The Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion

Recognising the contribution of Wales in contemporary society

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home > Transactions > Volume 20 - 2014 > The Welshness of Goronwy Rees (1909–1979)

The Welshness of Goronwy Rees (1909–1979)

Mr President, Mr Chairman, officers and members of the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion, ladies and gentlemen: it is a very great pleasure to be with you here this evening to talk about my father, my infamous father. I know that he, too, would have been very touched by this invitation from his fellow countrymen – he would, of course, have been far more entertaining for you to listen to. And he could have done it in Welsh.

There may well be those among you here tonight who knew him or encountered him somewhere on his eventful journey through life and will have formed your own impressions of him, which won’t be quite like my own. It is impossible, though I have tried often enough, for me to be dispassionate and objective about him. In fact, just thinking about him, as I have done so many times since his death over thirty years ago, still very often can reduce me to tears. How could a man so generously endowed with gifts, so intellectually brilliant, handsome, charming, and witty, have contrived to make such an apparent mess of things? It is something of a puzzle, and although much has come out since his death, we may probably never know the full truth of the matter.

Recently, I have taken to thinking of my father’s life in terms of that television game show, in which the panel is shown around someone’s house and asked to guess who lives there. ‘What kind of a person lives in a housel like this?’ is the big question. In Rees’s case, it would have to be something like, ‘What kind of person would make a life like this?’ In an interview he gave towards the end, he concluded that he did seem to have the propensity for leaving chaos in his wake; too many things were started and too many things left unfinished. And, at times, looking at his life, it is rather as if he had been a dangerous unguided missile, going who knows where, direction unknown.

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