The Aberdare Boys’ Grammar School
1896 – 1978
A personal record of the life and times
Updated May 1st 2022
Welcome to the website of the former Aberdare Boys’ Grammar School. The web server continues to provide pages to visitors from all over the world, and the website continues to grow thanks to your contributions. If you have any photos or documents to share please let me know - my email address can be found in the panel on the right. Alternatively, you may wish to make a suggestion for an entry in the Former Pupils section, if so please let me have details, and a picture if possible. To see full details of what has been added recently, click the link shown below ‘Latest Additions’ in the column on the left. Thank you again to all those who have already made contributions by writing short articles or by sending in photos.
Caradog Festival (Caradogfest)
The statue of Caradog, (Griffith Rhys Jones, 1834–1897), stands in Victoria Square in the centre of Aberdare, and has done so since 1920. This year is the 150th anniversary of the success of Caradog’s Côr Mawr at the Choral Competition held at the Crystal Palace, London, in July 1872. The choir of some 460 voices won, and brought home the Crystal Palace Challenge Trophy to Wales — and did so again in 1873. To celebrate this historic success, a series of events will take place from July 15th–17th inclusive. On Saturday, July 16th from noon until 5 p.m. it is hoped to have a procession and music in the town centre.
More details to follow when they become available.
Unveiling of the Elaine Morgan Statue
Photos: Steven Graham & John Davey
On a fine sunny day in Mountain Ash on Friday, March 18th, a statue of Elaine Morgan, OBE, was unveiled. Elaine Morgan had a prolific career as a TV dramatist, a newspaper columnist and for the last forty years of her life was the author of several books on evolutionary anthropology, books which gained a considerable following internationally. She began her professional writing career in the 1950s, and produced her early plays for the BBC while living in Abernant. In 1966 the family moved to Mountain Ash where they settled permanently. The statue was sculpted by Emma Rodgers and is situated outside Meddygfa Glan Cynon Surgery, Oxford Street. It was the second statue of a Welsh woman to be unveiled by the organisers of the Monumental Welsh Women scheme. There will be five statues altogether. This statue was unveiled by Elaine’s sons Morien and Gareth, (ABGS 1961–68) — wearing the hat. Also pictured, behind the statue, is Tan Morgan, Gareth’s daughter. The event was covered by many local, and some national newspapers, as well as BBC Wales and S4C television. Missing from the event, of course, is Elaine’s eldest son Dylan, (ABGS 1957–64), who died in 2011.
Elaine’s autobiography is called Knock ‘em Cold,
Kid, (Matador, 2012). Daryl Leeworthy’s biography, A Life Behind
the Screen (Seren, 2020) not only outlines her life and career, but also lists
Elaine’s vast literary output.
More pictures of the event can be seen here.
Huw Phillips The death occurred on January 26th of Professor Emeritus Huw Ronald Phillips at the age of 74. He was the son of the vicar of Hirwaun. He attended ABGS from 1958 to 1965, then entered the University of Bristol in 1965, graduating in Electrical Engineering. He subsequently worked for the NCB. He then completed an MSc and PhD in mining engineering at the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. After emigrating to Australia, Huw was appointed to a lectureship, and later a senior lectureship, at the University of New South Wales. In 1986, he transferred to South Africa to become Professor of Mining Engineering at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. It was here that he stayed for the rest of his career — a period of 27 years. He has an entry in the Former Pupils section of this website.
Brian Fear Though not a former pupil of ABGS, Aberdarians, particularly those who played football, will be saddened to hear of the death of Brian Fear, MBE, of Mostyn Street, Abercwmboi. he was a Past President of The Football Association of Wales. More information about Mr Fear can be found on the Aberdare Football Club website and the Football Association of Wales website.
Eirlys Hatton Late December 2021 witnessed the sad loss of Eirlys Hatton at the age of 90 years. Eirlys attended AGGS and, as Eirlys Roberts, took her School Certificate there in 1946. She was a former headmistress of Comin (Park) Infants School, conductor of the well-known Ebeneser Choral Society, and a Deacon of Ebeneser Chapel, Trecynon. In 1955 she married Raymond S. Hatton, ABGS 1941–48. Ray taught history at Blaengwawr School. The couple lived in various places: Oxford Street, Broniestyn Terrace, Cemetery Road and finally Cwmdare.
Road Closures If you plan to visit Aberdare, be aware that five overnight closures are planned in early February for the A465 road between the Hirwaun and Cefn Coed roundabouts. This is part of the very large project to upgrade the Dowlais-Hirwaun section of the Heads of the Valleys road. Whilst in the area consider visiting the Red Lion at Penderyn that WalesOnline has recently included in its list of the 50 best pubs in Wales.
Ron Jones, MBE
One of the greatest athletes to have been raised in Aberdare
has died at the age of 87. Ron Jones, (ABGS 1946–1950), who was brought
up in Brynhyfryd, Cwmaman, passed away on December 30th. A member of Cardiff’s
Birchgrove Harriers, the legendary British sprinter captained
Team GB at the Mexico Olympics in 1968 and was part of the
team that equalled the world record in 1963. After his celebrated
track and field career, Ron moved into football, first as the
Chief Executive of QPR in 1976, before becoming Managing Director
at Ninian Park, Cardiff in 1980. Then in 1988 he moved to Portsmouth
FC as Managing Director. He will be best remembered for being
part of the British team
– with Peter Radford, David Jones and Berwyn Jones – who shocked a strong
US squad to equal the world 4×110 yds record of 40.0 s.
Christopher Abbott, (ABGS 1957–64). The sad news came through recently that Chris Abbott had died at the age of 75 on 7th December at Singleton Hospital after a long illness. Chris came to ABGS from Cwmbach Primary School and in the sixth form he did A levels in History and Economics. Following ABGS he went to Cardiff College of Education where he trained as a teacher. Eventually he became a Head Teacher, HM Inspector of Schools and finally Director of Children’s Services at Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council. A funeral service took place on 22nd December at St. John’s Church, Gowerton, Swansea, followed by cremation at Llanelli Crematorium. Chris leaves a wife, Catherine, and two sons and their families. Chris has an entry in the Former Pupils section of this website.
Keen-eyed readers of this website will have noticed that over
the years a few fortunate ABCS/ABGS pupils have been awarded
a Rees Llewellyn Scholarship — later called the Rees Llewellyn
Prize. The name associated with the donor of these awards was
the mining engineer and founding father of the Llewellyn ‘dynasty’
Geoffrey O. Evans The death occurred on October 6th of Geoff Evans of Plasdraw. He was 88. Although Geoff did not attend ABGS, he has over the years given much support to this website by supplying photographs and information. He was one of Aberdare’s most prominent local historians. Geoff had been writing about the history of the town since at least the early 1970s when he wrote several articles for the Parish Magazine. He lived in the town all his life and was brought up in Maesydre, and his knowledge of the town and its people was second to none. In his younger days he was also active in amateur dramatics, and maintained an interest in the theatre all his life. More recently, like his father Emlyn, Geoff served a term as President of Aberdare Rotary. He was the author or co-author of several books, for example his ‘Parish Church of St. John Baptist, Aberdare - a brief history,’ (1980), and more recently ‘Aberdare Park: a guide and short history’. (150th Anniversary publication). He was the editor of the Cynon Valley History Society’s newsletter Hanes, being responsible for 48 issues from 2003-15. Recently he became a volunteer at the Cynon Valley Museum and had penned several articles on the museum’s website about items in its collection. He will be a great loss to his wife, children and wider family - and without doubt to Aberdare too. The photo shows Geoff in costume for his role in the re-enactment of the 1869 opening ceremony of Aberdare Park at the 150th anniversary celebrations on 13th July 2019. His funeral was on Monday 25th October 2021, at Llwydcoed Crematorium.
The Cynon Valley Railway The railway line between Aberdare and Pontypridd was closed from Saturday, August 28 to Sunday, September 12 to allow heavy engineering work to take place. The work forms part of preparations for the introduction of new Swiss-built electric tram-trains. The 16-day closure involved repositioning signals, installing and testing new equipment, clearing of vegetation, realigning the track and installing the foundations for overhead line equipment. The track changes will allow faster and increased frequency of services. The work is part of the £¾bn transformation of the Core Valley Lines for the South Wales Metro.
The Robertstown Tramway Bridge Repairs to one of the oldest tramway bridges in south Wales have at last been sanctioned. The Grade II listed Robertstown tramroad bridge, dated 1811, was severely damaged by Storm Dennis in February 2020, in addition to water scour damage to the masonry abutments that had been occurring for many years previously. Walters Ltd will be responsible for delivering the scheme, which will refurbish the cast iron stanchions fractured by the tree that fell on the bridge deck. The structure will be taken off-site for the specialist repairs to be undertaken this winter, before being returned and reopened in 2022. The bridge carried a tramway that ran from Aberdare to Hirwaun and on, via Cefn Rhigos, to the Pont Walby steam-operated 800m incline above Glynneath canal basin. Iron from Aberdare was transferred to the Neath canal below. More information about the bridge can be seen here.
The Former Mountain Ash Town Hall has been undergoing substantial renovations during this year funded by £250,000 from the Welsh Government’s Transforming Towns and Valleys Taskforce initiative, and further funding from the RCT’s own Major Project Investment Fund. The Grade II listed building, overlooking the town bridge at Ffrwd Crescent, was originally built in 1904 at a cost of £5,000. It initially served as the main offices of Mountain Ash Urban District Council and has continued to be used as a property of the respective local authorities, CVBC and RCTCBC. The refurbished building will provide modern flexible workspace for new start-ups and existing local businesses, and will be in action by the end of this year. The building was designed by the Cardiff based architect John Henry Phillips — who also designed both grammar schools in Aberdare. More information about the new facility can be seen here.
Twenty Years of the Website The ABGS website celebrated its
twentieth birthday this September. Many thanks to all the people
who have contributed items for the site. We are greatly indebted
to the founder of the site the late Steve Hammonds as well
as other contributors who are no longer with us including (Long)
Tom Evans, Victor Carney, Dylan Morgan, Malcolm Lloyd, Philip
M. Walters, Ken Griffiths, Drew Haman, Bob Jones, Brian Lendon
Mrs Jennie Williams. Also to Dr Geoff Abbott, Judith Griffiths
& Clive Stanley-Williams, for contributions
for the later years of the school’s existence; Bernard Evans for organising
ABCS school group photographs, Graham Jones, (school caretaker
1980–2014), and Andy Price for protecting school photos prior
to demolition; and to Mrs Gaynor Jenkins and office staff for
preserving school records. For school photos and other mementos:
Alwyn Griffiths, Gwyn Evans, Alun C. Davies, Dave Lewis, John
Samuel, Alan Abraham, Jeremy Turner, Andrew Hoggins, Roger
Excell, Grayson Richards, Roger S. Williams, Bob Matthews,
Rob Humphreys, Leighton Jones & Lyndon
Harries who have helped or continue to help maintain the collection.
Also to Susan Clatworthy, Pat Jones, Janet James, Menna White,
Janet Davies, Christine Griffiths, Siân Oliver-Gay, Margaret
Jones, Nia James, Barbara Morgan and Susan Dennis who have
contributed photos for the AGGS and ABGS sections. Thanks also
to Rhondda Cynon Taf Libraries for use of their resources.
St Elvan’s Church The first stage of the
£1.5m refurbishment of the church has now been completed. The church
was opened in 1852, the bells were added in 1858 and the
clock in 1862. In 1885 the church was re-roofed and a new heating
system and organ were added. The church was enlarged significantly
in 1911 by the addition of the South Aisle together with several
other improvements such as the purchase of new oak pews.
Elfed Bowen We were deeply saddened to hear of
the death at the age of 93 of Elfed who attended the school 1938–45. He died on
July 2nd in Pontarddulais where he had lived with his wife Cecily for the last few
years to be near his daughter, who is a GP in the town. His funeral took place in
Llwydcoed on July 16th.
Derek Morgan —
We also mourn the loss of Derek Morgan who has died at the
age of 87. Derek and his wife Marlene had moved to Wantage in Oxfordshire less
than a year ago to be near their daughter Eirwen. The funeral took place there
on July 28th.
The Cynon Valley History Society has just published Volume XI
of its journal of local history, Old Aberdare.
Congratulations to Nigel Short who was awarded a CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List. He attended ABGS 1974–79 after which he joined the family business. He has held many business directorships throughout his career, including at Short Bros Energy Ltd, Short Bros Homes Ltd and Hygrove Homes Ltd. He is best known as the former chairman of The Scarlets, one of the professional Welsh rugby union teams, based in Llanelli; and for his involvement with The Welsh Whisky Co. Ltd., Penderyn, where he is a director. As well as his current activities in the Swansea area, he also runs a 400-acre organic lamb and beef farm in Whitland, Carmarthenshire. Nigel Vernon Short received his CBE for services to the economy in Wales.
D.L. Davies ABGS 1965–67 was the guest
on the Radio Cymru programme Beti a’i Phobol broadcast on Sunday,
July 4th and thereafter on BBC Sounds in the UK and
abroad. It will of course be in the Welsh language of which
D.L. is a strong advocate. The programme is broadly similar
to the programme Desert Island Discs.
Until a few years ago he was a resident of Cwmaman where he
was raised, but he has now relocated to Llwydcoed. D.L. is
a well-known expert in the local history of the district and
has authored several books and articles. He is a regular contributor
to the valley’s
Papur y Bro (local community newspaper), Clochdar. The BBC
Sounds link is
Rhigos Mountain Zip World Tower This attraction opened on Monday, April 26th, and was featured on BBC1’s The One Show on the following evening. More details on the Zip World website and on the BBC News website.
Peter Ballinger We have been informed that Peter Ballinger died recently. He was at school 1959–66, and came from Blaennant-y-Groes, Cwmbach. He was well known at school for his musical talents, particularly as a baritone soloist. After school he went to U.C. Cardiff to study for a B.Mus. However, we believe that later he qualified as a solicitor and lived and worked locally.
Jeffrey H Cummings, a student at ABGS from 1952 to 1956, recently passed away. His funeral service took place on March 5th at Margam crematorium. Jeff was born in Cwmbach in 1939 and grew up in Richard’s Terrace. Prior to his death he was living in Clydach, Swansea, and during his working career as a surveyor, he worked with the NCB, Pontardawe UDC and Port Talbot UDC. He leaves behind a wife and three sons, two of whom are working and living in Sweden. Many thanks to Frederick K. Jones, (ABGS 1952–58), for passing on the sad information about Jeffrey.
Roy Brackston sadly passed away after a brief illness on 9th February 2021 in the Royal Gwent Hospital, Newport at the age of 84. Roy was from Abercwmboi and was at school from 1947 to 1956 and followed the sciences at Advanced Level. Notably, he played in the school’s 1st XV rugby team for three consecutive years, and can be seen in the 53–54, 54–55 and 55–56 team photographs. He was a teacher at Duffryn Comprehensive School, Newport. Roy’s wife June predeceased him, and he had one daughter. His funeral will take place on 8th March at 2.30 pm. It will be held at the Langstone Vale Crematorium in Newport. The funeral directors are Tovey Bros, 9-11 Cardiff Road, Newport.
David Dore We have also been informed of the passing of David Graham Dore at the age of 79. David was at school 1953–58, and was brought up in Unity Street, Foundry Town. His funeral took place on 24th February at Llwydcoed Crematorium. He is in the 1957 panoramic photograph where he is No. 4.
School Clock The Trecynon school clock is working again after a period of several years inactivity. The project to get it going again was a team effort organised by Adrian Harford, ABGS 1972–77.
New webpages During the lock-down Cynon Valley Museum volunteers
have been busy writing up some aspects of local history. Their results have been placed online at
Another online local history resource is the transcript of Rev
Ivor Parry’s evening class lectures. The 72 lectures were delivered between
1962 and 1965. Notes were taken by attendees Tom Evans, (Geography),
and Dafydd Roberts, (dental surgeon). Their notes can be found here:
Some Background Information about Aberdare County School
The school building was completed in July 1894 but, for reasons explained in the History section of this website, opened two years later on September 28th, 1896 as The Aberdare Technical and Intermediate Schools with Head Master W. Jenkyn Thomas and four assistant teachers: two men and two women. There were 141 pupils present by the end of the first term, 88 boys and 53 girls, taught in mixed classes for the majority of their subjects, although the building had separate entrances for boys and girls.
The school soon became known as The County School and remained so until the early sixties when the Grammar School name became more widely used. The pupils from the lower end of the Cynon Valley left in 1907 when Mountain Ash County School opened initially at Gwernifor, Miskin, moving to Dyffryn House much later in 1926. Then in 1913, the girls together with the women staff left for their own school in Plasdraw.
There was little significant change at the County School in terms of the nature of staffing and curriculum over the years until the Trecynon buildings were vacated in 1964 and the school relocated to the bottom of Cwmdare Hill.
In 1978 the Boys’ Grammar School closed and there was a fairly smooth transition to comprehensive status, when the Aberdare Boys Comprehensive School opened. Many of the existing staff were reappointed to the new school which was housed in the ex-grammar school buildings on Cwmdare Road, as the upper school. The buildings of Rhydywaun Secondary Modern School in Penywaun, which had also changed status, housed the lower school. The lower school at Rhydywaun was eventually brought to a new building at Cwmdare Road after two serious fires at Rhydywaun caused almost complete loss of its buildings.
From September 1st, 2009 Aberdare Boys Comprehensive School, was renamed Aberdare High School. The school adopted a new badge, which showed a similarity to the original grammar school design with ‘dragon and book’. The picture, above right, shows the school as it was in 1978, but additionally there was a large sports hall added to the site, behind the two-story block on the right. The new hall was both a school and a community facility.
In 2011, the decision was made by RCTCBC to close the Boys’ High School, the Girls Comprehensive (at Plasdraw and The Gadlys) and Blaengwawr Comprehensive School. It was intended that the pupils of all three schools would be housed in the new school to be built at The Ynys, near the centre of Aberdare, and which was initially planned to open in September 2014. By September 2014 Aberdare had three secondary schools instead of the existing five. The new Aberdare Community School did open in September 2014, but only in name, and a move into the incomplete new school buildings was deferred until 2015. The temporary homes of the new school were at the former Blaengwawr, Aberdare High and Aberdare Girls (Plasdraw) buildings. Pupils started moving out of these old buildings and moving into the new building in the summer term of 2015, with examination candidates remaining in the Cwmdare Road building to take their examinations. The Girls’ School and its 3 acres of land in Plasdraw was sold at auction on July 13th 2015 for £415,000. The Cwmdare Road Boys Upper School building is being demolished during the first three months of 2017.
Aberdare High School, The Lower School, Summer 2013.
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