History and Heritage

The Golden Wedding of the Rees Deacons of Soar Chapel


Normally I would have filed the lives of Mr and Mrs Rees under "interesting lives" but as ardent members of Soar Baptist Chapel and both, which is unusual in itself, having the distinction of being deacons of that chapel, I felt they should be refilled under the chapel history. Below is part of an article published in the Llais on 5th January1935:


Mr and Mrs Frederick Rees Troedyrallt School Road Ystalyfera celebrated their golden wedding on Sunday. They were married at the Pontardawe register office on 30th December 1884, the registrar being Mr Thomas Rees and the clerk, Mr David Bevan Tuberville.
Mr and Mrs [Catherine] Rees enjoy the distinction of being the only husband and wife in South Wales who are members of the same diaconate. Mr Rees has been a deacon at Soar Baptist Church for 42 years and his wife was elected ten years ago. Both are ardent members and have rendered valuable assistance to the cause.
Natives of Ystalyfera Mr and Mrs Rees have lived in the district all their lives. For many years Mr Rees carried on business as a boot and shoe dealer at Bristol House Ystalyfera, which is now carried on by his son in law; Mr W J Hopkins.
Mr Rees has been a member of Soar Chapel for 44 years and two years after being accepted he was elected to the 'Set Fawr'.

Correct me if anyone knows but I believe the 'set fawr' is the name given to where the elders or deacons sat, at the feet of the preacher, facing the rest of the congregation. The seating area may be on a raised platform to the rest of the chapel.

In 1896 he was appointed announcer and became treasurer in 1909. During that time the Manse** and new vestry were erected.
Mr Rees is also treasurer of the following organisations, Ystalyfera Free Church Council; Ystalyfera branch of the British and Foreign Bible Society and Ystalyfera District of the West Glamorgan Baptist Association. He was the first chairman of the Ystalyfera District when it was founded in 1902, and in January 1924, was presented with an illuminated address by the members to mark the end of 21 years' service as treasurer.

It has always been my hope to come across AN ILLUMINATED ADDRESS perhaps at one of the boot sales but not knowing what one looked like, I doubt very much if my wish will be granted, although during the course of my research, it would appear that many of the residents of Ystalyfera, received one at some time or another.

An active worker in the Sunday school, Mr Rees founded the school at Glanrhyd and he was for 28 years treasurer of the Band of Hope.
When the young people flocked to the churches and chapels after the revival, efforts were made to sustain their interest in religion. At Soar a Young People's Society was formed, Mr Rees being elected President. When the Rev Ifor Jones became Pastor, Mr Rees stood aside and the members recognised his services by electing him honorary president. The Society was formed on Good Friday 1905 and the first session the following September.
Mr Rees is one of two representatives of the Ystalyfera District on the Sustentation Fund and Pensions Fund Committees of the West Glamorgan Baptist Association.

His interests have not been confined to the church, for he was a founder and held the office of president of Y Ddraig Goch Society for two years. He was also connected with the National Disestablishment demonstration at Swansea in 1912 and a steward at the suffragette demonstration in Swansea in 1909.
Mrs Rees has been president of the West Glamorgan Auxiliary of the Baptist Zenana Mission*. She has always been an active worker in the cause of temperance and was elected president of the Ystalyfera branch of the British Women's Temperance Association, which was formed following a campaign conducted by Mr Tennyson Smith, the well known temperance advocate in 1907. She was also the first lady to be appointed on the Boarding out Committee of the Pontardawe Council, being joined later by Mrs Roberts Rees J.P. Glanyronen.
Mrs Rees threw herself wholeheartedly into war work and collected hundreds of pounds in connection with the Soldiers and Sailors Families' Association, being personally thanked by Queen Alexandra, the president.
Mrs Rees served with Mrs C G Gilbertson, Mrs W J Percy Player, Mrs Evan Davies Vicarage Gwauncaegurwen; and Mrs C Morgan on the War Pensions Committee of the Pontardawe district to deal with the supplementary separation allowances of the wives and dependents of soldiers and sailors. She was also connected with the National Fund for Welsh Troops, of which the Rt. Hon. D Lloyd George, O.M., M.P., was president.

Mr and Mrs Rees have no children but they adopted one daughter, who is the wife of Mr W J Hopkin.
On Sunday evening they were presented by the pastor with a, handsome morocco bound Bible. Mr Jones offered the heartiest congratulations of the church to them, and said they took advantage of the opportunity to thank them for their service to the cause.

The election of Mrs Rees as a deacon in recognition of her services was an exception in the Welsh Baptist denomination; her zeal for the work had proved the choice to be a happy one. It was the hope of all the members that Mr and Mrs Rees be spared for many more years.

On Tuesday Mr and Mrs Rees entertained about 60 of their friends to a social evening at Soar vestry. The Rev Ifor Jones pastor presided, and was supported at the cross table by Mr and Mrs Rees, Mrs (Rev) Jones, Mr and Mrs D W Davies, The Rev E D Lewis Caersalem; Mr and Mrs W J Hopkins, Rev and Mrs D R Beynon, Captain Hughes Rowlands, Mrs Knott, Messrs John Maddocks and R W Hopkins.
The chairman extended hearty congratulations to Mr and Mrs Rees and said that a golden wedding was more of an exception than a rule. Both had been pillars of the cause at Soar and it was hoped that they would be spared for many years to come. Mr Jones also referred to the presence of Mr and Mrs D W Davies, who had done so much to bring the new vestry into existence.
The Rev E D Lewis Caersalem said that the names of Mr and Mrs Rees and Soar chapel were synonymous. They had centralised their efforts on the cause, although they had been asked to utilise their abilities in other directions. Their work at Soar would remain a memorial to them long after they had passed away. It was hoped that they would live to celebrate their diamond wedding. Mr D W Davies Tycoch remarked that Mr Rees was a true chip of the old block. He was honest and straightforward in all his dealings and everyone looked up to him.
Mr Maurice Davies A.F.L. secretary of Soar paid a handsome tribute to Mr Rees as a neighbour and fellow church official.
Mr R W Hopkins referred to the help that Mr Rees had been to her husband. In the old days people married for the duration of their lives but now marriages were broken as easily as they were made.
Mrs Dan Daniels handed Mrs Rees a linen basket on behalf of Mr Rees' Sunday school Class and referred to her work in connection with the Zenana Mission.

See link Zenana Missions Wikipedia History -
*The Baptist Missionary Society inaugurated Zenana missions in India in the mid 19th century : 'The Baptist Missionary Society inaugurated zenana missions in India in the mid 19th century. The first zenana mission resulted from a proposal by Thomas Smith in 1840; the first zenana mission began in 1854.
Women in India at this time were segregated under the purdah system, being confined to a women's quarters known as a zenana into which it was forbidden for unrelated men to enter. The zenana missions were made up of female missionaries who could visit Indian women in their own homes with the aim of converting them to Christianity.

Mrs (Rev) Ivor Jones, speaking on behalf of the young women of the church, said they regarded Mrs Rees as a mother. Mrs Edwards presented Mrs Rees with a cake stand, the gift of the ladies who look after the Communion set.
Other speakers were the Revs Arthur Maddocks, Crumlin, a product of Soar; D R Beynon Jerusalem; and Captain Rowlands, while Mrs Cope and Mr Dan Daniels read Bardic effusions. Mr and Mrs Rees suitably responded.
Miss Kathleen Hopkins and the chairman rendered solos. Mr W J Hopkins accorded a vote of thanks to the chairman.

**Soar Manse: The work on building the Soar Manse at Crud yr Awel, Clare Road was started in 1925
See photograph below:-

Read more about Frederick and Catherine Rees, deacons of Soar Chapel, Ystalyfera.