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Aberdare Boys’ Grammar School


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Staff Retirements, July 1958

At the end of the academic year 1957-58 two of the long-serving members of the teaching staff retired. They were J.T. Bowen1 who had taught at the school from 1918, and E.J. Excell who arrived a little later in 1922. At the final assembly of that year the headmaster, Mr Jess Warren, paid tribute to these men. The account below is the Aberdare Leader report of that assembly.


WHEN sports master Mr. E.J. Excell and Mr. J.T. Bowen, Welsh master and deputy headmaster, retired from Aberdare Boys’ Grammar School at end of term, the headmaster Mr. J. Warren, B.Sc., assembled all the boys in the main hail and invited them to join him in voicing a worth-while tribute to two men who had given almost a lifetime of service to the school.

After Mr. Warren had completed his speeches of tribute, the boys broke into prolonged applause.

Mr. Warren said that in paying tribute to the excellences and services of Mr. Bowen and Mr. Excell that morning, he wanted them to realise that he was speaking for far more than those assembled there. He wanted the boys in school that day to imagine that behind him were massed some thousands of boys who had passed through the care of Mr. Bowen and Mr. Excell. Some almost old enough to be retiring themselves, others only just trying their wings in the world outside school.

Then there were some eighty colleagues and former colleagues with whom they had served for long and short periods, who had the pleasure of their championship and support. Finally there were five headmasters who had had the benefit of their loyalty and devotion to service.

Some of the school’s masters had been pupils of the school itself, giving back to the school the qualities they had derived from it. Others came from afar. Mr. Excell came from the east, from the banks of the Thames, and Mr. Bowen from the west, from the infant Gwendraeth, in Carmarthenshire.

Both had been gentlemanly and humble, but they were not afraid to speak the truth as they saw it.


When Mr. Excell came to the school in 1922, the pupils were given “drill”—“rigid and mechanical movements, under the instruction frequently of sergeant-majors.” He was one of those who pioneered the changes which had, by today, made physical education a totally different subject. In universities and training colleges, and in scores of schools throughout England and Wales his pupils were putting into practice what they had learnt from Mr. Excell in the school. He had been a great trainer of sportsmen.

Passionately interested in art, he could equally as successfully have been an art master.

Born on the banks of the Gwendraeth, Mr. Bowen had frequently returned there for holidays. He retained much of the countryman’s habit of mind—he was patient, persistent and cautious.

He was one of the finest teachers of Welsh outside the universities and some of those in the universities were his own pupils!

Among teachers of Welsh he was regarded as a leader. When the teachers of Welsh in the Grammar schools banded together recently to produce a new series of text books it was to Mr. Bowen they turned for a person to control and guide their discussions: the outcome had been the new series “Dysgu Cymraeg,” published by the University of Wales Press Board.

Mr. Bowen’s second great interest was people, and especially the boys of the school. To hear Mr. Bowen’s comments as his eyes ranged along the ranks of boys in an old photograph was a revelation. He knew them all, what they were doing and where they were today!

As deputy head he had served successive headmasters with unparalleled devotion and loyalty.

In recent years Mr. Bowen had not been free from anxiety. Mrs. Bowen had been seriously ill for two years and his own health had not been of the best. Yet, throughout this period, his work had come first. He had been a shining example to the whole staff.