James Owen of Penrhos

and his descendants

Enforced retirement as an HMI

A report in The Times of 8 January 1897, headed 'Wales in 1896 (from a correspondent)' concentrated mainly on education. Apart from listing some distinguished people killed in a horrific accident on the opening of the country's first Swiss mountain railway, up Snowdon, few people were mentioned except, somewhat surprisingly, here: "During the year the Chief Inspector of Schools for Wales, Mr. W. Williams, died and is about to be succeeded by Mr. Legard, of the Leeds district, against whose appointment another "national" agitation is threateneing on the absurd ground that he does not speak Welsh. During the year also Mr. T. Morgan Owen, a sub-inspector, was transferred from North Wales to Nottingham, and the Welsh staff was strengthened by the addition of Mr. L.J.Roberts and Mr. Darlington". Timothy's opinion of Mr. Legard's appointment was clearly set out in a letter of 5 July 1897. In Nottingham he lived near a railway station so he could return home every Friday; he refused to spend a whole week in England!

Timothy was not to be long out of Wales. At the turn of the century Robert Morant, seeking to purge HM Inspectorate of what he saw as elderly and inefficient members, presented a series of character assassinations of several long-serving HMIs; that of Timothy read as follows: he is not yet 58 and therefore special steps would need to be taken in order to get rid of him. But such steps would be eminently justifiable. He is so 'impossible' a man that it is a constant problem to know where on earth to put him, to prevent perpetual disturbances with managers or School boards. He is wholly without breeding or feelings: has been tried in one place after another with the same disastrous results. If ever a case needed and justified drastic treatment in the public interest and be hailed with satisfaction by everyone but the man himself, it is this case …. He ought never to have been brought into the Service. Within months Timothy had retired on the grounds of 'ill health' though he maintained an active interest in education and was particularly involved in the maintenance of voluntary schools.

This memo shows how vitriolic Morant was about several elderly HMIs. He was a ruthless, manipulative man, not afraid to use questionable methods to remove his opponents or to achieve his ends; it may be that he was behind the article in The Times, mentioned at the top of this page. As a civil servant, he achieved much in modernising the education system, driving through the 1902 Education Act but he made many enemies. The purge of HMIs was made in advance of the arrival of his appointee as Chief Inspector. It is ironic that Morant was subsequently forced to quit his post as Permanent Secretary after he had approved a report written by that same Chief Inspector, over which both men were severely censored.