Graham Powell

Former pupils of ‘a certain age’ will be saddened to learn of the death of Graham Powell at his home in Beckenham on December 21st 2015, a few weeks after his 83rd birthday.

He will be remembered by his contemporaries both for his athletic prowess and his scholastic ability. Entering EbbwVale County School (as it was then) before his tenth birthday, he moved smoothly over the hurdles of CWB and ‘Higher School Certificate’ to gain a place at Bristol University to study Physics (an achievement in itself in those days). On graduating he followed his sister and brother into the teaching profession and was physics master at Hafod y Ddol Grammar School in Nantyglo for three years before joining Shell Oil, moving upwards in that branch of industry to become an executive director of Total Oil.

Graham Powell was a fine all-round athlete at school and university; he was a Welsh Schools soccer trialist, represented the school and county at athletics and rugby, won a county cap at rugby for Monmouthshire against Gloucester, and was also a member of the school cricket XI. As an undergraduate he was Victor Ludorum at Bristol University athletics championship and played rugby for the English Universities. Among his many skills, swimming is rarely mentioned but a note in the 1949 ‘Blue and Gold’ refers to an incident in an early outing of the Harriers Club. “The first race was along the side of the mountain by the ‘Morning Star’ and the hares were C. Leighton and G. Powell of VI Science. One of the hares, who was rather parched, disgraced himself by swimming in one of the mountain ponds”.

During his time as a pupil at EVCS Graham was chosen to join a group of senior secondary school pupils, drawn mainly from public schools, to visit Africa, his account of a part of that trip was printed in the 1950 edition of ‘Blue and Gold’ and is reproduced, below, under the title, ‘A Letter from Africa’.

Rugby football was Graham Powell’s game and it was natural that he should become a member of the very successful Ebbw Vale RFC team of the 1950s, captain in the 1957/58 season and scoring over 200 points in the following year as a powerful and speedy centre. He attracted the attention of the WRU selectors and became the first Ebbw Vale player to be capped from the club, playing in two international matches in 1957 against Ireland and France, both of which were victories for Wales. In January of 1958 he captained a combined Abertillery and Ebbw Vale XV which defeated the touring Australian team. His playing career was probably shortened by a shoulder injury sustained in a club match; nevertheless it was one of achievement and success.

Born in Waunlwyd in 1932, Graham was the youngest of the three children of Elizabeth and James Powell; he grew up in the local schools and the local Methodist Church, of which he was a life-long member. He and his late wife Margaret had three children, Tim, Joanne and Suzanne who provided them with numerous, and well-loved grandchildren who, together with sister Betty and brother Bill, now mourn his death.

Graham Powell was one of a generation of outstanding pupils of EVCS, who brought honour and distinction to his family, his school and his community. His achievements are recorded with pleasure, and his passing with regret.

Letter from Africa

June 7th (1950)

Dear VI Sc.

As you can see by the address we have now come quite a long way since we left London. On Friday before I left London the whole party was invited to 10 Downing Street to see the Prime Minister. We were shown the Cabinet Room and had quite an interesting talk with Mr. Atlee. We left Heath Row Airport on Sunday morning, and after stopping for an hour at Marseilles we reached Malta, where we stayed the night. It was extremely hot, and the weather has been hot ever since. On the second day of our flight in the Dakota we stopped in the desert at El-Adem, the temperature was 109⁰F. We stayed that night at Wadi Halfa, in a lovely hotel on the banks of the Nile. On the third day it was even hotter, 110⁰F in the shade. We stopped at Khartoum and stayed the night at Juba. There was a swimming pool in the grounds of the hotel, and most of us made use of it.

The last day of the flight was quite short. And we arrived at Nairobi at 12.15, passing over the Equator at 9.25. We were introduced to our hosts, and two of us went to Kiambu, about 15 miles from Nairobi, where we were to stay with Mr. and Mrs. Turner, who own a 270 acre coffee farm. The food out here is marvellous: we tried new food every day, such as maize, paupau, avocado pear, and mangoes. The people are extremely nice and will do everything for you. The house where we stayed stood on the top of a small hill, and terraced lawns sloped down to a small river, which had a 60 foot waterfall a little further down. The flowers here are very beautiful, and even the trees are covered with flowers. The coffee trees start at the bottom of the valley and stretch as far as the eye can see. Mount Kenya, with its snow-capped peak can be seen in the distance, and by travelling about twenty miles to Limuru Kilimanjaro can also be seen, dwarfing every other mountain.

We have been taken over a coffee farm and factory, and I now know what happens before coffee is put on our table at home. I have also been over a tea farm and factory, and a sisal farm. Nearly all fine ropes are made from sisal, and it is a very modern process that is used to separate the fibre from the pulp, but I’ll tell you more about that when I come home and the film of our travels is shown. We have been having parties nearly every night, and the social life here is very gay. Wild game abounds here, and while driving from Nairobi to Arusta we saw herds of gazelle and zebra, and numbers of giraffe and elephants. We were very lucky to get a close-up of some lions and their cubs. We have camped on the banks of the river coming down from Mount Meru, which is 14,700 feet high. Today we have visited the Chagga chiefs, and also a small mission school.

On looking at the date today I remembered that “Higher” started today. I wish all of you the very best of luck and hope that the time will go as quickly for you as it is doing with me.

All the best, G.P.    

© evcgs former pupils 2013