2012-02 February Report

Dolau WI February 2012 Report

Dolau WI met on 1 February in Dolau Community Hall. It was a bitterly cold night but the welcome and atmosphere were warm.  The secretary reported on the success of our Dolau Station Action Group talk and activities over the Christmas period. We are invited to a wide range of activities – both sporting and creative – over the Spring.

The President welcomed our visiting speaker Geraint Hughes who was to give an illustrated talk entitled “Going to school in the Dolau District 1800-2000”. He described the many changes from the beginning of formal education up to the present day. Geraint told us his own childhood experiences went half way back as he had the same sort of education as 100 years ago, attending the village primary school at Defynnog where one teacher, Miss Miller, taught traditionally using blackboard, slates and copybooks.

Dolau School pupils 100 years ago

Reading was learnt by reading out loud from the board and picking up on individuals. There was fear of ridicule and punishment by the cane and dunces cap. Later he learnt Algebra logic and Latin in preparation for Boys Grammar School where you did what you were told and couldn’t fail. Here he studied Latin, Greek and Chemistry and went on to University and a constant life of learning.

Geraint outlined the 1847 survey of education in Wales. Before that the main teaching place was in the home by family members. Teaching then was often a specialism adopted by those too handicapped for work. Early records show a teacher was paid to teach in the home Rees ap Ieuan Athro in Llandegley as early as 1572.

John Duggan of Llandegley  in 1846 wrote “I am obliged to have a resident schoolmaster in my house in consequence of there being no school”. Circulating schools visited in 1838 and a day-school started there in 1844 making use of the big vestry. A Sunday School opened in Tanhouse Chapel also from 1844.

In the 1847 education survey the school in Llandegley was described as dreadful and there were cows in the church. The school in Dolau Church was the only day school, had an average attendance of 8 – the teacher was untrained and children couldn’t answer questions given. A new school was opened in 1848 in the Toll House opposite converted by parish subscriptions. The 1870 Education Act followed prescribing what should be taught and in 1880 school attendance became compulsory.

We heard of years of successful education that followed, administered by local boards of governors. There was anecdotal evidence from the headteacher’s log books describing hardship in bad weather, lack of equipment and listing punishments administered for a wide range of misdemeanours.

Dolau School in the 1930s

The last 50 years have been overshadowed by small school closures but Dolau School remains and enjoys successful reports and improvements in recent years. What will the next 50 years bring we wonder. Geraint received a rapturous response from the members who were fascinated by his talk. He was thanked by the President Julie Hardwick before we all shared supper together.

Next month’s meeting is on 7 March when we welcome Gareth Phillips, a local Welsh singer / composer who is bringing us “Music for St David’s Day” The competition is a ‘Vase of Spring Flowers’

We meet in Dolau Community Hall at 7.30 and visitors are always most welcome. If you would like any additional information, please telephone Julie Hardwick on 851256 or Colette Gwynne on 851050.

The WI providing all kinds of opportunity for all kinds of women.


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