THE family of friends of the late Mel Harris, a former principal of Caerleon College and the Gwent College of Higher Education, have paid tribute to a “proud Welshman” who was “deeply committed to the value of education”.

Mr Harris was born in Pontypridd in 1925 and became a wartime ‘Bevin boy’ after he left school.

His first job was as geography master at Holywell Grammar School, Flintshire, where he met his colleague and future wife, Beryl.

The couple married in 1956.

Mr Harris’ career in education took him to various posts around Wales, as well as summer holiday projects with the British Council in Africa.

In 1972, he was appointed headmaster of Caerleon College, and later principal of the newly-established Gwent College of Higher Education in 1975, following the merger of three colleges.

At the funeral, his friend and former colleague, Dr Gethin Williams, said Mr Harris “was faced with a succession of challenges, chiefly originating with the Thatcher government, which would test the nerve, stamina and management ability of any Welsh principal”.

By the time Mr Harris retired in 1990, he had become “one of the most highly regarded and respected in Wales,” Dr Williams said.

Mr Harris’ son, Wyn, said of his father’s career: “He believed passionately in the importance of access to education, as this had been what had allowed him to follow his path from pit to principal.

“It would have been very easy for him to have remained in the mining community but he worked hard to develop his career.”

After retiring, Mr and Mrs Harris moved to Upper Cwmbran.

The family also made many happy memories together at their holiday flat in Pembrokeshire, where Mr Harris enjoyed fishing.

Mr Harris was the founding president of the Caerleon Rotary Club and an enthusiastic member of another club, ‘The Guinness Boys’, in Cwmbran’s The Queen Inn.

A patriotic man, Mr Harris was a dedicated rugby supporter and followed the Welsh team’s travels around Europe. He was an opera lover and enjoyed his involvement with the Newport Philharmonic Choir.

Mr Harris died at his home on July 30, aged 92. His funeral was held on August 15, with donations to Myeloma UK to be sent c/o Tovey Bros, 9/11 Cardiff Road, Newport, NP20 2EH