Sunday, September 16, 2007

Organised Chaos

The organisation for ex-students at Coleg Harlech is known as the Coleg Harlech Association of Old Students (CHAOS).

Never has chaos been so well planned.

A week ago my wife and I spent a fine week-end at the CHAOS annual re-union at the College. I was there to talk about the Iraqi Trade Union Movement.

It is 40 years since my only previous visit to Coleg Harlech. Along with other lecturers from the Sheffield University Extramural Department, I was present for a fortnight's Summer Schools in 1967.

Ann and I have the good fortune to live near Geoff Bratley-Kendall who is the Secretary of CHAOS. He not only gave us a lift to and from the College, but he also toured us around telling sites at Portmeiron, Criccieth and Portmadog. He then took us to (and from) the CHAOS-organised walk around Harlech.

We were blessed with a week-end of fine weather and had a breathtaking view from our room at the top of an eleven storey residential block. We looked out upon Snowden, Harlech Castle, a fine Golf Course, the Bay, a single line railway and the College itself.

Spreading Chaos

An important feature of the week-end was that the ex-students of Coleg Harlech, the Northern College and Ruskin College built an important link for the future. Ten ex-students from the Northern College were in attendance, whilst the Secretary of Ruskin College's equivalent body arrived to attend CHAOS's own AGM.

The new interconnection is one I indentify with closely. As an ex-Ruskin Student, I am a member of its ex-student body - the Ruskin Fellowship. Whilst I organised an annual short-course at the Northern College for nine years following its opening in 1978.

On top of this, I had a small hand in facilitating the new links by passing on a couple of key e-mail addresses to the right person at the right time - Geoff.

Geoff Bratley-Kendall

Geoff was an electrician at Markham pit when I first met him. This was only a month after I had first visited Coleg Harlech. He was a student on an Industrial Day Release Class run for Derbyshire Miners and I was the politics tutor. Afterwards, he moved from day-release studies to two year's full-time studies at the Coleg Harlech Adult Education College.

He then moved on to my old University at Hull, College Lecturing and firm voluntary commitments with his Trade Union NATFHE (National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education). On retirement, he has had the good sense to return to his original electrician's work, but now in a self-employed capacity.

In the days when Geoff and I attended Adult Education Colleges, these were part of an important (if limited) provision of full-time study for mainly working-class adults who had few or no formal qualifications. Geoff and I benefitted from this. Today this avenue is largely replaced by wider forms of opening for educational advancement. But for late developers like Geoff and myself, this tends to require a slog to obtain acreditations - a stage at a time. I am convinced that it is an access route to higher education which we both would never have had the determination, self-belief and planning to follow. For it is an avenue in which ambition tends to replace an interest in study for its own sake. Yet the chance to pursue new interests and develop fresh horizans, seems to some of us to have had invaluable spin-offs both for the individuals who participated in such studies and the wider society.

Hopefully, the new links forged through CHAOS will help keep a belief in the earlier formats of Adult Education at College's such as Coleg Harlech, Ruskin, and the Northern College alive. A good sign at Harlech is that the College is now known as "Coleg Harlech WEA". The Worker's Education Association were, of course, amongst the original propounders of the educational values I have stressed. And they were the organisers' of that first Summer School I attended at Coleg Harlech 40 years ago.

44 comments:

Unknown said...

I am trying to establish contact with an ex Coleg Harlech student Dai Jones who studied there around 1965/6. Dai was married to Hazel and they lived directly up the hill off the town centre and overlooking the castle. He was Welsh and an ex-miner. He was a writer and had a play broadcast by BBC Radio 3.

Ffotolady said...

Dai came to Harlech in 1961 and Hazel in 1962 - if my memory still serves me!!

Unknown said...

It is Dai and Hazel Richards you are enquiring about. I did stay in Dai's house many years ago with another former CH student. I think it was Queen St but can't be sure. Dai became a Cardiff City Councillor and hazel did a degree in Cardiff and I think became a teacher. I am Allan Parfitt, I was a a student at CH in 1962-4 and met Glenys Thomas whom I married 1965.
There is a reunion of former 1962/4 students in Cheltenham this March organised by Keith Heale.

MalcolmH said...

Is that the Allan Parfitt who was not only a Coleg Harlech former student but tutor too.
I was a student at CH in 1976-78 and Allan was my IR tutor and lived in Harlech [was it Ty Canol?].
I went on to Stirling University and now live back in Manchester.

joethree said...

I too was a student of Alan P's in 1968 -1971.
I am looking for news of Winston Thomas A Harlech contemporary and good friend (of Trinidad & Notting hill before it became gentryfied.

Ian H said...

Ray H,

I bumped into Winston in Birmingham in the 70's. He was working with educationally disadvantaged kids. He'd just been bitten by one, but I don't think he would let a little thing like that take him out of his chosen stride - unless the kid had rabies, that is!?

Wow! Coleg Harlech to be closed, because nearly a million in the red! Amazing, given that professional fund-raiser raiser John said at the time we were there that there was sufficient funding to keep the college going for a hundred years or more!?

Bullock! said...

A million in the red ! Does that mean that GB UK has to close! Huh!

Bullock! said...

A million in the red! Does that mean that GB UK will also have to close! Huh!

Bullock! said...

A million in the red ! Does that mean that GB UK has to close! Huh!

Ian H said...

Bullock,

questioning exclaimingly?! or exclaiming questioningly!?

Please forgive my poor grasp of hyper-subtlety!?

Ian H

Unknown said...

i am trying to locate dorothy chambers who was a student in coleg harlech in early 1960s. anyone help

graham allport

Unknown said...

re dorothy chambers email me at allport13@googlemail.com

graham allport

Unknown said...

no sorry allportg13@googlemail.com

graham allport

Unknown said...

i am trying to locate dorothy chambers who was a student in coleg harlech in early 1960s. anyone help

graham allport

Unknown said...

Is CHAOS still going ??? I was at CH 1971/73.Graham Briggs.

Harry Barnes said...

I am not sure, although I think that it packed in. I will seek to contact the person who chaired it for many years and then let you know the answer via this comment box. He attended from around 1968/70.

Unknown said...

Cheers. I seem to recall that Dave Harbord was the editor of the newsletter for a long time.

Unknown said...

Last Action I'm aware of Jack Worral and me carried CHAOS baner through London to Hyde Park (from Val Romayne's home) in 1980 March Against Racism - you must have known Bratley - Kendal in 1971, he became Secretary. Ian H.

Unknown said...

CHAOS banner ' displayed at 1981 re-union at CH

Unknown said...

Bet Jack has still got the huge, red n black banner - confused duty -MI6 photographer who did ask if we were a fascist group - why should they be allowed to nick the best colours, made him smile

Harry Barnes said...

It is Geoff Bratley Kendle whom I will seek to contact. I was mistaken it seems in calling him the Chairperson rather then the Secretary.

Unknown said...

I thought it was Dai Griffiths who was the chair/sec, but that was some time ago.Is Dave Harbord still around and involved?

Harry Barnes said...


The following is taken from a reply I have received from Geoff Bratley-Kendle.
"Coleg Harlech Association of Old Students (CHAOS) is still going but the emphasis as with a lot of organisations formed when such places as Coleg Harlech were thriving is "old".
We organise an annual reunion and in the absense of the Coleg it has been held in the Noddfa Country House just opposite the Golf Club. Around 20-30 attend with partners and we organise all meals and entertainment etc. We have a guest speaker (this yer it will be Dai Micheal), an ex member of staff at the Coleg who will speak about George Davison who had the original Coleg building constructed as his home (Wern Fawr).
We visit sites of interest in the vicinity. Two years ago we were fortunate to visit Yr Ysgwrn - the home of Hedd Wyn - in the company of his nephew Gerald. This was just before the place was altered to become a more "commercial" tourist attraction but still well worth visiting. Last year following a talk on the early years of LLoyd George a contingent went to the museum near Criccieth. This year I have suggested the Electric Mountain then the Hotel where the 1953 Everest Expedition stayed.
The week will end with dinner out, For the last 2 years at the Harlech Bistro.
This year we arrive on Monday Sept 23 and depart on Friday Sept 27. By now all places will have been filled.
I am the Secretary and Dai Griffiths from Swansea is the Chairperson. Rest assured - although the buildings of Coleg Harlech have been sold and are in other hands - CHAOS remains in existence and those of us who remain intend it to carry on."

Unknown said...

Thanks very much for that information Harry. Can you do me a favour and pass on to Geoff B my new email address (mrgbriggsy@gmail.com) with a request to be put on the CHAOS mailing list. It would also be helpful if I had the contact details for Geoff and Dai. Cheers, Graham Briggs (class of 1971/73).

Harry Barnes said...

Graham. I have forwarded you comment to Geoff. Hopefully he will contact you. I think he attended 1968/70.

Unknown said...

Was shocked to see that Coleg Harlech was closed and in such a state.It's almost 50 years since I went there as a student(70-72) Two years unlike anything in my previous experience. Now it's gone. Been living in New York for donkey's years and lost touch but remember the people mentioned in your blog. Cheers, Sam Davis.

Unknown said...

Hi Sam, we must have been at CH at the same time. I was there in 1971/73. I lived in the ball I for the first year, got married in the summer of 72,and lived in the village with my wife Barbara for the second year.
I recall Alan Jenkins who I shared a room with in my first year. Also recall Tony Butler and Vaughan Colley.
Cheers, Graham Briggs.

Unknown said...

From Green Huts to Grand Hotel to beached Great Hulk in 50-ywars. In 68 John Sutherland, professional fund-raiser, alroundgoodguy and unstated honourary student said funds raised ensuredcolleg was good for 100-years

Unknown said...

In 69 Sir Edmund Boyle could be put-up in style and came to tell us as head-honcho at Penguin Books that the gapp between paperbacks and hardbacks would remain the same a. This of corse was the yearthe OUopened its doors to begin the threat to continued existence of CH, along with further education clleges emulating the CH diploma with access courses . Ian H.

Unknown said...

CHers who went into further education must have been convi ced they were continuing in the spirit which caused CH when setting-up Acces courses (mea culpa) It has to be THE supreme irony that every good idea carries the germ of its own destruction. Ian H.

Unknown said...

Sam Davis, you the Leicester guy gun-mugged in New York restaurant when fetching a bottle from its wine store? Ian H

Unknown said...

https//:hitime.co.uk help site go viral Ian H.

Bob said...

Have just read about the closure of the College and am distraught. I was there in the early 70s and that place set me on the road from being chucked out of school to being a retired lecturer to a PhD to his name. I'm so very sad to see it gone.
Can anyone put me in touch with CHAOS? Bob Love

Harry Barnes said...

Bob : I have forwarded your comment to Geoff Bratley-Kendle who was the Secretary of CHAOS. If you can send me your email details via this thread I will pass it on to him and then delete it from my comment box. This item is 10 years old, so it is seldom viewed by others nowadays.

Bob said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Unknown said...

Hi Bob, I'm Graham Briggs and I was at Coleg Harlech from 1971 - 1973. In my first year I lived in the block, but got wed in the summer and my wife Barbara and I lived in the village for my second year. I was mates with Dave Harboard and Vaughan Colley.

Bob said...

Hi Graham. Thanks for such a swift response! You must have been a year or two before my time. Memory has become vague but I must have been there from about 1974.

Unknown said...

Hi Bob, I was part of a group under Dave Wiltshire and Allan Parfit.

Bob said...

Hi. I had Allan for IR and Jim Yuill for Economics. They both taught me so much. Jim, I know went to France to live. Any idea about Allan or Dave now?

Unknown said...

Hi, not sure about Allan P, but I think Dave A still lives in Harlech.

Harry Barnes said...

To Bob Love. I removed your e-mail address as I promised. I understand that Geoff Batley-Kendle has used it to contact you. As others have also commented on matters, I will leave it up to you if you would like to publish your e-mail details once more. This thread has been very popular over time, with 40 comments to date. My equivalent life changing experience to yours was studying at Ruskin College from 1960 to 1962. I still have a local friend who also studied at Ruskin from 1959 to 1961. Then we both studied at Hull University from 1960 to 1963. Next we were colleagues at Sheffield University Extramural Department for over 20 years, mainly on day-release courses for Trade Unionists. Geoff Bratley-Kendle was in first the Derbyshire Miners' Day Class I ever taught in 1966-67. If we can now get Labour elected, it will give me avenue to press for building on our pasts.

George said...

I was at CH 197-75. Does anyone know anything of Ernie Alders, I was his best mand at CH in 1975? I would like to receive news of CHAOS if possible, my email is George-owen@outlook.com. Allan Parfitt now lives in Rhyl. Thanks George

Harry Barnes said...

Hello George, I have forwarded your comment by e-mail to Geoff Bratley-Kendle who is refered to by me in the comment above yours. He should either e-mail you a response or send me a response by which I can do this.

Harry Barnes said...

Hello George. Geoff Bratley-Kendle will e-mail you directly about CHAOS. This blog item of mine on life-long learning may also be of interest - http://threescoreyearsandten.blogspot.com/2020/03/adult-education-and-life-long-learning.html