WOMEN OF THE WEEK
‘Mothered’ Grammar School for 24 Years
SECRETARIES MAY COME and secretaries may go, but at Aberdare Boys’ Grammar School the same secretary has stayed at her post for 28 years (four-and-a-half in the A.T.S. during the war). Known to generations of schoolboys, Mrs JENNIE WILLIAMS was Miss Lewis when she was first appointed, to a school with approximately 250 pupils.
Now she sits in her modern office in the four-year-old new school building, at the foot of Cwmdare Hill, and has seen the school grow to its present size, with 580 pupils. She has served three headmasters—Mr. Gwilym Ambrose, the late Mr. T. Brinley Reynolds, and Mr. Jess Warren—and deputy headmaster Mr. Gwilym Williams is the only member of the 1940 staff still at the school.
Mrs. Williams (Jennie to most people) was born at 50, Gadlys Road, where she has lived all her life, and is the only daughter of the late Mr. Ben Lewis, a well known Gadlys butcher, and the late Mrs. Annie Lewis who died last year. Her husband, Selwyn, has been a driver with the Western Welsh bus company for 20 years, and is probably as well known in the town as his wife.
Over the years, boys have timidly (at first) introduced themselves to her as sons of old pupils and several of the staff are former pupils well-remembered by the secretary. She has seen many changes in the schools system, from the 1942 Education Act right up to a brand-new building and the imminent onset of selective [sic] education. By an interesting coincidence, her grandfather, County Coun. Thomas Lewis, a well known Trecynon butcher for 50 years was a member of the original Board of Governors of the original Aberdare Intermediate School (mixed) when it opened in 1896.
After completing her commercial training at Clark’s College, Cardiff, young Miss Lewis worked for a few months in the office of Gwilym Jones and Davies, Solicitors, Mountain Ash, before successfully applying for the secretarial post at the Boys’ Grammar School, so conveniently situated as it then was just a few yards up the road from her home. It is obvious that she loves her work — her long service for the school is proof of that, and her capabilities are unquestioned.
Over the years she has known many boys who later became eminent in various fields — both in this country and abroad, and recalls that hidden talents were not easily spotted in many of the future whizz-kids, when they were juniors. One very famous ‘old boy’ — “Z Cars” and “Softly, Softly” writer Elwyn Jones, who lived in Cwmaman was, however, outstanding for his fluency as the leading light of the Literary and Debating Society in his senior years. He will be guest speaker at the forthcoming re-union dinner of the Past Students’ Society.
Outside school hours, Mrs. Williams is a very keen member of a local cookery class, and is also a capable needle-woman, although she is not a member of a sewing class at present. Reading of the theft of Caradog’s baton from Victoria Square recently reminded her of one of her most treasured possessions — a solid silver two-way brooch-medallion which belonged to one of her two great-aunts, who were members of the original prizewinning Cor Mawr.
When she sent this unique brooch to be repaired recently (it is in two parts, and can be worn as a medallion or combined into a brooch) the firm’s representative was so intrigued that he returned it personally, to find out more details. It was apparently a design far advanced of its time, and bears a silver harp on one side and an inscription behind describing the choir’s win at Crystal Palace.
— RHIANNON WILLIAMS.