History and Heritage

Jane Rees - wife of Ebenezer Rees

Jane Rees was born Jane James in the village of Golden Grove in Carmarthenshire, but her family soon moved to Cwmtwrch. As the wife, and in many ways the partner of local miner-turned-publisher Ebenezer Rees, she would become well known amongst the early labour movement, as well as helping her husband with his newspaper, the Llais.

Ebenezer Rees died in 1908, and Jane Rees survived him by eight years, dying in September 1916.

The Llais newspaper of 23rd September 1916 records her death with a generous obituary :-

Mrs Ebenezer Rees
Sudden Death at Ystalyfera

Deep regret was felt throughout the district over the week-end, which will be shared by friends and acquaintances at a distance, at the news of the sudden death on Saturday, of Mrs. Jane Rees, widow of the late Ebenezer Rees, founder and first Editor of "Llais Llafur," at the age of 67. She survived her husband eight years.

Born at the little Carmarthenshire village of Golden Grove, she was re-moved at an early age to Cwmtwrch, where her father "Dafydd James y Gof," plied his trade for many years. Here she grew up, and was married to Mr Ebenezer Rees, a young miner who was even then an outstanding figure owing to his trade union activities. Victimization led to emigration to America, and Mr and Mrs. Rees settled down at Carbondale, Penn., in 1869. A few years later, however, they returned to their old home. Sojourn in America had sharpened rather than dulled the late Ebenezer Rees' democratic sympathies, and there was no local movement in Labour matters of which he was not either the instigator or one of the foremost supporters. As a result of his activities, it became increasingly difficult for him to follow his occupation as a miner, and he started in business as a bookseller, and later removed to Ystalyfera, where he established a printing office.

In all his undertakings he was actively supported by Mrs. Rees; and, twenty years ago her ready help, tenacious courage and motherly sympathies contributed not a little to the result, when her husband and two eldest sons established "Llais Llafur." Without her presence, there possibly would have been no "Llais Llafur"

Manifold anxieties attend the founding of a newspaper under any circumstances, but when the organ was a Labour newspaper, produced in days when organiser Labour had not won its present standing, and was regarded by many people with dislike tempered by fear, the hazards were enormously multiplied. No difficulties, however, daunted her, and she would allow no difficulties to daunt others. She presided at the birth of the "Llais," and helped to tide over the crises of its earlier years. It was due as much to her watchful care, as to the social enthusiasm and public spirit of the late Ebenezer Rees that the pioneer Welsh Labour newspaper successfully negotiated the shoals of the early years, and was able ultimately to attain its present firmly-established position and influence. Many who read this obituary notice will probably be among "the readers from the first" - although their numbers are sadly thinning - but few can have read the paper with such close scrutiny as the late Mrs. Rees, for she was wont to scan almost every issue from title to imprint.

Her interest in efforts to promote the welfare of the workers was only one expression of qualities that found their fullest scope in private life, and placed her on a pedestal in the hearts of all who knew her intimately. These include not only her own kinsfolk, but many who came to the printing office as lads from orphanages, and received from her a kindly care that was by no means exhausted in meeting the claims of her own family circle. Her home was the meeting-place of all kinds of small and struggling societies Socialist agitators like Keir Hardie, Labour pioneers like Mr John Hodge, and other travelling missioners of democratic causes found under her roof a cordial welcome and unstinted hospitality. About the Wern at Ystalyfera, and in many other parts of this district, there are people who will remember her countless little I acts of kindly and unobtrusive helpfulness.

As long as her health allowed, she was a regular worshipper at Zoar Baptist Chapel, Ystalyfera, and had a vein of piety as quiet as it was deep. She was endowed with that order of moral courage which faces the most formidable obstacles with a smile, and she had the rare faculty of communicating that courage to others. A certain quaint and quiet humour was one of her salient traits, and when occasion needed, this quality would find expression in verbal rapier-thrusts, which, meant to prod, and not to wound were seldom ineffective. She never lost the faculty, which she had in an uncommon degree of making herself one with the children.

Although within the last few months she had scented the night air, she went about her self-appointed tasks at Glanyronen (the residence of Mr and Mrs. D. J. Rees), where she had latterly made her home), with an outward demeanor as quiet and serene as ever. The end came suddenly. At noon she was in more than her customary good spirits. Before dusk she was dead.

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