welcome reminiscences, old photographs, etc. from former pupils in
order to keep the site moving forward and retaining interest.
Please use the 'contact us' button in the first instance.
can click on one of these links to go to a particular
of a Compulsive School Attendee
Smith looks back on multi-role association with the school going
back to 1945.
of a Dover boy
Dover evacuee Arthur Barnacle writes about being a wartime
evacuee to Ebbw Vale.
of an evacuee
More wartime recollections from another Dover schoolboy.
Harris from Cwm lit the beacon on the Domen to mark the Queen's
coronation in 1953.
balanced view from the 60s
Not everyone's memories of school are relentlessly happy.
Alan Lord brings some balance to the 1960s.
life of Graham Jones
title is self-explanatory!
Ray writes about
his time at the school from 1946 to 1953 and includes an article
from a U.S. magazine.
of a long-time absentee
David Parsons, another from the same era, tells it all
from beyond Ebbw!
The late Alan "Shacky" Jones, instigator of this
website, shares his schooldays recollections.
A Jewish boy at EVCS
A Cwm-born son of Polish Jewish immigrants attended the school
during WWI. Alan Jones tells his story.
of a Compulsive School Attendee
few years ago I was troubled by a recurring dream in which I found
myself in the yard between the Old and the New Buildings at EVCS
surrounded by children and utterly confused as to what I was doing
there. Was I pupil, teacher or onlooker? Of course in my time I
have been all three and, since I have been able to rationalize the
dream, it has ceased to trouble me.
have in fact had four different periods of attendance at the
school on Beaufort Road. The first, and as it transpired, longest
stay began in 1945 when I entered Ebbw Vale County School as a
very small and rather anxious pupil. Rumours of terrible things
done in 'ragging' proved to be exaggerated, or perhaps I was just
too insignificant to be noticed. We entered Form 2, no Form 1 in
those days, Central Welsh Board School Certificate in four years!
Lessons were spread between the main school building, the Libanus
Vestry on Badminton Grove, and the Glanyrafon Hut where two
classes were separated by a heavy curtain. A great deal of time
was lost moving between lessons, but our legs grew stronger. Two
incidents stand out from those early days; being lined up in
Badminton Grove to cheer Field Marshal Sir Bernard Montgomery
(Monty) of El Alamein as his motorcade swept by, and a brutal
murder that occurred in a back lane near to the school. In those
immediate post-war days staff changes occurred at a breath-taking
rate as teachers returned to 'civvy street' and temporary teachers
moved on, I lost count of the number of Mathematics teachers I had
in five years. I witnessed the departure of stalwarts like Tal
Morgan, Melville Jones, Eddie Jones, Gerald Gratton, Richard
Davies and Hannah Williams, and of course D.T. Davies, who was
replaced by Dr. Saffell. School Cert' in four years was too much
for me and I became one of the first to matriculate under the
Welsh Joint Education Committee's new Ordinary Level Examination
in 1950. Two years in the Sixth Form followed and, clutching my
hard-won Advanced Levels, I left EVCS in 1952, for the first time
as things turned out.
followed by seventeen years teaching at Rhymney Grammar/Modern
School prepared me for my return in 1973 when I replaced my former
teacher and friend Idwal Davies, who was forced into early
retirement by ill health. Former teachers were now colleagues,
Olwen and Dewi Samuel, Morfydd and Hugh Griffiths, Muriel and
Trevor Rees, Barbara Evans, Hannah Roberts, Gwylfa Davies, Marsden
Evans, Milwyn Jenkins and Emrys Plummer, as were some former
fellow pupils, notably Mostyn Phillips, who was now Headteacher,
and Peter Hitchcock, whose untimely death in 1974 robbed the
school of an outstanding teacher. This second visit was
short-lived and I left EVCGS for the second time in December 1976
when the school decamped to the new comprehensive school site at
Waun y Pound. For the first six months lessons were conducted in
competition with the builders, the laboratories were literally
assembled around us, and the gradual change from grammar to
comprehensive school was completed very smoothly by September
1978. By this time I was preparing to make my third visit to what
had been Ebbw Vale Grammar School but by then was Glanyrafon
Junior Comprehensive School. A promotion brought me back as the
Deputy Headteacher of a very different sort of school from the one
I had vacated two years previously. There were over three hundred
pupils aged 11 to 14 years and most of them were very lively
indeed, the activity and noise in the play areas at break times
was overwhelming, but it was also exhilarating. I spent three
years with some dedicated and enthusiastic colleagues drawn mainly
from Duffryn and Willowtown Secondary Schools. The Headteacher was
Elwyn Morris, a traditional secondary school master who ran the
school very much like a junior grammar school, there was a House
System with all the attendant sports and cultural activities, and
Prefects. This gave many young people an opportunity to develop
skills and confidence at an early age but the great drawback was
that, just when you were getting to know them, they moved on to do
their '14 plus' education at the Senior School.
1981 I made my third exit from the school; the three years at
Glanyrafon were excellent preparation for five years of Headship
at Hafod y Ddol Junior Comprehensive School, in what had been
Nantyglo Grammar School. Unfortunately school closures began to
close in on me and in 1986 I became Deputy Headteacher at the
brand new Abertillery Comprehensive School. Then early retirement
was offered and, like many of my contemporaries, I accepted it
gratefully and my full time teaching career came to an end in
1988. There followed five years as a supply teacher in several
different comprehensive schools, and a few junior schools as well,
in Merthyr Tydfil. I laid down my chalk finally in 1993, but my
association with the school was still unfinished.
1995 I was invited to become a governor at Glanyrafon JCS, and
back I went for the fourth time. By this time a former colleague
and friend, Lyndon Matthews, was Headteacher; and I was made to
feel welcome and wanted. The role of governor gave me a completely
new perspective on school life, and I felt that I had something to
offer; after thirty seven years in the classroom, I suppose I did
know a bit about schools, but in the 1990's school governorship
was a demanding occupation, if one took it seriously. Strangely
enough, I experienced my first full Inspection as a governor of
Glanyrafon Junior Comprehensive School.
on a former fellow pupil at EVCS, Vyvyan Morgan, became
Headteacher and Martin Probert, who had the distinction of being
the last Headteacher at the school, followed him. Pupil numbers in
the Ebbw Vale area declined steadily and it was inevitable that
the school would close. In July 1999 it closed for the last time
and I made my final exit on the last day. Pupils and most of the
staff became part of the new Ebbw Vale Comprehensive School on the
Waun y Pound site. I remained a governor there until the spring of
Beaufort Road the inevitable vandalism which, it has to be
confessed, had been a problem for many years, became serious;
demolition was the only answer. In the autumn of 2001 the
bulldozers moved in and within a few weeks the structural evidence
of over a century of education had disappeared for ever.
one who has lived in the community all my life, and had a long and
varied association with the schools on the grammar school site, I
feel no regret for the changes that have taken place. Change is a
law of the universe but nothing can undo or diminish the
achievement and the fulfillment of generations of children or the
memories they cherish, I know because I am one of them.
I write, a new estate is nearing completion where once stood Ebbw
Vale County Grammar School. It has the rather pretentious name of
"College Mews" (who dreamed that up?) but it will be
good to see the site as a thriving community once more, and I wish
all the new residents well, especially the youngsters.
cannot help wondering however, if in some quiet moments, they may
not hear the distant sound of a bell and the shouts and laughter
Smith (aka 'Smico' 1945-1952)
August 14th 2004
from AJ: I
remember the murder mentioned above very well. I was out carol
singing with I think Peter Marchant and Terry O’Leary and for
some reason was waiting outside a gate in Badminton Grove while
they were singing (probably my singing was not up to their
standard). A policeman came along and asked me if I would help
him, obviously I said I would. We went to the murder scene - it
was several weeks after - and proceeded to take measurements with
me holding one end of the tape. I doubt very much that today a
child, of I think about 10, would be asked to help in such a
matter. I think the policeman gave me half a crown which was more
than the singers collected when I was away!
to list of reminiscences
of a Dover boy
fine June morning in 1940 at the railway station in Deal, Kent, I
was parted from my over-protective mother. This small incident in
the general alarms and excursions of war left me that same evening
in the yard of Willowtown school along with the lads of the Dover
Grammar School for Boys, waiting for someone to watch over me.
school chum, Ray Fox and I could see across the valley, the
white-washed terraces of Newtown, gleaming in the setting sun,
looking so much more desirable as accommodation than they actually
Duw, love 'em, I'll take that one," said a voice that was to
mean so much to me over the years to come - Eva Player, there with
her sister Maggie, had elected me to be her evacuee. "Can he
come?" I asked, indicating Ray. "Oh, well, I'll take
them both" said Eva.
So began four and a half of the happiest years of my life.
new home was just a few yards down the hill from the Willowtown
Charles Player, foreman of the locomotive maintenance department
of Richard Thomas and Baldwin's Steelworks, and his wife Evelyn
were a childless couple. They lived in some comfort at 28,
two lads like Ray and myself, Will Player was the perfect
surrogate dad. We admired his engineering skills which were plain
to see in the working steam-driven miniature mill engine and
locomotives he had and was still constructing. He started building
them when he was a sixteen year old apprentice. He was a keen
health and fitness fan, a good swimmer and an avid cinemagoer. He
subscribed regularly to magazines on all his hobbies which both
Ray and I read.
our natural respect and admiration for him we were easily managed
and while we must have created a lot of work for Eva we were
treated with exceptional kindness and understanding.
and I shared a bed and with the onset of puberty it was decided
that one of us was to move out. Ray, it was, who was moved to stay
with Joe Player, (Will's brother) and Elsie, his wife.
and Elsie had a son, Glyn, who after military service worked in
the chemistry department of R.T.B. The reason for their taking on
Ray was, I am sure, to keep him in the family to minimise any
disappointment he may have felt and to ensure he was going to a
were a caring and perspicacious family. During the days we shared
Ebbw Vale Grammar School, attending mornings one week and
afternoons the next week, we would spend our free half days
roaming the district having great fun with mock battles or
exploring the tips, quarries and railroads that abounded. We must
have walked and trotted miles every day. It was great for our
come from a church in Deal where the singing was of the usual
half-hearted and self conscious variety the effect on me of my
first visit to Nebo Baptist Chapel, Mount Pleasant Road, (Rev.
Jones B.A.) was electrifying. The sermon was powerful and the
singing was passionate.
happened afterwards was equally astonishing. Young people would
emerge from all the chapels and churches and begin an amazing
parade up and down Bethcar Street. Groups of young men and young
women would wander from the Palace Theatre to the Plaza passing
the White House and the Astoria cinemas on the way and then back
again.This perambulation would continue until the 'pairing off'
was completed and the couples would then wander off, the lad
taking the girl home, to be rewarded with a little kissing and
cuddling. Thus ended the weekly "monkey run" in the
blackout. Many a Sunday night I had to sprint back from Rassau,
Beaufort or Victoria to Willowtown to beat Uncle Bill's deadline.
would be in his armchair reading the newspaper, facing away from
me. The newspaper would crack irately. "What time do you call
this, Arth.? Your Auntie Eve have got enough to worry about
without this." "Sorry, Uncle Bill" I'd say hoping
I'd rubbed off all the lipstick.
are they now those darling girls of innocent wantonness? Jean,
Stella, Dinkie, Eileen,
Alma Avril ............................
returned to Ebbw Vale often over the years, most recently, sadly
for Eva's funeral. There, too, was Eileen, bless her, my last link
with Ebbw Vale.
to list of reminiscences
of an Evacuee
don't remember where my socks are nowadays but I do remember being
12 years old and saying "Goodbye" to my mother and two
younger sisters on that fateful day in June 1940.
caught the bus to Dover Priory Station where the school was
assembling for our journey into the unknown. We were not told
where we were going but no-ne seemed worried. They checked that
our labels were tied securely in our buttonholes, that our cases
were on the luggage racks and we were settled in our compartments.
journey was hot and sticky & there were no stops until we
arrived at this strange place with an unpronounceable name, Ebbw
Vale. I eventually found myself in Cwm where we were ushered into
a large room with seats around the outside and three large tables.
Later we got to know it very well as the 'stute' (snooker hall)
ably run by Mr. Macey with his tin leg. The locals came &
examined us and soon I heard the familiar sound, " I'll have
attended the Co-ed Grammar School but not at the same time as the
We alternated mornings and afternoons but our paths did cross
If there was an air raid warning while we were at school, we went
to houses nearby. I and a few of my friends went to a house in
Badminton Grove, the Park Lane of Ebbw Vale, where we learned to
play Monopoly. You can imagine how disappointed we were when the
"All Clear" sounded!
vivid memory was learning to lose at rugby. The first game I ever
played was in the 1st. XV. I had little idea of the rules but we
learned from experience. Arthur Edwards, - a future Welsh captain
was at centre versus Harry Ivory who was also 6' 3". At least
we had one member of the team who could tackle!
Barnacle, a close friend of mine, was looking bored one Sunday
evening. Grandma Player said to him, "Arthur, why don't you
go to chapel or go and find a nice girl and take her up the
mountain for a walk?" We usually did both as chapel was a
good meeting place.
could go on and on. We were so busy we didn't have time to be
bored - no TV, no computers. Those were the days! But weren't they
to list of reminiscences
have been unable to contact you but hope you do not mind us
publishing it. If you have any problems please get in touch using
Harris remembers lighting a beacon in Ebbw Vale to celebrate the
coronation of Elizabeth II.
So it's over fifty years since this country gained a fairy-tale
queen. I'm sure everyone remembering that day carries in their
minds a clear picture of so much beauty and radiance that forever
the word royal has for them a special, almost magical meaning.
I was fourteen at the time, and my personal recollection is
coloured by the part I played in the grand scheme. Though humble,
it is probably worth recording....
idea was that on the evening of Coronation Day, a signal rocket
would be set off from the grounds of Buckingham Palace, which when
seen would trigger a chain of rockets from surrounding counties
until every place in the realm had launched its maroon. On each
peak would be a bonfire, lit when the rockets flared. The beacons
would spread from hill to hill and the country would rejoice.
hill, the Domen above Ebbw Vale, had its bonfire, built by the
town council from old railway sleepers and the tallest by far for
miles around. Across the valley, the Brynmawr bonfire was
impressive too, and quite large enough to be seen for miles.
Anticipation grew, but one night there was consternation, because
some wags had set alight to the bonfire on the top of the
neighbouring Tredegar mountain and it was a week before the due
too close for comfort! Clearly the Ebbw Vale beacon had to be
protected and the town council asked the Boy Scout organisation,
Baden-Powell's finest, to mount a 24-hour guard. I was one of the
youngsters asked to do the duty and we spent a week under canvas
at the top of the mountain.
started by pitching our tents on the top, near the bonfire, but
soon found the wind amazingly strong and cold, even in June. After
having to retrieve a tent blown from over our heads into the
valley on the first night, discretion took our whole camp a
hundred yards or so leeward of the summit.
was plenty of wood for our campfires, and draught enough to fire a
furnace. One snag was that all the wood had been shipped up with
the railway sleepers that formed the pyre and obviously came from
the same source. It was totally impregnated with creosote - that
black, tarry wood preservative now banned. So anyone downwind of
the campfire ended up looking like one of George Mitchell's
Minstrels - also now banned!
this was the lack of water so close to the top, anticipated by the
provision of one leaky canvas bucket. We took turns to trudge down
into the valley, fill up at the stream and try to get back with at
least half the water still in the bucket. Our water was so
precious! We needed to use some for cooking of course, and what we
could save from that went to supplement our own ablutions, with
washing up coming a poor third. That was rough living that was.
I'm ignoring the main task. For that week, we guarded the bonfire
day and night, taking shift and shift about. We patrolled round
and round, so that everyone on the shift could have a turn in the
lee of the pile of sleepers. They had been carefully stacked, a
bit like a log cabin around the outside, with the looser stuff
filling the middle. That regular structure gave rise to the most
weird and mournful sounds as the wind rose and fell. We tried
singing campfire songs to keep the spirits up, but just couldn't
found a marquee mallet. Just the head of this thing was about six
inches in diameter and nearly a foot long. At 13, I couldn't hold
it off the ground for long, so I dragged it around behind me like
some sort of mighty deterrent, full of menace long before the cold
war really took hold.
had been able to hit a saboteur with it, I'd surely have driven
them into the ground like a tent peg. I must add though, that it
was so cold we had all gradually taken to adding clothes rather
than changing them.
the end I was wearing two vests, two pairs of pants, my clean
shirt underneath my dirty shirt, my clean sweater underneath my
dirty sweater, two jackets and a mackintosh, with the lot topped
off with a hat and a First World War gas cape. I could move,
albeit a little slowly. If I'd fallen down I'd never have been able
to get up.
learned from the sheep too. One feature of the Welsh mountains we
all got used to quickly as children, was that there were many
treacherous fissures, particularly on the tops of the ranges. A
lot of them were quite irregular and although seemingly bottomless
to us, had ridges and rock platforms just below the surface where
sheep found cosy places out of the draft.
followed suit, and roped ourselves in comfortably to spend a
secure hour or so between duties. I never told my parents about
that, judging it too scary for them. But then, a scout is
of course, our duty done, the lorries came up the mountain track
with all the dignitaries and we lined up and waited. I don't know
why, but we all looked in the direction of London - a hundred
miles away as the crow flies. The first rocket we actually saw was
in nearly the opposite direction. I guess what counted was the
number of rockets in between rather than the distance.
that our maroon went up with a great whoosh and a deafening bang.
The blowtorch was lit, up went the bonfire and the world
disappeared in pitch black, thick, pungent smoke. The beacon was
an impressive sight when it was well alight and we watched
Tredegar - hastily rebuilt - and Brynmawr flaring away. Lights
dotted the distant hills and standing there with Alan Ricketts,
Brian Gillette, Tony Hillier and the other intrepid lads, I'm sure
we all felt very proud. If I knew where they were now I'd ask them
- I know they wouldn't have forgotten that moment.
got home that night, my mother took one look, put newspapers on
the floor and marshalled me straight to the bathroom, where it
took two lots of water before I looked Welsh again.
enthusiasm couldn't be dampened though. Filling my mind was what
remains even today as the pinnacle of the thing. In the brief
mayoral speech, which started the ceremony, we had our tribute -
and first heard the news that Edmund Hilary and Tensing Norgay had
climbed Everest. Another two of us I guess!
David Harris, 1st Cwm Scouts
to list of reminiscences
balanced view from the 60s
parents had lived most of their lives in Ebbw Vale and I attended
and before that Willowtown, which I sadly discovered by surfing
the internet had been burnt down in the past few years. No use me
coming back to Ebbw Vale, as all the schools I attended are no
my association (internment) at the Grammar School was perhaps not
the happiest period of my life, although I have been trying to
remember as much as I can of the sixties, which up to the point of
me leaving the town could hardly be described as “swinging”!
can remember that just to the left of the main gate of the school
was a small shop ( which was deemed out of bounds) and a cobbler's
run by Charlie Pugh. Although there weren’t a great number of
cars at that time, most of the staff seemed to own one. I seem to
remember Hugh Griffiths owned a large old Rover which today would
probably come out unscathed in any collision with a 21st Century
car. At the top of the drive turning left was a wing of three
classrooms, all with open fire grates, which occasionally would be
lit in inclement weather (try that with current Health &
Safety) with the classroom nearest the drive being used for the
sale of buns at break times. These could be stuck onto the end of
a ruler, and toasted when the fire was lit. (Sounds a little like
Tom Brown’s Schooldays.)
remember my early form room was Room 5 (perhaps memory fails me on
this) but their was a Picasso print on the wall, of a small child
with a dove, and R.C.Smith’s office was not far removed on the
opposite side of the corridor. He
was a larger than life figure who I can recall caned me on at
least one occasion. He was ably assisted by Frank Evans.
A little farther down was the male staffroom which I remember
fondly as being wreathed in a perpetual cloud of smoke. Funny but
I can still walk around the place in my mind. Meals were taken by
climbing a set of steps to the canteen, and service was governed
by two prefects who sat at the top of the table. My most abiding
memory here is the taste of the water poured from large metal
early art teacher used to conduct lessons from a dais, and I have
a great memory of him sitting reading Lady Chatterley’s Lover.
His lessons were totally uninspiring, usually consisting of the
“paint a picture of people on a beach” style of teaching,
which happily ended when David Mitchell took his place, and at
last began to inspire me artistically. I can remember that,
downstairs, the woodwork room was the domain of Emrys
think an early form teacher was a lady who went by the nickname
“Lean Jean” but her name escapes me. Hugh Griffiths lived not
far from me and was famous for his rapid dictation of notes.
However, approaching my 60th birthday I feel confident that I
could still draw a plan of an estancia in
; what practical use this has been to me during my life has been
limited, even though I have visited
. I was however grateful when flying from
to look down at a chain of volcanoes, and think, ah I
understand it now.
can remember that, when I began, the Tin Tab was still in place
shortly to be replaced by the new science labs. I recall a Science
teacher called Hitchcock, but no more than that.
I came to the end of my years there, some of the older teachers
were being replaced by “young bucks” I remember Paul Bailey
being the music teacher, and a giant of a man called Stevens who
taught languages . We shaped a mutual disrespect. My time in the
6th form (what little time I was in school) was spent mostly
in “Bronwydd”. Here there was a Polish teacher
whose name escapes me (I think Mr. Moncibowiecz - please
correct this spelling if it's wrong - was Ukrainian - RS), and
Dewi Beynon who managed to teach me enough Economics to allow me
to pass my single A level. I can recall being able to get up into
the loft area of the house, where some of us conducted science
experiments by seeing what happened to a bottle of free school
milk when left up there for several weeks. It also provided access
to climb along and down into what I believe was an English store
room which was used for various nefarious goings on. As the
sixties started to become swinging I remember going to school in a
hand knitted school tie- somewhat rebelliously.
left Ebbw Vale finally in 1968, although I had only been there on
and off in the years before. Having become estranged from my
parents who are now both dead, and being an only child, there are
sadly no photos that I own of me during this period, and nothing
else connected with this period. I found that this website brought
back some interesting memories.
have lived in Macclesfield,
since 1973, and managed to reach the dizzying heights (for me) of
being Head of Design faculty in a school in the town. I retired
from teaching about six years ago, and now work as a freelance
journalist in the field of aviation. I am married with two
children, both with degrees and living independently.
to list of reminiscences
life of Graham Jones
was born in Victoria At the age of 2, I agreed to go with my
parents to London where my father looked & found work. When
opportunities became available back home in the steel works we
returned to E.V. to live up the “Tump”. In 1940 we moved
up-market to Tothill Street, Willowtown. I joke not. With my
knowledge, albeit small, I can tell you that there are only two
“Tothill streets” in the whole world, the other is at
Westminster, which I believe to be but a pale imitation!
One of my memories was playing cricket in the street with friends
& inevitably my dog, Sandy, about 12“ tall. This was my
first experience of a single parent where Sandy’s mother had to
bring up Sandy in the absence of his father who had not hung
around! Sandy’s fielding was amazing & many of the catches
were taken in mid-air. His batting & bowling left a little to
be desired but this helped because we didn’t have to worry about
his “turns”. Unfortunately his sight deteriorated but the
assistance of a ‘blind dog’ was not an option. One day as we
played he tore after the ball only to collide with Martyn Nicholas
who fell backwards on to his bottom with a look of sheer amazement
on his face, Martyn that is, - the dog was still looking for the
ball! The game ended in paralytic laughter with Sandy being
congratulated as if he had won “the ashes”.
In those days when my mother reached for the cane both the dog
& I would immediately run out through the back door, not sure
for whom it was destined !.
One of my unhappiest days was eventually taking Sandy to the
police station as one did - no vets ; although 17, I cried all the
way to school.
move to Tothill Street meant that I had to attend Willowtown
School with those teachers, Messrs. Lou Protheroe, Jonathan Price,
“Squidgy” Lewis, and Mr. Pryce!!! The latter was the original
missile launcher, whose skill with chalk & board pad was
unrivalled. I shall never forget the day he was looking at a knife
which a fellow pupil had brought in. Having been disturbed he
threw the knife close to the talker & I can still see the
knife quivering after it had been imbedded in the wooden wall. If
only there were such knife throwers in schools today - I mean on
Today’s therapists would have had a field day then.
These were the days of wartime & I regret that I did not fully
appreciate the horror at the time - there was much glamour brought
about by propaganda on the radio and in the cinema. I didn’t
think of hardships - we had never enjoyed a life of plenty. How to
save sweet points & whether the rumours that ’broken
biscuits’ were being queued for at Woolworths on a Saturday
morning seemed to be priorities together with ‘digging for
victory” on our allotment. A bomb fallen on the mountain between
us and Tredegar was a thrilling event and even being carried from
bed to sit under the stairs until the “all clear” was sounded
was not of great significance. We in E.V., who had not lost loved
ones, were extremely lucky.
I can remember seeing the pictures of bent yellow things on
Ferguson lorries & asking what they were, only to be told that
they were bananas!
In those days “Teddy” Boore was the headmaster and he kept us
on an extra year so that the school had better performances at the
11+. A kind of school merit table even then!
Talking earlier about cinemas, who can ever forget the screen
curtains in the Astoria which changed colour during the interval.
It was worth 7d. just to see the curtains after we had avoided
Jack Holding and someone had “taken us in”!!!
was that eventually at 12 years of age I entered the grammar
school in 1946. There followed the happiest days of my life. In my
opinion the reign of Dr. Saffell was the best event that ever
happened to the grammar school.
It is worth mentioning that at this time our ‘gang’ did day
tours to play Glan Yr Afon at cricket. The outstanding memory was
facing Ivor “The Gimp” Jones, sadly no longer with us, whose
ability to spin the ball & make it bounce high proved
unplayable for me ; Shane Warne, eat your heart out!
VIth form as a prefect I learned about hypocrisy & sadism.
Typically, I briskly walked capless to school arriving at Charlie
Pugh - the cobbler’s at 1 minute to 9.00a.m. when I placed my
miniscule cap on my head, strode up the drive, then turned &
“booked” those miscreants behind for lateness or inadequate
I had a problem with “Josh“ in physics where I spent most of
my time using the alleged formulae defining the paths of projected
stones e.g. s=ut + ½ ft2; v2 =u2
+2fs. Consequently I knew
nothing about electricity which didn’t help my future in
physics. I can remember when Mr. Powell replaced Josh he allowed
us to bring in defective radios which I did, only to be scornfully
told that the fuse in the set had ‘blown’! I had never heard
of fuses, remember not even the round pin plugs had fuses in them.
Then there was the great Hoppy, although one day I didn’t know
how to make zinc carbonate & so I had to go out the front
& write my method on the blackboard :-
Zn + ‘pop’ = Zn Carbonate + Hydrogen. Everyone learned from
My final year (Upper VI) was memorable for Christmas.
From Dec. 4th. until Jan. 3rd. I attended parties or dances
including the parties for each school year. The highlight was our
version of Cinderella where I was automatically cast as one of the
ugly sisters paired up with Eric Smith. Although there was no
doubt of our ugliness there were compensations - it is amazing
what strategically placed tennis balls can achieve! What is great
is that Eric & I can still remember our lines -” I’m
Bertha, I’m Gertie, we’re still rather flirty, with men
we’re considered a sell…….”.
Off to Swansea University then National Service. As I had a degree
in Chemistry it was obvious to the Army authorities that I should
mend radio sets. So it was that I spent twelve months in Cyprus
mending radio sets where I hid from EOKA. One event of note was a
visit to Mt. Olympus where we had a military radio station guarded
by Marines. Who should be on the gate but Dai Lloyd - amazing how
these things happen. Amazing, too, that having worked in
electronics I ended up in the semiconductor industry where I was
able to combine my chemistry with the manufacture of transistors
and silicon chips. Even though I have been in the industry most of
my life I have never failed to be astonished by the development of
the industry since the first transistor in 1948.
It was about the time of the Garden Festival that together with
Anne Morgan (nee Eadie), Moira Davies (nee Preece), Margaret
Hancock (nee Wishlade) and Eric Smith (replaced nee) we arranged
our first reunion at the ‘old school’ with the help of the
then staff. Later we were joined by Alan Tudgay and Norman Wybron
and since then we have held reunions with dates mainly determined
by public opinion!
When at one reunion we reproduced school dinners with tables of
eight, I shall never forget the behaviour of one, Eric Hacker, who
as server completely ’put the clock back’ and lost 50 years in
What surprised us was that originally we thought it necessary to
have guest speakers - we needn’t have bothered the guests have
simply wanted to talk and so it has been relatively easy - we have
provided the venue, buffet & drinks and the guests provided
the talk! We have also donated over £1000 to local good
The reunions have been successful & we have certainly enjoyed
them especially when we have viewed the greetings between friends
who might not have seen each other for 40 years or so.
On a personal note I have looked back on my life and been amazed
how simple decisions have resulted in my gaining so many friends
and great experiences in Nepal, India, Malaysia and Australia. I
consider that I have been so lucky.
I have rambled on but I hope some of my memories might have helped
you jog your memories.
to list of reminiscences
has been really exciting for me to return to the UK over the past
3 years to attend the reunions of our Grammar School. I have come
to realize that the friends I made in those days are ones that I
will cherish and admire for all my life.
attended the grammar school during the transitional years between
the reign of Headmaster D.T.Davies, representing the old guard, to
a new and more vibrant leadership under Dr. Saffell. In my
advanced age, my fondest memories of EVGS are mainly times that we
escaped from the confines of the school. These include the bus
trip to Aberystwyth, Griffiths’ geography field trip to the
Clydach Gorge and the rugby teams visit to Dover. I must admit
that I did not excel academically, so it is not surprising that I
remember these events over such class highlights as Ms Hughes
lecture on the human reproduction in the 3rd Form
biology class, and the dull repetition of falling off the
apparatus in gym classes. I was most fortunate, however, to have
discovered at the age of 14 that I wanted to be a geologist. My
brother, Herbert, and I made this career choice after reading an
article in the Daily Express. As a result, I managed to struggle
through the Grammar School to achieve my A levels in spite of the
efforts of a language teacher to delay my progress. Looking back
to those far off days, I now feel that the Sciences may have taken
a back seat to the Language/Arts at the school. This is well
illustrated by the academic awards made at the Eisteddfod and /or
prize giving held each year in the Workmen’s Hall. I watched
with envy as the parade of budding poets and essayists walked on
stage to receive their prizes. There was never an award for
the most creative physics experiment or the most poetic
mathematical formula written in Welsh. On the other hand, the
Sciences were blessed with some of the best teachers in the
school. These included Griffiths in Geography, Powell in Physics,
Thomas in Mathematics and Hopkins in Chemistry.
the past 46 years, I have lived in Canada and the United States. I
suppose that I was part of the early brain drain from the UK –
although many of the teachers would argue that point. After
getting my doctorate at the University of Glasgow in 1960, I
joined Shell Oil Company in western Canada. It was in Edmonton,
Alberta at a rugby team party (the Druids Rugby Club) that I met
my wife Barbara. We have been married now for 44 years and have
two sons. Both sons majored in Geology. After a vacation in San
Francisco, we decided to relocate and I accepted a position at San
Francisco State University. I taught at the University for
39 years and still maintain my office in the Geology Department.
At first my Ebbw accent made my classes appear to be a foreign
language requirement at the University. At times, I would try to
explain to my students some of the unique aspects of the Welsh
Grammar School system. They never understood the significance of
the 11plus entrance exam, and waiting for the results to appear
(for everyone to see) in the Western Mail. To this day, I can
identify the persons in my age group that scored highly in this
exam. The students were aghast at the stories of the chisel
throwing woodwork teacher, the table tennis bat wielding art
teacher, and the terrorizing hands of a certain English master.
They are some what amused by my descriptions of the little
circular blue cap we were required to wear at the school. In
the 6th Form, I attempted to wear the cap in a more
fashionable way by sticking it on the side of my head. I remember
Saffell asking me if I was trying to make the cap appear that it
was not part of my attire, or instead as an object trailing beside
me. Most of the boys of my era experienced in the first few years
the constant hunting and hassling by the Prefects each lunch time
as they searched for captives to fill empty spaces for first
sitting session in the dining room. Discipline at the school was
always fierce and after school detention was always a threat.
certainly improved in the 6th Form and my year was the first to
occupy Bronwydd. I no longer had to deal with the non-science
classes and I could focus on subjects that I liked to study. To my
surprise, Saffell eventually made me a Prefect after being passed
over in the lower Sixth. It was at this time that the dynamic
lesson given by Ms Hughes on sexuality began to make sense as we
enjoyed meeting and dancing with the girls in the Friday afternoon
back over those happy days, I must admit that they prepared me
well for University and to some extent my professional life. I
believe, however, it was the interaction with my fellow students
that enriched my life during this period. Going to grammar school
opened many opportunities and for that I am forever grateful.
SCHOOL 50th REUNION OF THE CLASS OF 1953
- Ray Sullivan
was published by an American magazine
school reunion of the class of 1953 was scheduled for a Saturday
evening in July 2003 in the village hall at Skenfrith, near
Monmouth. I had to look at a map to make sure I knew the
location of the village. I believe that the selection of
Skenfrith was unanimous particularly since our former head boy,
Alan Jones, was organizing the event and lives in the village. It
is amazing how the school hierarchy still persisted 50 years after
leaving school. Alan had extended an invitation for us to
spend the weekend at his home in Skenfrith so we were very much
looking forward to a relaxing and memorable time.
wife and I arrived from San Francisco on Friday. By early
afternoon, we were on the road heading west and enjoying the most
beautiful weather that I can ever remember in Britain. We
choose to meander through the countryside by taking the back roads
through the Mendips and the Cotswold to avoid the traffic on the
M5. We spent the night at Symonds Yat and headed to Skenfrith
after lunch on Saturday. We discovered Skenfrith as a sleepy
little village nestled in the Monnow River valley. It is comprised
of a castle, church, pub and a few houses. What more does
one need to enjoy the good life? Skenfrith Castle is one of
a trio of Norman strongholds within an eight-mile radius.
The other two are Grosmont and White castles. All were built
in the eleventh century. The locals must have been a very
energetic group to require the need for three castles within a
bowshot of each other. Today, the most important event of
the year is a rubber duck (yellow ones, of course) race on the
river and the villagers were preparing for the great race during
our stay. It appears that people come from far and wide to
participate in the duck race. Its popularity rivals that of the
Oxford/Cambridge boat race – so we were told.
joined our host, Alan and his wife Shirley, in their beautiful
home located on one of the sheep farms that are scattered over the
red sandstone hills above the town.. Also spending the weekend
were our old friends Terry and Shirley O’Leary. Terry and
Shirley were Grammar School sweet-hearts. I was amazed
during the evening to discover that many other couples had similar
history including Eric and Shirley Smith, Peter and Pam Marchant,
and John and Barbara Harding. Those Friday afternoon dance
sessions in the gym were more productive than I had realized at
reunion dinner in the evening was a much-anticipated affair since
I had not seen most of my classmates during the intervening 50
years. I had no idea what to expect at such gatherings, but
in retrospect what impressed me the most was the joy and
spontaneity of the evening. There was often a moment of
hesitation at greeting some one, but then the years slipped away,
and it was like being back in the sixth form. Graham Jones,
yet another head boy, gave a brief welcome and then no more
speeches but all talk. I was also happy that no one seemed to
remember that my nickname was Sugar. In fact, Spud was now
Terry and Shacky was Alan; although John Thomas was still Tucker.
No one put on airs and graces; how could you when you had lived
through so much together in the Grammar School, and had shared
many intimate moments? I have concluded that the best and
truest friends are those made in our school days. The event
was clearly a success and there is a suggestion that we have
another reunion in 2004 and it is tentatively scheduled for mid
March. We have our airline tickets ready to go. Rumor
has it that it may again be located in Skenfrith. Such
events will truly put the town on the map.
to list of reminiscences
Memories of a long-time absentee...
What a pleasant surprise to see
that a bunch of old codgers like me have set up a web site aimed
at those who left EVCGS in the early 50’s. I can identify
with many of the names and events currently described on the site.
I recognise myself on the photo of the school trip to Stratford
in 1951 and few of my own memories follow.
Alan Jones, Terry O’Leary,
Peter Marchant and I were among the cohort of pupils who entered
EVCGS in 1946, from Glyncoed Junior School, Badminton Grove. We
remained good friends during our school years, for the first few
of which we played football each lunchtime on “the patch”
above the Tintab, with others including the Hendy cousins from Cwm
(John and Jimmy). We were in our first year (Form 2) when the school
trip to Aberystwyth took place and we all remember the murder in
the back lane of Badminton Grove/Fitzroy Avenue, not far from the
back gate of our house. I was also one of the boys who went to Innsbruck
with Hugh Griffiths in 1950. I have a list of those in the party,
but have lost the group photograph. I can’t say I remember
Peter Marchant being kicked by a French lady - although he may have
the scars to prove it! - but I do remember John Harding and I trying
vainly to climb on to the overhead luggage rack on the overnight
train between Ostend and Basle to try to get some sleep. As I remember,
the seats on those post-war continental trains were composed of
wooden slats. The other memory of that trip was getting my first
taste of Schnapps!
For my part I cannot claim great academic success in the early
school years, but having gained some O-levels in 1951, the challenges
of the 6th Form, coupled with a good talking-to from my parents,
encouraged me to get my act together. Pupils in the Science 6th
form at that time were taught Physics by Frank Powell (also part
time rugby referee at weekends), Chemistry by Gordon (Hoppy) Hopkins
and Maths by Alan(?) Thomas. All were excellent teachers in their
different ways and Alan Thomas somehow gave me an appreciation of
the beauty and elegance of Mathematics that has remained with me
to this day. I was never an outstanding sportsman, but did play
cricket in the school XI several times and I won the Governors Cup
for the Mile, in my final year at school. In those days the quickest
way to get your A-level results was via the “Western Mail”
on the day the results were declared. My abiding memory of that
August day in 1953 was looking out of my bedroom window at about
7am awaiting the arrival of the van that dropped newspapers in the
doorway of Tranters greengrocers shop opposite the house. I remember
seeing the van coming down Badminton Grove, hotly pursued, as I
remember, at a distance of about 50 yards, by John (Tucker) Thomas
running like a gazelle – well, giving a fair imitation anyway!
By the time I got out of the house and across the road, a copy of
the WM had already been located and we scanned it furiously looking
for EVCGS and our names. The relief when we found the results we
were hoping for is something I shall never forget.
Since that time I have not lived in EV for any significant length
of time, although I visited regularly while my parents were alive,
and thereafter to see my younger brother, Robert, who taught at
Tredegar Grammar (subsequently Comprehensive) School for many years.
After taking early retirement, however, he decamped to
An abortive year studying Physics (I loved Physics at school, but
absolutely hated it at University), National Service in the RAF,
and a return to University to read Engineering, occupied me for
the first 5 years after leaving school. Thereafter I spent a few
years in the Electronics industry, undertook postgraduate studies
at Kings College, London and subsequently pursued an academic career,
mainly at the Universities of Birmingham and Liverpool. All this
meant that I lost touch with Ebbw Valians outside my immediate family.
This is something I regret, and a chance to meet up again with old
school friends of my own vintage is something I would welcome.
to list of reminiscences
Jones (Shacky) 1946-54
memories of school are mainly happy ones. We lived close to the
school behind the Tin Tab in Fitzroy Avenue. My normal route to
school was over the fence behind the Tin Tab. If I had forgotten
anything I went home after assembly by the same route to collect
of the time I went home for lunch but at other times I stayed at
school, but always played football on the patch. The patch was an
area smaller than a tennis court with a slope almost like the
north face of the Eiger. A further thought on school dinners,
while in the lowest forms we liked to be forced into the first
sitting (girls) because the girls made sure we had more than our
share of food. This did not happen in the second (boys) sitting.
spent our first year in the Glan Yr Afon hut. I seem to remember a
boys only class. In the second year we became mixed, back with
many of the girls from junior school. As I lived near to the
school I was known in the local shops. The woodwork master (name I
forget but not Emrys Plumber) took advantage of this to send me
out for cigarettes which were in short supply. I never failed to
get them. The time spent did not matter as it was years before we
had wood – we spent our time drawing tools. Eventually Peter
Marchant, Brian Knapman, John Marks and I made a lectern for the
school assembly. Where is it now? New regulations meant a number
of us were too young to take our O levels and spent an extra year
waiting. Terry O’Leary had to wait two years.
father who was at the school before me (also my mother) was a
contemporary of Mr Reese and his tennis partner at the tennis
club. My father was involved with the Past Students Association
and for some time was the chairman. He, together with my mother,
were both keen bridge players, introduced bridge to the PSA and
ran a bridge evening in the school for many years. They taught
many people including Frank Evans and Eric Finney. Prior to this,
throughout the war, 8 ladies played bridge every week rotating the
venue. The names I remember are my mother Edith Jones, Miss
Hughes, Miss Lindberg, Mrs Ewart Williams, Mrs Coward and Miss
Vera Chard (Aunty Vera to me). Mrs Coward (together with her
husband) had a grocery shop and I seem to remember extra butter
when my mother was due to host the evening. After the war the PSA
bought a book case for the school in memory of pupils who had
given their lives. I remember the drawings of the book case before
it was commissioned. Where is it now?
Marchant was a friend of mine even before infants school, he lived
only yards away and his father had been a keen hockey player as
was my mother and I believe both had played in the same team at
some time. During the school holidays Peter and I roamed the
school roofs looking for balls, usually with great success. My
mother often talked of seeing us appear over the apex of the Tin
final thought, I could go on for ever, Miss Lindberg frequently
told me I was not as good as my mother in the gym. At this time
the boys were taught PT by Miss Lindberg who made sure that we
took a shower after the session. Josh Jones said the same thing
about my father and Physics.
to list of reminiscences
Jewish boy remembers EVCS
is taken from “MY FORMATIVE YEARS – A Jewish boy’s childhood
in South Wales in the early 1900s”
By Simon Joseph.
Jones writes:I discovered this book while trying to find out about
the Jewish riots in Ebbw Vale in 1911. I read a short extract and
very much wanted to get hold of a copy. After searching for about
a year I managed to borrow a copy through Monmouth library from
Southampton University library. My father was 4 years younger than
Simon so would have overlapped at the EVCGS.
Joseph was born in Cwm in 1903, the first of his family born
outside Poland. When he was about five years old his family moved
to Waenllwyd where they ran a shop. He went to infants school in
Waunlwyd, moved on into junior school there, and was eventually,
due to a reorganisation, moved to Victoria school. From this school
he took his scholarship exam and passed second out of 32 to the
grammar school. Four students passed from this school. The boy who
passed first out of the 32 was Ithel Williams. They were rivals at
first but became friends and Ithel relied on Simon for support at
entered the grammar school in 1914 (may be a year out). He
travelled by train from Waunlwyd to Ebbw Vale and walked the mile
from the station to the school - as was still the case in 1953 and
later. The school buildings were the old single storey part and
the tin tab which was eventually moved to its final position when
the two storey part was built.
states the headmaster was John Morgan, a tall, thin man, and very
kindly. His room was strewn with books. He taught chemistry to the
seniors. Next to his room was the general staff room for the male
teachers, and further on was the common room for the lady
still remembers the names of some of the teachers Joss (sic) Jones
– maths and physics, D B Jones a plump good looking man taught
English, Mr Roberts taught Welsh, Shorthand and Physical
Education, Miss O’Rearden taught French and Miss Lloyd, petite
and very pretty, taught Latin. Miss Wallen had a receding chin -
she taught History.
approach of Christmas was interesting as a dance and party was
always held in the chapel. For some weeks before Mr. Roberts gave
them their first lessons in dancing. The first dance was the old
fashioned waltz – to the accompaniment of the piano. All the
boys in Simon’s class were taught to dance with a chair as
partner. On the day of the dance formality was the order. The boys
wore black patent slippers and white gloves, the girls their party
dresses. The girls sat along one wall, the boys on the opposite
wall. As the music struck up the boys would cross the floor and
formally bow and ask, “May I have the pleasure of this dance”.
After the dance the boy would escort the girl back to her seat.
Girls mentioned were Myfanwy Williams and Morfydd.
was a keen sportsman and represented the school at football. On
Wednesdays they played neighbouring grammar schools. This meant
walking over the mountain into Tredegar or Brynmawr. They played
football for one and a half hours, then walked back over the
mountain and then home.
1918 Simon started in the sixth form. Six boys and six girls. His
subjects were the same as mine: Pure and Applied Maths, Physics and
Chemistry. One of his teachers would have been the same as mine -
Josh Jones. Simon did well in the sixth form and was awarded a
scholarship to Cardiff University to start in October 1920.
end of his first year Simon’s grandfather died. He visited John
Morgan, the headmaster, at home and found he was delighted to see
him. He visited the school the following week – the reception he
received from all the teachers was heart-warming. He visited his
elementary school and the greetings he received from local
residents gave him such comfort.
What has surprised me is how little had changed between 1914 and
1950 in the school. We did not dance with chairs as we learnt to
dance; we went by bus to play rugby not soccer. Many of the
teachers’ names were familiar to me through my mother and
father. What started off as research into one topic ended up with
an insight into the school and Ebbw Vale between 1914 and 1920.
to list of reminiscences