David Rees was born in Trelech, Carmarthenshire, in 1801. He studied at the Congregational Academy in Newtown for four years before entering into the ministry and was ordained in Capel Als in July 1829, and remained their minister until his retirement in 1867.
He was a remarkable man, not only was he a great orator and visionary, but he was also one of Wales’s greatest social reformers. He was also an Editor and Publisher and worked tirelessly to improve the education and social standing of people in Wales.
As an orator he ranked with the best, it was not unusual for him to preach to congregations of 500 and upward. He would often use dolls to illustrate a point and one expression he often used was “However often you boiled a bone you can still get some goodness out of it”. Subsequently, he often received anonymous gifts of bones that had already been boiled five times so that he could get the benefit of the sixth boiling. Goring Villa, immediately above All Saints Church, where he spent the later part of his life, was known locally as “Plas y Esgyrn” (house of bones).
He married his first wife Sarah (nee Roberts), in St Elli Parish Church in 1832 (it would be more than 5 years before it became legal to marry anywhere other than a church). They had four children. The 1851 Census shows them living at 30 Thomas St. All this was to change dramatically in August of that year. While he was on a preaching tour of Monmouthshire, news reached him that two of his sons Luther and Fredrick had drowned in the sea. In July 1857 his wife Sarah died after four days of illness and in 1860 his only daughter Elizabeth died, aged 26yrs. His second wife Margaret six years his senior, was a wealthy woman, born in Meidrim, she would look after all his earthly comforts during the last ten years of his life.
In 1842 children of 9years of age were working 12 hour shifts in the collieries and 8 to 10 year olds were working even longer hours at the Copperworks. David Rees was totally opposed to such child slavery. In 1848 he established a school in Market Street and also at Five Roads.
1867 saw him retire from the ministry after 37 years, as thanks he was presented with a cheque for £700, which he donated to Brecon College to found a scholarship in his name. He died in April, 1869 and The Llanelly Guardian reported that his funeral was one of the biggest the town had ever seen, with all factions of society being represented.