturer, he married Jennifer L. White at a ceremony in the Aberdare area. They raised three children: Richard, Susy, and Andy, all born in the 1960s. Richard is a solicitor and deputy district judge, Susy is Head of IT at the City of London School for Boys, whilst Andy is currently the Bishop of Bangor and Archbishop of Wales.
Stuart died at the age of 79, in Bronglais Hospital, Aberystwyth, on Nov 21 2010. There was a funeral service at St. Michael’s Church and interment at Llanychaearn Cemetery near his home on Nov 29 2010.
1. Griffith George John served as a motorbike despatch rider in the Royal Engineers during WW1. He was mentioned in despatches for gallant and distinguished services. Stuart’s family was well-established in the upper Cynon Valley area: his grandfather was also born in Hirwaun, whilst his great grandfather, Griffith John was born in Penderyn in the 1820s.
2. Brynley F. Roberts also has an entry in this website in the Former Pupils section.
Part of the Aberystwyth modern languages department, 1989–90. Stuart is in the centre.
Stuart at work.
Stuart at a degree ceremony with the
Chancellor, Prince Charles.
Stuart in the sixth form, 1948.
Many thanks to Richard John for permission to use family photographs
Aber News, Issue 3 - December 2010/January 2011 for career details
CR September 2022