Many children and young adults now living in Pontypool will remember the Trevethin Comprehensive School which was opened in 1982 and closed in 2007. Before this, for 85 years, it was the home of Pontypool Girls’ Grammar School, known locally as “The County”. When my friends and I from West Mon were walking home through the town we invariably saw a long string of girls from The County, in their green uniforms with large wide hats, walking the other way.
The old, regency style building was built about 1835 as a Baptist College for the training of Baptist ministers and I expect it turned out many effective Baptist ministers in its time. However there was one occasion when some of the senior students behaved in a very un-ministerial way. Whether these students were influenced in any way by the publication of “Tom Brown’s Schooldays” by Thomas Hughes which was published just after the college was opened, I cannot say. But certainly some of the senior students, instead of being role models for the younger ones, started behaving rather like Flashman, the bully in “Tom Brown’s Schooldays”, and tried to make the junior students their servants even to the extent of sometimes beating them for disobeying their commands.
Apart from this they also saw fit from time to time to smash the college crockery and to cause all manner of disturbing noise at unreasonable hours.
As a result of all this totally unacceptable behaviour, the Principal, Dr Edwards, charged the students concerned with insubordination. His charges were confirmed by the junior students and, at an extraordinary meeting of the college executive committee, 17 of the senior students were instantly expelled.
I made this pencil sketch of the college so that visitors who might not
have seen the it, particularly those living in other countries, will
have some idea of what it looked like.
To put things into perspective a little, and to convince my many Baptist friends that I am not just “having a go” at them, I’d like to point out that high jinks in ministerial colleges is not a new thing. My greatest Methodist hero was the late Dr. W.E.Sangster. I have both volumes of his excellent sermons and also the story of his life as recounted by his son Paul Sangster in his book about his father, “Dr Sangster”. He recounts the following tale about W.E.Sangster and some of his fellow students:
“In the college at that time was a student from darkest Wales who developed a graveyard cough which kept his corridor awake all night. ‘Look here —,’ said a furious fellow-student, ‘if you go on coughing like that you’ll cough your inside out.’ The Welshman’s suffering face blanched. ‘I won’t, will I?’ ‘You certainly will.’ And in that evil moment a plot was formed.
“My father dispatched a student to the local slaughter-house for two pennyworth of sheep’s intestines. The revolting mess was placed gently on the sleeping Welshman’s counterpane the next dawn, and the rest of the men, who had dressed silently in the half light, crept stealthily down to breakfast before the gong should wake their victim.
“He did not appear at breakfast. The jokers conferred. Had they, perhaps, overdone it a little. Was he really ill? They resolved to go and see him.
“But they were too late. As they reached the hall a figure tottered down the stairs, clutching the bannisters for support. ‘It happened !’ quavered the figure. ‘What?’ they asked, relieved to see him walking and delighted at the success of their joke. ‘My inside ! I coughed it up !’ Murmurs of deep sympathy broke from them all as they hid their grins. ‘But it’s all right,’ continued the figure. ‘By the grace of God and with the aid of a small toothbrush, I have succeeded in putting it all back.'”
By the way – don’t try this at home !