Higher education postcard: Normal College, Bangor

This week’s card from Hugh Jones’s postbag takes us to Gwynedd

Hugh Jones is a freelance HE consultant. You’ll find a daily #HigherEducationPostcard if you follow him on Twitter.

This is Y Coleg Normal, Bangor – Normal College, Bangor.

Normal College was founded in 1858, due in large measure to the efforts of Hugh Owen. Owen was a mover and shaker in Welsh education, and would later go on to play a leading role in the establishment of University College, Aberystwyth – the first of the University of Wales colleges. He was also active in the British and Foreign Schools Society (BFSS), which was a non-establishment educational charity, and fitted well with the nonconformist tradition in Wales. The BFSS supported efforts to establish Y Coleg Normal, and almost 85 per cent of the funds necessary to establish the college were raised by subscription.

The college was a teacher training college, independent of any other body. In 1862 it moved into the buildings shown on the card, situated on the Menai Straits, opposite Ynys Faelog.

Gwynedd, in which Bangor is located, is an area in which Cymraeg is the majority language. In the 1960s Owain Owain, a leading light in Cymdeithas Yr Iaith Cymraeg (the Welsh Language Society) led protests for the right to use the Welsh language – 20 of the college’s staff campaigned successfully to have their payslips in Welsh.

Over the years the college has trained many teachers – and some of these then went on not to teach. Alumni include Windsor Davies, known to many as the sergeant major in 1970s and 80s sitcom It Ain’t Half Hot Mum.

The name, Normal College, does not imply the existence of a rival Abnormal College. Instead, the term comes from France, where the first école normale was founded in 1685. This was a teacher training college, and normal meant the idea of establishing norms amongst its students – that is, standardisation. Normal schools became popular across the world, and were often associated with a style of teacher training in which the institution was both a training college for teachers, and a school with actual pupils.

Y Colege Normal merged with University College of North Wales, now Bangor University, in 1996.

The card was posted on 10 April 1912, to Mrs Williams of Llandeusant, on Ynys Môn.

Dear Mrs Williams, Just a line hoping you are enjoying good health. I came home on Saturday, and found them all. I am enjoying my holidays very well so far. Sincerest regards, SP.

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