Tag Archives: schools

A century of Rhyl on screen

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Thank you to Rhyl historian Stuart Jones for the heads up about this little gem about a century of Rhyl History.

There are some wonderful contributions from Rhyl residents. Great to see Colin Jones of the Rhyl Blogspot and Dafydd Timothy who was so supportive when the original Reso books were published.

See the film here by clicking on the link below…

Rhyl Your Century

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Freshers! In praise of all those off to higher education shortly, and all those who supported them.

The fateful day in August when I went up to the High School to receive my A level results remains one of the most significant in my life. It opened up opportunities and experiences that I would never otherwise have accessed.

There is always a little excitement when the A level results come out in August and a new generation, for the most part, have all their hard work rewarded with a place at their chosen institution. In homage to this year’s crop, and all the parents, family and friends that have helped to deliver them to this point, an extract from Resolution…

 

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Fresher

So this was it: University life. I’d made it. Apparently I was now a Fresher.
Fresher was not a term with which I had previously been familiar. It had a distinctly American feel to it. It seemed to be plastered all over the Goodricke notice boards now though. Exhortations to attend a formidable range of events and social gatherings arranged to meet and greet the new first years, ‘the Freshers’.

It had been placed over the ‘official’ notice boards with their dark blue letterheads with University of York embossed on them in that classily distinctive flowing font. Eric the porter would no doubt be having an official conversation with the member of the Junior Common Room who had made so bold with his, or her, fly posting.

At that moment a thin, reed-like boy in flared black jeans, worn baseball boots, red polo-neck jumper and plain black glasses burst past me carrying ‘Fresher Ball’ posters, a pair of scissors and a box of drawing pins. I resisted the temptation to shout after him, “Don’t you know not to run when you are carrying scissors?” in the manner of my primary school teachers.

The Fresher Ball posters were also in the correct place on the ‘Ents’ Noticeboard, obscuring the Captain Beefheart poster donated by some musically progressive student and next to the elaborate floral poster for that Friday’s upcoming concert at Central Hall, the spaceship-like edifice which rose out of the lake opposite Goodricke College.

The concert featured Steeleye Span, the folk / electric combo who had recently been in the charts with ‘Gaudete’, a song that had the style of a Gregorian chant. It seemed a long way from the only chart band that had deigned to make a stopover in Rhyl in recent years, the Sweet.

I’d deliberately avoided going to see the Sweet as, along with bands like the Rubettes, Mud and the Bay City Rollers, they encompassed all I hated in popular music and could be linked directly to the nadir of bad taste in music, Middle of the Road’s 1971 minor hit, ‘Chirpy, Chirpy, Cheep, Cheep’.

I must have had toothache at the time because I can’t recall its pointless tune and lyrics without a feeling of deep and hollow neuralgia. It was the summer of standing in the High Street at the front of a shop selling rock in the shape of false teeth, and cheap plastic crap imported in horrendous bulk from Hong Kong for tourists to amuse their friends and family with on their return home.
What did these presents say about their purchasers and the people who would receive them as valued friends and family?

“I’ve been on holiday to the Welsh seaside, was wandering aimlessly along the High Street when I came across a massive set of false teeth fashioned out of reconstituted coloured sugar, and thought immediately of you. Without contemplating the irony of the tooth decay eating such a confection would promote, I bought them for you anyway, such is the esteem in which I hold our friendship.”

And every day ‘Chirpy, Chirpy, Cheep, Cheep’ would be played incessantly through the odious patter of Tony Blackburn on ‘wonderful’ Radio One. It was the one time that I didn’t mind him jabbering through the introduction and end of the record – that truly was how much I despised Middle of the Road. Five weeks it spent at number one, five long, miserable weeks. Again and again it was played until on the Thursday of the fourth week of the holidays I’d had enough. I waited until being paid my week’s wages (having learned from previous experience to take the pay before walking away) threw down the blue nylon jacket with the Barney’s insignia on the breast and buggered off home without a word of explanation.

“You walk away from my shop and you won’t work in this town again!” shouted Barney after me. I couldn’t think of a time when I was less perturbed.

It was a blessed relief to be away from that tune and that job. I enjoyed a leisurely rest of the holiday and was ecstatic when Mark Bolan replaced the record at number one with ‘Get It On!’

Pity, I thought not for the first time, not to have been a decade older, when the Beatles, and a whole string of the Merseybeat bands had included Rhyl in the places they could play and get back to Liverpool in their battered Austin and Morris vans in time for work in the morning.

Yes, I thought, I’d follow the instruction to beat a path to the university shop and purchase a ticket for Steeleye Span. Fleetingly, I wondered if I could afford the £1.50 for the ticket and then remembered the thought of the night before which, by an incredible feat of synchronicity, Pol Pot was having at about the same time,

“Today was day one of a completely new start.”

So how was my new life going to pan out?

The Fresher reception was to be held in a room numbered G101. In wandering around the gloom of the campus to get my bearings, I’d worked out this code. It was hardly rocket science, but I’d grown up in schools where the room was always associated with a particular teacher. This was a first floor room in Goodricke College and I made my way up the stairs opposite the porters’ lodge to find it.

One thing I had not got used to yet was the peculiar sprung floors in the college. Being of CLASP design, all the superstructure of the building hung off an internal steel structure and this meant that the floors all had a distinctive spring to them, exacerbated by the thick lino used to cushion the effect. This meant that negotiating your way along any corridor in the college felt like walking across a trampoline and the staircases vibrated as excessively as you ascended them. This was very much an acquired taste.

There was no mistaking G101 judging by the buzz of earnest conversation and the shining faces of the reception committee drawn up outside to meet and greet. I didn’t feel particularly confident in such situations but fell back for a few seconds on something I’d read in the summer to strengthen my resolve.

I finally knew I was coming to university at York when a thick envelope arrived about a week after the ‘A’ level results came out. In it was the confirmation letter, a sheet about Goodricke, the College to which I’d been assigned, and a chunky reading list running to several pages from the Faculty of Social Sciences.

I perused the reading list with studious intent, then read the total of books included on it. I would have to read at a rate of more than a book a day to complete the reading list before starting at college. Not wishing to fall at the first hurdle, I’d resolved to keep to this frantic reading schedule.

The resolve lasted less than an hour.

I decided to trim the list to what seemed the more interesting books, but on that basis I’d probably not touch any of the statistics and economics tomes, so I deliberately ringed one from each of those sections. By far the most interesting books appeared to be in the Sociology section and one in particular caught my eye, Erving Goffman’s ‘The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life’. It seemed an enticing title, and appeared next to ‘The Naked Ape’ by Desmond Morris, who I knew from his zoology programmes on the television. Desmond’s was the only tome on the list that I had read, so I thought I’d give Goffman a go.

The next day I was at Rhyl library, beneath the clock tower of the Town Hall. As luck would have it, it was undergoing another episode of underpinning caused by general concern that the clock tower was leaning and would eventually topple forwards, demolishing either the Midland Bank, the Police Station or the little pub between them. As was becoming habitual, I had to negotiate a hastily erected structure of dusty scaffolding to enter this repository of free learning in Rhyl.

I was becoming something of a celebrity reader at the library. The librarians had heartily approved of my reading in support of my ‘A’ level English studies in the previous year when I’d gobbled up Vladimir Nabukov, Anton Chekov and Alexandr Solzhenitsyn. In fact, having hoovered up most of Nabokov, the head librarian suggested to me that I might like to sample the delights of ‘Lolita’ and reached underneath the counter for a pristine copy. That saved me having to request it like a teenager asking for contraceptives in the chemist. I think they considered that I was a cut above the usual requests for westerns and romances by Barbara Cartland and could appreciate ‘Lolita’ at a cerebral level, which I’m ashamed to say, I didn’t.

I handed my reading list over and the head librarian who caressed the embossed University of York letterhead with reverence, in much the way that I had, before consulting the pages of recommended reading. She was now a long way from the day her reading list for university had arrived, but realised that this represented a significant rite of passage.

dAVID aLISON wHITBY 1976New Picture (1)

Her eyebrows knitted in frustration as she realised that she would be unable to supply most of the list, even after consulting her micro-fiche machine to pull on the additional resources in the newly created Clwyd archive. She was personally mortified not to be able to service the list but she booked Erving Goffman’s tome for me as she was familiar with it and thought reading it would repay the investment. I went to pay the charge for ordering a book from the central catalogue, but she brushed my hand aside magnanimously. Any child of Rhyl requiring such books for university would most certainly not be charged on her watch.

copyright:  Ambrose Conway / David Hughes 2011
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The end of the worst year of my life

Without doubt, the year 1974/5 was the worst of my life. It started quite promisingly but descended very quickly into a series of events which still make me wince when I think of them now.

To an extent, the A level results of August 1975 gave me an opportunity to start again and I was both relieved and excited to be leaving for University.

I came home from the end of the first term to find a letter inviting me to this Presentation. I was initially reluctant to go, but my parents were very keen so I went reluctantly.

It was good to see so many friends with whom I’d grown up again. We were all scattered around the country now and  this would be the last time so many of us were gathered together. I know of two on the list of A level candidates who are no longer with us and we are poorer for their absence.

Two years below us were the O level group and there are many friends in that group as well.

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Photomaton portrait of the author as a young sniper…

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In an age before selfies, this was as close as you got. Five pictures for ten pence or two shillings in old money… and this was definitely in an age of old money. This was from a Photomaton booth on the Promenade in Rhyl… this is what I chose to do with a sacred two shillings which otherwise would have been spent on an Airfix kit.

The year is 1969. I’m with my best friend of the time, Ted Henderson. We’d met in the first term at Rhyl Junior High School. He’d gone to Ysgol Llewelyn so we met for the first time in the lottery of form room allocation in the big school.

Ted lived near my auntie in a new build bungalow that was close to the railway. His mum and dad were smashing, as was his younger brother. What was there not to like.

We seemed to spend a lot of time walking around the place. We had matching wind-cheater jackets, by coincidence rather than design, and we must have looked like two people trying to start a mod based, bad haircut cult. I don’t know what that haircut actually represents, but I’d asked for it to be feathered and layered at the fashionable hairdressers upstairs on Wellington Road. I returned to Bill the Barber’s on Vale Road not long after due to the cost of this, so-called fashionable haircut, and the stream of invective I received from my dad. He recounted how if I had been in the services the drill sergeant would stand behind me on the parade ground and say,

‘Am I hurting you laddie? Because I should be, because I’m standing on your hair! Get it cut.’

Ted had clearly had the same tonsorial experience.

They were generally happy but frustrating days. I always felt that something good was going on, just out of our reach. Like the girls we phoned from my auntie’s phone to arrange a date that never happened.

I remember we spent a lot of time shooting air pistols at paper targets. That was until I lost the firing pin, which screwed into the barrel, by dropping it into the Cut.

My second pistol was confiscated and broken up by my dad.

I had been firing it from my bedroom at a metal target at the end of the garden. The target was the lid of a broken washing machine. This was all that remained of the washing machine my mum had told us to take down to Rifkin’s scrap yard, adding that we could keep the money they gave us as scrap value. I was already spending the money in my head when Mr Rifkin, in no uncertain terms, told me that the washing machine had no value and to kindly remove it from his premises.

We ended up carrying it all the way back home. My mum’s suggestion was that we buried it deep in the garden and digging the hole took a couple of hours.  Living by the seaside meant that we reached a water sodden sandy layer before we had dug the height of the washing machine. As we didn’t want to carry on digging in quicksand, we had a sit down and a drink of squash to fathom the problem.

In the end, after much heated conversation we decided to change the shape of the hole so that we could bury it on its side. The whole exercise reminded me of the Bernard Cribbens song ‘There I was, digging this hole.’  I look forward to the day when the Time Team are excavating in Rhyl and ‘Geo-Phys’ throw up some very exciting pictures of a large metal object, which could be a chest of some sort, buried on its side a few feet below a garden patio.

Anyway, the lid was all that remained and I used it as a target. Firing upwards of 500 pellets at it over the course of a fortnight. It must be stated that the pellets barely reached the target but did make a satisfying ‘ding’ when they hit the metal.

The ding was what alerted a distant neighbour, who shouted from about six gardens down that he’d have the police on me as I could kill his little girl or have her eye out. He clearly had me down as a sniper in the league of the Jackal in the eponymous ‘Day of’ film. The idea was so preposterous that I ignored him and he was perplexed that he could not get a clear look at me as I shot from behind the less than grassy knoll of my bedroom curtains. There were some school books in my room, but it was hardly the Repository Building in Dallas.

I ignored him the second day as well and continued to register satisfying dings every thirty seconds or so, right up until there was an insistent knock on our front door. I guessed it was my vocal accuser and climbed out of the bedroom window and down to the outside toilet where I placed the pistol on top of the cistern, in its usual hiding place.

I quickly set up the dart board on the coal hole and assumed the demeanour of someone who had been playing darts for some considerable time.

Within seconds the back door opened and my enraged dad and a florid, bald-headed man appeared demanding that I hand over the pistol. I thought for no more than a couple of seconds and realised that I did not have a story cunning enough to talk myself out of this one. I retrieved and handed over the pistol for my dad to remove the screw pin and throw it in the bin and dismantle the barrel and hand the spring to the irate man.

That put paid to my career as a sniper.

As for Ted, we drifted into other friendships and I have not seen him since about 1973. I hope, unlike me, he managed to get his hair sorted out and that he still displays glimpses of the same sartorial elegance we managed to muster in this photograph.

 

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Christ Church School 1902

Having attended Emmanuel Primary School in Rhyl, I always suspected the Christ Church School lads to be a riotous lot… and here is the evidence dating from 1902! The girls on the other hand seem a very sedate crowd.

Many in this picture may be the relatives of friends I still have in the town.

It is sad to think that many of these lads would have been eligible for call up in the First World War and would never return to the town to resume their lives.

This is an early cinema pioneer Arthur Cheetham film.

Christ Church School 1902

The BFI caption reads:

“Pupils pour from their narrow doorway onto the street, the rain dampening no-one’s spirits as they leapfrog and piggyback on the thoroughfare, amid carts and passers-by, a chimney sweep lounging decoratively centre-frame. A boys’ ‘strong horse’ formation soon falls apart but it hardly matters, as the point is to look lively for the camera – it will all draw people to the local cinema!

Arthur Cheetham (1865-1937) was an entrepreneur, cinema proprietor and pioneer filmmaker – the first in Wales to film scenes and events for his own shows. 12 of his 47 films, shot mostly from 1898 to 1904, survive partly or wholly. In turn-of-century Rhyl, elementary education was denominational, with schools being ‘British’ as seen here (Nonconformist) , ‘National’ (Anglican), and Catholic. In 1983 Mrs Adelaide Owen (the chimney sweep’s niece) recalled helping Cheetham, as a young teacher, film pupils emerging from the schools: ‘I kept every child on the go. So there was a constant stream’.”

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