Archive for the ‘Schooldays’ Category

Photographs of West Mon boys 1964

February 28, 2014

I’ve just discovered a very useful website. This is it:    Just copy the address into you address bar and you will be taken to the site. It has a search box so there are masses of items for you to look at.

I managed to find in my “Pontypool” search all sorts of photographs of Pontypool and a further search revealed photos of West Mon boys in 1964. I publish them below. I thought you might recognise either yourself or older members of your family who are over 60 years of age; the staff much older of course.

I was particularly interested in one of the photographs because it has Michael Gregory, my cousin, amongst the staff members. You might have seen mention of him in my earlier posts about the Gregory family.

Visitors who are researching their family histories might like to download and keep a copy of some of the photographs, and of course you might find all manner of useful items by searching the site.

Here are the photographs for you to enjoy. I’m sorry they are rather small but you might be able to enlarge them.

West Mon 1964

West Mon 3

West Mon 2

West Mon 4West Mon 1

A plan of Town School in the 1930s

January 13, 2014

As I said in my last post, I would be publishing a plan I have made of the main building of Town School. As the Scholarship Class was housed in The Bungalow and separated from the main building, I have left it out. This is based entirely on my memory of the school about 75 years ago so I don’t make any claims about its accuracy. The whole of the Infants’ section I have hatched in blue.

I was taught by every teacher with the exception of Mr Hughes. I went straight from Miss Gameson’s class to Miss Brookes’, hence I am assuming that there were two standard threes. Then I went into Mr Rees’s class and then to Mr Petty’s for two years. If any visitors have different memories please make a comment or email me. It’s quite possible that there were not two standard threes; I can see no reason for it.

I did the plan by hand so it’s not a classic and it is certainly not to scale. If anyone has an architect’s plan of the school, which was built in 1838 that would be wonderful.

Town School planTown School plan as I recall it in the 1930s

Town School class photograph. Do you recognise anyone?

January 11, 2014

I recently received an email and a photograph from Clive Barnby. The email and photograph are self-explanatory so I publish both below. If you have any comments please feel free to make them.

I will publish another post soon after this one which will include a plan of the main Town School building as I remember it.


“I wondered, David, if you are able to put this photo on your blogsite. It’s from Graham Newman, who lived in Gwent street, was in school with me, saw my name on your blog & remembered me. I think the picture was taken in 1955/56 – we would all have been born 1945-47.It is of Standard 3 even tho’ the picture was taken in the infants playground. If I’m right, the teacher was Mrs Hughes, formerly Miss Brookes, but for some reason she is not in the picture.

 Graham (Newman) is in the back row, first left (as you look at the photo), I’m next but one to him (can’t name the lad between us); continuing from left to right is Andrew Neat from Haden street, who was tragically killed in a road accident many years ago, then Nigel Gordon, John Pope, son of Les, the butcher, then I think Michael Browne. I can’t name the next three but on the right is Brian Hale.

In the middle row on the left is Graham Baldwin, then John Jones, ? , fourth left is (I think) Bernard Rootes, then Diane Pask, something Goodchild (the tall girl) can’t name the next girl, then ? Michael Pearce, can’t name the last three.

 In the front row, on the left is Carol Rowlands, then Jackie Gibbon (now Fitzgerald) & the only other one I can name is Jackie Miles (now Law) who is second from the right.

 I think there was also a June Kennedy, Richard King and David Parfitt but can’t put faces to the names. David Williams was also in my class & lived in North road, a few yards from me but can’t recognise him. I was hoping if you are able to put it on your site that viewers might recognise themselvies or someone they know, & we can fill in some of the names.”




town school photo0001

Town School Standard 3 in 1955-56

West Mon personalities

October 22, 2013

I was recently reminiscing with my friend Eric Smith about some of the personalities who taught us at West Mon in the early 1940s. Two of them we spoke about at length:

Professor Alfred J. Thompson of Bristol was blind from birth and came to teach at West Mon about 1943. He was always accompanied by his wife who had to guide him everywhere. As the piano was on the hall stage, that’s where we had our music lessons with him. I remember being totally amazed the first time I saw him play the piano. I was learning the instrument at that time. He just placed his hands on the keyboard to find the keys and then he just played effortlessly and, of course, from memory. Later he wrote the school song which is featured elsewhere on this blog. Music lessons with “Toot” Steven had always been rather irregular and perfunctory but with Professor Thompson we really got down to it.

He lived just a few doors down from Park Terrace Methodist Church and held music appreciation classes at his home. Eric attended these and Professor Thompson gave him 40 records and a walnut record cabinet.


Miss Orella Jones was the glamour mistress at West Mon. As teenage boys we had an eye for this sort of thing and frequently talked about our mistresses’ qualities in a way which had little relation to their teaching abilities. Gilbert Garnett was frequently seen talking and laughing with Orella. I also remember Jehoida Brown – a prefect when I started at the school – when he visited the school in his army uniform earnestly chatting to her in the school hall. I suppose he would have only been about six years younger than Orella. She was leaning against the wall and Jehoida stood a couple of feet to the side with his hand leaning on the wall about a foot from the side of her head. I remember wondering what this cosy little tête-à-tête might have been about.

Orella was engaged to Tom Churchill who took me for French in Six Arts (written about earlier in this blog). Unfortunately he died quite young and Orella transferred to the Girls’ County School. Eric told me that she never married which I found quite surprising.


If any visitor has any recollections or photographs of either of these two members of West Mon’s staff I should be pleased to hear from them.

West Mon Mock Election

July 2, 2013

Picture 1

I recently had an email from Ray Griffiths, an old Westmonian who remembers the mock election at West Mon in the early fifties. I have to admit that there were no mock elections when I was at West Mon in the forties but when I left the sixth form to transfer to Howard Gardens High School in Cardiff I soon became embroiled in a mock election there. I suppose it might have been the post-war election that increased the interest in such events.

Ray says that the “political parties” involved in the election were:

The Mathematical radicals

The Frankenstein Fascists

The Romantic Reformers

and the Oglites

 Apparently the speeches from the candidates were delivered from the steps leading up to the school gym.

Ray reports that the election was won by the Romantic Reformers who offered an unbeatable programme of the closest possible liaison with the “County”. The Oglites came in second.

If any visitor remembers any further details about this election please feel free to make them known in a comment,

Information needed about people from North Rd and Edward St

June 27, 2013

My blog has now been running for exactly 5 years this month. During that time 115,575 hits have been recorded on it. A good number of people have come across it by accident while searching for family members. One person who did this quite recently is Adele Reynolds (nee Thomas). I publish below the email I received from her and also a photograph of her great-grandfather and grandmother.

“I have recently stumbled upon what I believe is your blog about Old Pontypool and do hope I have found the correct contact details for you.

 I was born in 1974 in Pontypool and moved to 90, North Road in 1976 and all of my father’s (Malcolm Thomas 1953 – 2007) family that I know of are or were from Pontypool too. 

My Grandparents, Glenys Thomas nee Gardner (1929 – 2013) and Kenneth Thomas (1925 – 2012) lived at 100, North Road. 

My Great Grandmother, Susan Elizabeth Turton nee Harrison (I think) (1903 – 1995) lived at 55, Edward Street. (Her last name is from her second marriage, she was previously married to Glenys’ father Mr Gardner.) However I am struggling to find information on my blood Great Grandfather although I do have a photo. 

Picture 1
My great-Nana Turton with her husband

What I really want to find out is any information anyone may have with regard to my Grandfather Kenneth and his family, I have been told his father Ernie, kept Shire horses and that he was married to a lady called Mary (this was his second marriage I have no information about my Grandfather’s mother). Kenneth had a brother called Ernie and a sister called Gwyneira (sp?).

If you can help with anything I would be eternally grateful as I have started a family tree on and I have come to a complete standstill. Times like these I want to call my Nana who passed away just a month ago, why I never asked before is beyond me.  

If the blog is indeed yours many thanks, I have learned so much about the place I will always call home.”

If any visitor can supply any information on Adele’s family I’m sure she’d like to hear about it. Please either write a comment or send me the information and I shall pass it on. I notice that Glenys Gardner, Adele’s grandmother was born the same year as I. As she lived in North Road she would have attended either Town School or Park Terrace. As I don’t recall her name (though I don’t profess to remember all the names of those in my class) it’s likely she attended Park Terrace. Does anyone, now aged about 83, remember her?

West Mon memories from Australia

June 7, 2013

Quite a number of people from countries all over the world have come across this blog when researching their family history. Such was the case with an old Westmonian, Geoff Lloyd, who lives in Queensland, Australia. In the first email I received from him he wrote:


“I live in Queensland, Australia. I was doing some more research on my Family Tree & came across your Website. I was particularily interested in the blogs about West Mon School, which I attended 1948-55,(Awarded a “Scholarship” of 5 pounds a year, for being in the top 3 in the County 11 Plus Exams),  still have a photo of my final year in 7 Science with all 11 boys identified together with the teachers Miss Moseley & Ken Smith.

   I was born & lived on Varteg Lane, Varteg 1937, moving to 25 Sunnybank Rd. Griffithstown in 1949. After getting B.Sc. in Biochem at Birmingham Uni. & Ph.D. in Bangor, I emigrated to Australia in 1965, to work as a Research Scientist with CSIRO.

   My father (Herbert Lloyd) was well known in Pontypool, practising as an Optician & Chiropodist in “Cross Chambers” Crane St. 1946-63. I would be happy to pass on any memories etc – perhaps you can suggest how to go about this.”


I therefore invited Geoff to send me some of his memories and also the photograph he referred to so that I could use them in a blog post. This is what he said in his second email:


West Mon 7 Science

7 Science West Mon School 1955

“I have attached the photo I mentioned of 7 Science 1955. I am standing directly behind Ken Smith – the names reading from left to right (taken from their signatures on the back of the photo)

1 &2 not sure, F.J. Pugsley/John J.G. Ellis – both I think were boarders.

3 D.E. Davies

4 Hugh Thompson

5 B.A. Jones – believe he is the “BA’ who later returned as a master

6 R .Hughes

7. Geoffrey T Lloyd

8 Peter M. Brown

9 A.J. Thyer

10 E.H.A. Evans

11 M.H. Phillips.


“I also have a copy of the 75th anniversary edition of the Westmonian which I was given when I revisited West Mon in 1973.

   BA Jones & I in our 6th & 7th years were  paid (a token amount!) to look after the Chemistry & Physics Labs respectively, preparing the masters’ demonstrations for the lower forms & setting up/cleaning after the senior classes. This allowed us both some dubious & unauthourised experiments!! I found Ken Smith very easy to get on with, but Mr Illingworth was every bit as bad as some of your blog respondents remember. No Health & Safety in those days I “cleaned” the stocks of Mercury by pouring it through a Nitric Acid bath.

  ” I remember Harry Room the German Teacher very well, I think that he was appointed in my time to allow pupils to sit for the “O” Levels as the then current entry requirements into some of the “Red Brick” universities, were to have passes in both French & German.

   We were encouraged to set up penpal arrangements with a school in Solingen in Germany. This helped to develop our language skills & I think it was in 1953 that students from that school came to Pontypool, staying with the families of the West Mon pupils & going to school for a couple of weeks. I remember reciprocating the following year, going by Train/Cross Channel Ferry (No quick aeroplane flights in those days) to Cologne & on to stay with my penpal in Solingen.

   There were still a lot of boarders in my days & in the winters when there was a decent snowfall, there were always very vigrous snowball fights between the day boys & them in the quadrangle between the dining room & the dormitories. Because there were so many boarders, it meant that we still had school on Saturday morning, with sport in the afternoon, as well as Tuesday & Thursday if you happened to be selected in the playing teams.

   Does anyone remember the Rolls Royce Engine from a Spitfire that used to be in the New Building near the stairs to the lower level? Small parts of it seemed to disappear frequently as souvenirs.”


   I’d like to thank Geoff for these memories. It’s possible that somebody might recognise themselves or perhaps a relative or friend in the photograph above.

Poetic Memories of a Pontypool Christmas

March 31, 2013

Recently I received the following written piece about Pontypool Christmas memories of 1953 from Robert Miles. I added it a short time ago as a comment after my post about Christmas memories which was published some time ago but as there are 143 posts not many visitors might have seen it. Therefore I am adding it here as a separate post for all to see. Thanks Robert!

Memories of a Pontypool Christmas.

Marzipan, a pirate’s name is marzipan.
Crushed almonds and sugar
laid gently on top of a spread of marmalade.
A cool, smooth even surface
turntable the cake slowly and
use a ruler to make the Royal icing.
The goose comes from the market,
like the ham for the slicing.
Four weeks before, the talk
was all about a piece of beef
or a leg of pork.
One year we had turkey,
then coughs and sneezes in January.
What good is brown paper without goose grease?

Pickled onions peeled, plunged into vinegar,
beetroot and red cabbage followed soon after.
A barrel of beer resting on the cold stone,
a bitter that is sweet to the thirsty man
and the inquisitive child.
Stuffing and sausage meat, ice and snow.
How many sixpences in the pudding?
None for you! Grampy don’t tell fibs
you always put a sixpence in,
sometimes two.

The Beano and the Dandy,
Desperate Dan and Cow pie.
Dennis the Menace and Lord Snooty.
The Eagle Annual for us
and the Giles Cartoons for Grampy.
A jigsaw and a selection box
of chocolates with a game on the back.
And gloves, don’ t forget the gloves.

Robert L. Miles

These lines certainly brought back many memories for me. The brown paper and goose grease reminded me of the times when I had these tied around my neck with an old sock to cure a sore throat. What excitement there was searching for the little sixpences or threepenny bits wrapped in silver paper in the Christmas pudding. Packets of cigarettes were always a good source of silver paper. I used to love receiving a selection box. They were fairly standard then and generally cost 2/6 – that’s 12.5 pence for those under 50 years old!

Two sooty episodes in Pontypool

January 31, 2013



As this blog deals mainly with things that happened in the 1930s and 1940s, many of the emails and telephone conversations I’ve had with people visiting it have been with a “then” and “now” perspective. Many things were different of course but the one thing that stands out for most people is the strong family life that existed in the 30s and 40s. It was accepted that the family was the building block of society which enabled positive progress to be made within a society, a country or the world at large. Today’s economists and politicians pay lip service to the family and then proceed to attack it in so many ways. It is estimated that, in the UK today, one quarter of the population live on their own. Such was not the case in the 30s and 40s.

Today many reasons are put forward for the break up of families, the obvious one being easy divorce, but I think one reason, which often gets away with it, is the advent of central heating. When I lived at Wern Terrace in Pontypool from 1929 to 1937 we had just one room which was constantly heated and that was what we called “the kitchen” or “the living room”. Dining rooms weren’t in vogue then. Everyone wanted to keep warm, particularly in the very cold winter weather, so that we ate, played, listened to the wireless, worked and chatted in the one room. The family stayed together and when the meals were served we all sat around the table and talked; thus we learned how to handle cutlery, pass food to others and talk about school and other things that might have happened during the day. Children did not have “their own room” which was centrally heated and where they could watch television or play computer games on their own. When it was bedtime we warmed our pyjamas in front of the fire, put them on and then dashed upstairs into a cold bed or one that had been warmed in places by a hot water bottle or a warm brick wrapped up in a piece of flannel.

There were fireplaces in some of the bedrooms and also in the “front room” or “parlour” but the bedroom fires were hardly ever lit and the parlour was treated to some warmth only on some Sundays or when visitors were expected such as at Christmas time or birthdays.

Because the large main fire would consist almost entirely of coal, a lot of soot gathered in the chimney so that every year or so we had a visit from the sweep who would clean the soot out with his long round brushes. If this wasn’t done on time there was a danger that the chimney would catch on fire and flames and soot would start pouring out of the top of the chimney.

Picture 2Chimney sweep with brush and rods

When the sweep visited us at Wern Terrace, one of our jobs would be to stand in  the garden and shout when we saw the brush emerge from the top of the chimney. The sweep would then know he could push his brush up and down and gather the soot in the grate at the back of a tarpaulin sheet which prevented the soot billowing out into the room.

Picture 1This is what we looked for

I well remember one occasion when we were doing this job; the sweep had put on what he thought would be enough rods to get his brush to the top. We couldn’t see it emerge so we shouted that the brush hadn’t come out yet. The sweep put on another rod but still no sign of the brush. He put on another and another and still – no brush. The sweep simply could not understand it. While he was puzzling over this my mother happened to go upstairs into the bedroom used by her and my father in the front of the house. On the inside wall of that bedroom, several feet up from the floor was a small metal inspection cover which gave access to the chimney. The sweep’s brush had knocked off this cover and the brush, covered with black soot, had wandered over to the other side of the bedroom in a large arc spreading soot all over the bed and everything else in the room. My mother was devastated and had to set about cleaning up the biggest mess I’d ever seen.

A year or so later we moved to Garfield in School Lane. The heating arrangement was marginally better there as we had one of the new immersion heaters which provided the luxury of a tap which actually provided hot water; also the storage tank was in the double bedroom which I shared with my brother Garyth. We both revelled in our centrally heated bedroom. But my eldest brother, John, had the single bedroom at the front of the house which overlooked the school field and allotments. Consequently, in the very cold winter weather, my mother used to use one of the black valor oil heater for an hour or two in John’s bedroom before he went to bed.

Valor oil stoveValor oil heater

Valor oil heaters could be temperamental and, if the wick was not trimmed carefully, it smouldered instead of burning and gave off black oily smoke. On that day that was just what happened so that, when my mother went to the bedroom to put out the heater, everything, bed, furniture, walls and ceiling, were covered with a black oily deposit. My mother had a worse job than she did with the soot.

I suppose we are saved from such catastrophes by today’s central heating, but, as far as a cohesive family life is concerned, there’s a price to pay.

The Sunday School Anniversary

November 29, 2012

In my last posting I was talking about memorising poetry when we were in school. It reminded me of the Sunday School anniversary at Park Terrace Methodist Church. This was a very important occasion and a lot of effort was put into it by the staff and the children of the Sunday school. For about two months we were expected to attend a practice every Wednesday evening at the church to practise the hymns and rehearse the items we were going to perform at the anniversary; some sang solos and some recited poems.

Horace Webb, who was the conductor of the church choir, also conducted the rehearsals. He lived at the bottom of Bridge Street just around the corner from the church. We always had a small booklet published by Ernest Nichol’s company. I assume it was still being run by someone else at that time as Ernest Nichol died in 1928. During his lifetime he wrote about 130 hymns and the music.

On the outside of the booklets it proclaimed that the music was written by Ernest Nichol and the words by Colin Sterne. We were told that they were the same person, Colin Sterne being an anagram of Ernest Nichol. One of my favourite hymns of his was “We’ve a story to tell to the nations”. It had plenty of “go” and we all loved singing it.

The Sunday before the anniversary, normal Sunday School was abandoned in favour of the full rehearsal. The great event took place the following week when we would have special preachers and there would be services in the morning, afternoon and evening with a packed church full of church members, friends and parents.

When I was 10 I was asked, for the anniversary, to recite Rudyard Kipling’s poem “If”. You probably remember it:

If you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you; 

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you

But make allowance for their doubting too . . .”

When I studied art in college, I also studied calligraphy so it is unsurprising that I made a calligraphic design of Kipling’s poem which now hangs on my study wall.

I also wrote my own parody of it for someone passing their driving test.

If you can pass your test when all about you

Are failing theirs and making quite a fuss,

If you can drive back home, alone, unsmiling,

While all the others have to go by bus . . .”

I don’t want to take up too much space by printing the whole poem.

My son was the first to receive a copy when he passed his driving test many years ago. As I wished to incorporate his name in the poem it meant making an amendment in the last four lines. Many other friends have received copies over the years. It’s amazing how influential in my life has been Park Terrace Sunday School all those years ago.


Incidentally, if anyone would like a copy of my parody to send to someone who has passed their driving test, just email me and I’ll include a copy in my reply. If a lot of visitors want a copy I’ll be justified in printing a full copy on this blog.