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.
Too 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.