Obituary for Tony Rees by Ron Cant
THE close knit community of Morfa Llanelli turned out en masse to honour the memory and life of one of their own and extraordinary “master” of the sea, Tony Rees.
A true cockleshell hero of Llanelli’s sands and father of four, grandfather of seven and great grandfather of six, Tony, it’s estimated, harvested more than 7,000tonnes of cockles single-handedly over his lifetime.
At the age of four he had his own rake and riddle – a present from his beloved mother ‘Gran the Dock,’ and was cockling with his dad in the Loughor Estuary and the middle banks through to Burry Port.
In the weeks before he died, aged 80, last month Tony made his familiar ride from his Morfa Heol Tregonning home to Burry Port Harbour.
Two of his four sons were out in the estuary as usual that morning maintaining the many generations of the Rees family’s tradition of cockling. Tony once said: “Salt water runs in our veins, not blood.”
A tide of more than 500 mourners flooded to Llanelli Crematorium (Tuesday Nov 26th) to support Tony’s wife of 58-years, Sheila, and the family on their sudden loss.
Over his lifetime variously working at Llanelli’s North Dock Tannery, Richard Thomas and Baldwin’s; Trostre as a fork lift driver and gantry operator and Pressed Steel Fisher car factory, Tony filled his spare time cockling, fishing, shooting and enjoying his passion for motor cycles.
He could turn his hand to anything even building his own boat, Suzanna, to trawl Carmarthen Bay’s Hooper Bank. He knew the sea so well others would marvel at his uncanny knack of landing catches of Dover Sole on the only two random days annually they were in the estuary to spawn.
Lifelong friend and cousin, Elwyn Rees, said:” He would just look at the sea and study the shoreline rocks and know when it was right to fish for various species of fish. We used to joke he had a direct line to Neptune. He truly was a master of the sea.
“His knowledge of the sea and marshes on Gower and round to Llanelli was legendary. Commercial fishermen eagerly sought his advice. With rod in hand Tony would always return with a catch. He would outwit bass when other fishermen would return empty handed.”
Elwyn said Tony was also a keen conservationist and would only shoot and fish for the family table.
“In the harsh winter of 1962-3 when the estuary froze to a depth of 18-inches and wildfowl were dying on the ice floes on the outgoing estuary tides, Tony put his own life at risk returning hundreds of struggling wildfowl to flowing water to help save them.
“We may have lost the master but the legacy of his teachings will live on in all those whose lives he touched.”