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Trice - Headmaster Reports... cont'd
Roland’s obituaries in ‘The Times’, ‘Guardian’ and ‘Independent’ concentrated almost exclusively on his literary achievements. I submitted a small tribute to The Times, published in ‘Lives in Brief’, pointing out how much I and other pupils of a ‘depressed and’ unemployed Pembroke Dock owed to him. In my own case, to my amazement, and my parents, I managed at 16 years of age to get an Exhibition in History at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge. In addition to Roland, we had excellent teachers as well, of course: in particular, I remember the scholarly Dewi Elis-Williams and my friend through all the years, Mr. Islwyn Griffiths.

These Reports are fascinating reading and reveal a man of immense energy and vision in the prime of his life, encouraging every kind of school activity from Rugby to House Drama Competitions, from School Plays to the highlight of the year, The Eisteddfod. I found myself singing, playing the piano etc. and when, as House Captain of Tudor in my final year, we at last beat Glyndwr, it seemed to me as important as my Cambridge award!

Sam Adams in his book on Roland Mathias (page 59) notes that each year in his Speech Day Address he addressed his audience on a major issue. He had to defend his regime from critics who said he expected too much of his pupils and pushed them into too many activities. He addresses his audience in a magisterial but humorous way, with polished prose replete with classical allusions - and quite often with a vocabulary which requires the use of a dictionary! Much of this may have gone over the heads of his audience who were listening but not reading - as I have done – the structured and careful analysis of the situation each year.

These reports cover every detail of the school’s activities – no one of the bigger school team is forgotten. The deaths of local supporters of the school are treated with careful wording: the most mundane details seem of poetic significance. There are fascinating reminders of the move from the Old School in Pembroke Dock to the New School at Bush.

I had forgotten many details of school life revealed in these Reports: we had National Savings collections and targets; somehow, a Kyffin Williams painting was acquired, an Honours Board installed. New Prizes were given: five pounds was a generous donation!
He enabled pupils to fulfil themselves, whether in Sport, Drama or study. His Special Scholarship Level class helped me to cope with the interviews and examinations at Cambridge.

My college told him I was one of the best-prepared candidates – a tribute to him and the school (which is why I mention it, of course).

The Reports show a vision for the school, based on his Christian philosophy – which came through in the years of correspondence with me and, I’m sure, many other pupils. He wants more determination, a better use of our intelligence, and even more energetic singing at Morning Assembly! Sometimes there are hints of Victorian Headmasters such as Dr Arnold of Rugby School – today, perhaps, he would have been brought in to rescue a ‘failing school’ and knighted! But we must bear in mind the size of the school, which in 1953 was not much bigger than is my Cambridge College in 2009 or the Law Department here at Aberystwyth.

So many complaints about the system we still hear today. He wants, for example, pupils to be taught not crammed. He wants exam syllabuses to be reduced to give more time for liberal reading and discussion. These days, universities have ‘reading weeks’ and the University ‘customer’ expects to be crammed and spoon-fed to achieve the essential upper second class honours.

Roland constantly reminds us of the importance of character and determination. He had a vision of the Community of the School improving and leading the wider community. We hardly expect that of our current educational system, I’m afraid.

I last received a letter from him in 2006, when he was struggling with his stroke and ill-health. I remained in awe of him through all the years of inspiration and encouragement. I have met many distinguished judges, academics and lawyers over the years – none have had that effect on me. These reports bear witness to a jewel of a school, inspired in my time by a master of education and life.
Head Reports 53-54
Head Report 54-55 Head Report 55-56
Head Report 1956-57
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Past pupil John Trice is now retired from the Law Department at Aberystwyth University and is Honorary Lecturer in Law and President of ‘The Cambrian Law Review’ (which he founded in 1970).
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