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Aberdare Boys’ Grammar School


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The last game of rugby football that Jim Excell refereed, 1958

from Roger Excell

E.J. Excell, the schools sports master, retired at the end of the academic year 1957-58. These two photographs were taken on the day he refereed his last match of rugby football at the school’s ground at Robertstown.

Ernest James Excell was raised in Twyford in Berkshire. He trained at Sheffield City Training College, and arrived at the school in 1922, having already spent two years in Glamorgan employed by the county council as a ‘Travelling Teacher of Physical Exercises’. His first task on his arrival was to re-introduce rugby football as a team game. He also developed both cricket and athletics but had to do so with meager resources.

In the latter stages of his career, he also taught Art at the school, and after his retirement was an active member of the Aberdare Art Society.

Mr Excell, who was honoured in the New Year Honours of 1961 with an MBE for services to physical education and sport in Welsh schools, died in 1977. He lived at 8 Belmont Terrace in Aberaman.

E.J.Excell with Keith Rowlands

E.J. Excell with Keith Rowlands in Tudor Terrace.

Keith was at school 1948 - 1955, and captained both the rugby and cricket teams, as well as being Head Boy (1954-55). He was the school’s most accomplished sportsman and went on to play for Wales (1962-65) and the British Lions. He was President of the Welsh Rugby Union when he died at the age of 70 in 2006. Keith’s wife Jean Burke was also an Aberdarian .

E.J.Excell with John Oliver

E.J. Excell with John Oliver

John Oliver was also a past pupil of the school (1940-46), and captained the school’s rugby 1st XV for the season 1945-46. He returned to school in January 1957 to teach mathematics, and left in 1970 to become Head of Mathematics at Mountain Ash Comprehensive School. John played golf at Aberdare for over 40 years, as well as maintaining his interest in rugby. He retired in 1985, when he moved to Saundersfoot to carry on the golf, together with sailing and art. John died a relatively young man in 1994, aged 65. He was married to Beryl Barrass, of Mountain Ash, who died in 2007.