The Lord Merlyn-Rees
Merlyn Rees appearing on After Dark , 16 July 1988 - (cropped).jpg
Merlyn Rees on After Dark in 1988
Shadow Secretary of State for Energy
In office
4 November 1980 – 24 November 1982
LeaderMichael Foot
Preceded byDavid Owen
Succeeded byJohn Smith
Shadow Home Secretary
In office
4 May 1979 – 4 November 1980
LeaderJames Callaghan
Preceded byWilliam Whitelaw
Succeeded byRoy Hattersley
Home Secretary
In office
10 September 1976 – 4 May 1979
Prime MinisterJames Callaghan
Preceded byRoy Jenkins
Succeeded byWilliam Whitelaw
Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
In office
5 March 1974 – 10 September 1976
Prime Minister
Preceded byFrancis Pym
Succeeded byRoy Mason
Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
In office
24 March 1972 – 4 March 1974
LeaderHarold Wilson
Preceded byPosition established
Succeeded byFrancis Pym
Member of Parliament
for Morley and Leeds South
(Leeds South 1963–1983)
In office
20 June 1963 – 16 March 1992
Preceded byHugh Gaitskell
Succeeded byJohn Gunnell
Personal details
Merlyn Rees

(1920-12-18)18 December 1920
Cilfynydd, Wales
Died5 January 2006(2006-01-05) (aged 85)
London, England
Political partyLabour
Alma mater

Merlyn Merlyn-Rees, Baron Merlyn-Rees, PC (né Merlyn Rees; 18 December 1920 – 5 January 2006) was a British Labour Party politician and Member of Parliament from 1963 until 1992. He served as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (1974–1976) and Home Secretary (1976–1979).

Early life

Rees was born in Cilfynydd, near Pontypridd, Glamorgan, the son of Levi Rees, a war veteran who moved from Wales to England to find work.[1] He was educated at Harrow Weald Grammar School, Harrow, England and Goldsmiths College, London where he was president of the students' union from 1939 to 1941. In 1941 he joined the RAF, becoming a squadron leader and earning the nickname "Dagwood". He served in Italy as operations and intelligence officer to No 324 Squadron under Group Captain WGG Duncan-Smith (father of the future Tory leader). One of Rees's Spitfire pilots in Italy, Frank Cooper, became his Permanent Secretary at the Northern Ireland Office. He attended the London School of Economics where he received BSc(Econ) and MSc(Econ). He was appointed schoolmaster at his old school in Harrow in 1949, teaching economics and history. He taught for eleven years, during which time he was three times an unsuccessful parliamentary candidate for Harrow East, in 1955, 1959, and in a 1959 by-election. He was a member of the Institute of Education at the University of London from 1959 to 1962.

Member of Parliament

At a by-election in 1963, he stood successfully as the Labour candidate for Leeds South, succeeding Labour leader Hugh Gaitskell, who had died in office. He held the seat until he stepped down from the House of Commons at the 1992 general election. The constituency was renamed as Morley and Leeds South in 1983. He was Secretary of State for Northern Ireland from March 1974 until September 1976,[1] when he was appointed Home Secretary. For two years before the Labour government came to power in 1974 he had been Labour Party spokesman on Northern Ireland. Rees wrote of his views on Northern Ireland in: Northern Ireland: a Personal Perspective.[2] One month after his appointment as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Rees lifted the proscription against the illegal loyalist paramilitary organisation, the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) in an attempt to bring them into the democratic process,[3] however, the organisation was implicated in the Dublin and Monaghan bombings on 17 May 1974 and the group was once more banned by the British Government on 3 October 1975. Rees’ decision to permit the Sunningdale power sharing arrangements to collapse in Northern Ireland was described as ‘supine’ by former SDLP leader, Seamus Mallon.[4]


Merlyn Rees Avenue, street sign in Morley, West Yorkshire
Merlyn Rees Avenue, street sign in Morley, West Yorkshire

When he retired from the House of Commons in 1992, he was created a life peer as Baron Merlyn-Rees, of Morley and South Leeds in the County of West Yorkshire and of Cilfynydd in the County of Mid Glamorgan[5] and entered the House of Lords, having changed his name, on 23 June 1992, by deed poll to Merlyn Merlyn-Rees[6] to allow his title to be Merlyn-Rees rather than Rees.[7]

He was president of the Video Standards Council from 1990 and was the first Chancellor of the University of Glamorgan, a position he held from 1994 to 2002.[citation needed]


He suffered injuries in a number of falls, and failing to recover from these, fell into a coma, dying at the age of 85.[8] He was survived by his wife Colleen and three sons.


Merlyn Rees Avenue in Morley, West Yorkshire is named after Rees. Merlyn Rees Community High School in Belle Isle, Leeds was named after Rees until its merger with Mathew Murray Comprehensive School in 2006 when it was renamed South Leeds High School.


  1. ^ a b Edward Pearce (5 January 2006). "Lord Merlyn-Rees". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 December 2019.
  2. ^ London: Methuen, 1985. ISBN 0-413-52590-2
  3. ^ Taylor, Peter (1999). Loyalists. London: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, p. 124.
  4. ^ ‘Seamus Mallon: I saw John Hume’s raw courage as he faced bloodthirsty Paras’; The Irish Times, 4 August 2020
  5. ^ "No. 52982". The London Gazette. 6 July 1992. p. 11339.
  6. ^ "No. 52985". The London Gazette. 8 July 1992. p. 11569.
  7. ^ "Obituary: Lord Merlyn-Rees". BBC. 5 January 2006. Retrieved 16 February 2019.
  8. ^ "Merlyn Rees dies aged 85". The Guardian. 5 January 2006. Retrieved 14 May 2022.


Parliament of the United Kingdom Preceded byHugh Gaitskell Member of Parliament for Leeds South 196383 Constituency abolished New constituency Member of Parliament for Morley and Leeds South 198392 Succeeded byJohn Gunnell Political offices Preceded byFrancis Pym Secretary of State for Northern Ireland 1974–76 Succeeded byRoy Mason Preceded byRoy Jenkins Home Secretary 1976–79 Succeeded byWilliam Whitelaw Academic offices Preceded byThe Lord Morris of Aberavon Chancellor of the University of Glamorgan 1994–2002 Incumbent