New Year Honours: Actress Sian Phillips becomes a dame

Sian Phillips Image copyright PA

One of Wales' leading stage and screen actresses Sian Phillips has been made a dame in the New Year honours list.

Dame Sian, 82, made her West End debut in 1957 and her roles for TV have included Livia in the BBC drama I Claudius.

She said she was "completely overwhelmed" by the recognition.

Falklands veteran Simon Weston said he was "so proud" to become a CBE for his charity work.

Other CBEs go to Sarah Payne, director of the National Offender Management Service in Wales and Prof Peter Matthews, former chairman of Natural Resources Wales.

Dr Ruth Hussey, Chief Medical Officer for Wales, was made a Companion of the Order of Bath (CB).

Image caption Prof Meena Upadhyaya founded the Welsh Asian Women Achievement Awards in 2011

Other honours include an OBE for Cardiff University medical genetics expert Prof Meena Upadhyaya - partly in recognition of her services to the Asian community. She is the founder of the Welsh Asian Women Achievement Awards.

Carmarthenshire council's director of social care, health and housing Bruce McLernon, Dr Alan Willson, director of Public Health Wales' 1000 Lives Improvement programme and Malgwyn Davies, chair of St David's Hospice Care in Newport are among other OBEs.


South East Wales: Weston's 'complete surprise' at CBE

South West Wales: MBE dedicated to environmental volunteers

Mid Wales: Award-winning green architect gets MBE

North East Wales: Lamb for the top tables earns farmer honour

North West Wales: Honours for church music stalwarts

New Year Honours list in full

MBEs include optometrist David Hong, 61, of Rogerstone, Newport, who has provided sight tests and help for thousands of people in Malawi, Moldovia and Romania.

Another goes to Robert Brain, 58, from Nelson, Caerphilly, who has raised over £200,000 for six charities over the last 20 years. He has run 16 marathons in the UK and two in New York.

Other MBEs include Maureen Spowart Davies, 69, of Newcastle Emlyn, Ceredigion, the driving force behind fund-raising for a community building for the Huts mental health charity.

Joint founders of Cardiff-based opera company Music Theatre Wales Michael McCarthy and Michael Rafferty both get MBEs

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionWRVS volunteer Lena Charles has been honoured aged 96

BEMs include 96-year-old Lena Charles from Blaengarw, Bridgend, who still organises tea dances and conducts Sunday services in the local chapel.

She was a member of Women's Royal Voluntary Service for more than 40 years and involved in entertaining children from Chernobyl on annual holidays.

"It means quite a lot to me - I never thought for one minute I'd be recognised," she said.

Another recipient with decades of service is Georgina Jones, 92, who was a church organist at Dolwyddelan in the Conwy Valley for 75 years.

"I've been in the church all my life, playing in three or four services on Sundays - the church was my life," she said.

Welsh Secretary Stephen Crabb said: "These honours recognise the achievements and service of extraordinary Welsh people at home and around the world.

"From our outstanding public figures to those silently serving their communities, they are selected for their dedication, commitment and tireless work in helping to improve the lives of others."

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionDame Sian Phillips said the award was overwhelming

Dame Sian said she was "completely overwhelmed" when she heard about her honour.

"It wasn't anything I'd been thinking of, especially now as I'm really, really busy and I go from play to play," she told the BBC.

"It's a great honour and one I truly wasn't expecting. It's terribly nice - there's always a little part of you that says 'why me, why now'? It doesn't do to say that out loud because someone is sure to say you've got to give it back and I don't want to do that really!"

Dame Sian was born in Gwaun-Cae-Gurwen, Neath Port Talbot, and won a speech award at the National Eisteddfod as a child. She went to Pontardawe Grammar School and Cardiff University before studying drama in London.

She wowed critics as Hedda Gabler on stage in 1957 and had a sometimes tempestuous 20 year marriage to fellow actor Peter O'Toole.

The couple acted together including on films Under Milk Wood and Goodbye, Mr Chips.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Sian Phillips pictured with her then husband Peter O'Toole in 1961
Image caption Appearing as the venomous Livia with Brian Blessed in the BBC's I Claudius in 1976
Image caption Sian Phillips in BBC dramas ranging from Crime and Punishment, Shoulder to Shoulder to Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Her TV career took off as Emmeline Pankhurst in suffragette drama Shoulder to Shoulder, before winning a best actress Bafta in 1977 for the memorable role of scheming Livia, mother of emperor Tiberius, in the BBC drama series I, Claudius.

Dame Sian has also appeared in West End and Broadway musicals, including Pal Joey, Marlene and Cabaret and as Reverend Mother in sci-fi film Dune.

Awarded the CBE in 2000, the actress now keeps "really, really busy" with stage work, including a recent six months tour of The Importance of Being Earnest.

Dame Sian also appeared in a Christmas edition of The Archers for their version of Calendar Girls, after appearing in the original stage production.

The actress also returned to west Wales for the BBC Wales ancestry series Coming Home and was "stunned" to find her great-great-grandfather had fought at the Battle of Waterloo.

More on this story