I think I was about seven and three quarters when I overheard a conversation between my father and some of his colleagues with the mention that I might be sent away to school. I knew at the time that I had been adopted and horror set in by the fact that they now planned to send me away. Don’t get me wrong – I had wonderful parents and felt a real part of the family, often very special though not spoilt and I loved them most dearly. Not long after the subject came up again in my presence and as I was by then hooked on Enid Blyton and Mallory Towers, the prospect did not seem such a bad idea.
There followed a series of visits to ‘public schools’ in North Wales but as I was having harp lessons in Dolgellau with Telynores Dwyryd, her daughters (who were pupils at the school) rather influenced my choice, backed up of course by my parents. And so (sorry Miss Lickes for starting a sentence with ‘and’) in the Summer Term of 1963 I went to Glyn Malden. The first term was such a new experience and I shed not a tear, for I was lined up with a whole host of cuddly toys. I was much later told that my mother’s tears and sadness caused my father to take leave so that they could spend a week in Llandudno! The start of the next (Autumn) term however was not so joyous and I remember sitting on the toilet at Bwthyn y Rhos (our house in Criccieth) sobbing my heart out, even wailing as I really did not want to return after the half term break. I don’t think that I have ever felt so sad! My mother promised me that if I still felt the same at Christmas then I would be permitted to leave. By the end of the term determination had set in and I was not going to ‘give in’. I cannot pin point what happened to make me feel this way – maybe some DWS spirit had started to work its wonders!
I continued at the School, possibly not fulfilling my potential academically, for yes, I would skive wholeheartedly in any way I could from those subjects which were not to my taste and in which I would have gained much better marks under parental supervision. I ‘pulled my socks up’ a little during the Lower and Upper Fifth but the only time that I had worked hard before that was over the Christmas hols with the General Knowledge test that we were given. My father worked for the Ministry of Agriculture and one of the farmers had the Encyclopaedia Britannica so we had access to a lot of knowledge. Furthermore I loved memorizing the answers and being tested by my best friend ie my mother.
The other significant work I did was when I had to pass Grade V Theory in order to try Grade VI piano. How I loved those extra lessons with Wendy Ed . I gulped up cadences, wondered at scales and rejoiced in intervals and harmony – the stuff that all Western classical music is made up of. The piano and harp lessons too were most enjoyable: these together with Welsh and orchestra enabled me to be excused from all the Games lessons!
At the end of Upper V we were expected (I think) to stay on until the end of term and it was during this time that I had an experience which was going to have some influence on my career many years later. We were offered the opportunity of helping at Llwyn View, a hospital for people with disabilities. I often thought about that time and how rewarding it was and especially when, in 1990 I took the post of Director for Yehudi Menuhin’s Live Music Now in Wales, arranging performances for disadvantaged and vulnerable people in our society.
I left DWS in 1969 which was a significant year as this was the year of the Investiture of HRH the Prince of Wales. I was not amongst the protestors at the time although during my years at Cardiff University and for a while later I was a member of Cymdeithas yr Iaith (Welsh Language Society). But (sorry again Miss Lickes) I am now on the panel which advises HRH the Prince of Wales on the choice of his Official Harpist and am most proud to be doing this.
There are no two ways about it that academically I might have done better returning home each evening and having parental supervision for Prep. However my parents did not regard academic achievements alone as education and I guess that will be the case with many parents who entrusted DWS with the education of their daughters. During my career I have (as far as possible) adhered to the DWS moto of Ardua Semper (Work hard always) which I certainly did not do whilst I was there!
Yes it was a wonderful education, a girls’ only school, in a lovely town surrounded by beautiful countryside which prepared us well for life, its trials and tribulations. And above all to be respectful and appreciative of others whilst at the same time being pretty tough and determined.
Diolch/thank you Dr Williams!
19 June 2015