"If at any time, at any place, and under any circumstances, you can do a good turn to a fellow Bridgendian, remember that it is a privilege to do so." | John Rankin B.A.

John Rankin B.A.

For those who attended Bridgend County School, Heol Gam or Brynteg Comprehensive School, John Rankin B.A. will be a familiar name. 

The first headmaster of Bridgend Intermediate School (later Brynteg) John served the community of Glamorgan as a teacher and educator for 43 years. But, who was John Rankin B.A?  In this blogpost, I take a look at the life of an Irish man who became a key figure in many children's lives. 

Unfortunately, not much is known about the early life of John.  What little we know has been drawn from census records, certificates and newspaper articles. 

John Rankin was born on the 21st of  August, 1863. He was the eldest of nine children born to James and Elizabeth Rankin of  Castleblaney, Co Monaghan in Northern Ireland. 

John came from a deeply religious family. He was a great-grandson of Rev James Rankin, the Minister of the Presbyterian Congregation in Monaghan. It was through the Presbyterian Church that the Rankin children were able to read and write.

John Rankin: A Teacher and Educator.


Advertisement for Bridgend Grammar School. 

It is not known when John made the journey from Ireland to Wales. The first mention of John being in Wales can be found in 1885. In 1885, John Rankin joined the staff at Pontypridd Grammar School. He worked under the headmaster John Francis M'clune. 

In July 1886, John became a Classical and Mathematical Master at the High School, Cheltenham.  In June 1888, John completed his degree at London University with 1st Class Honours. On his return to Wales the same year,  John was appointed senior assistant master at Pontypridd Grammar School.

"Mr Rankin is a successful teacher and firm disciplinarian and will be a material acquisition to the teaching staff of this popular school." - The Pontypridd Chronicle. 

In 1888, John Francis M'clune started a new venture - Bridgend Grammar School. Bridgend Grammar School was a private boys' preparatory school, based on the same model as Pontypridd Grammar School. John was appointed headmaster of the newly founded Bridgend Grammar School the following year. 

He moved into a fully furnished bedroom at Clifton House, Newcastle Hill. Clifton House was one of two licensed boarding houses run by Mrs Bascombe. The 1891 Census tells us that John was living at Clifton House with four other boarders. John was listed as being a schoolmaster. 

In January 1896, The Cardiff Times reported that John had“sufficiently mastered the Welsh language.” As a result of this, he was able to write for various Welsh language publications and teach Welsh at the Bridgend Grammar School.

Bridgend Intermediate School - John Rankin can be seen on the left. 

Under the provisions of the Welsh Intermediate Education Act 1889, a secondary school, known as "the Intermediate School" was opened on the 21st of September 1896. The school later became the Bridgend County Girl Grammar School and is now Penybont Primary School. 

On the 8th of August 1896, John Rankin B.A. was appointed as the first headmaster of the Intermediate School. 

Dr Randall later wrote about Rankin's appointment: "The first headmaster was John Rankin, who had previously carried on a private secondary school in the town. It was an excellent choice, for he had the characteristics of the gentleman scholar, was exceedingly loyal to his school and his pupils, and his peculiarities increased their affection for him."  

Below quotes taken from "From a Fair Hill: Brynteg Comphresive School" give us an interesting insight into John's personality as a teacher. 

"Mr John Rankin, the Headmaster, known as Boss', was a strict disciplinarian who rigidly applied the 'No Smoking' rule (although he always smoked Gold Flake Cigarettes regularly). He visited every form in turn asking three or four of the boy's questions. If one of the boys failed to answer a question he curled his moustache and said "I presume you are one of the smokey band, one of the smokey rotters. Umph!." 

"The great pioneer work which he [John Rankin] did in the cause of education for this district and the love and respect which he instilled into his pupils, will not easily be forgotten. Present-day pupils know him as the fine old gentleman, who with his white linen spats and bow tie, used faithfully to attend each school sports, and present the prizes at the end, always adding a cheery word to each successful competitor."

John stayed as headmaster of the school for 32 years, until his retirement in 1928. Altogether, John dedicated 43 years of his life to education in South Wales. 

John Rankin: A Husband and Father.

On Wednesday the 8th of April 1896, John Rankin married Maria May Stockwood at St Illtyd's Church, Newcastle Hill. 

Maria May Stockwood was one of seven children born to the well-known solicitor Thomas Stockwood and his wife Ann. Maria was a member of the local committee of the Queen Victoria Jubilee Nursing Insitute and a member of the Bridgend Hospital Sewing Guild. (I will be writing in more detail about the Stockwood's in the near future.)

The Glamorgan Gazette described the bridal costume as being “white figured silk with a white chipped hat with plumes fastened with orange blossoms.” The couple then travelled to Aberystwyth for their honeymoon. 

A view of Caederwen.

At the time of their marriage, the Rankin family lived at 'Caederwen' - the Stockwood family home. It was at 'Caederwen' that their only child, a son, Reginald John Rankin was born in January 1897. He was baptised on the 3rd of February 1897 at St Illtyd's Church, Newcastle Hill.

In 1899, the Rankin family moved to Rhos y Nau, West Road. This would be their family home for the next 40 years. 

The 1901 Census tells us that the Rankin family were living at Rhos y Nau, West Road. John lived there with his wife May, son Reginald, his sister in law and a servant. John's occupation was listed as the headmaster of Bridgend Intermediate School.

The 1921 Census tells us that John was the “headmaster of recognised secondary school.” His place of employment is given as Bridgend County School. At the time of the census, John lived with his wife Maria, his sister in law and a servant. 

In August 1932, Maria May, John's wife died. In her obituary, Maria was described as being "of a kind-hearted and generous disposition." She was a "staunch and loyal friend, never more in days of stress and gloom." She was buried in the Stockwood family plot at St Illtyd's Church, Newcastle Hill. 

In March 1939, John died at Rhos y Nau, aged 76. He had a private funeral and was buried with his wife, Maria, at St Illtyd's Church. 

"I have never met a man or woman whose appreciation of Mr Rankin's quality as teacher and guide was lacking. Hundreds up and down the county and without its bounds respected and truly loved the deceased gentleman." - The Glamorgan Gazette, April 1939.

Bridgend County School.

The John Rankin Memorial Prize.

“It was his great ambition to present the old school with some permanent token of his connection with it.” - The Glamorgan Gazette, 1947. 

In October 1947, a plaque to commemorate John Rankin was unveiled at the Bridgend County Girls School – Originally the Bridgend Intermediate School, it was in that building that John Rankin became headmaster in 1896. 

The plaque reads: "The old pupils here record, with deep affection, their memories of John Rankin, B.A, Headmaster. 1896 – 1928."

Along with the plaque, The John Rankin Memorial Prize was announced. The prize was funded by public subscription with over 531 people donating money. 

"It had been one of his (John Rankin's) regrets that the school was not better endowed with scholarships to enable more boys to go to University." - Edward James J.P., 1947. 

The John Rankin Memorial Prize included two prizes:  

  • A school leaving prize (annually) for one boy or one girl of Bridgend County Schools.
  • A prize for a boy and a girl in the sixth form, who had shown outstanding powers of initiative, sense of duty and consideration for his and her fellows.
75 years later, the Rankin Scholar Award is still awarded and celebrated at Brynteg Comprehensive School. 

Staff Photograph showing John Rankin in the centre. 

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