Oldest teacher is back for farewell

28th May 2004 at 01:00
Lenin had a stroke, the British pulled out of Ireland, and Mussolini became premier of Italy the year Doris Edwards started at Ysgol John Bright in Llandudno.

More than 80 years later she has returned to mark the end of another era, as the 1,180-pupil school prepares to decamp to a new hi-tech campus and its old buildings face demolition to make way for a hypermarket.

Miss Edwards, 94, who attended Ysgol John Bright as a pupil in 1922, is the school's oldest living teacher. She went back to her alma mater in 1943 to teach music and stayed for more than a quarter of a century.

Her girls' choir performed in the town's famous pier pavilion. She recalls:

"The girls were so popular, they would have standing ovations. The choir became a feature of the pier orchestra concerts. There would be a queue down the pier to get in."

Ysgol John Bright opened with a handful of pupils in 1896 in what is now the seaside town's Risboro Hotel. Named after a radical Victorian politician who opposed slavery and won the admiration of Abraham Lincoln, the school's current home in Oxford Road was officially opened in 1907 by Whitelaw Reid, the American ambassador. But the buildings suffer from damp and rotting windows, and were described as an "impediment to future success" in the school's 1997 Estyn report.

The new campus, a few hundred yards away, has been funded by a pound;40 million private finance initiative - the biggest local government education PFI in Wales - involving three Conwy schools. Every teacher will have a computer, parents should be able to access information about their children online, and there will be improved facilities for drama and languages.

Headteacher Irene Perry said: "The new school is impressive from outside, and inside the children of Llandudno will have the excellent facilities they deserve. But Ysgol John Bright will not disappear. John Bright stood for peace, freedom and equality. The principles espoused in 1907 are as relevant then as now."

Miss Edwards and other former pupils, including wartime evacuees, helped launch a weekend of celebrations to mark the end of the old buildings.

`Wynnell Hunt, now living near Great Malvern, was one of 50 wartime evacuees to be reunited at Llandudno.

Mrs Hunt, who went on to Cambridge university, said: "It's wonderful to come back to the old school. I came here in 1940 - we had marvellous teachers."

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