Last Wednesday I was privileged to attend, with other members of the 1911 Committee, Copperworks Infant Nursery School’s musical extravaganza – A Trip Down Memory Lane – an historical journey, through the sights and sounds of Copperworks School and the local area through the years. Mrs Sherlock and her staff had obviously put hours of hard work into this, as had the children, who threw themselves into the performance with gusto.
The musical pieces, such as ‘Cosher Bailey’ took me back to my own childhood, and there was a heart-rending 3-ply tissue re-working of Max Boyce’s Duw it’s Hard. But especially gripping was the children’s portrayal of the rail strike and the shooting of John John and Leonard Worsell. Despite the youth of the performers, the strike and its awful conclusion was sensitively but clearly portrayed, and I was hugely impressed, as well as greatly entertained.
Copperworks School has a long and proud history. Originally built by the philanthropic capitalist Richard Nevill for the children of those employed at the Copper works and the nearby collieries at Caemaen and Box, the school was at the heart of the local industry that serviced the British empire. It took seriously its mission to educate the local community.
It was ahead of its time, even extending itself into adult education. The Copper works had its own dock and built its own ships and the legendary Mr John E. Jones, headteacher from 1863 to 1893, held classes in navigation for the mariners.
In August 1911 of course Copperworks School was the storm centre of the railway strike. Not only did the joint union strike committee meet regularly there, but it was there that the crisis meetings between the strikers, the railway company, the magistrates and the police and military took place. It was at the school that the strikers were meeting when the soldiers managed to push the train through on Saturday afternoon, causing the meeting to break up in uproar.
It was heartening to see local teachers and children so aware of their school’s history – a tribute to how history (a declining subject, or so we are told) can be brought to life with a bit of creativity and imagination. It was also inspiring to see a school which is still so clearly a vibrant and central part of its local community.
Many other schools and colleges have taken seriously the centenary of the railway strike. If your school or college has put on any activities, please contact me on this website’s comments page, or at firstname.lastname@example.org or via the Llanelli Star, with details.