The family tree researcher who unveiled stories of missionaries, medical pioneers and a family of 17 children

Sandy Phillips' remarkable research into his ancestry gets our attention once again.

Wednesday, 14th November 2018, 12:42 pm
Updated Wednesday, 14th November 2018, 12:44 pm
Sandy, Maureen and family, with bridesmaids and best man at their 1970 wedding.

We previously told the tale of Great Uncle John Phillips, who was lost at sea, and Sunderland man Frank Wilson – who married Annie Phillips, daughter of Robert Hall Phillips – and went on to be the 9th Premier of Western Australia between September 1910 and October 1911.

As Premier he founded the University of Western Australia where Sandy’s eldest grandson, Jake, started a degree course this year.

Maureen, John, Jenny and Sandy in 2013.

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But Sandy’s efforts to bring up to date the Phillips story have provided a rich seam of information.

And in a second instalment, Sandy took a look at a branch of the family called King. He said: “The King family tree starts with my great, great-grandfather Samuel King, who was born in Leicestershire in 1799, and married Elizabeth Jarratt, born 1805, in Leicester in October 1824.

The couple celebrated their diamond wedding in 1884 and Sandy added: “That in itself is remarkable particularly for the 19th century when disease and early death were rife. Even more remarkable is that they had 17 children.”

But the story was tinged with sadness and Sandy added: “At least four of the children died within days or months of their birth, which was common in those days.

A close-up on Frank Wilson who was twice Premier of Western Australia.

“Poor Elizabeth had 17 children born in less than 23 years and not one was a twin or more.”

As well as 17 children, Samuel and Elizabeth were responsible for 52 grandchildren and nine great-granchildren by 1884.

One of the number was the seventh child and he was Henry Martyn King, born in 1833. Sandy said: “He was my great grandfather and his son was also Henry Martyn King, born in 1879 in Scarborough.”

He married Sarah Ann Gifford and they had five children. Sarah had two sisters – Margaret and Phoebe – and Great Auntie Phoebe married Ray Atkinson, a doctor, who was an unsung pioneer in the development of the X-ray. Sandy said he undertook “experiments on himself leading to self-inflicted cancer.”

Henry Martyn King and wife Sarah’s children included James Gifford King, whose own two daughters, Kathleen and Eileen, were to become Christian missionaries in Africa.

Uncle Jim, as James Gifford was known, became an Inspector of Ships Provisions.

Henry Martyn King junior and wife Sarah Ann’s five children included Sandy’s mother Phoebe ,who lived from 1912 to 2003.

As for Sandy himself, he was born in June 1944 in Cardiff, days after the D-Day landings. He remembered the days of rationing – “meat, butter, sweets and many foodstuffs were restricted by means of food coupons.”

“The main in-house amusement was the radio as television had limited availability. Many people purchased TV sets in time for the Queen’s coronation in 1953.”

Annual holidays were taken in West Wales, Devon or Dorset.

He remembered learning Welsh at school – “only a few words remain in my memory” – and being in a school choir, although he admitted: “Soon my flat voice was outed and the teacher said ‘just mime Phillips, just mime’.”

But Sandy did have a talent for another Welsh favourite – rugby.

He was picked to play for his primary school and said: “The first game I played in was against a team of mining community roughs from Taffs Wells up the Valleys. I was small for my age and any ball skills I had were outweighed by the sheer size of the opposition.”

His father’s work meant Sandy found himself in the North East of England – in Whitley Bay – and he admitted struggling to understand the regional accents.

After schooling at Whitley Bay Grammar, and A levels, he was an articled clerk to a firm of chartered accountants in North Shields. He qualified in 1968.

He met and married Maureen and a family – Alexander John and Jennifer Kathryn – followed.

John’s own story was a fascinating one. He travelled to work for six months at a children’s hospice in Jerusalem. He was one of only three UK people to stay – against Foreign Office advice – when the first Gulf War broke out.

“It was there he met his wife wife Miriam Cohen, now the first doctor in the Phillips family.”

And so a remarkable family line continues – and thanks to Sandy for sharing it.