Bethan Welch's Video
In March 1954 I joined Rhos Street School in the second-year infants class and left for Brynhyfryd in July 1959. I quickly settled and started learning. The main reason was the skilful Miss Williams, who was caring, encouraging and imaginative. Our education was in Welsh. The only English used, as I recall, was when we were taught Sums by the headmaster in standard 4. There were 88 children in school, an infant class and 4 junior classes. Pupils were divided into groups according to their first language of English and Welsh. Therefore, there was Standard 1 Welsh and Standard 1 English. Standard 1 Welsh and Standard 2 Welsh made 1 class, and so it was throughout the school. This meant that my brother (who was a year younger) and I were in the same class every other year.
I have an exercise book from soon after I joined, showing how I was learning to write. It included exercises but also imaginative writing and a letter to Father Christmas in the correct format- not bad for a 6-year-old. I also have two exercise books from Standard 3 and 4 full of sums showing that I had learnt what was expected. They include multiplication and long divisions of miles, furlongs, chains, yards, feet and inches. Albert Jones, the headmaster did not use the humble tick to mark but a rather flourishing R and a diminutive x.
I was taught by four women mostly, Miss Williams, Miss Dilys Jones standard 1, Miss James standard 2, Miss Davies standard 3 and 4. Mr Jones taught us sums and prepared us for the Grammar School entrance exam. We also had supply teachers especially Mrs Luke and Mrs Rogers. Mr Jones was kind but distant, but we saw a different side of him the morning after the disaster in Munich when Manchester United players were injured and killed. We had a valuable lesson (probably quite unintended) in mourning a great loss.
The education was very much based on the 3Rs and I have very little recollection of learning anything else except sewing. Considering we lived in a historical country town, we rarely went out of school. I was sent to the county sports meeting in Denbigh one for the 100 yards run but was not given any prior warning or preparation for it.
I used a lot of my time practising my handwriting, so much so that Miss Davies asked me why I had a different style for each week. I could not tell her that I needed to do something to stop being bored! Despite this, the teachers were kind and encouraging and I have very little memory of punishment. I do not have a memory of school dinners as I went home for lunch. However, I have fond memories of the lukewarm milk.
At the time the infants class was to the left of the building with its own entrance. The juniors were in effect in one large room with wooden partitions separating the classes in three smaller spaces. We sat at double wooden and metal desks in rows. The desks had inkwells and we also used pencils but we had graduated to fountain pens and biros by 1959. The teacher sat or stood in front of the class. The head teacher lived in the school house attached to the school, a mysterious out of bounds place, although I did go in once.
The school had very few reading books in the juniors, so we looked forward to the arrival of the library box once a week. The trick was to finish your work as quickly as possible that day so that you could be first to the large wooden box to have the greatest choice.
A highlight of the final year at Rhos Street was a trip to London for those in standard 4 on the steam train from Rhuthun station. I worked out that if I volunteered my mother as a helper then my brother would also have to go. The plan worked! The journey took five hours one way and when we arrived we went on a coach tour of the sights including London airport (now Heathrow) to see the planes. But not everyone could go as the cost was prohibitive. Another reminder that life was harder for some were children from Heulfryn home who attended school. I felt sad that they could not be with their parents, and it probably had some long-term influence on my career choice.
The school yard was an important place in our development. For one thing the toilets were in the yard at the back of the school. Not pleasant in the best of weather let alone in winter. Playtime was important because it was here we made friends and fell out with each other.
I have several memory snapshots of life in the yard.
Celebration of Empire Day- receiving iced buns coming out of a large tin.
Watching the army and its equipment moving slowly up Rhos Street.
Acting out the marriage of Grace Kelly to the Prince of Monaco
Playing hopscotch and other games, and there was a lot of skipping.
Looking up for a long time and trying very hard to spot the first Sputnik in October 1957(during my birthday week).
Running and colliding with the front wall, leaving me with a scar on my knee for many years.
After I left for Brynhyfryd I did not go back until this year (2018) as the school moved to new premises. The configuration of the rooms was very different and it was a lot less sombre. However, there was a warmth about the place which is also a feature I remember well from my childhood.
Bethan Welch April 2018
Bethan has also provided copies of the 11+ examination she took in 1959, as well as a number of images for the photographic pages.: