It’s impossible in a short article to list all the children from Llanfyllin High School who have gone on to achieve remarkable things in the world. There are so many – and in so many areas of life. This thought has been prompted by the news that former student Yvonne Jones from Talwrn – a farm midway between Llanfyllin and Llanfechain – has just been elected a Fellow of the Royal Society, founded in 1660 and the most famous and exclusive scientific society in the world. Yvonne is a Professor at Oxford University and a leading figure in Human Genetics and Cancer Research. She will now sign her name in the Royal Society Ledger where you will find Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, Stephen Hawking, Tim Berners-Lee … It’s a remarkable achievement.
So many Profs!
But it’s not remarkable that one of our leading scientists should have come from Llanfyllin High School. We seem to have quite a lot of professors at the moment. Noel Owen from Penybontfawr has retired as a Professor of Chemistry in the U.S.A. but Mark Breese from Llanfyllin is a very distinguished Professor of Physics in Singapore and Geoffrey Richards – a Professor at Cardiff University and a visiting Professor in Germany, Bulgaria and China – has had a quite remarkable career in bioscience. Away from sciences, not many people know more about migration than Heaven Crawley, Professor of International Migration at Coventry University and Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences. And there’s Heaven’s sister Fay: an historian and a Senior Research Fellow at London University and then there’s……We should feel very proud that our school has produced so many talented scholars.
The World at War
But not just scholars. This is a tense time in politics. It’s not as tense though as in 1940 when the fate of the world was in the balance. This is when Clement Davies, from a small seed shop in Llanfyllin High Street and Liberal MP for Montgomeryshire, was the very active chairman of the All Party Action Group in parliament which fiercely opposed the weak leadership of Neville Chamberlain. He therefore played an important role in bringing down Chamberlain, thus establishing Winston Churchill as Prime Minister during the Second World War. He became leader of the Liberal Party and Churchill later offered him a cabinet post which he refused because he said it would have destroyed the Liberal Party – learn your history, Nick Clegg. He led his party for eleven years, fought for 30 years to establish an International Court of Justice and was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
What about the performing arts? Listen on YouTube to the great opera singer Elizabeth Vaughan from Llanfyllin singing Puccini’s Madame Butterfly or as Titania in Britten’s Midsummer Night’s Dream. She began singing at school and during her long career she sang in all the great opera houses in the world. What about Ryan Davies, singer, dancer, comedian and TV performer, whose parents were Master and Matron at Y Dolydd? You can see him with Richard Burton in the 1972 film of Under Milk Wood. More up to date, you can see Iolo Williams from Llanwddyn at almost any time of year on TV, being wonderfully passionate in defence of our natural environment.
All the children
No room here for business or sport or so many other areas of achievement. In the last series of the brilliant Springwatch on BBC, I remember Martin Hughes-Games saying to Iolo: “Oh Iolo, you’re so eloquent. It must be because you’re Welsh!” “It is,” said Iolo. And we can add that Llanfyllin High School also played its part in the making of Iolo and in the lives of the thousands of children – of all abilities – who have attended our outstanding bilingual community school in Llanfyllin. We’re proud of them all.
– Richard Kretchmer
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