THE family of a former Gwent headteacher and teaching union stalwart who died after a long illness paid tribute to a "real man of the people".

Mostyn Phillips will be remembered by many as the long-serving headteacher of Ebbw Vale Grammar School, which later became the town's comprehensive.

He died peacefully at his home in the town last Thursday, aged 72, after suffering from a long illness.

His daughter Catherine Rees paid tribute to him, saying her father was "totally dedicated" to his job and carried on serving the community after his retirement.

As well as serving as headteacher for nearly 30 years, Mr Phillips was a prominent member of the NUT and worked for a number of years for the WJEC.

For many years he lived in Badminton, close to the school he served so well.

Mrs Rees said her father was a firm believer in the power of education to improve peoples' lives.

He was born in Cwm to parents Gwenllian and Jack who worked at the local Duffryn school.

"His dad was the caretaker and he was the first in his family to go to university," said Mrs Rees.

Mr Phillips and his wife Marcia had five daughters, but tragically they lost their eldest, Sarah Heathorn, a mother of two, to cancer at just 36.

He leaves daughters Catherine, Rebecca, Rachael, and Emma.

Mrs Rees said her father was "extremely close" to his five daughters and never recovered fully from the blow of losing Sarah.

Mrs Phillips paid tribute to her husband - describing him as a "family man" and "a real man of the people".

Councillor Brian Scully, Ebbw Vale's Badminton member for Blaenau Gwent council and former chairman of the governors at the school said: "He lived life to the full and gave everything to his community."

Councillor Scully said generations of children benefited from Mr Phillips' guidance.

"He'll be badly missed and my condolences go out to his family," he added.

Chairman of Ebbw Vale's chamber of trade, Phil Edwards said Mr Phillips was a very "well liked and respected man", who would be missed by everyone who knew him in the town.