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Obituary: Gwilym Rees

Members will be very sorry to learn of the death, on 10 October 2004, of Mr Gwilym Rees.

A scholar of Swansea Grammar School, where he was a contemporary of Dylan Thomas, Mr Rees went on to graduate from University College, Swansea, in 1938, with First Class Honours in French. Awarded a postgraduate studentship, he undertook research at both Swansea and the Sorbonne and received his MA in 1940. He was also recommended for a University Fellowship but that had to be deferred due to the War. Mr Rees joined the Royal Artillery in 1940, but it was not till 1942 that he was able to escape from a unit where his skill as a typist was highly prized by the sergeant. He then gained a commission in the Intelligence Corps and went on to serve overseas throughout the next four years.

In 1946, Mr Rees was appointed as an Assistant Lecturer in French at the University of Liverpool, becoming Lecturer in 1949. He remained at Liverpool until 1969. He taught across virtually the whole field of French studies, including all periods of French literature, medieval and modern French language, and such associated subjects as French history and institutions, phonetics and general linguistics. In his later years at Liverpool he came to specialise in modern linguistics, taking responsibility for the teaching of this subject to all students of modern languages. He published a number of highly regarded articles on various aspects of modern French language and stylistics.

Mr Rees left Liverpool in 1969 to take up a lectureship in French at Leeds. From the outset, he made a very distinct and valuable contribution to the life and work of the Department, taking a prominent part in the teaching of the history of the French language and contemporary linguistics. He was well-liked by his students and an excellent tutor. In 1972, he was promoted to Senior Lecturer. Whilst at Leeds, Mr Rees continued to fulfil with meticulous scholarship the responsibility he had assumed during his time at Liverpool for the French language section of The Years Work in Modern Language Studies; his work in this capacity was greatly admired and of considerable scholarly value. Reflecting the remarkable breadth of his interests, Mr Rees published on a diverse range of subjects, his articles ranging, as a colleague put it at the time of his retirement, from French historical syntax to animal imagery in Malraux, from Welsh influences on French poets and playwrights to adaptations of French childrens stories. A lover of language, Mr Rees wrote with equal facility in English, French and German, was a native speaker of Welsh and could more than hold his own in Spanish, Italian and Dutch. He served on the Board of the Faculties of Arts, Economic and Social Studies and Law, and also on the Board of Studies of the Graduate Centre for Medieval Studies. His external commitments included acting as Oral Examiner for the Civil Service Commission.

Mr Rees retired from the University in September 1981, but his redoubtable skills as a proof-reader and his presence as a friend continued to be much appreciated by his former colleagues. The funeral service for Mr Rees will be held at 10.00am on Tuesday, 19 October 2004, in the College Chapel, The Queens College, Oxford, where one of his sons is a Fellow.

Published: 14 October 2004