Your Country Your Story: What brought rugby legend Gareth Rees to Canada?

Your Country Your Story:  What brought rugby legend Gareth Rees to Canada?

“I was in Duncan hospital” explains an animated Gillian Rees.

It was June 30, 1967, and she was about to deliver her second baby.

And the nurses told her, “Listen, hang on, hang on, because if you’re the first baby born in the second century [after Canada’s first one hundred years], you will get free education, free groceries, free diapers…”

But Gillian couldn’t hang on, and Gareth Rees popped out a few hours before midnight, on June 30, 1967.

So, how did the family come to Vancouver Island?

Alun Rees, who confirms with a smile that this is the correct, welsh, spelling of his name, picks up the tale.

“I was born in Wales, yes…A-L-U-N!

“My father’s a miner. I’m from a very small community.”

He met his wife Gill, when they were both teaching in London, England.

“Where you meet all the best ladies, right! Ha ha ha!”

They married, and headed to Bermuda to teach. Back in London eighteen months later, with a new baby in tow, “a pal of mine who was living in Victoria wrote to me and said, ‘listen, why don’t you come to Canada? There are jobs here, particularly in British Columbia.'”

Alun got a teaching job at Brentwood College. And taught rugby too.

“I was raised rugby, that’s my religion” he explains.

Gareth nods in agreement. “That [rugby community] was like our family. That was our Christmas parties, that was our Sunday dinners, and weekends were spent
on the side of the rugby or field hockey or soccer pitches, just supporting our Dads and Mums. That’s just how we were raised.”

Gareth played rugby growing up, then headed to England to study, and honed his rugby skills.

“I came back to London after doing my post grad at Oxford, and taught at Eton, and ended up teaching Prince William, and Prince Harry, amongst others at Eton College.”

Considered the country’s greatest rugby player, Rees was inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in 2014.

I asked Gareth’s dad Alun if he and Gill are glad they came to Canada? He gives an emphatic yes.

“There’s just no better country in the world – there really isn’t.

“I think, if you’re an immigrant, and you demonstrate that you have a work ethic, Canadians will embrace you.”

Gareth Rees as a baby

Alun and Gillian Rees

Gillian and Alun Rees with first baby

Three little kids

Alun and Gillian Rees

Gareth playing rugby at school

Gareth Rees at school

Gareth Rees at Harrow School in England

Gareth Rees

Veronica CooperVeronica Cooper

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