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Five siblings who were members of a church choir over 60 years ago sponsor choir competition at 2024 National Eisteddfod

05 Feb 2024 4 minute read
L to R: Nigel and Videla Phillips, 11-year-old twins; Sheldon Phillips, 8 years old; Gaynor and Michael Phillips, 10-year-old twins

Five siblings who are former members of a church choir have reunited to sponsor a prize at this year’s National Eisteddfod to commemorate the remarkable legacy of their relatives.

In 1961, the five children of the Phillips family were members of St. Augustine’s Church choir in Pontllanfraith, Monmouthshire (now in Caerphilly County Borough).

The South Wales Argus at the time wondered whether this was a record with five children in the choir from the same family, including two sets of twins.

The youngest of the siblings is Sheldon Phillips who has become the family historian. With his interest in genealogy, he has managed to compile a family tree of almost 1,800 relatives some going back as far as the 1600s.


However, what has interested the Phillips family recently is the discovery that their paternal great uncles were heavily involved in the organisation of the 1893 National Eisteddfod in Pontypridd over 130 years ago. Their great uncle David E. Phillips was the General Secretary of the National Eisteddfod and great uncles John and William Phillips were on the Executive Committee. 

William Phillips was also the Chairman of Pontypridd Urban District Council in 1917/18 and was awarded an O.B.E. in 1924 for carrying out the Government appointed role of Chairman of the Pontypridd and Rhondda Local Employment Committee.

Sheldon Phillips had uncovered a huge amount of information about the 1893 National Eisteddfod, including the fact that Pontypridd fought off a bid from Chicago to be the host!

Sheldon Phillips said: “There was no official report for the 1893 National Eisteddfod and it has taken some real detective work to find out how it was organised, why Chicago had bid to be host and what were the challenges of building a 20,000-seater temporary pavilion.

“This was probably the greatest National Eisteddfod of the nineteenth century and I am so pleased I have uncovered the full story”.

A recent picture of the Phillips family in the same line-up as their choir photo from 1961

The story was so compelling he was encouraged to write a book which he self-published in 2023 entitled ‘No One Remembers Pontypridd: The forgotten story of the 1893 National Eisteddfod of Wales’.


As well as the family connections to the National Eisteddfod, their great uncle David E. Phillips was conductor of Pontypridd Male Voice Choir (now Côr Meibion Pontypridd) for four years in the mid-1890s. The choir had been formed in 1893 as a legacy from the National Eisteddfod.

With the National Eisteddfod returning to Pontypridd in 2024 in exactly the same location in Ynysangharad Park as in 1893, the Phillips family decided to sponsor a prize.

They decided the most appropriate event would be the Tenor/Bass (Male Voice) Choir Competition and their sponsorship of the first prize is dedicated to their great uncles who made such a valuable contribution to the 1893 National Eisteddfod.

Head of the family, Nigel Phillips who lives in Pontypridd said: “The family is very proud of our connections to the National Eisteddfod and we are delighted to sponsor a prize and recognise the huge contribution our great uncles made so many years ago. 

“We are really looking forward to the Eisteddfod’s long-overdue return to Pontypridd in August this year”.

‘No One Remembers Pontypridd: the forgotten story of the 1893 National Eisteddfod of Wales’ is available from Storyville Books, Mill Street, Pontypridd and National Library of Wales (gift shop), Aberystwyth. It is also available online here.

Further information about the 2024 National Eisteddfod in Pontypridd can be found on here.

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