Gareth Jones

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The Western Mail 10th August, 1933

Craftsmen of Wales

The Cooper-Philosopher of Allt-y-Blaca

A League of Nations Symbol In Wood 


A Welsh craftsman is never a craftsman only.  He is sometimes craftsman and poet, sometimes craftsman and singer, sometimes craftsman and preacher, Mr. Evan Rees, cooper, of Allt-y-Blaca, is craftsman and philosopher.

 Many years ago, when Gladstone was a name to be. conjured with, when Queen Victoria dominated over Buckingham Palace, when Aberystwyth College was a proud new toy of the Welsh people, and when footballers played in breeches, Even Rees became a cooper and learned his craft with John Rees, Maeallan.  Now, fifty years on, he can look back on a life in which he has produced many beautiful things, and he can be happy in that his tradition will be worthily carried on by his son, David Morgan Rees.

Let us visit them both, remembering that it is a rare occasion, for coopers are nowadays as scarce as Stradivarus violins or first editions of Shakespeare.

In The Workshop

We enter the workshop and see a wealth of skilful products.  A magnificently made oak churn, spick and span, planed as smooth as glass, stands, as aristocratically, as an old Victorian lady.  Just near are butter tubs for butter factories which before long, will leave the Teify countryside for the streets of Merthyr.  Butter clappers, scotch hands, wooden spoons, exquisitely carved out of apple or sycamore, all point to the craftsmanship of the Reeses.

What of his philosophy?  Evan Bees is busy brushing, with a brush of goose feathers, the dust off a strange ornament and he comes up to us - a real Cardiganshire personality, with his stubby white beard, corduroy trousers, his clogs, and his homespun cloth made in Maesyfelin, Llanwenog - and shows us a remarkable piece of work.  It is an ornament - a cross upon a wooden square bases formed out of 120 separate pieces of wood.

The maker explains in Welsh: “Each corner of the square represents the four corners of the world; each piece of wood stands for a country, and each of those knobs stands for a tribe.  You will notice that those pieces are united by one Mock of wood which run all round.  That represents the unity which should exist, as in the League of Nations.  You will see the cross on top.  That is to show that the only true unity comes through Christianity.”

Result of an Accident

The work is the result of an accident, in which Evan Rees broke his leg and in his forced leisure he set himself to construct it.

Another work, I believe by the son, is a big glass-washer with two storeys.  Glasses are put on the top shelf, in which there are holes, and the water drips down to the tub below.  And it is all made out of one piece of wood!

It was a delight to find Mr. Rees, for I had heard that coopers had disappeared, and to find in that workshop such a high level of skill and artistry.

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