Good teachers make a difference

Education In Dinas (English)Education in Dinas (Welsh)I have two sets of great-grandparents who were born and brought up in Dinas. They were born in the 1840s and I don’t know whether or not they went to school. Judging from John Hughes’ depressing account of Education in Dinas*, it would have been possible for them to have attended for quite a while and learned nothing much. By the crosses on the signature line on one of the marriage certificates, it’s clear they that two of them were not even able to sign their names.

My grandfather, born 1877, did better although schooling, exclusively in English and exclusively with untrained incompetent teachers, must have been a confusing and dispiriting experience for a child from a Welsh speaking family.

  • His first teacher may have been Jonathan Perkins, who came to Dinas Undenominational School in September 1881. He seemed to be a promising teacher but was found to have falsified the attendance register (to increase his salary) and resigned before being sacked in December 1882.
  • His second teacher was probably John S Lewis, under whom education standards fell. Mr Lewis left in August 1883, suffering poor health.
  • His third teacher was the minister of Tabor, Revd David James, who filled in until another teacher could be found.
  • His fourth teacher, Lachlan McKinnon, arrived in October 1883, during whose leadership the inspectors noted the filthy state of the children’s toilets, the errors in the registers and the inadequate standard of education. The school’s grant was cut. On 18th November 1886 Mr McKinnon’s entry in the logbook read: “Today I sever my unfortunate connection with this school.”
  • The next teacher was William Howell whose discipline was weak and who took time off without permission. But the school’s report for 1888 was favourable, at last. By this time my grandfather was 11 and was probably finishing his schooling.

Paulina (George) and Tom MauriceToo late for my grandfather, in 1889, there were the first signs that attitudes towards the use of the Welsh Language in school were beginning to change and by 1908, his sister, Polly, was teaching the infant classes in Welsh. The new head teacher, Tom Maurice, was trained and certificated and son of the local baptist minister. He not only wrote the first school syllabus to include Welsh history and Welsh as a medium of instruction for arithmetic, but arranged swimming instruction at Pwllgwaelod and field trips into the surrounding lanes to study botany. The inspectors noted that Welsh was now taught throughout the school and “the general intelligence of the children has benefited thereby.”

Paulina George and Tom Maurice were married in early 1908 and Tom remained head teacher of the school until 1939.

*This fascinating publication can be obtained from Ann and John Hughes. Phone 01348 811255 for information.

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4 Responses to Good teachers make a difference

  1. Ann Hughes says:

    Thank you for your letter. No, we certainly don’t object to you using the material from our books. We also published “The History of Tabor” written by JW Maurice in the County Echo. I don’t know if you would be interested in a copy of that as well. I assume, judging by the date of birth, that your grandfather was Evan George, son of Stephen and Mary. He is on my family tree as there is a connection by marriage between our families in that my great grandmother’s brother, William Owen, married Anne, Stephen’s sister. If you would like more info, you can contact me on the e mail address below. Best wishes, Ann.

    • Thank you for your speedy reply. I wasn’t confident that I had found the best way to contact you and didn’t think I’d hear from you for weeks!
      Yes, my grandfather was Evan George and my childhood holidays in Dinas were in spent in Eryl, staying with his sister Rebecca Francis. I didn’t even know that their father, Stephen, had a sister – you’ve obviously delved further than I have.
      I would be very interested in the History of Tabor. How can I buy a copy? I don’t think we’ll be able to come to Dinas until end of April/May.
      Thanks again for all the information.

      Best wishes, Sue

      • Ann Hughes says:

        Yes, Stephen had four sisters: Elizabeth b. 1832, Martha, b.1834, Anne, b.1836 and Hannah b. 1840. Stephen was the youngest in the family. I have a copy of the marriage cerificate of their father William to Anne John at Cwmyreglwys church in 1830, if you would like me to send it by e mail. I can send you the Tabor book if you like. We are selling it for £5 plus £1.50 if you want me to post it, or you might want to wait until April. Did you get your copy of History of Dinas from Walter Matthias? He bought a lot to send to relatives. Walter and I are the same age and always lived “next door” as I live in the bungalow on the Fishguard side of Bank House. I remember Trevor George and his brother coming down for holidays – you must be related to them. Bye for now, Ann.

  2. Julian Peter Seig Jones says:

    Hello my great grandfather Evan Davies was headmaster at the Dinas Cross school until 1908. He was there from 1900. I found a newspaper article about a presentation given to him when he left, and wondered if there was anything in your book about him? Would love to find some contemporary photos of him at the school as I don’t have any.

    Article (contains spelling mistakes as it’s an automated transcription from the original article):

    19th June 1908
    DINAS CROSS. Presentations to Mr. E. Davies.-On Thursday evening last, there was a crowded and enthusiastic audience in the Council Schoolroom Dinas, the occasion being the presentation of gifts to Mr. E. Davies, of Brooklyn, Pontycymmer, formerly headmaster of the school. The Rev. Glynfab Williams, rector, presided, and lie was supported by the Rev. J. W. Maurice (Tabor). The Chairman said it was a great pleasure to him to preside over such an important gathering of parents and children, and other residents, and that pleasure was enhanced by reason of the fact that he had been a schoolmaster about 18 years, and that he was the chairman of the first meeting of that character which had been held in Dinas, Mr. Davies being the only headmaster in the history of the school, who had been thus honoured with public presentations. During the time that he had known Mr. Davies they had always worked harmoniously together. He had visited the school several times, and held a very high opinion of Mr. Davies as a schoolmaster, who had been always respected by the parents and children. It was very satisfactory that Mr. Davies’ successor was giving great satisfaction. —The Rev. J. W. Maurice then asked Mr. Davies’ acceptance from himself of four volumes of Weiss’ Commentaries on the New Testament, as a mark of friendship and esteem. They had, he said, enjoyed each other’s friendship during the eight years Mr. Davies had been at Dinas, and had been co-workers. As a schoolmaster, he thought Mr. Davies was one of the best. He proceeded to allude to the various stages through which the school had passed. Mr. Davies was the fourth headmaster of the school since he (the speaker) came to Dinas, and a great many changes had taken place. The first important change was the placing of the school under the School Board system, the good results of which were apparent today. The first headmaster he remembered was Mr. McKinnon, who had only two teachers under him, though the number of the scholars then was greatly in excess of what it, was today with the present, staff of four assistants and a P.T. The revolution in the staffing, as was the case with other schools, came with the advent of the School Board. The change from the old dispensation to the new, and the labour of the first master under the Board had brought the school up to a high level, which Mr. Davies had maintained. He wished him health and happiness in his new home and sphere, and hoped he would work as hard in the church at Pontycymmer as he had done at Tabor.—Miss Francis, on behalf of the teachers and scholars, presented Mr. Davies with a very handsome silver tea and coffee service, and salver suitably inscribed. She expressed the pleasure it afforded her in behalf of the subscribers to make the presentation.—Master John Laugharne then followed with the presentation of a purse of gold. subscribed for by the choir at Tabor, and friends in the locality.—Mr. G. Laugharne remarked in connection with this pleasing gift that Mr. D ivies had worked hard in the church and schools, as well as in other directions, during the time he had been located at Dinas. Mi. Davies was missed very much at Tabor, especially in regard to the choir, but he was pleased to state that his successor was filling the vacated position exceedingly well.—Capt. TIarrie also added a few words commendatory of Mr .Davies’ duties at Dinas.—Mr. Davies, who was accorded a hearty reception, said it was with mixed feelings of regret and pleasure that, he responded to the kind remarks, as well as returned his heartfelt thanks for the presents he had received. Mrs. Davies and himself were touched greatly by the greetings they re- reived at the concert at Tabor on the Monday evening, for they contained expressions of goodwill extended to them. Not only had his stay at Dinas been longer than at any other place since he left College, but it had also been by far the most happy and pleasant period of his life. Dinas, and the people, had a very warm eorneV in their affections, and they felt sorry at having left the district. As a schoolmaster. he had endeavoured to do his best, with what success all present that evening knew. (Hear, hear and applause). During the time he had been at Dinas. he had been so much occupied, and had thought so much of his occupation as conductor of the singing at Tabor, that he had not been able to visit other slices of worship in the district and town; but when he visited the place next August he hoped to have the pleasure of hearing the other ministers preach, so that he could say that he the whole of the ministers of Dinas in their own pulpits. (Hear, hear). He thanked ail for the gifts and for the extremely kind words which had been spoken respecting him and his duties at Dinas. During the evening solos were rendered by Mr. Benjamin Thomas, Mr. E. Daves, Mss Grffiths (Capel), and others participating were the Llanyehaer Male Voice Party, and Miss Francis and party.

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