“The Welshman who couldn’t sing but was marvellous on the piano”
Bandleader - Aneurin Thomas and the Collegiates
The following information has been compiled from the South Wales Argus and the BBC website Lleol I Mi De Ddwyrain
Aneurin Thomas was born in Fochriw in 1905 and, as was common in those days, he entered in the vocal and piano sections of many local and semi-national eisteddfodau, competing in the under 16’s when he was only ten years of age. His successes were such that many children refused to compete against him.Up until the early 1930’s, Fochriw was an almost totally Welsh-speaking village, the only English language place of worship being the Church of England, the remaining three being Welsh language non-conformist institutions. Prior to the opening of the Penticostal Chapel during the 1930’s there had been two unsuccessful attempts to open an English Baptist and Salvation Army Citidel.
His father, who was a councillor on the Gelligaer Council, and his headmaster at Lewis School Pengam, expected him to become a concert pianist, and, although E.T.Davies of Bangor University and D.J.Lloyd, a teacher from Bargoed, came to listen to his playing, he received no instruction since he did not wish to become a professional pianist, but to imitate his teacher Tom Jones of Pontlottyn. He therefore deliberately failed his music history examinations by writing the history of the wrong composer.
He then attended Caerleon College and stood in for a lecturer who was busy adjudicating in an eisteddfod. He played left –back in the college football team and in one cricket match took 10 wickets. He became editor of the college magazine “Isca” and, as such, was given the best study in the college.
During 1926 he took up a teaching post in Doncaster and, when he retired he returned there some 50 years later and asked a man on the roadside directions to his old school. The man recognised him as his former teacher and stated “You’re the Welshman who couldn’t sing but was marvellous on the piano”.
He returned to Wales and accepted a position at Ysgol y Twyn in Caerphilly, however, he was badly injured in a motor cycle accident shortly after accepting the appointment and, as such, his family decided that it was untenable for him to travel every day from Fochriw so they moved to Caerphilly.Aneurin was a member of the Mynydd Carmel Chapel in Fochriw and on moving to Caerphilly attended Bethel. However, he was asked to give an organ recital but after agreeing realised that he could not play a pipe organ. He never attended that chapel again.
He did not join the armed forces during the Second World War but set about starting in Bargoed during 1938, and developing his famous band “Aneurin Thomas and the Collegiates”. They competed successfully becoming the South Wales champions and all-Wales champions and held many concerts at local venues to raise wartime morale, especially of the people employed in the munitions factories. He married the band’s secretary having sold his piano a week prior to the event.
Aneurin retirement from Hendre School in 1970 was marked with a party, a surprise visitor to which was Aneurin’s old friend the comedian Dick Emery who was appearing at the New Theatre in Cardiff.
During his 90th year some of his past pupils organised a party for him and by this time his son Philip had also retired and was appointed Emeritus Master at Law at Cardiff University, his other son David is a successful businessman in America whilst his daughter Rhian is responsible for foreign students at Cardiff University