WALTER E REES
Capt Walter E Rees ran the Welsh Rugby Union from his front room in a Neath Town Centre house for over 50 years, He has been the longest serving secretary of the Welsh Rugby Union. Prior to this he was secretary of Neath Rugby Club. In 1910 he was the assistant manager of the British team's tour of South Africa. His strength of character was legendary and together with Sir John Llewellyn (WRU President 1885-1906) also of Neath, he guided Wales through their first golden era in the early years of the 20th century.
An Appreciation by leading Welsh Journalist
JBG Thomas was one of Walter Rees' great Ad book "Men Matches & Moments
The late Walter Enoch Rees - the
most illustrious of Welsh administrators - became a legend in his own
lifetime. He was known to his intimate friends as Walter, and to the
populace as Captain Rees. About him a thousand tales can be told and he is
remembered in Wales as are players like Owen, Trew, Bancroft Gabe and
Nicholls, for Walter was truly a character; more than that even, an
institution in the game. Indeed, until his death in 1949, at the age of
87, he seemed as old as Welsh rugby itself, an ever-present member of the
administration. One might even say that he was THE administration for his
powerful 52 years as secretary!
Never in the history of rugby football has one man wielded as much power as this benevolent 'dictator', who served rugby faithfully in his native land and maintained a dignity and a control that was the envy of many. He was Welsh rugby and not even Daniel Craven, the most powerful of modern administrators can match the influence possessed by Walter at the height of his power, in the days between the Wars.
Many have tried to denigrate this amazing personality; some because they were envious of his power, others because they never understood him, while some felt him pompous because he did not suffer fools gladly. It is true that he had certain weaknesses, as have most benevolent dictators but his fantastic aplomb and capacity to survive in the corridors of rugby power give cause for him to be remembered as one of the most amazing personalities the game has ever known.
He fascinated me always, even before the War when, as a 'beginner in the trade', I approached him rather nervously for a Press pass, and then later when I knew him more intimately, and sat with him in his dining-room at 'Norwood'... Neath (which was the WRU office for 52 years) sorting out the Press passes for international matches.
Yes, Walter was an autocrat and ran the Union as he thought fit, but always doing what he thought was in the best interests of Welsh rugby. Whenever I asked awkward questions about the agenda of a monthly meeting of the WRU executive, he used to reply, as we supped a cup of coffee, 'I wouldn't say anything about that!
Perhaps, in his later years, he took too much upon himself, for immediately before and after World War II he was all-powerful, and it was he who directed affairs under the equally long-serving President, Horace Lyne. When the great administrator from Newport passed away, Sir David Rocyn Jones became President and this dapper, dynamic figure set the Union along a more democratic road. Walter resigned from his post at the great age of 86, the oldest rugby secretary of all time, and no representative official is ever likely to break his record of 52 years unbroken service.
Some of the legendary stories about this remarkable personality make interesting reading. Few rugby officials have been able to commandeer a whole train and, even fewer, able to drive into Twickenham in a magnificent saloon with a police escort of outriders while his committee travelled by coach! No secretary in my lifetime has ever engaged in a 'grand parade' round the touchlines of his home ground, raising his hat to the salute of the crowd. This was Walter, the supremo of Welsh rugby.
He was born at Neath on April 13, 1862, and was first employed as a secretary by the Ministry of Labour before becoming the secretary of the Welsh Rugby Union in 1896 in succession to W. H. Gwynne. At the time he was 34 years of age and did not marry until he was 46, and then to a Scottish lady, Miss Elizabeth Peters, of Aberdeen. Becoming the Union secretary, as he did, a few years after their first Triple Crown triumph, he enjoyed taking an important part in the most colourful period of Welsh rugby, through the 'Golden Era' from 1900 to 1911. When World War 1. arrived he was too old for active service, and became the recruiting officer for the Neath, Port Talbot and Bridgend areas.
Walter was particularly interested in public life, being elected to the Neath Town Council in 1900 and becoming the town's mayor in the memorable year of 1905. Prior to his becoming the WRU secretary, he had been secretary of the Neath club and a district member of the WRU, as well as a representative on the International Board. Thus he was extremely knowledgeable in the ways of public life and in the administration of the game. When he took office in 1896 there were 50 clubs in the Union, but when he retired in 1948 there were 104. Again, in 1896, the receipts for the Wales v England match at Newport were £1,100, while in 1948 the Scottish game at Cardiff produced nearly £10,000.
Walter was known throughout the rugby world, and in 1910 was one of two managers of the British Lions' 'team in South Africa. Again, he was Neath's senior magistrate for many years and towards the end of his life carried out his duties bravely while suffering ill-health. Public life to him was the very essence of living and, although he enjoyed the plaudits of the crowd, he was a remarkable administrator. Those who worked with him appreciated this, for he possessed unconquerable energy and enthusiasm.
To the people outside the inner circles of Welsh rugby he will be remembered best as Captain Rees, a short, dapper figure, immaculately dressed, who stood in the foyer of the Queen's Hotel at Cardiff, or the Metropole Hotel at Swansea, on the morning of an international match, producing tickets of admission for late-comers, and particularly those exiled Welshmen who had travelled many miles to see the old country in action.
When he retired, and I was the only other person present when he handed his resignation to Sir David Rocyn Jones over lunch at the Queen's Hotel in Cardiff, he told me with tears in his eyes, 'I have been very happy in the job, which has been full of pleasant memories.
'With the retirement of Walter, and his death a year later,
Welsh rugby lost one of its most important figureheads. After his passing there
followed an era of change and the establishment of proper Union headquarters in
Cardiff. The era of 'benevolent dictatorship' had passed, as have so many other
traditions in the game in recent years. Critics of Captain Walter Rees there may
have been, but there can be no denying his ability, his power and tremendous
influence as a top rugby official. I will remember always his saying to me in
Paris in 1947, as we marched through an avenue of gendarmes from State Colombes
to the official coach in case of crowd troubles, 'Is this a guard of honour for
|MEMORABILIA RELATING TO WALTER REES|
|letters of selection were dispatched on headed notepaper from Walter's front room.||Handbooks that belonged to Capt Walter E Rees. These were used to gain entry to all matches under the jurisdiction of the union.||Dinner menu from a presentation evening given by the Neath Rugby Club to celebrate Rees' 50 years as secretary of the Welsh Football/Rugby Union, autographed on the back cover.|
LETTER FROM 1950 & 1952 WELSH GRAND SLAMS CAPTAIN JOHN GWILLIAM TO THE WRU SECRETARY IN 1989 REQUESTING TICKETS FOR AN INTERNATIONAL.
Gwilliam reminisces about his dealings with Walter Rees (bottom of page 1 and top of page 2)
" No doubt the post of secretary has changed a lot in recent years. I look back with amusement at dear old Walter Rees who was in charge when I started playing after the war. It was said that he did everything from the front room of his house in Neath. He certainly frightened us as young players, queuing at his table for expenses at trial matches etc. He was quite capable of refusing anyone who claimed for more than a cheap day return."
|Walter's thrift with the Union's purse was legendary. he'd regularly walk into the changing room prior to an international and lay the law down on expense claims. Ronnie Boon in an interview with the Times in 1983 elaborates "Fifteen minutes before the game was due to start (England v Wales 1933 - the first Welsh victory at Twickenham", Walter Rees, secretary of the Welsh Rugby Union and a great and dominant character in Welsh rugby came into the dressing room and said. "Now boys I want you to remember this I don't want to see you charging for taxis to Cardiff when you put your expenses in." Boon elabrorates "Wages were low and there was a lot of unemployment in those days. For boys who worked in industry, charging taxi fares when they had taken buses to Cardiff from their homes was the only way they could make half-a-crown or so to help their families and give them an extra pint or two. Who could blame them ? I still smile when I think of Walter worrying about expenses at such a moment|
A Menu card for a presentation dinner in honour of Walter's 50 years service as Secretary of the Welsh Rugby Union. Held at the Castle Hotel in Neath on Friday, 24th May 1946 (WRM-0188)
|Samples of WRU stationary during Walter's period of office|
1919 - Return card - address Walter Rees and selection card for Welsh
Trial match at Llanelly
1919 - Selection letter for trial match - Blues v Stripes at Neath
1926 - Final Instructions for Welsh Trial.
1930 - Final instructions for F v W at Paris.
1935 - Final instructions for W v NZ at Cardiff.
1940 - Final Instructions for E v W Services international at Gloucester.
1938 - WRU notice of committee meeting on decorative WRU-Neath letterhead.
WRU notice of AGM 1938.
Appreciation of Captain Walter E. Rees
by Percy F Bush
I count it as a single honour and privilege to be
allowed to speak this evening in appreciation of this truly “Grand old man”
the undisputed “G.O.M of administrative Welsh Rugby for he was a man apart”!
I first came under the spell of his charm , his
consideration his understanding of human frailties, his sporting nature, in
1905, on the occasion of the Wales New Zealand game on Cardiff Arms Park, a game
in which, as everyone is by now nauseated to hear of, our N.Z cousins lost the
only match of their grand tour.
Now an International cap means a real lot to its
recipient, and the Welsh Rugby Union, with a fatherly desire not to cause a
player to suffer from swelled head and true be unable to wear it presents a
player with this cap, via the unions secretary, as the player walkes on to the
field for his first game. Thus dear old Walter accosted me in the touchline,
that day and handed me the “ Scarlet Glory” saying: here you are , Percy;
you deserve it. I wont wish you good luck, for you do not depend on that; but
just All the best!.
I have always been sorry that a little later I caused
Walter a nasty spasm although that smoothed itself out all right. In those days,
I know he forgave me, because whenever
Again after taking up residence in
I never had the slightest trouble over getting my old
internationals ticket, after my return. Walter knew I wanted it, and a word was
I shall miss him quite as much as anyone outside the
immediate family circle. In every way a man in a million.
Captain Walter E. Rees
Tribute to the work and personality of the late secretary of the welsh rugby union, who held that office for 52 years, are paid by some of these who knew him well. #
Percy Bush, Ald. L
D.R.Gents recording DLO 55065
Rehersal :- " " " " at .
This is the welsh home service. Tonight we are paying tribute to the work and personality of the late captain Walter.E.Rees.
For 52 years he was secretary of the welsh rugby union and for half a century was a dominating influence on our great traditional winter game.
Our first speaker, although a Welshman and proud to hail
CONTRIBUTION FROM DR.GENT
One of my earliest recollections of welsh rugby football is connected with
the St. Helenn's ground
Fifty and more years ago, when Walter Rees was appointed Secretary of the walsh rugby union, he began to carry on the same sort of blessing, though, perhaps, in a more executive and supervising capacity. At Cardiff Arms park and St Helen's we used to see him calm and inruffled, strolling round and taking a last look at things, and only leaving the field when Teams, linesmen, and referee were in position, and when not even the secretary of the Welsh Union had any right to be on the field. The crowd felt that all was in order if Walter Rees was there - it represented friendship, warmth, and tradition - true Welsh traits, all of them.
But this was only the occasional glimpse of the man behind the scenes. All the time, winter and summer, there was the executive officer of the Union at work, coping with the intricacies of the control of a game like Rugby Football in the Principality, a country whose skill and vigour and sesources in oputdoor sport have for a long long time been best expressed in this grand old game - Wales, Music, Rugby Football, the world links these three together.
In the formative years when the game was organised to keep pace its popularity, when crowds grew to the enormous size of an international match at Swansea or Cardiff, when laws had to be modified, and in a word when this " tackling, Kicking, catching, running" game had passed from a bit of fun on a school field to a great game and a big business, there was Walter Rees as guido, councellor, working with that other grand old man Horace Lyne, also recently taken from us, and earning the respect and admiration of countless players, club officials, Union representatives, and spectators for more than a couple of generations. I am proud to pay this small tribute to two great pillars of Welsh Rugby Football, whom I knew as friends for so long a time.
In addition to being administrator, Walter Rees took pride in the civic administration of his native borough Neath.
To tell us something of this side of his life, here is Alderman Len Burton.
Captain Walter E. Rees.
Was a member of Neath Borough Council from 1900 to 1919.
Serving 19 years in public administration.
He was Mayor of Neath from 1918 and chairman of one of the rotas of justices,
and that was not all, he was also a justice of the peace for the
Contribution by ROWE HARDING
It is nearly thirty years since i played my first game of first class Rugby,
but from the age of about 10, which is to say, nearly 40 years ago, I read
eagerly all that was to be read in the local newspaper about rugby and rugby
players, and , of course, devoured all the ece-of-the-match gossip which then ,
as now whetted one's appetite for news of the first international match of the
season, between England and Wales. One pice of information which was
invariable published in those days was a copy of the instructions issued to
players by the secretary of the Welsh Football Union. O these, I particulary
remember "The Welsh team will play in dark blue shorts and international
jersey. Then would follow details of the match arrangements and finally the name
WALTER E. REES. Even then the name somehow impressed me more than the
names of the players, Famous though many were. It is almost incredible that even
in those far off days, nearly 40 years ago, Walter E. Rees's name had been
household word for over twenty years. In the minds of most people WALTER REES
was the Welsh Union, and I have no doubt that during the golden era of
Welsh Rugby he got, and , no doubt desrved, a good deal of the credit for our
successes. I know that in the Lean years that followed the first worl war, he
was the man most often blamed when things went wrong, though in fact he had
nothing to do with the selection of the team. All this shows how powerfull his
personality was impressed upon the game of