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Tributes to ‘formidable’ ex-teacher Rhiannon, 104

Tributes have been paid to a “formidable” ex-teacher who has died away at the age of 104.

Great great grandmother Rhiannon Grey Davies was reunited with one of her former pupils, 86-year-old Joyce Jones, when she went to live at Pendine Park’s Gwern Alyn Home in Wrexham.

Rhiannon, a retired domestic science teacher, passed away on Tuesday, February 11.

She leaves two children, Bethan and John, two granddaughters and four great grandchildren.

Former pupil Joyce will be among the mourners at the funeral which will be held at Pentrebychan Crematorium at 12pm on Friday, March 6, followed by a service at Capel y Groes at 1pm.

They first met when Joyce went to Acrefair Secondary School where Rhiannon was a member of staff during the Second World War in 1944 when she taught her pupils how to eke out their families’ sparse food rations.

In the 1960s Rhiannon became a pioneer of Welsh language education.

She was among the first four teachers at Ysgol Morgan Llwyd in Wrexham which was one of the first Welsh-medium comprehensive schools to open in Wales.

Rhiannon was in charge of the school for several months until the permanent headteacher was released from his previous job.

Among those who paid tribute was Nia Ceidiog, an actress, television presenter, children’s author and BAFTA-winning TV director and producer.

Nia, who hails from Coedpoeth and now lives in Cardiff, has fond memories of her time as a pupil at Ysgol Morgan Llwyd.

She said: “It is no surprise to me that such a strong and positive woman like Mrs Grey-Davies lived until the grand old age of 104.

“Thanks to her I had the opportunity to go on stage to act in a play by Saunders Lewis as well as learning how to cook in the kitchen.

“She was very cultured and a great disciplinarian and I am grateful to benefit from her leadership in high school.

“I still have the notebooks and recipes with her corrections on them and I will always treasure them.”

According to Gwern Alyn manager Cindy Clutton, Rhiannon was a much-loved resident who was popular with everybody at the care home.

She said: “We were very privileged to have the opportunity to look after Rhiannon in the twilight of her days.

“She was a remarkable lady who was quite formidable in many ways but that was tempered by an innate kindness and generosity of spirit.

“We are like a family at Gwern Alyn and Rhiannon will be deeply missed by us all.

“Joyce and several other residents, along with members of staff, will be attending the funeral to pay their last respects.”

Ex-pupil Joyce said: “Rhiannon was an excellent teacher but very strict. We had corporal punishment then but I was always a good girl and never had a ruler struck across my knuckles like some did.

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“Domestic science wasn’t just about learning to cook. Then it was about preparing girls to be good housewives and how to run a home for their husbands.

“We even had to learn how to wash up properly and how to sweep the floor remembering to always brush toward the fire hearth. Everything then was so different. “

Rhiannon was born in 1915 the daughter of Presbyterian Minister John Foulkes Ellis and Lizzie Jane Foulkes Ellis in Gwyddelwern, near Corwen, but moved to Glan Conwy aged four.

She attended college in Cardiff in 1933 and completed a two-year course to become a domestic science teacher.

Speaking last November, Rhiannon said: “I enjoyed teaching. In the war I did some classes for housewives to help people make the most of their rations. It’s what we did. I was also a First Aid volunteer but we weren’t called out too often.

“Domestic science was all about teaching girls how to run a house, cooking, cleaning and everything else. We didn’t have so many gadgets then.

“I only taught girls but at Ysgol Morgan Llwyd I did teach a few boys in my own time. My own son went to college and didn’t know how to cook basic food so I thought it would be a good idea to teach boys some basics so they could look after themselves.”

Rhiannon’s daughter Bethan, 69, said: “Dad passed away in 2000. He was an organiser for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (ROSPA) and before that worked at the Co-op in Rhosemedre.

“When mum moved to the Wrexham area, she worked for just one term at Ruabon Secondary School before moving to Acrefair Secondary School. Then, when she moved to Ysgol Morgan Llwyd as it was opening, she was in charge for a term.

“They had four teachers but had to wait for the head to be released from his contract in Caernarfon so he could move schools.”

Bethan, who herself was a teacher and deputy head at Ysgol Glyn Ceiriog, added that her mother had been in excellent health all her life until  she fell ill aged 103 and subsequently moved into Gwern Alyn.

She said: “Mum remained fiercely independent and didn’t like to be helped if she could do things herself. You didn’t argue with her!”

It was a description that Gwern Alyn enrichment and activities co-ordinator Yvonne Moran could relate to.

She recalled: “When I heard we had a lady moving win who was nearly 104 I was amazed. However, not as amazed as when I first saw and spoke to Rhiannon.

“She had a formidable presence and an air of authority about her. She was a wonderful person and I will miss her a lot.”

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