Living history lesson as teen sweethearts share their golden memories at school

Published on: 04 Nov 2015

ROGER and Morfydd Saunders found a unique way to mark their golden wedding  – they went back to school.
It was a fitting way for the couple to celebrate because the school in Mangotsfield was where they met.
Roger and Morfydd were among the first pupils to join Rodway Technical School when it opened in 1957 and they returned to tell current Mangotsfield School Year 7 students what the school was like in its early days.
The couple explained to the 11 and 12-year-olds that the new school had given them an important second chance after they both missed out on  places at grammar school.
Morfydd, who was brought up in Wick, started at the secondary school in Oldland that is now The Sir Bernard Lovell Academy after failing her 11-plus while Roger went to a secondary modern in Woodstock, Kingswood.
But at the ages of 13 and 14, they passed exams to get in to the new Rodway school, which had excellent facilities for the time in  science, engineering and domestic science.
“It was a great start in life for my wife and myself,” Roger told the students.
The couple described the formal dress of their teachers, who all wore gowns and mortarboards, and their own strict school uniforms, including blazers and berets for the girls and short trousers and caps for the younger boys.
They had fond recollections of the school, where both were prefects and participated in many sporting activities, plays, trips and after-school clubs. Morfydd recalled that if she stayed late, there was no bus home; she had to catch the steam train from Mangotsfield station.
The Mangotsfield students asked their visitors a number of questions, such as: Did you have tutor groups? What did you play? How much spending money did you have? What were school dinners like?
The answers highlighted many changes – Mangotsfield was just a village six decades ago; there was little traffic so children could play in the road: families grew most of their own food; bread, meat, coal and groceries were delivered weekly – but also many similarities with school life today, including moans about the meals!
Students were interested to hear about the handwritten reports, unlike  today’s computerised versions, and about raps on the knuckles with a ruler and flying blackboard dusters.
After the lesson, head teacher David Spence showed Mr and Mrs Saunders around the school. It has expanded since their day but parts of it are little changed. “It’s exactly as it was,” said Morfydd, 71.
The couple, who now live in Wickwar, went on to have successful careers after leaving Rodway. Roger, 72, who loved art – he still paints – joined Redcliffe Inks, which supplied ink for packaging, and worked for what became AS&A Robinson for 42 years.
Morfydd became a nurse and qualified in July 1965, three months before her wedding. “Matron’s words to me were, ‘What a complete and utter waste of time that was. I understand you’re getting married,” she said. Undeterred, Morfydd became a ward sister at 23 and worked at Frenchay, Bath, Bristol Eye, Bristol General and St Michael’s hospitals and the Central Health Clinic in her long career, taking only three years off when her sons were small.
Roger and Morfydd wed at the Tabernacle United Reformed Chapel in Wick on September 25, 1965, coincidentally the day the shopping centre opened in Yate, where they made their home.
They have two sons, Peter and Neil, and three grandchildren,  India, nine, and  Harvey, seven, who attend Mangotsfield CE Primary,  and Louisa, 18 months.
Peter and Neil came up with the idea of the school visit as a way to make the anniversary a day their parents would always remember.
Peter, who lives in Siston Hill, said: “I think it is great that the school went out of their way to welcome my parents. I have travelled and worked all over the world but have always based myself in Bristol. This story reminds me of why that might be.”

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