Dictionary of Welsh Biography

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REES , WILLIAM THOMAS ( Alaw Ddu ; 1838 - 1904 ), musician .

Born 29 Sept. 1838 in the village of Pwll-y-glaw , near Pont-rhyd-y-fen, Glam. , the son of Thomas and Mary Rees , natives of Laleston , near Bridgend, Glam. The family moved to Aberdare in 1851 where, after the death of his father, the son began to work, when still young, in a coal-mine . He came under the influence of John Roberts ( Ieuan Gwyllt ) and other musicians who lived in the Aberdare district. He married in 1859 , and moved to Dinas , Rhondda Valley , two years later; it was there that he composed the hymn-tune ‘ Glanrhondda .’

In 1864 he moved to Pontypridd where he became precentor at Penuel C.M. chapel . Four years later he was given a post by lady Llanover at Aber-carn ; he also became precentor at lady Llanover 's chapel. In 1870 he moved to Llanelly, Carms. , where he was made precentor at Trinity C.M. chapel . He founded a Philharmonic Society at Llanelly ; he also conducted singing festivals and adjudicated at eisteddfodau in many parts of Wales .

He edited Y Gerddorfa , 1872-9 , Yr Ysgol Gerddorol , 1878-9 , Cyfaill yr Aelwyd , 1880-1 (with J. Ossian Davies ), Cerddor y Cymry , 1883-94 , wrote (with J. Owen , Criccieth ) a biography of John Roberts ( Ieuan Gwyllt ), and contributed frequently to journals, mainly on the subject of music). He won the prize at the London eisteddfod of 1887 for an essay on the raising of the standards of instrumental music in Wales . He composed oratorios (‘ Ruth a Naomi ’ and ‘ Brenin Heddwch ’), cantatas (‘ Llywelyn ein Llyw Olaf ,’ ‘ Y Bugail Da ,’ etc.), a motet (‘ Gweledigaeth Ioan ’; this won for him the prize at the Conway eisteddfod of 1877 ), four requiems, part-songs, anthems, chants, hymn-tunes, together with solos (e.g. ‘ Y Ffynnon ger fy Mwth ’).

He died 19 March 1904 and was buried in the burial ground of Capel Newydd , Llanelly .


  • Cymru (O.M.E.) , xxix, 53;
  • Y Cerddor , July 1898 and 1904 ;
  • Y Geninen , 1905


Robert David Griffith, M.A., (1877-1958), Old Colwyn

Published date: 1959