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J.D Jones:  Distinguished Headmaster of Rhos Street School - A. Fletcher

from Rhuthun Local History Broadsheet No. 56  December 1998

It can be argued that the blue plaque in honour of Joseph David Jones on Clwyd Bank, Clwyd Street, is not in the most appropriate location. It night have been more fittingly placed on the wall of Rhos Street School. 

He was headmaster there for fourteen years, his learned family were born in the school house, and many of his musical compositions were written there. On the other hand, he had his school in  Clwyd Bank for only five years. He was a person who brought honour and prestige to his adopted town.

He was born in Montgomeryshire, the third child of Joseph and Catherine Jones - his father was a farmer, weaver, and Wesleyan preacher. The boy was musically talented and by the age of fourteen had organised music and singing classes for the village of Dolganog. Although talented, his parents preferred him to work on the farm, but by the age of 18 he had published a collection of tunes 'Y Perganiedydd', which included his well-known tune for congregational singing 'Capel y Ddol'.

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J.D Jones' musical career blossomed. In 1853 he published the anthem 'Ynddrycha o Ddeuo' , winning first prize at Bethesda eisteddfod. In 1858 he was musical director for the Llangollen eisteddfod.



Established as Headmaster of a flourishing school and as a nationally recognised musician, the next step was romance! He courted Catherine, daughter of Owen and Catherine Daniels, prosperous farmers from Penllyn nearTywyn. However Owen Daniels was not impressed by Jones' music, nor by his low income, and the parents discouraged the match. With no compromise possible, the couple eloped in 1860.

The marriage was happy and fruitful, six sons being born, five of these in Rhos Street School house. Two did not survive infancy, but the other four gained distinction.

- Major Owen Daniel Jones , head of North British Mercantile Insurance

- Sir Henry Haydn Jones , MP for Merionethshire 1910 - 1945, and chairman of Merioneth County Council. He had              interests in slate and in the Tal y Llyn railway, where a locomotive is currently named 'Sir Haydn'.

- Rev. Dr. John Daniel Jones became minister of Richmond Hill chapel

- Rev. Daniel Lincoln Jones became moderator of the West Midlands.

In the year of his marriage he won the National Eisteddfod in Denbigh with 'Tri chant a holiadau ac atebion' goreu ar 'Hanes Cymru'. Two years later he was running the British school choir of 150 voices. He also had time to study to enhance his professional qualifications and in 1864 became an Associate of the College of Preceptors, a chartered educational society.

At this point he must have decided that he was worth more than his low income as Head of the British School , and in 1865 he resigned to establish his own private school in Clwyd Bank. His ambitions were clear from the advertisement:

Clwyd Bank School, Ruthin, in union with the College of Preceptors.

Headmaster - J.D. Jones ARCP

Latin and Greek - Rev. E. Jones; French - Mr.D.M. Bynner; Pianoforte and Harmony - Mr. J.A. Davies.

The course of instruction is intended to prepare pupils for commercial and professional life.

The school must have been an immediate success for in 1866 it was extended and two more masters appointed - G Macdonald Williams and W.J Argent (described as Professor of Music and Harmony). 


Jones was elected to Ruthin Council in 1866 as a Liberal. There would have been too many conflicting interests if he had remained at the British School. He then published a hymnal which contained ten compositions of his own and fifty-four of his arrangements of other people's compositions. 

Sadly, in 1870, after losing his youngest baby son to typhoid, he contracted the disease and died aged 43.

The death of his mother when he was 20 was a turning point. His father remarried and the new wife and step-son did not get on. Jones threw himself into creativity and intense study. He obtained a post at Towyn as tutor to an invalid child, moving on to become an unqualified teacher at Towyn School. During the nineteenth century education for the masses was not universally accepted, and school-teaching was not held in high regard socially or economically. For four years Jones worked, studied and saved until he had enough to pay the tuition fees at Borough Road College, London. This six-month course cost him ten shillings! In 1851 he came home with his certificate.

In Ruthin, eight years previously, the British and Foreign School had been established. The actual date is unkown, the school minute book not starting until four years later. (The Carnarvon and Denbigh herald' of 30 August 1845 reports on the second public examination of the school). The school was nomadic until purpose-built premises were constructed in 1846. When the headship became vacant in 1851, Jones was appointed to the post. As 'Headmaster' he was the only teacher, with some two hundred pupils,  control and teaching being achieved through the monitor-pupil system.

The job was poorly paid, maybe less than £80 per annum. It is some measure of the man that the minute book of 1857 records that the Governors owed him £13 for money he had paid out of his own pocket for monitors' wages, books and maps. This was while the affluent members of the boards were awaiting money from the Central Council in London. By 1857 a schoolmistress had been appointed to  assist him, for the princely sum of eight shillings per week. 

His widow took the surviving boys  back to Tywyn, the boys attending the British School there.  She later remarried - to the former French master at Clwyd Bank, D.M. Bynner, by now a Reverend and Minister of St. George's Chorley. The family moved to Lancashire.

J.D. Jones was a dedicated man - to the twin themes of education and music. He was talented and devoted, as shown by his payment of monitors out of his own pocket. His music and his involvement in the Eisteddfod movement indicated his commitment to the non-conformist faith. He was equally committed to his home life, and played an important part in the early upbringing of those boys.

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