'Barrie Rees was one of Brighton’s classiest ever players'

And If You Know Your History aims to explain and highlight some of the incidents, matches, people, players, and situations that combine to make Brighton & Hove Albion Football Club what it is.

By Dan Tester • 08 August 2023

Barrie Rees (centre) died in a car accident in January 1965.

Some players appear then disappear, having made little or no impression. Some fall out of favour, lose form, simply aren’t good enough, or just want to leave.

Tragically, some don’t get the chance, just when it was looking like they could be a real star in the making. 

Barrie Rees was born in Rhyl in 1944. After representing his country at schoolboy level, he was spotted by an Everton scout playing local football. He featured regularly for the Toffees B team as an amateur and continued his plumbing apprenticeship.

He turned professional in 1961 and made his first-team debut in the 1963/64 season. The previous campaign saw Everton win the title for the sixth time.

Noted for his height, athleticism and stamina, Barrie was due to make his first start at the San Siro, in a European Cup tie, but manager Harry Catterick plumped for Colin Harvey instead. Barrie eventually made his bow at Upton Park, netting in a 4-2 defeat.

Everton had strength in depth and with the Welshman languishing in the Goodison Park reserves, an offer from the Albion was too good to turn down.

Heading south in January 1965, Rees slotted straight into Archie Macaulay’s plans as the Scot prepared his charges for a fourth-division promotion push. The £8,000 fee soon looked like a bargain as Barrie quickly impressed, forming a solid half-back partnership with Norman Gall and Dave Turner. 

Supporters were beginning to believe good times were ahead as Albion scored for fun and attracted five-figure crowds to the Goldstone Ground. Rees’ only goal for the club came in an incredible 4-4 draw at home to Chester City. 

After a 3-1 win against Southport in Hove, Barrie set off in his Austin Mini for the long drive back to his parents’ house in North Wales to celebrate his uncle’s win on the Football Pools.

In the early hours of 27th March 1965, he pulled into the path of an oncoming lorry on the A5, near Nuneaton. He passed away in hospital from the injuries sustained in the collision. During the post-mortem examination, Barrie was found to have an enlarged heart, which may have impacted his chances of survival from the accident.

A huge loss for the club, Life President Dick Knight once wrote that Barrie was ‘one of Brighton’s classiest ever players’.

Barrie Rees was just 21 years old.