History and Heritage

Ben T Jones


The first Headmaster of Ystalyfera County School was Arthur Blount Sully who took up the post at the opening of the school in 1896 and left in 1913. He was succeeded by Harry Rees who held the post for thirty years, from 1913 to 1943. Ben T Jones, already a veteran of the school, took over from 1943 to 1945.

From the Llais 10th July 1915 came news of Ben T Jones receiving his M.A.

We offer our heartiest felicitations to Mr Ben T Jones, Post Office Ystalyfera, and one of the masters of the Ystalyfera County School, on his notable success in qualifying for the degree of Master of Arts. Mr Jones received the gratifying official intimation on Monday and has been the recipient of the congratulations of a host of friends on this result.

Mr Jones received his degree by reason of the acceptance by the authorities of his thesis on the Welsh version of the Historia Regium Britannie in Peniarth MS (44), collated with the Red Book version together with notes on the influence of the Regium on the style and quality of the Welsh and a glossary of Welsh words whose use is illustrated by the Latin. The work is original research and constitutes a valuable contribution to the history of Welsh literature, students of the subject will readily understand. The object of the work is really a comparison of the Latin original of the well-known history of the British Kings and the Welsh translation made in the early part of the 13th Century.

The examiners were Sir John Rhys and three Welsh professors of the constituent colleges of the University of Wales which awards the degree.

Mr Jones's success is all the more creditable in view of the remarkably short time in which he has been engaged on the work. He had been working during his leisure time for the past few years on another subject, when he found that it had been partially covered by other students and he had then to make special application to change the subject, which was granted. He chose the present subject, which have to be approved, so late as October last and immediately commenced work in earnest. He was granted terms leave from school to carry out his task, which was completed by April, so that really had only three full clear months in which to complete the dissertation. This despite the fact that the thesis makes fully 400 foolscap sheets of close writing.

It is Mr Jones's intention to have the work published by the Guild of Graduates if he can spare the time to further develop to the preparation of the MS. for the press. The great credit which the work reflects upon Mr Jones can be understood when it is remembered that he spent such a long time without entirely different subject. As a rule, students who achieve the success go back to college were one or two years as postgraduate students, whereas Mr Jones completed his task in hardly more than three months time.

Mr Jones is a Lampeter boy, and commenced his career as a pupil teacher at the Coedmore Board School near Lampeter and it will thus be noted that he is the product of the old pupil teacher system. He was only two terms at Tregaron County School yet secured a first class position in the Welsh Matriculation Examination at the end of that period. Afterwards he was a student at the University College Cardiff taking both the Normal and the Degree courses, where he had a brilliant career, ending any secure in the degree of BA with honours in Welsh. Mr Jones is also a trained certified teacher, having secured a "double first" at the Board of Education Examinations at the end of both the second and third years of training. He secured the Diploma of Licentiate of the College of Preceptors (and examination in the theory and practice of teaching) in 1905 and has had the privilege of seeing several of his pupils in Welsh achieve notable successes in their collegiate examinations. He taught for four terms as pupil teacher master at the Pembroke Dock County School and came to Ystalyfera in 1906, as pupil teacher master and teacher of Welsh and geography. Coming to Ystalyfera Mr Jones married Miss Evans, the very popular Ystalyfera postmistress, who is always evinced the greatest interest in his labours. The MA degree will be formally conferred upon Mr Jones at Cardiff University on Saturday week 17th of July.

Among the numerous congratulatory messages received by Mr Jones, none was more touching than that received at the school on Monday morning, when teachers and students united in demonstrating their delight at his success.

In 1943, Mr Harry Rees who had been Headmaster since 1913 retired, and was replaced by Mr Ben T. Jones, M.A., who had been senior master at the school since 1918, and had been teaching there since 1906, soon after completing his training. Born in January 1882, by September 1943, he would have been a few months short of sixty-one years of age.

From the Labour Voice newspaper, Saturday September 4th 1943:-

New Headmaster for Ystalyfera County School
Mr Ben T. Jones Appointed

At a special meeting on Wednesday, Ystalyfera County School Governors appointed Mr Ben T. Jones, M.A., as headmaster consequent upon the retirement of Mr Harry Rees. Mr Jones has been senior master at the school since 1918.

A Master of Arts (Wales) and a Licentiate of the College of Preceptors, Mr Jones is an Exhibitioner and Prizeman at the Cardiff University College.

A brilliant scholar, he gained first-class at each of the pupil teachers' examinations and first-class at the Queen's Scholarship Examination (1900); first-class at the Welsh Matriculation Examination (1901), Senior Certificate C.W.B. with four distinctions (1901); B.A. (second class honours Welsh, with ordinary Latin and Greek, and won the Dan Isaac Davies Welsh Prize, open to Honours Welsh students (1904); gained his second year certificate of the Board of Education in 1903 and his third year certificate in 1904, securing a Double First (in theory and practice of education) both years.He gained the Diploma of L.O.P., an examination in the theory and practice of education with special reference to secondary school curriculum in January 1905. In 1915, Mr Jones gained his M.A. (Wales).

His teaching experience extends over a period of 46 years. From 1897 to 1900 he was pupil teacher at Coedmore Board School, Lampeter; from 1904 to 1905 he was pupil master at the Pembroke County School, and held a similar position at Ystalyfera County School from 1906 to 1914. In September 1914 he was appointed assistant master at the school.

Mr Jones takes a great interest in local affairs. He lectures in Welsh and English to local literary societies; was president for three years in succession, and later secretary, of the Guild of the Red Dragon; financial secretary of the Ystalyfera Male Voice Party during its preparation for the Ammanford National Eisteddfod; organised a dramatic evening which realised £56 to Swansea Hospital funds; adjudicates at eisteddfodau and drama competitions, and was adjudicator in the literary section of Swansea National Eisteddfod in 1926; organised several high class concerts in Ystalyfera between 1924 and 1930; was secretary of the Ystalyfera War Savings Association and is the present treasurer of Ystalyfera County School National Savings Association. Mr Jones has for the past six years been secretary and a deacon of Pantteg Chapel since 1927.

From the book 'The First Fifty Years' by Rees John Davies, M.A. (published 1946) comes this :

page 26

Mr Henry Rees was succeeded as headmaster in September, 1943, by the then senior master, Mr Ben T. Jones, M.A. Mr Jones had already been a member of the school staff as Welsh master since January, 1905, and had attained a nationwide reputation as a teacher and Welsh scholar. During his period as Welsh master probably more pupils passed the Senior and Higher Certificate examinations in Welsh under his guidance and tuition at Ystalyfera than in any other intermediate or secondary school in Wales.
Of his former Higher Certificate pupils, one is at present the Principal of the University College of North Wales, Bangor; another the Professor of Welsh at the University College of Swansea; three others are lecturers in Welsh at various University Colleges of Wales and dozens of others are Welsh masters and mistresses in intermediate and secondary schools throughout Wales.

Mr Jones' service as Welsh master and headmaster are aptly summed up in the clerk's reports of the governors' motion of appreciation passed in March, 1944: "They [the governors] paid tribute to his sterling qualities, and emphasised their appreciation of his contribution to Welsh culture. The value of his services as Welsh master, for a long period in the school, was inestimable, and outside the school he had a wide reputation for devotion to Welsh interests. Mr Jones had seen to it that Welsh had had its proper place in the school, and through his efforts the school had become a centre of Welsh activities. There were very few places in South Wales where Welsh had been kept alive to the extent it had been at Ystalyfera.

Mr Jones had been a headmaster for a short period only, but the governors felt that they had been fortunate in securing him as successor to Mr Henry Rees. He was a man of deep religious convictions and this was reflected in his conduct of the school. During his term of office as headmaster he had been faced with many difficulties, particularly with regard to staffing (*), but had surmounted them, and the school had not suffered. The governors wished Mr Jones a long and happy retirement.

Ben T Jones also served as Secretary of Pantteg Chapel for over 20 years, and this can be read about here:-
Secretaries of Pantteg Chapel
His wife, Mrs Hannah Jones, was for over fifty years Postmistress of Ystalyfera, and this can be read about here:-
Mrs Hannah Jones