Education and Schooling – Part Two

‘Not a bad motto to carry through life in this day and age’

Hughes’s memories of schools are never too far removed from his conscious mind. The second part of this Education and Schooling blog uncovers some mystic about his school, Ruabon Grammar. Hughes himself carries an interest in searching through documented history about his life and work. He writes about how an ‘old scholar of the school’ was intrigued by the history of the school and had come across ‘some data or record which proved conclusively that the school had been founded earlier than everybody thought.’ According to Hughes the new date being 1575 contrasting the more recognised date of 1632. This is a particular intriguing find from Hughes as according a brief history of Ruabon grammar school ‘Many of the early records of the school were lost in the great fire at Wynstay Hall on Saturday 5th March 1858.’ The same website also recognizes the opening date of the school as 1632.

The wreckage of Wynnstay fire

Hughes recognises his head as old school figure of the school the brief history of Ruabon grammar acknowledges that Rev D.J Bowen has been on the school staff for 48 years. Hughes tells a warming story of how the head would ‘radiated pleasure’ on what was called ‘Prize appreciation day’ He was able to ‘translate his enthusiasm to his audience’ The prize appreciation was an acknowledgment to the successes of the school such the ten of the 211 pupils who were leaving for University.

According to a separate source Ruabon Grammar school was referred to as a ‘endowed grammar school’ and this was due to the schools ‘reliance on wealthy endowments to educate a select number of boys.’ According to the same source titled ‘A concise History of Ysgol Rhiwabon’ the school mourned the loss of ’10 ex-students during the first world war.’

Modern day picture of Ruabon Grammar

Hughes discusses the academic practices of the school and how the fits in to his life as a working-class child. He admits to having ‘hard work with the sentences’ of Latin. As an attendee of a grammar school we may be forgiven for assuming that Hughes was inundated with work to do for school, this refuted by Hughes who claims homework was scheduled for ‘two nights only per week.’  This may have come to the annoyance of the teachers who according to Hughes did not think ‘we were killed with homework’ to the point that this kept the students out of the ‘pictures the melodramas, and to the billard halls, misspending our youth.’ Hughes teacher ‘J.T’ wanted more from his students; ‘He was now speaking to us man to man’ before adding ‘the work could not be done without that extra mile.’

“Boys you can’t translate the beauty of one language into another”

Hughes always remains fascinated by his school and it is fascinating to discover the history of the school, the school is rich in culture and as a student it appears the ethos and principles live with the student forever. This is evident in Hughes’ memoir as he poignantly says ‘The abiding quality that emanated from the school lay in its homage to its motto ABSQUE LABORE NIHIL.’ Hughes recognises that the teachers of the school wanted to knock some ‘appreciation into our souls’ from reading Hughes’s memoirs it is evident that, that is clearly the case from Hughes’s point of view. His appreciation has grown as he got older, he is nostalgic, appreciative and reminiscent of his school years, much like most of us.


G. Clifton Hughes. Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiographies, University of Brunel Library, Special Collection Library, vol. 4 2.426

Ruabon Grammar Scool. Ruabon Wrexham North Wales. Web. Accessed 19th April 2019.

Ysgol Rhiwabon. A concise history of Ysgol Rhiwabon. Web. Accessed 17th April.

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