James Owen of Penrhos

and his descendants
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Family & career

Betty Shelby John fondly recalled his first meeting with his future wife, Elizabeth (Betty) Bryant Presneil (right) (b 9 March 1916). She was a very blonde-haired nursing sister at the Naval Hospital, Chatham. They met at a dance in the Officers’ Mess in Chatham and she took umbrage when John chatted to another young lady. They married at the Garrison Church, Chatham on Friday, 18 October 1940. She was due to be posted to Singapore but once she had married she had to leave the service. She spent the last two years of the war in the Royal Observer Corps and living with John’s parents. She and John were to have two daughters.

After the war John became the Assistant Master at Bolton School from 1946 to 1950. Thereafter, until his retirement in 1974, John was on the staff of HM Inspectorate of schools, first in Middlesex (based in Harrow, supervising teams covering state schools in Middlesex but also private and public schools in the whole country) and then, from 1960, in Warwickshire. In the 1950s he and his family were living at 83 Woodberry Avenue, Harrow and then moved to Snitterfield, living in Bell Lane and then at ‘Saddlers’, Orchard Park Lane. He was also dispatched with a rank equivalent to brigadier to advise on schools in Singapore, Malaya and Hong Kong. On one occasion he was asked by the then Minister of Education, a man called Eccles, to produce a report on museums, art galleries, etc. He was told it was urgent and it took him just three months. He reported a chaotic situation and was delighted that all his recommendations were adopted. He retired in 1971.