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Ken Hibbert: Connections with a Successful Buckley Born Teacher by Neville Dunn: Cover and Fig. 4. "

Hawarden High School, Hawarden

May 2007

See 28.43 for Thomas Kenneth Hibbert's WWII experiences


This article is covered in 96.83-86. Enter Ken Hibbert under CAPTION.

Ken Hibbert -Connections with a Successful Buckley Born Teacher by Neville Dunn

May 2007


Cover and Fig.4. Mural at Hawarden High School completed by Art Master, Ray Day



A.S. Gaught 1955 - 67

Ken Hibbert 1967 - 81

C.J. Harvey - 1981 - 2000

Hawarden High School


When my eldest brother, Frank Dunn, while attending Buckley Board School in May 1932, passed the Scholarship Examination to attend Mold Alun School, he was to be joined at the County School by a classmate from a family well known in Buckley.(Fig.1. 96.84)


It would appear from the Honours Board that Ken Hibbert was in fact known as Thomas in 1932 like his father also named Thomas but this was an error on the school's part in using his first Christian name - to all Buckley folk he was always Kenneth or Ken. Brother Frank with our family had lived in the 1920's in a house in Bistre Avenue rented from Tom Hibbert who was known as a building contractor, a builder's merchant and owner of the Albert Hall when it served Buckley at a billiard saloon and dance hall. T E D Hibbert later became a Flintshire County Council alderman and chairman of Buckley Urban District Council.


When they left Mold Alun School, Frank and Ken went their separate ways, Frank into aircrew with the RAF and Ken into Sheffield University to study modern languages. When WW2 broke out in 1939, Frank was with his squadron in Singapore and Ken was still in university. However, after sitting his first year exams, Ken shocked his parents by travelling to Chester and enlisting in the Royal Engineers. After receiving training in Scarborough, he was posted to the 580 Lancashire (AT) Company, an unarmed, support outfit formed as a Territorial Unit in Liverpool, the initials AT standing for 'Army Troops'. After first moving to March in Cambridgeshire, the unit then sailed from Glasgow aboard SS Capetown Castle bound for Egypt the long way around via South Africa.


The German and Italian Armies had by now overrun the Balkans and the RE unit moved from Egypt to northern Greece where an incompetent officer mistook 'AT' for 'Anti-tank' and sent the unit to the front line opposite the German troops. After a month of constant bombing by the Luftwaffe unopposed by any Allied aircraft, Ken and others managed to escape from Pireas, the port of Athens aboard a vessel 'Helas', which was the Royal Yacht of the King of Greece. They were again bombed by the Luftwaffe which set the wooden-built boat on fire. They managed to get ashore at the port of Kalamata in southern Greece and waited there to be rescued by the Royal Navy.


It is an odd coincidence that both Ken and Frank should end up as prisoners of war, Frank having been captured in Java by the Japanese as related in my earlier story "A global trek in WW2", while Ken was captured in Greece when rescue did not come. After spending some time in a primitive Greek prisoner-of-war camp, Ken was moved to a German Stalag in Austria. Here he developed impetigo to the horror of his German captors, who hated any form of skin ailment, and was placed in a nearby hospital run under German supervision by captured British and French doctors. They understood very little of each other's languages and Ken's language studies became useful when called upon to act as an unofficial interpreter. After release from hospital, Ken was again moved to the main POW camp at Flagenfurt where he was given the role of camp leader as he had now also become fluent in German.


In 1946, on release from the Army, Sapper Hibbert resumed his university studies at Sheffield and, after graduating, took up his first teaching post in 1948 at Toxteth, Liverpool. Meanwhile Frank continued his career in the RAF but no longer fit for aircrew, rising to the rank of Warrant Officer. I had by then started work in the County Land Agent's Department of Flintshire County Council where I discovered a talent for building design, working on new and old farmhouses and farm buildings.


Before the1944 Education Act was passed, only a limited number of children enjoyed a secondary education. One had to gain a scholarship or have parents who could afford the fees to get a County School education at the four grammar schools in the county (Rhyl, Holywell, Mold and Hawarden), and a limited number of children were selected for a vocational type of secondary education in the county's four Central Schools (Rhyl, Flint, Mold and Shotton). The 1944 Education Act maintained that all children should have a secondary education and, in the late 1940's when the aftermath of the war began to subside, Flintshire County Council set about providing some new secondary schools, to be known as secondary modern schools, to supplement the Central Schools. Holywell Basingwerk and Buckley Elfed S M Schools were built at this time and in 1952 Ken obtained the post of Deputy Headmaster at Buckley Elfed under Mr Leslie Mothersole. Meanwhile I abandoned land agency and obtained a transfer in 1955 to the County Architect's Department at Llwynegrin, Mold to further my career in architecture.


Fortunately I was placed to assist the Chief Assistant Architect, Bob Harvey, in the design and supervision of a new secondary modern school at Aston, Queensferry to replace Shotton Central School which was too small for the number of pupils and not capable of being extended. The four Grammar Schools still offered an academic style of education with selection now being the result of sitting the 11+ Examination. The new school would serve Deeside for secondary education in conjunction with Hawarden Grammar School and was to be of very modern design in three storeys for the first time, built from a new system using a Meccano-style modular steel framework called Thermagard.


Fellow Buckleyite Stan Wright from Little Mountain Road, Buckley was Clerk of Works for the project and on 19 May 1957 Lord Hailsham, then Minister for Education, laid a foundation stone with Education Chairman Alderman Dennis Griffiths also being present.(Fig.2. 96.85)


When the new school opened on 1 May 1958 it was Ken Hibbert who became its first headmaster with Hilary Messham from the Pren as his secretary. By now the compulsory minimum school leaving age had been increased from the prewar age of fourteen, first to fifteen and then to sixteen, the latter being known as ROSLA (Raising of the School Leaving Age). This resulted in demands for more places in secondary education and a need for a radical rethink for the Deeside area. Flintshire C C decided to build a new grammar school at Queensferry to replace Hawarden Grammar School. In the mid 1960's Deeside Grammar School was built on Chester Road East in the same Thermagard system not too far from what was then known as Aston Secondary School so that the two schools could serve the area from Hawarden to Connah's Quay. (Fig.3. 96.86)


When Deeside Grammar School opened, it seems it was intended first to run down and then close the old Hawarden Grammar School just as in Mold the Alun Grammar School was converted to Bryn Coch Primary School when the new Alun High School was built. However, not all Hawarden's pupils could fit into Deeside Grammar School and the first year pupils stayed at Hawarden. Rather than trying to extend at Queensferry, the Council decided to keep and improve Hawarden and, having previously designed the conversion of the old School House into a Sixth Form Centre in Dr Gaught's days as Headmaster, I designed a new classroom block facing the playing field in the late 1960's.


Dr. Gaught retired in 1967 and Ken Hibbert then moved from Aston to become Headmaster of Hawarden Junior Grammar School. Secondary education policy changed again when the 11+ examination was abandoned so that the individual secondary schools became High Schools, embracing both academic and vocational studies and Hawarden High School continued to expand under Ken's headship to become one of the largest high schools in the county. To start with Deeside High School used both buildings at Queensferry until the county decided to sell off the Aston School site to ASDA for them to construct a new supermarket. My first project for the County Architect's Department was thus demolished, having lasted less than forty years.


In May 2007 I renewed a 66 year old friendship with Raymond Day who had, like me, passed the Scholarship Examination in 1941 so that we could attend Mold Alun Grammar School. Ray's father was well known in the Buckley area as the Manager of Mynydd Isa Co-operative Store and Ray comes into my earlier story "Schooldays in the 30's and 40's." Whereas I was biased towards maths and science but could cope with the limited artistic demands of architectural drawing, Ray was a first class artist from the start and he became Art Master at Hawarden High School. He moved for a time to Deeside Grammar School but returned to Hawarden High School in 1980. I was not surprised in our swopping of experiences to learn that he had painted a series of large murals at Hawarden, one of which intrigued me with my Buckley Society interests because it portrayed all of the Headmasters at Hawarden from Arthur Lyon in 1896 to C J Harvey in 2000. Included in it was Ken Hibbert who reigned from 1967 to 1981. (Fig.4- this entry)


When taking a photograph of the mural, I met a 60 year old cleaner lady due to retire the next day who had been a first pupil at Aston and remembered Ken Hibbert walking the corridors at Aston in a flowing black gown. Ken, now 87 years old, lives with his wife Joan only a few hundred yards from Hawarden High School but unfortunately never got the chance to meet my brother Frank again before his death in 2006.





















Author: Dunn, Neville


Year = 2007

Month = May

Building = School

Gender = Mixed

People = Group

Work = Education

Extra = WW2

Extra = Visual Arts

Extra = 2000s

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