This book is dedicated to the staff and pupils of Borthyn School Ruthin, past and present.
"Stori Rhuthun" is a project funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund enabling residents to share their memories of the town and create a shared digital community history book using Book of You's multimedia platform.
With Kate Harcus manager of Yr Hen Lys and Dilwyn Jones, associate with Book of You, it was decided first to focus on Ysgol Borthyn with weekly hour-long Zoom sessions both on a Tuesday evening and on a Wednesday afternoon. The following is the result with grateful thanks to all who contributed - credits follow at the end.
The eleven video link sessions leading to the creation of this book took place during the 2020 Coronavirus pandemic when numerous restrictions were in place. Research and collection of the various media resources was more difficult than it would otherwise have been. However, thanks to the enthusiasm of the residents and participants, we've still been able to create a rich story book which we are sure will be enjoyable for years to come.
This collage shows classes at Borthyn ranging from the 1920's right to the 1980's.
Early photo of Borthyn infants with Dobbin - probably 1920s.
Dobbin, the rocking-horse, arrived in Borthyn in 1916 and left over 70 years later in 1988 (newspaper clip follows later) but a replica was produced which is still at the school today.
on the left we have Robert Davies aged 4 on Dobbin in 1926, on the right is Dobbin again in 1944.
Dobbin gallops into the sunset 1988
Three brothers and their sister - date uncertain
Old photo of school late 1940s. In centre is Mr Arthur Tyldesley, Mayor of Ruthin at that time.
At the first session of the community group - held on January 27th 2021, there were a mix of memories. Here are just a few selected highlights.
Some recalled school milk being delivered to the school and left outside until it froze and was popping out of the top of the bottle. It was then warmed in the classroom on a radiator before pupils drank it. Also, there were recollections of Cod Liver Oil with Orange Juice which was not a popular drink! - So unpopular in fact that some pupils on later becoming teachers themselves could not bring themselves to give out such healthy drinks to the next generation..
Many recalled "Dobbin" - the school rocking-horse and also remembered being allowed to choose a record to be played on the gramaphone at the school assembly on the morning of their birthday. The record came from a limited selection of classics such as the Trumpet Voluntary and "Eye Level", the theme from the then new and popular 1970s series Van Der Valk. However this was quickly banned for being associated with a series about "bad people".
Another birthday treat at the school at one point was being allowed to sit in the "Gold Chair".
J Llewelyn Roberts ("Llew Pentre") and John Rhydwen Jones were well-remembered past Headteachers as well as Neil Roberts, who was present in the group. The fact they knew all the pupils' names and most of the parents was very much appreciated.
Teachers such as the two prim and proper Miss Smiths, and Miss Hitchen also stayed in several memories showing the great influence these teachers have and had on all our lives.
Miss Roberts and the two Misses Dunning.
For many years, until the mid to late 1940s, women teachers were forced to give up their careers upon marriage - which explains why female teachers up to a certain point always seem to be Miss...whatever. The official thinking was that, upon marrying, the teachers had a man to keep them and it was therefore reasonable for them to give up their posts to make room for less fortunate females!
Borthyn is, and always has been, a church controlled, or regulated, school which meant visits from clergy and tests of a sort in religious knowledge - usually via Llanfwrog Church. This is one example provided by Janet Lewis formerly Howells
"19" was Borthyn's number for various athletics competitions for many years and that number has stayed in the memories of many generations of former pupils.
1956 - and still slate and chalk!
Edwina Stephen - a member of this Book of You Group was also a member of this class.
Drawing book - Maldwyn's Shop was a sweet and toy shop on Clwyd Street
Spelling Book 1959 with brown paper cover. Such a cover, or old wallpaper, was often used to protect books in years gone by.
Miss Gwyneth Owen and her class - she later moved on to Rhos Street
Miss Hitchin's powerful sneezing still remembered by many!
Llewelyn Roberts and his class including Roger Edwards, later Head at Brynhyfryd.
"Llew Pentre", as he was fondly referred to, is remembered with great affection by his former pupils - one being Barry Davies of Ruthin (via Edwina Stephen, his niece).
Llew followed Evan Davies as Head and was notably successful in gaining a high percentage of 11+ passes in the school.
He did a great deal of work in relation to football and cricket and with the scouts.
Llew took Barry and his friend Elwyn Edwards regularly to watch cricket in Colwyn Bay and he taught Barry to drive in his soft-top sports car.
Indeed, he took Barry and Elwyn to Barry's wedding in Cerrigydrudion in the car and then Barry and his new wife Gretta to Llandudno for their honeymoon.
Llew suffered badly with Asthma and died at the very young age of 54. His body is buried in Llanbedr and many pupils went to view his grave on the night of his funeral with girls and boys in tears, such was their fondness for him.
News paper clippings provided by Edwina Stephen
School Eisteddfod 1987
John Rhydwen Jones ( Head ) with Sarah E Jones on his left and Mrs Williams - wife of the vicar of Llanfair at the time - on his right and R D Jones ( of Bontuchel ) standing
Taking home the "school report" was always a worrying prospect for many but, for Edwina and Moira who have kindly consented to share examples of theirs, that was no doubt not the case.Outstanding reports!
Sheila McGregor Certificates on the left, Jean McGregor on the right. Both of the McGregor sisters did well in their exams and certificates.
Many Pupils Were photographed at school with friends or relatives
Sports and prize day in 1959
Much respected teacher R D Jones was known to many as "Jones Bontuchel" but was not famous for his sense of humour.
Ian Woolford, brother of recent Ruthin Mayor Geraint, relates a tale of the time before Borthyn boys had the luxury of indoor toilets. There were outdoor urinals for the boys and these resulted in hotly contested "Urinating Competitions" when the lads sought to establish who could go the highest up the urinal wall. One lunchtime, Ian and certain of his classmates had consumed incredible amounts of water with their school dinners in readiness for the latest round of competition. The good news was that Ian won very easily. Not such good news was that he had been so successful that he ran out of wall. The bad news was that R D happened to be walking the other side of the wall at the strategic time wearing his new suit. He was treated to what Ian called " a golden shower" and Ian was left unable to sit comfortably for some time afterwards.
R D Jones Class 1960
It seems that, whilst not essential to be called Jones, it was useful for Borthyn teachers in the 1960s!!
J R Jones, the Head, had many great qualities but patience and regulation of his temper did not always rank highly on the list.
Susan was a newly qualified teacher living at home in Rhos Wrexham and travelling to work each day. One cold January morning when it had snowed heavily, she began her journey to work really early and did not dream of ringing in and saying the weather was too bad. However, her journey took hours and she still arrived half an hour late - frozen to her core and shaking with the cold and nerves from the driving. She was greeted by J R who had spent 30 minutes looking after her class as well as his own and was fuming. He shouted at her which was too much for Susan to take and she broke down in tears and locked herself in the toilet. J R wrote a note for one of the pupils to take to Sarah E Jones who then spent half an hour talking Susan out of the toilet and calming her down. Before long, it was "play-time" for the pupils and the teachers gathered for mid-morning tea/coffee in the staff room. Certain staff were looking forward to seeing what Mrs Jones would say to J R. Indeed, he ( having calmed down and somewhat regretting his actions ) was also wondering the same thing! Sarah Jones merely enquired after J R's family including his two daughters adding that he was no doubt hoping they would both be taking care if the weather was as bad where they were. He of course agreed. Then, Sarah Jones further added that no doubt J R was also hoping nobody would be nasty to either of his daughters if they ended up a little late due to taking care. Again, he agreed and knew he had been told off even though no actual reference to the Susan Jones incident had been made!
Athletics in the school canteen - no mats, no Health and Safety!
With 2 new participants in the discussion group, we mentioned the Drill Hall, opposite the school, at times widely used as a school gym and for concerts, parties and school fayres etc. John Hugh Edwards - a local legal executive - would at one time put on film shows in the Drill Hall on the morning before the Christmas Party including home-movies filmed around Ruthin and, during wartime, the Drill Hall is believed to have been effectively a separate school for evacuees but linked to Borthyn.
Again, there were fond memories of the "Annual Carol Service" which, for a time in the 70s and 80s, would be held in all the various places of worship in town in turn but, previously, the services or concerts were in the Drill Hall and now tend to focus on Llanfwrog Church.
Much mention was made of the school playing field "Cae Salmon" which was used for football and other sports by local children even during the school holidays.
The school assemblies were memorable to all over many years and all the benefits resulting from celebrating a birthday on a school day - from a ride on "Dobbin" the rocking horse to sitting on the "Golden Chair" to choosing the record for that morning's assembly.
It is interesting how the friendly atmosphere felt at the school keeps being mentioned by past-pupils and teachers of various ages and this atmosphere prevails even today.
Delyth Edwards ( then Hughes ) with the Welsh-speakers of 1968 in the infants school, separate then from the juniors - i e regarded as two schools on the one campus. The school "became one" in 1983.
Dilwyn Jones, of Book of you, second from left in back row and Dilwyn remembers all the names of the others but data protection prevents us from including them here.
With Bronwen Jones/Bronwen Lebbon
Gwen Jones, Olwen Roberts, Gruff Hughes, Hubert Morris and Bronwen Lebbon.
Sarah Jones, J R Jones and Beti Gwynn Jones.
Mid-1970s Christmas at the Drill Hall
Jeff Brimble and Richard Aldrich presenting to children 1977
Nerys Hughes, John Myddleton Williams and Ann Roberts.
Gwen Jones, J R Jones, Sarah Jones and Olwen Roberts.
This is a press photo from the "Free Press" from Sarah Jones' retirement presentation in July 1980. The little boy holding the oil painting that was one-half of the retirement gift is Mark Hayhurst - later to become a reporter on the "Free Press". The clock being held by a little girl and forming the other half of the gift worked perfectly for 12 and 1/2 years before its entire workings suddenly fell apart for no apparent reason on the night of Mrs Jones' husband's death.
The idea for Pont y Plant came from Borthyn a few years before this official opening in 1981.
It is a bridge between the old coalyard and Bridge Garage sites on Park Road through to the gaol.
Gruff Hughes, the teacher involved in the original idea, had left by then but the headmaster, J R Jones can be seen, second from left back row, in this photograph.
Probably early 1980s.
Going to stay at Pentrellyncymer, near Cerrigydrudion, or at Ty Gwyn or Glan Llyn (Bala), was always a milestone event in the lives of pupils - often the first time for them to be away from home and a major step forward in the process of growing up.
Rhiannon Davies (school secretary) Olwen Cottle and Menai Price
Catrin Roberts, Nancy Jones and Delyth Edwards
Christmas Show in 1986
Newspaper photo from1988 with Alice Forkings presenting the flowers
Nancy Jones and her retirement cake 1988 - with Delyth Edwards and Menai Price
Former and new Heads, Nancy Jones and Neil Roberts - late 1980s
Year 5 & 6 in the old school
Renovations Circa 1990
Newspaper cutting regarding reopening after renovations - late 1980s
Rhiannon Davies - school secretary - in rain between cabins
1991 - John Myddleton Williams and Neil Roberts
Mair Roberts, Bronwen Ll Jones, Delyth Edwards and Alys Owen
Memories recalled by the group on this date included playing games on the school yard such as British Bulldog, Red Rover and The Farmer wants a wife.
In relation to the big annual event of the Carol Service, there were fond memories of being chosen to play either the melodica or the melodeon - perhaps instruments of their time.
The semolina puddings provided for school dinners and served with strawberry jam were also recalled including the practice, especially amongst the boys, of mixing their puddings until they were like pink wet cement - which they then lost the desire to eat.
If a child was taken ill, it was not unusual for another child to be chosen to walk the ill one home. Health and Safety was not such a consideration in the past!
Not many recalled a great deal about Terry, the school caretaker for many years in the 60s, 70s and 80s as much of his work was done outside school hours but, when he was remembered, it was always with great fondness.
Retirement of long-serving caretaker Terry Jones - with Nancy Jones and J R Jones
This time, other past caretakers (apart from Terry Jones who is mentioned elsewhere in this book) were recalled including a Mr Williams who lived near the school and Trevor Kenyon.
All generations seem to recall the milk puddings associated with school dinners - not just Semolina but Tapioca and Sago too. For some these memories are not so pleasant, for others school dinners began a life-long love of milk puddings.
A school eisteddfod seems to have been held in the 1940s and 50s but not for some time in the 60s and 70s through to the early 80s by which time eisteddfodic links were more with the Urdd movement.
Many of the teachers recalled by pupils from earlier decades were "Miss..." because, until at least post-WW2, a female teacher had to give up her profession upon marriage. This and unequal pay for female teachers compared to male teachers until at least the very late 1960s were memories of a past so different to today...in schools and other workplaces of course.
Delyth Edwards 1996 - uniform! - only seen at the carol services in 60s and 70s
Borthyn went to France annually in the 1990s and earlier part of the new millennium with Rhos Street and, a couple of times, with Pen Barras viewing the Bayeux Tapestry, the beaches of the Normandy Landings, the war cemeteries and, of course, the delights of Paris.
Staff from Borthyn, Rhos Street and Pen Barras in Normandy
Retirement of Delyth Edwards as Deputy Head
As he retired, Neil Roberts (Head 1988-2014) was duped into wearing the lollipop lady's new coat for a photo which was later superimposed on to this photograph of The Beatles of whom Neil is a great fan.
Teleri Llwyd-Jones has been the Head since 2016, only the second female ever to hold that post in relation to the "junior" part of the school. When there were two separate schools on the same campus - juniors and infants - there was usually a headmistress in the infants but a headmaster in the juniors.
Jan Edwards has been Borthyn's "Lollipop Lady" for 37 years and buys the children presents, out of her own personal pocket, at Christmas, Halloween and when they leave and has carried on through all weathers and the recent pandemic. One of the unsung heroes of Borthyn and indeed Ruthin generally.
Dinner Ladies who Later Lunched!
Doreen, Meinir, Beryl, Megan, Gretta and Janet
Thank you to everyone who contributed.
R Gruff Hughes
Cllr. Anne Roberts MBE
Associate from Book of You CIC, E Dilwyn Jones
Manager of Yr Hen Lys, Kate Harcus