Timothy Phillips

From Festipedia, hosted by the FR Heritage Group
Timothy Phillips
Born 1882
Died 1962
Known for Protecting Boston Lodge during the closure
Occupation Priest
Parents William & Mary Phillips
FR People | WHR People

Timmy Phillips (full name John Timothy Phillips) was a former railway porter and signalman, Priest and the unofficial guardian of Boston Lodge works. In this latter capacity he is well remembered by those involved in the early years of the Festiniog Railway revival and could be regarded as the railway's first volunteer.

Early life and family[edit]

Phillips was born at Minffordd in 1882 son of William Phillips, a Festiniog Railway fitter born 1850 in Penrhyn who in turn was the son of another William Phillips, born c.1824 and a FR Blacksmith. He was younger brother of Richard Lewis Phillips who was apprenticed at Boston Lodge. He was porter at Portmadoc for a period in about 1901. That is not the end of the family involvement as Timmy's uncle Benjamin Phillips was a FR signalman who worked at the tunnel box for many years (early 1880s to 1911).

In the 1901 census Phillips was recorded as a railway porter. It can be assumed that he worked for the FR, although this is not certain.

Life as a priest[edit]

Phillips took a B.A. at Lampeter in 1909 and was ordained in 1911. He was a curate at Llanfaes w Penmon (1910-1911), followed by Conway (1911-1913), and by Llanbeblig w Carnarvon (1913-1915).

During the First World War he served as a TCF (Temporary Chaplain to the Forces) from 1915-1920. He was Army Chaplin to 5th Cheshire Regiment and sailed for Egypt in 1916 serving in the Dardanelles, where he found himself in the thick of the Gallipoli campaign, where the Allies suffered tremendous losses under horrific conditions.[1].

After the war he was Vicar of Ch.Ch. Milton-next-Gravesend (1920-1936) and then Rector of Addington in the diocese of Rochester from 1936.[2]

Retirement at Boston Lodge[edit]

On his retirement in 1949, Phillips moved back to Wales where he rented No.4 Boston Lodge from the FR Co. There is some mystery about which house Timmy actually rented and when. He did not retire until 1949, but an agreement in the FR Archives from September 1945 suggest he could have rented it early in preparation for retirement. Back in 1936 he had taken a 10 year lease on what is described as the "Pay Office", thought to be what is now known as Plas Smart; this surely must have been for use as a holiday home.

In retirement he became unofficial caretaker of the works, using his smithying and handyman skills to maintain the integrity of the works boundary and thwarting many attempts to remove artefacts from the site. Roy Cunningham, writing in FR Heritage Group Journal No.84 of John Timothy Phillips, described him as the first railway preservation volunteer, in recognition of these heroic and mainly successful efforts to keep Boston Lodge Works off-limits to intruders during the closure years (1946 - 1954). For example Rob Smallman recalls [3]:

My very first visit to Boston Lodge in 1953, I was trying to find a way in when I had a firm hand on my shoulder, and a voice which brook no agreement. When explaining my interest, Timmy produced a large key, and I was whisked into "Sleeping Beauty's Palace".

He constructed a revolving garage, which sadly did not function as he had hoped, which still exists on the turntable just below what was his home. He was the son of a Boston Lodge fitter, which may explain how he acquired some of his skills.

John Winton in his book The Little Wonder quoted Timmy Phillips on a number of FR historical matters including;

He died in early 1962[4]


Arwyn Morgan quotes an englyn to the Simplex which he composed:[5]

"Di-nam yw'r peirant gwamal, a Morus

ymyrodd yn ddyfal;

Eto os na bydd atal -

Garraway a'i gyrr i'r wal.

Or in English:

Over meek little weaklin' - a worried

Morris kept thinkin'

Garraway can try brakin

He'll smash walls and loose machine."

Census Entry for 1901[edit]

An entry has been found for this person at Tyddyn Llwyn Terrace, Minffordd
where the year of birth is recorded as: 1882
The occupation given is: railway porter


  1. ^ Alexander, J (2017) "Festiniog Railway - Military Matters", Festiniog Railway Heritage Group Journal, Issue 131, page(s): 29
  2. ^ Crockford´s Clerical Directory for 1940, OUP, 1940
  3. ^ FR E-group posting 34571
  4. ^ "Obituary", Ffestiniog Railway Magazine, Issue 16 (1962)
  5. ^ Arwyn Morgan in Davies, Michael; Vic Mitchell (April 2007). Festiniog 1946-1955 The Pioneers' Stories. Midhurst, Sussex, England: Middleton Press. ISBN 978-1-906008-01-7. OCLC 154783776.

See also[edit]