Aberdare Boys’ Grammar School

Certificate Ceremonies

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Newspaper Report of the 1900 School Certificate Ceremony

This is a report from The Aberdare Times dated February 10th, 1900, of The Aberdare County Intermediate School Certificate Ceremony. The headmaster, the school’s first, was William Jenkyn Thomas; he was in post from 1896 to 1905. Most of the report is devoted to the speech of the guest speaker.

The principal guest at the ceremony was Henry Campbell Bruce (1851–1929), 2nd Baron Aberdare of Duffryn. He was the eldest son of Henry Austin Bruce, 1st Baron Aberdare, who had held the office of Home Secretary under Gladstone, and who chaired the committee that recommended the setting up of the County Intermediate Schools of Wales1. H.C. Bruce’s mother Annabella was his father’s first wife. He was educated at Rugby School and at the Friedrich Wilhelm University in Berlin in preparation for a diplomatic career, a career which subsequently was never undertaken. In 1895, on the death of his father, he became the second baron.

H.C. Bruce was a country gentleman living initially at Ynys-y-Gerwn in the Vale of Neath before moving to Duffryn House in 1895 following the death of his father. He took an active interest in the Volunteer Force and its successor organisation, The Territorial Army. At the time of the certificate ceremony he had just been ‘promoted’ from a major of the 3rd Volunteer Battalion, Welsh Regiment to its honorary lieutenant-colonel. Later he became honorary colonel of the 5th Territorial Battalion. He was also a president of the University of Wales, 1914, as well as of the National Museum of Wales. He was also a Justice of the Peace.

Much of the baron’s speech is devoted to urging the boys to do their duty to queen and country by taking part in some form of military service, (the girls aren’t mentioned in this respect, indeed hardly at all). It was later to become a matter of bitter irony that the baron’s eldest son and heir, Captain the Honourable Henry Lyndhurst Bruce2, having joined the army was killed in the early days of World War 1 in 1914 at the age of 33, at Ypres, Belgium.

The second baron died on 20th February 1929, at 83 Eaton Square, Belgravia, of pneumonia. His funeral took place in Mountain Ash and he lies buried in Aberffrwd cemetery.



The third annual Speech Day in connection with the Aberdare County School was held on Monday night at the Constitutional Hall, Aberdare.

Mr D. P. Davies, J.P., Ynysllwyd (Chairman of the Governors), presided.

The Chairman was supported by the Rt. Hon. Lord Aberdare, who was accompanied by his daughter, the Hon. Miss Bruce; Rev. J B. Lloyd, B.D., Mountain Ash; Rev. T. Jones, Aberdare; Mrs W. Lloyd, Aberdare; Messrs G. George, J.P., Lewis N. Williams, Rev B. Evans, clerk to the Governors, Miss Lloyd, Aberdare; Councillor John Howell, Aberaman; M. Morgan, J.P., Mountain Ash; P. F. De Winton, Lloyd’s Bank; Mrs Morgan Morgan3.

Besides the Head Master (Mr W. Jenkyn Thomas, M.A.) there were also present the other members of the staff, Mr J. Wallis Dodgson, B.Sc., Miss F. J. White, Mr W. Charlton Cox, B.A., Mr Evan Williams, Mr E. Ogwen Williams, Miss J. Griffiths, Miss Gardner, Miss E. Madge, and Mr Tom Price4.

The Head Master then read his third annual report5 of the progress of the School. (Readers will remember we gave a full list of the successful scholars a few weeks ago. -ED. A.T.)

His Lordship then presented the successful scholars with their prizes and certificates.

In his address, Lord Aberdare said it was a great pleasure to him to come to that prize distribution, as he was able to congratulate the inhabitants of Aberdare and the surrounding districts on the possession of that excellent intermediate school. From what the Chairman had said, and from the headmaster’s report, one could judge of the success of the school, and one was pleased to find that in its second and third years it should have taken so many certificates it not only proved the excellence of the work done, but would ensure the success of the school in the future. The school had an excellent staff of teachers, and had also a full number of boys and girls; but that alone was not enough to ensure the success of the school. What was really wanted was the co-operation of the parents of these children. He knew it was not easy for some parents to keep their children in school to follow up their education to the utmost6, became of the expense involved. He was struck by a remark made in the Department Committee of 1880, by one of the members, that in Wales enthusiasm for education was combined with a singular ignorance of what was meant by that word. He was sure that remark would be entirely out of place now. He would like to say a word to the managers and teachers of the elementary schools. It was necessary, when the children moved about from one school to another, that the schools should be in concert with each other. He thought he would say a word or two about the war in South Africa7. Now, all the boys seemed intelligent ones—especially those who had taken prizes. He was sure they had all been interested in the war, because he had seen some very spirited drawings of Kruger and Joubert on walls and other places. It was sufficient to show the patriotism in the boys. He would daresay it struck them as a curious fact that we considered ourselves among the leading nations of the world, and that we should have sent so small a body of troops to South Africa and were apparently not able to send more. Well, he would like the boys to remember that the very fact of our being able to send only a small body of troops was a secret of England’s greatness. We were not over-burdened by having to maintain a large standing army. France, with a smaller population than our own, had 3 million of men in the war establishment; Germany, with a population of a little more than our own, had a war establishment of four millions of men while we in England had a total army—our reserves, our militia and volunteers, &c.—of about 600,000 men. Well, that fact constituted one of the reasons of England’s greatness, because they were not called upon to bear the enormous expense of keeping these millions of men. The question was what would be done in the future; and the boys should remember that they were the men of the future. He did know whether each of the children present knew what was meant by conscription. Conscription in France meant that every able-bodied man had to serve in the army for about three years. He was sure the young men present were very grateful to their parents for what had been done for them in educational matters. He was sure it was one of the greatest wishes of each boy to return some good results for the consideration which had been shown by their parents. Think of what it was to be taken off for three or more years to serve in the army. Instead of being a help to their parents the boys would be a hindrance and expense. But, nevertheless it was the duty of each boy, in addition to the duty of helping his parents, to also lend a hand to defend his country (Hear, hear.) He was glad to say that conscription was a thing of the past. All, he thought, should recognize that they owed a great deal of gratitude to the country, and ought to in some way prepare themselves so that in case of necessity they would be able to help their country. The boys went through a course of drills. That was an excellent thing; it would be of great service if any of them joined the Volunteer corps. He hoped that in addition to that, the boys, when they grew up would, if unable to join the Militia or the Volunteers, join the Rifle Clubs which he hoped would soon be established, so that they would be able to shoot if necessary, and not be shot down. (Hear, hear.) It would be to him a great pleasure to see their names enrolled on the lists of Volunteers. Every-one owed a certain amount of gratitude to their country, and every man who belonged to the army or to the reserve forces was a man to be honoured for having done his best toward his Queen and country. (Hear, hear.)

Mr Griffith George, J.P., in a brief address, said they had to thank his late lordship for the ground upon which the County School stood.

The Rev D. Lloyd, Mountain Ash, in a fitting speech, humorously alluded to a paragraph in the Western Mail the other day, to the effect that the Aberdare County School was one of those in which the headmaster embraced the headmistress. (Loud laughter.)

Mrs Lloyd moved that a vote of thanks be accorded to the Rt. Hon. Lord Aberdare for his able speech. Her memory went back far, and she could remember the kindness which had always been shown by his lordship’s family.

The Rev T. Jones seconded the motion, pointing out that it would be a better policy for the Government to encourage more education and less war. (Hear, hear.)

Mr L. N. Williams proposed a vote of thanks to the Chairman, a motion which was seconded by Councillor John Howell, Aberaman, and carried with applause.8

  1. As well as the Intermediate Schools, of which about 100 were eventually established, the committee also recommended that university colleges be established at Cardiff and Bangor, (Aberystwyth was already in existence, established in 1872). The committee's recommendations resulted in The Welsh Intermediate and Technical Education Act, which was passed in 1889.
  2. Henry Lyndhurst Bruce was notable for his marriage to the actress and model Camilla Clifford (1885 – 1971). She was a Belgian-born stage actress and the most famous model for the “Gibson Girl” illustrations. Her hourglass figure defined the Gibson Girl style, and can be seen in many on-line images.
  3. This group includes the following:
    • Rev. Thomas Jones, a school governor, and Baptist Minister living in Clifton St.
    • Mr. G. George, J.P., (an Appraiser & Valuer of The Laurels, Trecynon), became Chairman of Governors 1901-02.
    • Mrs W. Lloyd, was probably Mrs Walter Lloyd, school governor, and proprietor of the ‘Gwladgarwr Office’, 14 Canon Street. Although known as Mrs Walter Lloyd her name was Mary Smith Lloyd. She and her husband, Walter, were founder members of Trinity Presbyterian Church, and until shortly after her husband's death in 1883, they ran the newspaper Y Gwladgarwr. Originally from Denny, in Stirlingshire, Mrs Lloyd lived after retirement with her youngest daughter Isabella at 1 Highland Place. Isabella married Evan Emrys Evans in 1902, and subsequently Mrs Lloyd went to live with her son-in-law and daughter at 9/10 Victoria Square above the Chemists Shop. She died in 1921, and according to her obituary she had been “a force to be reckoned with in the town”.
    • Lewis Noah Williams was a prominent Aberdare citizen in many respects. He was a school governor, but in particular he was a proprietor of The Cambrian Lampworks, (E. Thomas and Williams miners’ lamps) in Graig Street. L.N. Williams lived next to the factory in the house called Caecoed.
    • Rev Benjamin Evans, (1844 -1900), bardic name Telynfab, was the preacher at Gadlys Baptist Chapel, Railway Street, and was another prominent person in the town at the end of the nineteenth century, as well as being one of the most popular and best known Baptist ministers in Wales. As clerk to the governors, Rev Evans was a key figure during the construction phase of the school. He died later in the year of this certificate ceremony, on 23 August 1900.
    • County Councillor John Howell, school governor, and a Valuer & Auctioneer of Aberaman.
  4. This group lists members of the school staff that were present:
    • Mr John Wallis Dodgson, B.Sc., (the school’s first science master, from Reading).
    • Miss Florence J. White (mathematics, from Mountain Ash).
    • Mr W. Charlton Cox, B.A., (later to become the longest serving headmaster of the school).
    • Mr Evan Williams, Second Master. He left after eight years at the school in 1904 to become the first Headmaster at the Gadlys School, at that time called the Higher Standard Schools.
    • Mr E. Ogwen Williams taught mainly drawing, geography and music. Originally from Bangor, he took an active role on the AUDC and at Bethania Welsh C.M. chapel, Wind Street.
    • Miss Jennie Griffiths (The Poplars, High Street), taught French. Daughter of Evan Griffiths the Aberdare architect. She was an active member of the Aberdare Women’s Liberal Association.
    • Miss Elizabeth Gardner, Domestic Subjects, (from Mirfield, Yorkshire). Became Mrs Barrington.
    • Miss E. Madge (Music)
    • Mr Tom Price, visiting teacher of choral music and conductor of the school choir.
  5. The Third Annual Report was for the academic year 1898-99, and had already been presented to the governors on November 13th, 1899 at a meeting of the governors at the school.
  6. The speaker was referring to a constant concern of the headmaster, referred to in his annual report, that pupils were leaving the school before the end of their four-year course, thereby failing to acquire their CWB Senior Certificate at the age of 16.
  7. At the time of this Speech Day, the British Empire was in the middle of The Second Boer War, (1899–1902).
  8. Directly following this report the paper printed letters from several notable citizens all of whom disapproved of conscription, or of additional expenditure on the armed forces. They included the following: Mr David Hughes (High Constable); Colonel Thomas Phillips; Mr. D.P. Davies, J.P., Ynysllwyd; Rev. R.R. Roberts; “Wooden Leg”, of Mill Street; and Mabon, Gadlys.

To see an image of original newspaper cutting from The Aberdare Times
you should visit Welsh Newspapers Online edition of 10 February 1900, page 2.

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