In 1888 a conductor’s baton was created by a man the press dubbed the Welsh Gold King. Made of native gold and studded with precious jewels it was a dazzling prize designed to raise awareness of the little known National Eisteddfod Welsh Language Competition. For four years choirs fought for it as the press avidly reported every win and every loss, but instead of bringing unison it brought controversy.
The rising and falling fortunes of the Welsh Gold King tainted the competition for the baton, as did the fights over the importance of a Welsh Language Competition in the National Eisteddfod. Many could not understand why such a valuable trophy should be consigned to a minor contest.
Nineteenth century choirs were the X Factor of the day and the public was avid in supporting their favourites, even breaking into football-like hooliganism following any losses. Each win and loss of the baton created controversy, with many accusations of foul play. Even when it was finally won the choir members took to court in a battle for ownership, the verdict of which threatened to break apart traditional choir practices across the UK.