Alan Lord: 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

© evcgs former pupils 2013