My best teacher - Rhydian Roberts

11th December 2009 at 00:00
A love of the Welsh language was cultivated in this `X Factor' finalist by one teacher who was cool and calm but commanded respect from his pupils

I was very lucky to have a great schooling and upbringing. I was a day boy at Llandovery College in Brecon, Wales, and it was a very close- knit, family-orientated school, where I became head boy.

Every single teacher I had was a friend as well and they commanded your respect. You got a sense that they respected you, which made you perform better. You don't get that now - I'm only in my mid-twenties and it is funny the lack of respect you get from people.

The extra-curricular activities were great. The school enabled you to try your hand at a wide range of activities and then you could find your niche and discover skills you didn't know you had. I did Duke of Edinburgh and also played rugby and cricket for the county team.

It is difficult to single out one teacher, but I would say my best teacher was Tom Marks. He taught me Welsh between the ages of 11 and 18. He was a real enthusiast and that is all you can hope for in a teacher.

He was a very gentle man, and never raised his voice but when he did you knew he wasn't happy. He was also a good cricketer and led cricket practice at the school. Mr Marks was quite an easy target for the rebels, but he commanded a lot of respect from the more serious pupils, who wanted to do well. In my last year he was my housemaster and you never used to cross him.

We went to chapel every day, and he took Welsh chapel on Thursdays. He used to ask me to sing and do readings as part of the service.

I absolutely love the Welsh language. There is a lilt to it and it is my favourite language to sing in. There is an identity and a beauty to the language, and I'm very proud to be Welsh. I do a lot of interviews for Welsh media now, and if I ever need any help, with an idiom or anything, I just ring him up.

The X Factor contestants get allocated tickets, and Mr Marks and his wife came to see me. He is a man of few words, you see, and for him to come down meant it was a day with a difference. He wouldn't give any critical feedback - he just said everything was great and "bendigedig", which means well done in Welsh.

Overall, I think The X Factor served a purpose. I learnt a lot about the media and the TV industry overnight. I grew an even thicker skin. It was a far cry from a college in rural Wales. But to be honest, I have always wanted to be under lights, in the public eye.

Dannii Minogue (an X Factor judge) was a great mentor. I haven't got a bad word to say about her and she has since become a good friend. I think she feels a certain responsibility and pride for me. I give her feedback as well about the current X Factor, because it's not just a competition between the contestants; it's between the judges as well, although they wouldn't want to admit that.

Simon (Cowell) and I have a great working relationship. It's nice to know that my biggest fans within the record label are him and his second in command.

I know it sounds cheesy, but I feel my college days were the closest to heaven I have been so far. Now, my life is great and I have so much to be thankful for, but what I really seek is genuineness from people, and love and respect. In the world of media and celebrity you don't get that. If you do, it is few and far between. It is very superficial.

  • Rhydian Roberts came to public attention when he appeared in the `X Factor' final in 2007. This year's final will be screened this weekend. Rhydian's new album `O Fortuna' is out now. He was talking to Meabh Ritchie.

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