March 16th, 2014 was a red letter day in the village of Hook as it was exactly 100 years ago that the school was formally opened.
For 100 years the school has been the very heartbeat of a vibrant and ever expanding community. Villagers waged a long campaign to persuade the County Council to build a school at Hook… a campaign led by a local man by the name of Joseph Davies.
Before the school was built children from Hook had to walk, in all weathers, to Llangwm. At this time Hook was a mining village producing anthracite with a worldwide reputation and at its peak employing in the region of 250 men. In the early years the attendance register shows that there was on average a little over seventy children being taught in the school.
These figures were, by and large maintained until 1948. This was when the colliery closed and for a while pupil numbers slumped to the mid-twenties…this decline, however, was short lived. With the closure of the colliery Hook took on a new lease of live as a dormitory village for workers in the Milford Haven oil industry and the administrative and retail centre that of Haverfordwest.
Pupil numbers soared and as has been the case for many years, the register remains at around the 90 mark.
A cursory glance at the school log books of yester year and held at the Pembrokeshire Records Office throws up a fascinating insight into the life of a Pembrokeshire village. The school was formally opened by the Chairman of Pembrokeshire County Council’s Education Committee and the next day seventy one children were admitted; some turned up but could not be enrolled as their names did not appear on the list drawn up by the Selection Committee. Fittingly the first pupil to register was Nancy, the daughter of the leading campaigner, Joseph Davies.
The first headmaster was Mr Gwilym. R. Jones and Miss May Lewis of Haverfordwest was appointed his assistant teacher. The head was a rather tragic figure who responded to the call to join the armed forces during the First World War, 1915, in fact.
He was promoted to Lieutenant and lost his life at the carnage of the Dardanelles. Although for the south wales valleys such was the impact Mr Jones made on the village the locals insisted that his name be incorporated in the Hook village war memorial.
Recently, the village History Society presented the school with a framed memorial of their former head teacher, which included the medals he was awarded. It now hangs proudly in the school.
The Log recalls that in September 1915 several scholars were off with infectious diseases …..scarlet fever; diphtheria and typhoid fever.
All through 1914 to 1918 the attendance hovered around the seventy to eighty mark and attendance logged regularly at 86 to 96 percent.
Hook, of course was a mining village producing thousands of tons of high grade anthracite each year and the risks in this most dangerous of industries was brought home on September 22nd when the log reads: ”Quite a gloom was cast over the village today. The colliery has been flooded and two men drowned and one young man locked in for 15 hours.”
The Head records on May 14th that the Education officer had generously donated one maddock and one watering can for use in the school garden!
The Log reads: The older boys in the mornings attended the school garden. The garden has been established on the south end of the Girls playground. The boys took off the turf; dug and planted as much as possible of the garden, owing to the lateness of the season. A flower border is also to be formed. The chief seeds planted at present are radish, lettuce ,carrots, cabbage, broad beans, peas, scarlet runners, potatoes and turnips. The garden works will be correlated with arithmetic, drawing and nature study.
During the summer of 1918 the children took afternoons off school to collect blackberries which once gathered were forwarded to the Education Department at Haverfordwest…..this was part of the War effort. During the month of September of that year the children collected 805 pounds of berries. On October 1st three children decided to go it alone and are recorded as bringing 17 pounds of blackberries to the school which were duly forwarded to Haverfordwest. The children were Alfreda James; Albert Griffiths and William James Martin.
November 11th signalled the end of the First World War and the school log reads: The children were granted a holiday this afternoon to celebrate the historic event of Peace. A procession was formed and the children marched around Hook singing patriotic airs such as Land of My Fathers and Rule Britannia.
Another interesting point was recorded in September 1921. William Henry Davies aged 13 left school being the first pupil from the school to gain an entrance scholarship to Haverfordwest Grammar School . He was presented with a bag…………. described as a “a book and luncheon bag.”……on behalf of the staff and friends of the school.
It is interesting that the lad after attending the Grammar School went to work in Hook Colliery, where he spent virtually all his working life. The Hook History Society are working closely with the school over the centenary celebrations and are busily preparing a HLF (Sharing Heritage) sponsored DVD entitled The Black Diamond Village. In the production William Henry Davies actually recalls the hardships of his days working under ground in the colliery at Hook……..the recording was discovered in the archives of the Pembrokeshire County Council’s Museum Service.
Another featured event in the History Society’s DVD is the opening of the road to Hook in February 1922.
There was no direct road to Hook until that year and the County Council only relented if the villagers contributed £1200 towards the cost……………………this would be an enormous £300, 000 by today’s standards. In true Welsh tradition a committee was formed…it met 200 times…..and eventually the cash was raised. The children of the school were invited to the opening and given a half day off to line the route as the first vehicle drove into the village……on this very important occasion headed by a silver band.
The current staff of Hook School is busily preparing a series of events to mark this historic occasion …..events that will involve all age groups within the school…….events that will do justice to a vibrant and successful seat of learning that has developed from being cheek by jowl to the coal mining industry to one more than adequately serving the needs of an ever expanding dormitory village.
Any former pupil or member of staff who would like to share experiences and anecdotes about their time at the school should contact the current head teacher, Nic Allen. Their contribution would be most welcome during the centenary year.