Modern Welsh Publications

 

Cyhoeddiadau Modern Cymreig

 

 

 

 

 

The book can be bought directly from Dr D Ben Rees.  For further details contact Dr Rees by email.

 

 

 

 

 

 


DI-BEN-DRAW: THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF D. BEN REES
(Y Lolfa, 2015. Paperback 12.99)

REVIEW by HUW EDWARDS


D. Ben Rees, a prolific author in both Welsh and English, has excelled himself with his latest volume: Di-Ben-Draw (it means endless and is a rhyming Welsh wordplay on D. Ben Rees) is a real triumph, recounting the story of a farmers son from deepest Cardiganshire who becomes a publisher, a journalist, a politician, a campaigner a driving force among the Welsh in Liverpool and, above all, one of the most prominent and popular of modern Welsh preachers.

The first thing to note is the linguistic style: Bens Welsh is both agile and homely, the narrative is modest, the story-telling always clear and snappy. It is a rare gift to write in a way that appeals to the broadest range of Welsh readers. I write as a victim of many Welsh ministerial memoirs, most of which tend to elevate the subject to quasi-saintly status.

Forget all that nonsense in this case. Di-Ben-Draw is peppered with revealing accounts, unexpected details, and forthright opinions on some of the great social issues. This is not the usual polite, sedate offering. He delivers quite a few hard blows: some of the targets (Margaret Thatcher) are predictable, given Bens political outlook, some less so. It was satisfying to see the maverick Robyn Lewis, a former archdruid, getting a kick in the backside for his insulting remarks about plans to host the National Eisteddfod in Bens beloved Liverpool.

It may well be that most readers will expect the book to deliver its best content in the chapters on Bens half-century of service in Merseyside. But for me, the opening chapters on his childhood in Cardiganshire, near the village of Llanddewibrefi, are especially pleasing. Here we have a rich sense of rural Welsh life in the period before and after the Second World War. Ben delights in describing the glory of its Welsh-speaking culture, its local poets and its Nonconformist traditions. (There is a desperately sad reflection later in the book when he returns for his fathers funeral in 1979 and realises, for the first time, that the area has changed its character and lost its robust Welshness.) But in those childhood years, he relied heavily on his grandfather, David Benjamin, as his father was serving in the armed forces for most of the war, and his grandfathers death in 1943 was a devastating blow for the young boy. Ben underlines his grandfathers role in directing him towards a life devoted to the ordained ministry.

There are vivid descriptions of staff and pupils at Tregaron County School (it is a disgrace that one of its most accomplished former pupils has never been invited back in the decades that followed his departure in 1955) and theres plenty of energy in his accounts of football matches (he played against my father many times) and the endless activity of country life in this glorious part of Wales.

One of the most intriguing elements for me (as a political journalist for much of my career) is the account of Bens early adoption of Labour (as opposed to Plaid Cymru or the Liberals) as his political party of choice. He became a Socialist from a young age, forming a Labour Club at Aberystwyth University and campaigning for peace and nuclear disarmament. Later in life he would be a Labour parliamentary candidate (he was twice defeated in Conwy by the Conservative Wyn Roberts) but he stresses how well he worked with Plaid Cymru figures such as Cynog Dafis. His decision to be a lifelong Labour man could perhaps have been explained in some more detail. He provides a clue in his remarks on the straitened circumstances of his father-in-law, the Revd Arthur Llewellyn, when he suggests that all ministers at that time should have fully understood and embraced Socialist principles.

Ben was a young minister in South Wales in 1966 when the Aberfan disaster happened: his account of being there on the day and during the weeks and months that followed is indeed heart-rending. He is at his best in this book describing the pastoral demands of a Welsh minister. His years in Abercynon were indeed eventful, and they included his marriage to Meinwen, a local teacher, in 1963. All who know them will confirm that Meinwen, whose work in Welsh language education also deserves recognition, has been an indispensable part of Bens success story. It has been a team effort. Their two sons, Dafydd and Hefin, both successful in their own fields, are sources of great pride to their parents.

Ben was drawn to Liverpool in July 1968, to Bethel Welsh Presbyterian Church, Heathfield Road, and that is where he ministered for the best part of half a century. How on earth did he achieve what seems impossible? Hes been a publisher (his publishing house, Modern Welsh Publications, was started in South Wales in the 1960s), a lecturer and academic, a political and social campaigner, and above all a tireless and caring pastor of his flock in Liverpool and beyond.

He produces several chapters on his long period in Liverpool, and I must confess it gave me great pleasure to read an account of the wonderful day in May 2015 when a great crowd congregated in the city (some of them from Patagonia) to unveil a memorial to those who sailed on the Mimosa to establish a Welsh colony in South America in 1865. The Liverpool chapters are full of valuable detail on Welsh life in the city. The reforms instigated by Ben in the chapel community are ones which other urban centres might follow: his beloved Bethel was demolished in 2007 but a new chapel was built and Ben continues to serve his people with sincerity and warmth.

Ben must be congratulated on producing such a good read. It is not just a valuable book, but also an enjoyable one. An ideal gift at this time of year. Publisher Ben doesnt miss a trick.

 



Adolygiad

Di-Ben-Draw: Hunangofiant D. Ben Rees, Y Lolfa, tudalennau 240 , pris 12.99


Mae gen i atgofion dyddiau ysgol o Ben Rees. Roedd e tua tair blynedd hŷn na mi, creadur direidus, hwyliog, gwn ar ei wyneb ac yn mwynhau pryfocio nir rhai iau. Fei cofiaf yn dda oherwydd yr oedd ei flwyddyn e yn un arbennig o ddisglaer yn hanes Ysgol Sir Tregaron, amryw o ddisgyblion a ddaethant  yn enwau adnabyddus yng Nghymru a thuhwnt mewn amryw feysydd. Rwyn ei gofio yn dod i bregethu i Gapel Y Berth pan oedd yn fyfyriwr ac in tŷ ni y deuai i ginio neu de waeth tro pwy oedd hi i gadwr mis. Roedd ein mamaun gyfnitherod a fy mam yn falch or cysylltiad.

Croesodd ein llwybrau os nad ein cleddyfau - yn lled gyson dros y blynyddoedd a mae gen i grugyn o gylchgronau a llyfrau yn y tŷ y byddaf yn taro arnynt yn fynych syn dod ai enw i gof. Mae sawl rhifyn o Aneurin, y cylchgrawn a sefydlodd ac a olygodd pan oedd yn fyfyriwr, gen i. Hefyd Pam na ddylid crogi, pamffledyn a gyhoeddodd fel rhan or ymgyrch yn erbyn dienyddio a ysgogwyd wedi crogi Ruth Ellis. Pan oeddwn ar staff Y Cymro yng Nghroesoswallt arferai anfon erthyglau cyson i ni o Abercynon, lle bun weinidog cyn symud i Lerpwl.

Gwyddwn am ei egni ai frwdfrydedd fel awdur, hanesydd, cyhoeddwr a hyd yn oed fel cynhyrchydd recordiau. Cofiaf y record gyntaf iddoi rhyddhau, gan grŵp or enw Hogiar Deulyn, er na wyddwn i ddim mai ei gwmni e gynhyrchodd record gyntaf Tebot Piws. Sefydlodd Cyhoeddiadau Modern Cymreig yn y chwe-degau cyn oes y grantiau, a bun arloeswr ym myd cyhoeddi llyfrau plant.

Maer gyfrol gyforiog o wybodaeth, amryw bethau oedd yn ddieithr i mi a mwy na thebyg i lawer o rai eraill. Wyddwn i ddim, er engraifft, fod y Parch Henry Rees, Chatham Street, a Gwilym Hiraethog yn frodyr, y naill yn un o bregethwyr mawr y Methodistiaid Cymraeg ar llall yn un o arwyr y traddodiad radicalaidd Cymreig. Ar ddau au henwau yn annatod dynn wrth hanes Cymry Lerpwl. Fel y bu enw Rees arall - Ben yr un mor gyfystyr Lerpwl i nghenhedlaeth i.

Bu gen i deimlad ers peth amser fod i rai or cyfrolau hunangofiannol hyn gryn werth hanesyddol, fel y bu ir nifer a gyhoeddwyd yn arbennig yng Nheredigion ym mhum a chwe-degaur ganrif ddiwetha. Cyfrolau gan grefftwyr a gwerinwyr oedd llawer or rheini, hanes hen grefftau oedd bellach yn darfod or tir. Mae ir cyfresi presennol hyn lawer yn gyffredin nhw.

Pan oedd D. Ben Rees yn cychwyn yn y weinidogaeth yr oedd yn broffesiwn uchel ei pharch ai dylanwad. I mi, a fagwyd mewn capel tra llewyrchus ond heb weinidog, ni sylweddolais cyn i mi ddarllen y gyfrol ardderchog hon, mor ganolog a dylanwadol y medrai gweinidog fod yn nhrefi a phentrefi Cymru yn y degawdau wedir Ail Ryfel Byd. Cyfoethogwyd ac ysbrydolwyd Ben oi fagu mewn pentre ller oedd gweinidog or fath, ac aeth yntau yn ei dro i Abercynon a wedyn i Lerpwl gydai genhadaeth fawr gydag e.

Ni ellid cael gwell nar cymdeithasegydd ynddo i gyflwynor stori hon. Stori fyrlymus o ymgyrchu, boed dros heddwch, yn erbyn arfau niwclar neu o blaid yr Arglwydd Iesu Grist. Stori hefyd am ŵr na fynnai fynd gydar llif poblogaidd. Fur Blaid Lafur erioed yn or-boblogaidd yng Nheredigion, ac anodd credu fod daliadau Sosialaidd Ben yn rhy dderbyniol mewn capel Cymraeg dosbarth canol yn Lerpwl. Ond beth bynnag ei ddaliadau, maen amlwg y medrai gydai radlonrwydd hynaws oresgyn unrhyw anhawsterau bach fel yna.

Un cwestiwn syn codi. Sut yn y byd y medrodd gyflawnir holl bethau hyn o fewn cwmpas un bywyd? Dyma dalp sylweddol o hanes Lerpwl, y ddinas un adeg a elwid yn haeddiannol yn brifddinas Gogledd Cymru. Ardderchog, ar y ddau gyfrif.

Gwyn Griffiths      


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Rev Dr D. Ben Rees

- is an adopted Liverpudlian, who has served the city
 in social, religious, political and academic life with
 a great deal of enthusiasm.

 

32 Garth Drive
Liverpool
L18 6HW