Gwilym Prichard Ambrose, B.A. (Wales), M.A., B.Litt. (Oxon.), L.R.A.M.

Headmaster, Aberdare Boys’ County School, 1940 – 1952

GPA in 1941

Mr. Ambrose (from a 1941 Sports Team Photograph)

Gwilym Prichard Ambrose
b. August 1904,   d. November 1995

Mr Ambrose was the fourth Headmaster of the school. He was born in Mountain Ash on August 31st, 1904 and received his initial education there: firstly at Caegarw Boys Elementary, then at Mountain Ash County School (1915–21). In 1921 he commenced a History degree at U.C. Cardiff and graduated with first class honours in 1924. From there he went to Exeter College, Oxford graduating in 1926 with a B.A. in History. Some years later, in 1933, and after further research, he proceeded to the degrees of M.A., B.Litt. After leaving Oxford in 1927, Mr Ambrose was engaged as Research Fellow in Economic History at the University of Wales. He contributed a paper to The Economic History Review, 3 (1931-1932), entitled, "English Traders at Aleppo (1658-1756)". This article resulted from his researches carried out for the Oxford B.Litt. thesis, "The Levant Company, from 1640-1753". During this period he also found employment at ‘Scoone’s Crammer’ where graduates were prepared for examinations for the Diplomatic Service.

He commenced his teaching career at his old school in Mountain Ash and stayed there from 1931 until 1937. Whilst there he obtained a London University teaching qualification. He was then appointed senior history master at Cathays High School, Cardiff (1937-39).

He was also an accomplished musician and in 1940, he was awarded an L.R.A.M. He was a pianist, but was also a very competent flautist, and enjoyed singing choral music as a tenor.


Mr Ambrose was appointed headmaster at Aberdare from January 1st 1940, and continued until August 31st 1952. However, from November 1946 to November 1950 he was seconded by the Ministry of Education to be Principal of Llandrindod Wells Emergency Training College, where he organised the training of teachers to fill the gaps left by those who left the profession during the war, and to cater for those who had left the armed forces and wished to take up teaching. Whilst at ABCS, together with T.R. James and P.E. Phillips he instituted the annual Boys’ School choral concerts. These were instrumental not only in introducing young soloists, many of whom like Peter Pears and Jennifer Vivyan would later become world famous, but also introducing hundreds of boys to the joys of choral singing. As a headmaster, Mr Ambrose was just and fair in his dealings with all students; he was liked and well respected; erudite, a gentleman and a scholar. He was also an avid supporter of the school’s rugby team and would often attend home matches, where he would have encouraged many fledgling players, including the young Keith Rowlands. The only oddity that one of his ex-pupils could remember about him, if oddity it were, was that he carried a book in the pocket of his voluminous gown, which he would sometimes swing, in a gently menacing fashion, at students who may have been, or about to be, misbehaving. The book was thought to be a hymnal used at morning prayers.

His dealings with both staff and pupils involved respect for the individual, and a tendency towards advice and trust towards pupils who had strayed from the school’s rules. Indeed, on one occasion when the sixth form were engaged in somewhat raucous singing in the library, Mr Ambrose burst in and demanded to know what on earth was going on. The boys replied that they were practising an Elizabethan motet. Mr Ambrose looked startled, and then replied suspiciously, "Really, well perhaps I could hear that again!" Whilst at Aberdare, the Ambrose family lived at Maesycoed, in Llwydcoed.

In 1952, Mr. Ambrose left the Cynon Valley to take up the post of Principal at The Monmouthshire Training College, better known as Caerleon College. He remained there until his retirement in 1970. When he first arrived, the college was on the verge of many significant changes. He was appointed to preside over the most major changes in the College’s history up to that time. The most notable development was the admission of women students for the first time in 1962. The first female lecturers were appointed in 1961, and the first female Vice-Principal in 1963. These developments would not have been possible if Principal Ambrose had not fought off an attempt by the Ministry of Education in 1959 to close the College and transfer all teacher training to Cardiff. The student body increased notably during the 1960s, from 140 when he first arrived to 750 students. A large building programme had started and further buildings were planned and built during his tenure. He also presided over the change from a two-year to a three-year course, and the introduction of the B.Ed. degree. Not content with administration, he persuaded the history department to timetable him for a weekly teaching commitment, resulting in a weekly lecture on Welsh History. Nevertheless, he was a most able administrator, and very adroit. Extremely gentle, he managed his staff by open discussions and in a democratic manner. As at Aberdare, he was a regular spectator at college rugby matches where he derived much pleasure from observing the game of many students who later became first-rate players. He retained his love of music; he was, indeed, very passionate about music generally, and choral work in particular. He joined the ranks of students as a member of the choir, and for college concerts assumed matching student attire of white shirt and black trousers.

Mr Ambrose enjoyed a long period of retirement. He was a founder member of the Mountain Ash Choral Society and served as its President. He travelled from Newport every week to choir practices, driven by his wife ‘Zip’. He was a tenor in the choir but also deputised as its accompanist and conductor when necessary. After his death, the choral society staged a memorial concert in his honour.

Mr Ambrose died as a result of a road accident in November, 1995. He was taking an evening walk near his home in Highcross, Newport and was knocked down by a car. His funeral took place at St Woolos Cathedral, Newport. Mr Ambrose was survived by his wife Zip. He had married Zipporah Jane Edwards (b. 1913, d. 1998) and they had two children, Rosemary and Robin. Whilst Principal at Caerleon, the family lived at The Residence very close to the main building of the college. Subsequently they moved to Rocklands, Glasllwch Lane, Newport.

In addition to the numerous achievements detailed above, Mr Ambrose also found time in his younger days to write two radio plays and a history textbook. The press advertised the following two wireless programmes:

1 March 28th 1936 7:15 p.m. BBC Western Region.
"John Frost, The Newport Chartist": A dramatic feature by G.P. Ambrose and T. Rowland Hughes*

2 May 18th 1937 7:30 p.m. BBC Regional.
“Daughters of Rebecca”: A dramatic programme by G.P. Ambrose and T. Rowland Hughes.

(*The outstanding Welsh novelist T. Rowland Hughes taught at ABCS from 1926 to 1928 before going up to Oxford where he too gained a B. Litt. after obtaining a first class degree, although in his case it was in English at Bangor in 1925. It is interesting to speculate whether the two knew each other in their student days.)

The textbook, published in 1947 was entitled "The History of Wales"; a book aimed at academic lower secondary school pupils. More details of this book can be found in the ‘library’ section of this site.

Click here for some additional photographs of Mr Ambrose.

Thanks to past pupils Lyndon Harries and Malcolm Lloyd for their reminiscences; to Phyllis Brace and Ken Griffiths (Llwydcoed), Caerleon Alumni Officer Carolyn Jenkins and Caerleon ex-staff member D.B. Hughes for additional information. Acknowledgements to ISCA 1952-53 college magazine;   "Shun all ignorance", by Deborah Mogg, UWCN; and, The Jubilee Celebration Publication of the Monmouthshire Training College.