Aberdare Boys’ Grammar School
The Opening Ceremony of the Engineering & Mining Laboratory
Former pupils of the Trecynon School in the 1950s and 60s will probably recognise the location of this photograph as being the porch of the Biology Laboratory and Room 10, the lab and teaching room of Mr. D.D. Davies and Mr. G.D. Griffiths respectively. However, from 1922 until the late 1930s these two rooms housed the Mining and Engineering Laboratory which was used for adult students in evening classes. During the 1920s there were 18 collieries in Aberdare employing over 10,000 men, many of whom wished to progress in the industry by studying for the various mining qualifications.
Although the carved inscription above the doorway gives a date of 1914, the formal opening ceremony did not take place until February 11th, 1922. It is likely that the onset of the First World War delayed either the completion of the building or the organisation of the classes. Not shown in this photograph is a substantial chimney stack that stood at the very top of the school plot next to the lab. Its existence suggests a furnace and possibly boiler of a significant size. The stack was taken down in 1934.
The lady at the centre of the photograph is Cllr. Florence Rose Davies, later to become not only chairman of the school governors, but also the first lady Chairperson of the old Glamorgan County Council, by which time she was Alderman Florence Rose Davies CBE., JP. She was born in Aberdare 1882 and died in 1958.
The gentleman fourth from left in the rear row under the doorway canopy is Mr. E. Ogwen Williams, a teacher at the school, mainly of Geography. He became a councillor on the AUDC and was a deacon at Bethania in Aberdare.
The Aberdare Leader of February 18th, 1922 reported the opening ceremony as follows:
SCHOOL LABORATORY AT
There was a large attendance at the opening on Saturday afternoon of the mining
engineering laboratory attached to the Aberdare Boys’ County School. The front
door of the building was opened by Councillor Mrs. Rose Davies, and Alderman T.L. Davies
set the machinery in motion. County Councillor G.A. Treharne started the ventilating
plant, and the power at the pumping machinery was turned on by Dr. James. After an
inspection of the machinery and apparatus, the peculiarities of which were explained
by Major Henry Davies, a meeting was held at the school under the chairmanship of Mr.
W. Reynolds. The Chairman said the laboratory was largely due to the initiative of
the late Alderman David Hughes, of Aberdare. Addresses were given by Major Davies,
Alderman T.L. Davies, who advised students to go in more largely for the study of mining
engineering, County Councillor Treharne, Mr. Edward Pugh, M.E., and Mr. R.R. Davies,
M.E. The company were entertained at tea by Mr. W.M. Llewellyn, M.E., C.C. The laboratory
is one of six similar buildings contemplated by the county council, and steps are being
taken to cooperate with the proper authorities to establish a National School of Mines
It is interesting to note that in the 1970s these rooms plus others in the school were utilised as engineering laboratories/workshops when Aberdare College of Further Education used the rooms as an annex for teaching general engineering skills to apprentices. A room directly opposite the upper playground entrance was used for Sheet Metal work, and another room in the main block, possibly Room 6 or 7, contained a forge and benches used for welding*.
- M.E. was an abbreviation for Mining Engineer. We understand** that these designatory letters were adopted by those men who had gained the First Class Certificate of Competency as a Manager of Mines. This qualification was awarded after a number of years of experience in the mines, after holding various responsibility posts in them, and after passing a series of examinations. These examinations have always been set by government bodies; in the most of the twentieth century by the Mining Qualification Board. Today the qualification, now called First Class Certificate of Qualification, is under the control of the Health and Safety Executive.
- T.L. Davies was Thomas Luther Davies (1861-1936), a colliery manager living at ‘The Cottage’ in Cwmaman. His son Archibald and daughter Lizzie were pupils at the school in its very early days: from 1905 and 1907 respectively.
- County Councillor William Morgan (W.M.) Llewellyn was a son of Rees Llewellyn of Bwllfa House, Cwmdare, and brother of Sir D.R. Llewellyn. There are additional notes about this family in the Sporting Activities section of this website. Rees and three of his sons used the M.E. designatory letters: Rees from 1877 when aged 26, D.R. from 1902 when he was 23, W.M. from 1912 when he was 24, and M.H. (Morton Howell) from 1913 when he was 22.
- The reference to a National School of Mines in Glamorgan should not be confused
with the already existing South Wales and Monmouthshire School of Mines in Treforest
which opened in 1913. The School was funded privately until 1928 when the School of
Mines was placed under the control of Glamorgan Education Authority.
Photograph reproduced by permission of Rhondda Cynon Tâf Library Service
* Thanks to Les Morgan (ABGS 1965-70) for this information.
** Thanks to John Battenbo (ABGS 1941-48) and The National Coal Mining Museum for England, Wakefield for this information.