Mr. 0. J. EVANS, M. Sc., A.R.I.C.
School was first opened on September 29th 1914, and those of us who are
privileged to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of its foundation this
month will be imbued with a spirit of thanksgiving to all who have contributed
throughout the years towards its great success.
G. 0. Williams, the first Headmaster, and a small but intrepid band of assistant
teachers, set about the formidable task of establishing the School in temporary
premises in Tirydail that had previously been used as a laundry. Despite
the ramshackle nature of the buildings, they laid down the foundations which
resulted in the School developing into a happy community with an active
corporate life of its own, and where standards of work and scholarship were
of the highest. The First World War and its aftermath caused considerable
delay in the provision of new buildings, but these materialised eventually,
and the School moved into the present premises on January 23rd 1928. Facilities
for work were now first class, and all concerned settled down quickly and
happily in their new environment. A storm cloud loomed ahead, however, and
a tragic loss was suffered by the untimely death of Mr. Williams on October
1st 1930. I can pay him no better tribute than to quote the words inscribed
on the memorial tablet on the wall in the Assembly Hall:
To Thy Large
Heart And Humble Mind,
That Cast Into One Vision,
Future, Present, Past.
Enw Da Yma'n Dwr."
D. Davies Jones, the second Headmaster, commenced duties on January 1st
1931. He possessed the keen precise mind of the Mathematician, and his flair
for organisation and administration were to stand him in good stead for
his tenure of office. Expansion in the number of pupils admitted began to
create accommodation difficulties as early as the middle thirties, and these
were enormously accentuated by having to share the premises with a number
of evacuated schools during the Second World War. There were also grave
staffing problems during the war-time period. All these difficulties were
surmounted with courage and resolution, and the good work done at the School
continued without interruption. Mr. Jones embarked upon a well-earned retirement
at the end of the Easter Term in 1954, and left the district to reside in
Llanstephan. I am happy to state that he is still hale and hearty, and that
he readily accepted an invitation to contribute an article to this publication.
succeeded Mr. Jones in April 1954, being promoted from the post of Senior
Chemistry Master at the School to become its third Headmaster. My first
appointment as a teacher at the School dates back to September 1932, so
that I am now commencing my thirty-third year of service. This enables me
to bear witness at first hand to the sterling qualities of the Staff during
this long period. Most of them possessed a strong sense of vocation, and
their dedication to their duties, whether in the classroom or in out-of-school
activities, was such that they will be remembered with feelings of gratitude
and affection by many generations of former pupils. I can also pay tribute
to the boys and girls who have passed through the School in my time. In
general they were eager to learn, their honest endeavour was highly commendable,
and they came from homes where the value of a good education was fully appreciated
by the parents. I thoroughly enjoyed teaching them, and considered it a
great honour. to be appointed their Headmaster.
has been accomplished at the School during the last decade. Our aspirations
for improvements in accommodation, staffing, organisation and curriculum
were all realised in time for the session commencing in September 1960.
Thanks to the active support of the Governors and the full co-operation
of the Carmarthenshire Education Committee, a large new extension to the
existing building was planned, built, and equipped. Major modifications
inside the old building were also completed, and contracts allocated to
bring the electrical and heating systems up to modern standards. Additional
teachers were appointed, and it became possible to achieve a complete reorganisation
of form structure which permitted all pupils to follow a graduated five
year course up to Ordinary Level. The new time-table introduced offered
a wider choice of subjects at Ordinary and Advanced Levels, and it also
became possible to divide large classes in the Sixth Form.
improved facilities enable us to cater adequately for the needs of the area
at the present time. There are now 643 pupils on the roll, of whom 138 are
pursuing specialised courses in the Sixth Forms. Despite the increase in
its size, the academic status and traditions of the School are being maintained
at a high level, and we aim to turn out future citizens who can lead a full
and abundant life and be of good service to the community.
conclude by thanking all who have made the production of this Commemorative
Booklet possible, and trust that its perusal will bring back a host of happy
memories to all who have past associations with this very fine School.
G. 0. WILLIAMS
By Mr. A. B. OLDFIELD DAVIES, C.B.E., M.A
(B.B.C. Controller for WaIes)
Williams to members of the staff, G. 0. to his friends, George to his intimates,
and on occasions Georgic in a familiarly affectionate way to his pupils:
that was how the first Headmaster of the Amman Valley Grammar School was
known. His appointment in 1914, when the school opened, doubtless owed much
to the fact that his illustrious father, Watcyn Wyn, had established and
organised for many years a preparatory school in Ammanford which was known
all over Wales as Ysgol Watcyn Wyn. It seemed fitting that, when the County
School, as it was then known, was established a kind of family succession
should be observed. Watcyn Wyn was a poet, a well known public figure, a
character, a wit and essentially Welsh. To some extent, the son G. 0. suffered
in comparison with his father. He tended to be shy and retiring, he did
not like public appearances, he lacked the public gifts of his father and
might be said to have been rather reserved in his enthusiasm for things
Welsh. G. 0. Williams was more fluent and more at home in English than in
Welsh, partly as a result of his up-bringing (English being the home-language),
partly perhaps in reaction against the fame and reputation of a father whose
public gifts had been denied to the son. His attitude to the Welsh language
was part of his shyness, his reserve, and implied no lack of pride in his
father's achievement or any sense of frustration on his part.
was essentially a happy man. He was a very happy Headmaster, happy in his
relations with the staff and with the pupils. What he worked for and achieved
in overwhelming measure was a happy school. Education in his view was something
to be enjoyed, a shared enjoyment for teachers and pupils. He was not a
noted disciplinarian; he was never a bustling competent organiser eager
to manage a school as if it were a well-oiled machine running silently and
smoothly. There were visitors to the school who were surprised at what appeared
to them to be disorder or at any rate an apparent lack on the part of the
pupils of a sense of the presence of the Headmaster. But then G. 0. Williams
did not attach much importance to "presence," his own or anybody
else's. He was not concerned to project himself; he never believed in the
idea that a Headmaster should be a detached Olympian authoritarian figure
whose very appearance was calculated to create an effect. He was always
natural and easy, unperturbed and slightly amused. His eyes always carried
a smile which frequently broke over the heavy lines and creases of his kindly
face. He had a quiet, lively sense of humour which was his effective weapon
against a difficult, obstinate or fractious pupil, or even member of staff.
He rarely, if ever, issued an order but he had a persuasive kindly way of
indicating what he wished done and the affectionate loyalty which he gently
commanded ensured that it was done.
was a great lover of books with a well-stocked private library that he was
proud of and which he was glad to share with young members of staff by freely
lending them books. When the new school was opened in 1928 he was as proud
of the school Library as of any feature of the splendid new premises so
different from the tin sheds and the annexe "Zion Zinc" which
the school had occupied in its early years. Incidentally, the temporary
premises, though viewed in retrospect through the rosy hue of the years
with romantic affection by old pupils, were a serious handicap to the smooth
organisation of the school's work and many were the unexpected day's holidays
which came in the winter through a failure of the heating system or heavy
rain seeping through the class-room roofs. There was a general air of improvisation
which the Headmaster seemed to enjoy. It was aided by his reluctance to
decide on a time-table until the school had assembled for a new academic
year and for a week or two the issue of a provisional time-table for each
day as it came added a spice of unexpectedness to the day's work though
it could be disconcerting for a teacher and for a class to find themselves
together more frequently than either would wish. No-smooth, well-oiled efficiency
was not a quality one associated with G. 0. Williams. He was not an administrator
and he would smile quizzically at the notion that "what is best administered
is best." He created atmosphere - an atmosphere of trust and tolerance,
of good will and loyalty. He had a deep respect for persons as individuals
and was always attracted to a pupil with the slightest sign of eccentricity.
No one in Ammanford in his day felt constrained or compelled to conform
to type. He had no use for a school which turned out recognisable products
as if from a mould.
his view a school was not a processing factory or a forcing-bed, but a happy
forum or meeting place where boys and girls were encouraged to develop freely,
in their own time and at their own pace, whatever gifts they had been endowed
with. He was naturally pleased with the success of any boy or girl in the
academic or athletic field, but he was not interested in producing results.
Nor did he believe that the real achievement of a school could be assessed
by quoting statistics. What deeply concerned him was the quality, intellectual,
social and personal of the individuals entrusted to his care. He regarded
it as a high privilege to be the first Headmaster of the Amman Valley Grammar
School, and my wife and I are no less proud to have been on his staff for
a period of years.
Mr. D. DAVIES JONES, MA.
appointment as Headmaster of the A.V.G.S. dated from January 1st. 1931.
I have every reason to be grateful for the warm welcome which I, a complete
stranger, received from all concerned. I remember very well the fine morning
of Tuesday, January 12th 1931, when I heard Welsh voices as I walked from
the entrance gate to the front door - a very happy sound to one who had
been for over 12 years an exile in the English Midlands. The Chairman of
the School Governors, Col. W. N. Jones, J.P., came to morning assembly in
the school hall to introduce me to the staff and pupils and to wish the
school and its new Head success and happiness in the future.
week later I was very pleased to accept an invitation to a welcome tea in
Ammanford from the Headmasters of all the contributory schools of the school
area from Ystradowen to Penygroes. The Chairman was the late Mr. William
Williams, J.P., Head of Penygroes C.P. School, who, in his own inimitable
way asked each Head in turn to speak and myself last to reply with my thanks
for a most useful and happy meeting which began a period of over 23 years
of co-operation between the schools for the progress and welfare of the
pupils of the school area.
was followed a week later by a complimentary dinner from my colleagues on
the staff of the school and held in the school building. It was really first
class and prepared without any outside professional assistance (I still
treasure my copy of the artistic menu card), and was a very happy way of
bringing us together outside the usual school hours.
school building was then only three years old, and the 14 years in the old
temporary buildings in Tirydail in which so much good work had been done,
but a memory. But conditions were very different from what they are today.
There were 360 pupils, of whom only about a quarter received free education,
as the percentage of free places was only 25%. The remainder paid a terminal
fee of 30/- and all pupils had to buy their own text books and pay their
own travelling expenses by train or bus.
was a period of industrial depression in the country generally and there
was considerable unemployment in the school area. I remember that a considerable
part of the time at Governors' meetings was taken up in the allocation of
Bursaries and bus fares to deserving cases from a grant made by the Education
Committee for the purpose. Even then there were cases of leavers on economic
there was a two form entry of 70 pupils, but as the Free Place percentage
increased to 50% and later still to 100% there was increased pressure for
admissions, and it was decided to have a three form entry. The first increase
in staff for this purpose was granted by the Education Committee in 1932,
and the person appointed to this post was Mr. 0. J. Evans, who has been
at the school ever since (apart from a period during the war on National
Service), and has been the Headmaster for the last 10 years. From 1933 onwards
the entry varied from 100 to 90 according to the varying dictates of the
Ministry of Education with unfortunate results for candidates in different
years. It also led eventually to an overcrowded school with 570 pupils,
two forms without their own classrooms and classes in the school hall and
dining room. After much pressure by the Governors and an enquiry at Carmarthen,
plans were made for additional buildings on the extra land which had been
purchased for the purpose, but the second World War came in 1939.
1940, with the use of the school by the Roan Boys School, Greenwich, partly
on a shift basis, and also girls.from the Roan Girls at Tirydail, and from
the Addey and Stanhope School at Garnant for Science classes on odd afternoons
and Saturdays, there were about 820 pupils using a school built for 350.
After the war economy was the watchword for some years, but the extra land
came handy for building the new school canteen (we grew potatoes, etc.,
on it during the war), and although promises were made that a start would
be made on the planned extensions at any moment, they were not forthcoming
look back with satisfaction and thankful feelings for having been privileged
to live and work with:
friendly and helpful Chairmen and Members of the School Governors,
and loyal members of the School Staff, and
of my pupils to whom I always spoke in their native tongue, for I could
see that it made it easier to confide their plans and wishes: 'Rwy am
iddo ef (neu hi) i gael gwell siawns na ges i."
to pupils, in my previous 16 years' experience in England and Wales, I found
pupils much alike in all of them - quite human - but here I found some-thing
more - a natural and ready response which I can only describe as typically
Welsh or Celtic.
Head held this view. The late Mr. Gwyn Jones, B.A., then Head of Llandeilo
County School, told me, soon after my arrival in Ammanford, of his impressions
of dealing with them for the years before the founding of A.V.C.S. He said
in his characteristic, serious way: "I liked the children of Llandeilo,
but I loved the children of the Amman Valley."
join with him by saying that I, too, loved the children of the Amman Valley.
Mr. BRYN ROBERTS, B.A.
(Senior Scripture Master)
is ironic that my first memory of the school as a new boy in September 1915,
is of picking my way carefully amongst the buckets and pans in the main
corridor and then being sent home because the roof leaked so badly. The
outbreak of war in 1914 had stopped the building of a new school and temporary
premises had to be found. These proved to be very primitive and inadequate,
but they were used until 1928.
memories are concerned chiefly with people. How well I remember our teachers,
even those who remained only for very brief periods. In those days during
World War there were great staffing difficulties. What a headache it must
have been to the headmaster of a new school
staff was a happy one; certainly the Head, Mr. G. 0. Williams (usually referred
to as "Gow" amongst the pupils), was well loved by all who knew
him. Always neatly attired in a grey suit with a woollen waistcoat, he was
forever rattling his keys and money in his trousers' pocket.
Senior Mistress, a Miss Roberts, who taught French and some English, was
a "martinet." She was slightly lame and the sound of her limping
along the stone corridor was always a signal for silence in neighbouring
classrooms. When she was angry there was a quality in her voice which sent
a chill down my spine. How charming she was, I found many years later. Miss
E. Davies, the English and Latin Mistress, later became the headmistress
of the Queen Elizabeth Grammar School for Girls, Carmarthen. Our Welsh Mistress
was Miss Owen, and Miss Wyatt, a tall figure with a manly stride, taught
Geography. School dinners at sixpence per day were prepared under the guidance
of Miss Norton and later by Miss Violet Lewis.
were never more than four masters in those early years. Mr. Comery, the
senior, taught Botany and Chemistry. I had a suspicion even in those days
that he was better at teaching Botany than Chemistry. Mr. Ben Smith, unkindly
called "Schmit," had replaced Mr. Bodger, the Art and Woodwork
master, who had joined the Forces. Mr. E. Evans, later left for South Africa
to take a post in Johannesburg University. There was a procession of Maths
teachers: Mr. E. Watkins; Mr. J. Lewis, a splendid teacher - I think I would
have made the grade in that subject had he remained longer; then there was
Mr. Edwards, who, possibly because of his chubby appearance, we called Mr.
Bumble. I could write a book on "Old Bumble." He was quite useless
as a teacher. His technique in a Geometry lesson was to stick a sheet of
an exercise book on the board and then with a closed fist point at the angles
of a triangle, not realising that we couldn't even see the triangle. But
he was a lovable character. He had a splendid tenor voice, which proved
a valuable asset in preparing the school choir for a public performance
of "Hiawatha's Wedding Feast". He had been a member of a Male
Voice Party touring Canada, and was easily persuaded in class to narrate
his experiences there. I suspect this wasn't unknown to the head. There
was the famous incident when Mr. Williams burst into the room in the middle
of a story. Bumble, however, rose to the occasion superbly and without any
loss of dignity said, "What did you say your answer was, Sidney John?'
Another Sidney John, quick on the uptake, answered-a good example of perfect
co-operation between teachers and pupils.
changes came with the end of the war and additions to the staff came in
quick succession. Miss M. Hodgson laid the foundations of a great tradition
in the Geography department. Miss Lilian Lewis infused new life into the
English section. Under her direction the School Dramatic Society became
firmly established, and even in my time several plays were produced, notably,
'The Merchant of Venice." Miss Lewis later married another member of
the staff, Mr. A. Oldfield Davies, who is now Director of the B.I3.C. in
Wales. Could this have had anything to do with Donald Peers' success on
radio and television? for Donald was a prominent member of the cast in that
production of "The Merchant of Venice."
Gladys Bowen took over the Biology department from Miss Yeo. Then came Mr.
Vanstone, Miss Browne, Mr. Arthur Davies, Miss A. Rees, Mr. j. A. Owen,
Mr. Ifor Thomas and Mr. R. 0. Rees. Mention of the last two reminds me of
the early struggles of the Rugby team. We were mere chopping blocks to the
neighbouring schools, but gradually things improved and eventually Llandeilo
were beaten, and there was great jubilation when at last we drew with Llanelly.
I remember one year, Llanelly had a particularly good team, so we included
"Tômah" in the pack, where his 14 stone proved useful, and
'R.O.' where we hoped his sprinting prowess might help. We still lost!
was a very small boy when I first came to school. I went about in awe of
the boys of the upper school. I'm sure that I even addressed some of them
as "sirs." The names of many appear on the memorial tablet in
the present school hall.
were, naturally, groups of particular friends-ours was a small one of some
four or five. We sat as near as possible to each other throughout the years.
I remember we cut a double Maths lesson of Miss Browne's one afternoon in
order to attend a Labour Demonstration. Inevitably the "gap" was
noticed and reported to the Head. The following morning we faced his wrath.
"Faced" perhaps is the wrong word, for we were told to bend over
and lift up our coat tails. I believe that had it been a Liberal Demonstration
we would have got off much lighter.
must mention a famous character of my upper school days. Tarzan - a red
head from Llandybie, was a terror to some boys (and staff, I think), not
only in our school but to members of visiting schools' Rugby teams. There
were occasions when damage was done to Form VI room walls and furniture,
and I remember that at the end of one school term, bills for repairs were
enclosed with our "reports." Even Myer Cohen, a junior member
of the Sixth, with all his inherent forensic skill, could not deny the justice
of our punishment.
find it difficult to stop reminiscing, but the space allotted to me has
already been used up. My years in school were extremely happy. This must
have been the experience of most of us. May the old school continue to be
the same to future generations.
Prof. H. BOWEN JONES, M.A.
(Professor of Geography,
University of Durham)
is now over ten years since I last saw the A.V.G.S. and over twenty since
I left it, but on odd occasions remarkably vivid memories are conjured up
by the impact of various incidents.
most recent of these made its impression in May of this year in West Africa.
At a small trading post on the border of Sierra Leone and Guiree three of
us, dusty and thirsty, asked for something with which to wet our whistles.
For the first time since 1936 or so I was offered Vimto, and was immediately
transported to the tuckshop outside the school gates where a Mr. Davies
on winter days dispensed small tots of Vimto and hot water to cold small
boys. Most of my impressions of the school are equally random (but less
concerned with the stomach)-of Amanwy, the caretaker and bard, either smilingly
leaning on a broom and giving wise advice or irascibly bushing his eyebrows
at some especial foolishness, of Mr. Comery and later "0. J."
himself (if I may be irreverent) incredibly making one piano dominate a
hallful of lusty voices raised in Blake's Jerusalem, of sleepy sunny lunch
hours on the Gorsedd with once near friends-but I ramble.
to impose coherence on my memories I end with an impression of a good school-and
this is more than triteness. A good school, I am coming to believe, is a
rare and precious thing. The size was right in that one remained an individual
without being cossetted, and of course the buildings held the numbers for
which they were designed. Discipline there was but neither Draconian nor
variable. Teaching and training I am sure was good although then too many
boys and girls left before full advantage could be taken of them. Without,
as I recall, any cramming one had the chance of learning deeply and well
in a whole range of subjects in the Arts and Sciences. Personally, I shall
always owe much to D. T. Rosser (or Terra Rossa as he figures in one out
of a collection of verses I composed and still have). Vicariously I took
pride in the achievements of a series of wonderful Rugby teams, joined with
others in the delights of Friday play readings, and the annual frenzied
competition of the Eisteddfod. When one coukl do all this and more, live
in sympathy or at least tolerance with one's masters and remember them even
now very clearly as real human beings, then by any standards A.V.G.S. was
a good school If offered indemnity, I might even produce the afore-mentioned
verses as proof that even schoolboy wit was affectionate "au-fond."
My set of School Magazines from 1932 to 1939 reinforces this impression
of a real school with masters and children rather than an education factory
with assembly line techniques and units of input and output. May it never
salutations for the half-century and best wishes for the centenary.
Dr. GWENDA JONES-ECHARD, M.A.
(University of Toronto, Canada)
COUNTRY has many traditions and if, as often happens to anyone living away
from home, I find myself talking about Wales to people of other countries,
this word "tradition" is one which looms large. The conversation
turns around such things as the tradition of choral music in Wales, of eistedd-fodau,
the traditional hospitality and friendliness of the Welsh. But we have yet
another tradition, one of which I have become increasingly aware and of
which we should truly be proud. We have as a nation a desire and reverence
for education, for the power of self-expression, for knowledge. Ours is
a country where the local "bardd" is rightly esteemed, and the
teacher a much-valued member of the community. This traditional respect
for learning surely owes much to the excellence of the local school, to
schools like the Amman Valley Grammar, now celebrating the fiftieth year
of its founding.
must be the exceptional pupil who is not aware on his first day at school
that he is about to inherit something precious and to begin an experience
in learning which will shape his whole life. For those first bewildering
weeks he is something of an outsider, overtly conscious of his brand-new
uniform and satchel, the very newness of which seems to emphasize how far
he has to go before becoming one with this privileged community. Almost
imperceptibly the process begins, the superficial changes which mark a growing
identity with his surroundings. But of much greater significance is the
way in which his mind develops and reaches out to grasp all the many things
that are his to know. The next six or seven years will be a constant challenge,
a series of rewards and disappointments, of feuds and of friendships. Above
all, it will be a time when all the curiosity, creativeness and intelligence
he naturally possesses will be given free play, stimulated and fostered.
This indeed was my experience.
would be hard-pressed to select any one event to highlight my schooldays.
There was, of course, the Saint David's Day Eisteddfod, a major event in
every school year, prepared for weeks in advance, the rivalry intense between
Hywel, Glyndwr, Dewi and Llywelyn. There were the school plays, sports days,
Form VI parties, examinations in the school gym. There was even the memor-able
occasion when a film company invaded the school! But in thinking back, what
I remember most often is a typical morning assembly in the hail, with Mr.
Davies-Jones setting a tone of solemn dignity, Mr. 0. J. Evans accompanying
the hymns with a flourish, a Form VI student waiting in lonely state to
read a portion of the Scripture, the school staff ranged impressively behind
him. Some of those I remember have now left - Mr. J. A. Owen, Miss H. M.
Browne, Mr. A. H. Davies (Dai 'Rith to many generations), are among those
who have retired; others like Mr. F. H. Pugh and Mr. Trevor Thomas have
gone to different schools - but for us they will always belong at the A.V.G.S.,
and for me they, and all who remain, symbolise what was best in my school
during his years at school has many teachers and many valued memories. I
remember, for example, the constant challenge of English classes with Miss
Jenkins, from whose quiet probing questions there was no escape, questions
that forced us to think when we would often have preferred a more passive,
anonymous role. I remember, too, Latin with Mr. Trevor Thomas, then with
Mrs. Adams, both surely among the most animated of Latin teachers. French,
first with Dr. Thelma Morris then with Mr. Timothy, was always a particular
joy and I have, too, a warm if somewhat painful memory of Geography classes-Mr.
Trott's long ruler at the end of an even longer arm had an amazingly far
reach. My experience with Chemistry was brief but memorable. Although present
pupils benefit much from Mr. 0. J. Evans's direction as headmaster, it is
sad to think that Form II will never again see him battle mightily to pull
two half-spheres apart. But these examples could go on indefinitely. History
classes, Biology, Maths, Music, all bring back welcome memories and every
old pupil could certainly add to this bit. More than anything else, it must
be the teachers who set the tone of a school, and ours blended warmth with
discipline and humour with application. They reminded us, too, that the
true measure of success lies not in spectacular achievement but in the realisation
that we each have a God-given gift which we must develop to its utmost.
Each one of them more than merits our deepest respect and gratitude.
years have passed since I left school - sufficient time to gain a measure
of objectivity as to the value of my school experience. Practically any
school, good or bad, will provide countless nostalgic memories of school-days,
but only a truly good school can withstand the test of time and experience.
As a child I had a child's unquestioning belief that this was the best of
schools. To have doubted would have been unthinkable. Now, after further
acquaintance with the educational process in this and other countries, my
enthusiasm may be more qualified; criticisms of detail might arise. But,
such as these are, they seem of little importance when compared with the
fact that the whole programme at the A.V.G.S., now as in the past, has academic
excellence as its aim. The format of the school may change in the future.
More buildings may be added, and it may become comprehensive in nature,
but this pursuit of excellence, which I remember with gratitude from my
schooldays, is something which must not, and surely will not, change. Ours
is a school which for fifty years has held fast to this national tradition,
and with such as its foundation, its future is secure.
ROY REECE, F.R.C.S.
(Chief Registrar and Consultant
King's College Hospital, London)
may seem a far cry from the heat and glare of an operating theatre light
to the cloistered calm of the school and, superficially, there appears little
relationship between the insistent call of bells tolling the end of each
lesson and the drumming of trolley wheels at the close of each operation.
Yet for me, the pattern of these sounds, predictable and unchanging, was
firmly established by my first footstep within the boys' entrance of the
school in 1947. The memory of that overcast day is still vivid and the awe
inspired by the long stone face of the building is still recalled with some
discomfort. Happily, the roughness of the walls was soon removed by the
warm companionship of many friends and the inclemency of that September
morning replaced in my mind by cloudless days in front of the school on
the lawn, or of sunlit aromatic laboratory benches.
disciplined embryo days were heavily spiced with pine shavings, genders
and geometric shapes in the lower forms and the retorts, prisms and formaldehyde
of the upper school. Those years prefaced the entry into an academic life
and remained rigidly ordered throughout. The unquestioned laws accepted
by pupils through years of tradition, when 'viewed In retrospect, encouraged
individual characteristics rather than submerged them. There are, consequently,
numerous examples of this in the number of outstanding personalities created
by the school.
however, arrive and depart, but the school, despite its recent extensions
and other acquisitions, fundamentally remains unchanged. To this end witness
the religious shine of the hall floor, the portraits on the walls and the
brightness of those acres of windows on entering each classroom from the
coolness of the corridors. Memories of those years are vividly punctuated
by the personalities of the masters-some now retired, others still present,
all remembered with profound respect and not a little affection. Many will
recall one such disciplinarian, now unfortunately retired, who stood with
unspeaking grief over a line of recently felled trees bordering the school
lawn. Thereafter applied mathematics became a subject with much human warmth.
were also present those who impassively demanded the highest quality of
work from each individual and whose standards were largely unattain-able.
Yet these same teachers made no pretence to hide their delight at the frequent
returns of old pupils to the School, whether distinguished or otherwise.
unexpectedly, throughout each term there flowed a constant stream of humour
shared in by pupils and staff alike. Those institutional schoolboy bowlers
are remembered now only for the witticisms they extracted from the masters
in return. One recalls how the studied schoolboy care which was required
to ruin a sequence of the filming of "David," was observed with
obvious delight from the staff common room. Nevertheless the film preserved
from those years a facet of the school's many faces.
this connection one remembers with pride and with regret at his passing,
Amanwy, whose daily care of the school betrayed little of his poetic genius,
That broad face, and the irremovable cloth cap that framed it, commanded
immediate respect from all pupils. They walked on the green apron of the
lawn only with his consent and hurriedly departed at the appearance of his
lawn mower. Yet there was the kindness of the bard best portrayed by lrlwyn
Mewn heddwch diddiwcdd,
Amanwy gadd amynedd
I fyw yn hardd hyd ei fedd.
attendance during those post war years brought contact with the increased
wealth of the community. Therefore, impressions remain of free milk with
the greasy smell of bottle tops, noisily dispensed mid morning from their
crates, and of the school orchestra's attendance at the opening of the Regal
Ballroom. It was on that occasion, when the mid-summer heat played havoc
with the catgut of the string section, that the "Caliph of Bagdad"
was heard in many different keys- simultaneously.
those years there occurred also the first migration of forty pupils to Paris,
resembling perhaps more of a second invasion fleet than an educational visit.
those years at school, when the cold wind blew from Russia, the stone walls
became a curtain that effectively shut out the harsh ways of co-existence.
The security engendered in the classrooms made battles and politics insignificant
and the bitter realities, the Korean war and Viet Nam, were for the most
part of little importance. The strength of this shelter was such that it
did not seem incongruous, therefore, when a master questioning the late
arrival of a wayward pupil was blandly informed that he had "just returned
from Dien Bien Phu."
the passage of time detail becomes obscured and one's impressions clouded
by more recent events. Therefore, with little apology, I would add a more
personal final note touched perhaps by the aseptic ritual of a surgical
career. The memories of those seven short years spent at the A.V.G.S. which
remain clearest are of the immeasurable benefits imparted by the extra-curricular
training. Unobtrusively, one was taught to strive and to reach for pinnacles,
to discipline one's self and to make personal sacrifice in order to obtain
greater things. One was taught to view the amoeba beneath the microscope
and to see through it to the stars. This is not the result of any syllabus
but is the mirrored reflection of the experience of fifty years. This heritage,
and the standard of teaching so often shown to be equal to all others, leads
me with pride to quote Plato in "The Republic" discussing the
instruction of the philosopher:
we pick those who are sound in body and mind and put them through our long
course of instruction and training, Justice herself can't blame us and we
shall preserve the constitution of our society