Rogues' Gallery


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We 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.

You can click on one of these links to go to a particular reminiscence. 

Confessions of a Compulsive School Attendee
Eric Smith looks back on multi-role association with the school going back to 1945.

Memories of a Dover boy
Dover evacuee Arthur Barnacle writes about being a wartime evacuee to Ebbw Vale.

Memories of an evacuee
More wartime recollections from another Dover schoolboy.

Lighting the beacon
David Harris from Cwm lit the beacon on the Domen to mark the Queen's coronation in 1953.

A balanced view from the 60s
Not everyone's memories of school are relentlessly happy. Alan Lord brings some balance to the 1960s.

The life of Graham Jones
The title is self-explanatory!

Raymond Sullivan
Ray writes about his time at the school from 1946 to 1953 and includes an article from a U.S. magazine.

Memories of a long-time absentee
David Parsons, another from the same era, tells it all from beyond Ebbw!

Alan Jones
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.

Confessions of a Compulsive School Attendee

A 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.

I 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.

College 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.

In 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.

In 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.

Later 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 2004.

At 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.

As 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.

As 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.

I cannot help wondering however, if in some quiet moments, they may not hear the distant sound of a bell and the shouts and laughter of children.

Eric Smith (aka 'Smico' 1945-1952)
August 14th 2004

Note 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!

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Memories of a Dover boy

On a 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.

My 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 were.

"Oh, 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.

Our new home was just a few yards down the hill from the Willowtown Post Office.

William 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, Brynheulog Street.

For 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.

Given 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.

Ray 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.

Joe 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 good home.

They 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 physical well-being.

Having 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.

What 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.

He 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.

Where are they now those darling girls of innocent wantonness? Jean, Stella, Dinkie, Eileen,
Alma Avril ............................

I have 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.

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Memories of an Evacuee

I 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.

I 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.

The 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 this one!"

We attended the Co-ed Grammar School but not at the same time as the girls.
We alternated mornings and afternoons but our paths did cross occasionally.
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!

Another 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!

Arthur 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.

I 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 always!

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Lighting the beacon

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David 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....

The 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.

Our 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 day!

It was 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.

We 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.

There 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!

Compounding 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.

But 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 compete.

I had 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.

If I 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.

Before 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.

We 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.

We 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 resourceful.

Eventually 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.

With 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.

When I 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.

My 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 

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A balanced view from the 60s

My parents had lived most of their lives in Ebbw Vale and I attended Briery Hill Junior School 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 longer there.

Anyway 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”!

I 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.)


I 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 jugs.


An 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 Plummer. 


I 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 Argentina ; what practical use this has been to me during my life has been limited, even though I have visited Argentina . I was however grateful when flying from Guatemala up to Mexico to look down at a chain of volcanoes, and think, ah I understand it now.

I 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. 


As 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.

I 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.

I have lived in Macclesfield, Cheshire 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.


Alan Lord

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The life of Graham Jones

I 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.

This 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 the staff!
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”!!!

So it 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!

In the 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 uniform.
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 that.
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 one evening!
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 causes.
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.

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Raymond Sullivan (1946-53)

It 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.

I 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.

For 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.

Life 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 sessions.

Looking 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.


This was published by an American magazine

The 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.

My 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.

We 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 the time.

 The 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.

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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 Saundersfoot. 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.

David Parsons (1946-1953)

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Alan Jones (Shacky) 1946-54

My 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 it.

Some 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.

We 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.

My 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?

Peter 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 Tab.

As a 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.

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A Jewish boy remembers EVCS

This is taken from “MY FORMATIVE YEARS – A Jewish boy’s childhood in South Wales in the early 1900s”
By Simon Joseph.

Alan 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.

Simon 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 university.

Simon 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.

Simon 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 teachers.

He 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.

The 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.

Simon 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.

In 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.

At the 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.

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