Dictionary of Welsh Biography

A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z

REES , BOWEN ( 1857 - 1929 ), missionary ;

b. 16 Mar. 1857 , at Ivy Bush Inn , Llandybïe, Carms. , youngest of the six children of Jacob Rees , stone mason , and his wife Margaret , daughter of the publican Richard Bowen . The family moved to Ystalyfera, Glam. , and he began working in a smithy when he was nine yrs. old. He set his heart on being a missionary after hearing an address by Thomas Morgan Thomas , ‘ Thomas of Africa ’ ( DWB , 967) , in 1879 . After attending Bala College ( 1880-84 ), he was ord. at Pant-teg (Congl.) chapel , Ystalyfera , 22 May 1884 and was sent by the London Missionary Society to Lake Tanganyika . After a short intensive course at the medical school of the University of Edinburgh , he was transferred to Ndebele-land , and settled at Inyathi during March 1888 . Between 1892 and 1918 he and his wife, Susanna Wesley (née Davies , the sopranoLlinos Morgannwg ’, b. Merthyr Tydfil 5 July 1863 , daughter of an iron worker ; d. Swansea 9 Apr. 1933 ) were the only missionaries there — she too was of Ystalyfera and had been a preacher on a Methodist circuit since she was 22 yrs. old. They m. in Cape Town , 9 Mar. 1890 : they had seven children but three d. young at Inyathi . Since King Lobengula (and his successors) protected their lives when Britain attacked their country in 1893 , and spared them from the massacre at the beginning of the 1896 Rebellion, and continued to support them afterwards, their mission flourished over a district the size of Dyfed . Bowen Rees tried to protect the Ndebele from the rapacity of the British South Africa Co. : he provided information for the Quaker John Ellis , M.P. , a member of the Committee for Investigation into the Jameson Raid , and gave evidence to the Aborigine Protection Society in a legal case which decided, in 1918 , that the company had no right to the land of the Ndebele . He was very broad-minded, allowing the Ndebele to believe in the Gospel and its new teaching without abandoning altogether their old tradition: the fact that the Congregationalists are still in force in their midst is attributed to his and Susanna 's attitude, besides their very long service. Bowen Rees was appointed a tutor at the preachers’ training college at Tiger Kloof near Vryburg , South Africa , in 1918 , but retired to Swansea in 1922 , and d. there 7 Mar. 1929 and was buried at Oystermouth, Glam.


  • D. G. Williams , Y Parch. Bowen Rees, Pant-teg ac Affrica (London, .1939) ( c . 1939);
  • Y Tyst , 14 Mar. 1929;
  • Y Cymro , 10 Apr. 1929;
  • Y Gwyliedydd Newydd , 27 Apr. 1918;
  • N. Bhebe , Christianity and Traditional Religion in Western Zimbabwe, 1859-1923 (London, 1979) (London, 1979);
  • Marieke Clarke , ‘Land, Missionaries and the Road to the North; aspects of the origins of Nkayi District, 1893-1918’;
  • Terence Ranger , ‘Violence and Memory: Zimbabwe, 1896 to 1996’, BZS Zimbabwe Review , 96 (1995), 5-7;
  • Ioan Bowen Rees , ‘Surviving the Matabele Rebellion’, Planet the Welsh internationalist , 120 (1996-97), 82-91;
  • ‘Cenhadon olaf Lobengula’, Y Tyst , 1, 8 Awst 1996;
  • L.M.S. correspondence at SOAS library, London;
  • personal knowledge and family MSS., some at Gwynedd Record Office, Caernarfon.


Dr Ioan Bowen Rees, (1929-99), Bangor

Published date: 2001