100 years ...give or take 12 months

2nd September 2005 at 01:00
Earlier this year we were preparing to celebrate our school centenary. We have two magnificent stone buildings, built at the start of the 20th century, that look down at the village of Ystalyfera, towards the top of the Swansea valley.

A stone memorial at the front of the school clearly states it was being built in 1903 but had not yet opened. Everyone knew it opened in 1905. We ordered some interesting and usable memorabilia, including paperweights, key rings, cards and so on, as well as having a special logo designed for a carpet in the entrance and a display cabinet.

The children drew pictures of themselves for a tea towel and teachers put together a concert for past pupils and parents.

To ensure that I had the correct day I arranged to visit the archives department at Swansea county hall. I did not immediately set out to find the opening date - deciding instead to read as much as I could about the time before the school had been built.

The log book recorded that a number of schoolchildren had died of meningitis in 1904 and the state of the porch in the old school was dreadful. Another interesting entry recorded an occasion when all the teachers terminated their contracts in support of the headteacher of the boys and infant department "who had refused to sign an undertaking to reside within a mile of the school". The dispute ran from July 21 to October 2 in 1916. How many teachers reside within a mile of their school these days?

As I started turning the pages of January 1905 I began to feel excited. But this soon turned to concern as I passed through February and still no mention of the new school. By December I was horrified - all the memorabilia is incorrect and we've already sold a number of items.

Finally I came across the opening - February 5th 1906! There was nothing I could do; the centenary would have to be delayed for another year. I was devastated, how would everyone react?

Fortunately everyone seemed to accept the situation and began to look forward to celebrating the event next year. The only question is - is the school 100 years old? No! Should we celebrate the fact that the school opened 100 years ago? Or should we celebrate in 2007 when we have actually been on site for 100 years? Nostalgia can be very confusing.

Gwilym Jones is head of Ysgol Y Wern in Ystalyfera, Neath Port Talbot

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