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16 October 2014

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By Ieuan Sheen
September 2003, Tredegar
A digital story from Capture Wales

Classroom Tales

Ieuan allows us to catch a glimpse of his schooldays by recalling some of his favourite anecdotes from the classroom.

"This place was very different 70 years ago but so was I. The chaos of the playground stopped; we marched to our lines into the cloakroom; caps and macs onto pegs; standing in silence at our desks. A short service and we sat.

A glance at the clock - 9.15 a.m. The rattle and clink of the milk crates - the door opened and two of the big boys smirking with secret knowledge placed the crate near the fire. We craned our necks to see the bottles and yes, there they were each one with a protruding neck of frozen cream and wearing a saucy-angled top like a boater.

Miss Harries - who had mothered our mothers - beamed at her surrogate grandchildren and the winter ritual began. Each bottle carefully placed inside the fireguard for the huge coal fire to thaw and warm by playtime. 'Remember to save the tops. We are going to make baubles this year.' ...and we licked them clean of cream and washed them under the tap.

Halfway through the afternoon the room began to grow dark and full of excitement, we watched the dignified lowering of the oil lamp suspended on its chain; the trimming of the wick; the gentle shake to check the oil-level; the spluttering of the match and the warm glow as the glass chimney was replaced.

Mesmerised, thirteen mouths sagged open and thirteen heads tilted up following its gentle ascension and then, once again, the scratching of the pencils on the slates.

Would there be snow this year? We prayed fervently for early frost. Day after day we had looked through the classroom window towards the lower farm to see which way the smoke was blowing.

We did a pantomime one year and a gallant six year old chopped and hacked his way through a forest of easels, each of which moved obediently to one side. There, revealed on a thinly disguised infant table lay our Sleeping Beauty. A prince stood, frozen.

'Kiss her', whispered Miss Harries. But I couldn't... my brothers were watching."

Ieuan Sheen

Please tell us a little about yourself.
I was born in a small mining village and attended a wonderful small school. I graduated and taught for 38 years. I was mad on rugby in my playing years.

What's your story about?
A few glimpses into my early years at school and my great affection for those at the school - I had a wonderful time.

What did you find most rewarding about the workshop?
Being introduced to the technology. The wonderful company and atmosphere.

Your comments

"This story was heart-warming and his authentic reading gave this remembrance an additional charm. I too waited for the snow but that was but forty-five years ago and across the pond." Michael May, Connecticut, USA.

"Wonderfully read and illustrated. It would be a joy to hear you read 'A Child's Christmas in Wales'." Paul Oppy, Milledgeville, USA.

"This is one of those tales that are told with such heartfelt recollection it cannot be forgotten. When I first saw this I really felt like I could close my eyes and see everything that was happening - the images only stood to add to the detail." Thomas Lawrence, south-east Wales.

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