Thursday, 24 June 2010

This was in the Bath Chronicle on June 17

One of the things that makes Britain unique is the way that, through the Queen, we give awards and accolades to those who have made their mark in our communities.

Twenty years or so ago this system was often criticised as a way of merely rewarding the great and good, with the establishment looking after its own by handing them baubles and trinkets with the odd scrap thrown to the masses in the shape of an award for a footballer or a film star.

Now, however, the system has really changed and what we are seeing is a far more reflective awards system where people from every walk of life can get an equal chance of being put in the spotlight for their selfless actions.

In the Bath area we have always been fortunate to see a number of our citizens recognised but this week’s tally of ten really must be one of the best ever and reflects incredibly well on Bath and its surrounding towns and villages.

I have said countless times in these columns that I think this area produces an astonishingly high amount of good, positive people and the sheer number we can salute this week adds weight to that argument.

What the new-look honours do are to remind us of those we know about who have performed admirably but also to tell us stories of people who work incredibly hard but do so in a private way. Many of these individuals don’t think what they’re doing is special anyway but these awards let these people know that others truly appreciate what they do.

It is interesting that two of our winners – 91-year-old Irene Weller, who has worked for 32 years as a volunteer at Dorothy House Hospice, and Veronica Hoskins, who has worked tirelessly for her community in Timsbury – both told us their awards were “totally undeserved”. That says everything about them – but also says why these awards are so important; unsung heroes like these two should receive an accolade because they are inspiring others without probably even realising they are doing so.

Elsewhere it was great to see Amy Williams pick up an MBE to add to her many other post- Olympic accolades, and it was also pleasing to see awards for Audrey Swindells who set up the Bath Postal Museum 31 years ago and Michael Hill for his work with St John’s Ambulance. Working for charities is something that deserves great recognition, which is why it is pleasing to see an MBE for Frances Lewis for her work with single parents and the victims of domestic abuse.

In terms of public service our congratulations also go to Peter Freeman and Marlene Morley who picked up CBEs for their extensive work on a national level in the public service and of course to two of our biggest local political personalities – Malcolm Hanney and Loraine Morgan-Brinkhurst.

Malcolm, an intelligent, thoughtful and dedicated public servant, has picked up an OBE for his service to the South West, and his hard work in a number of fields makes him a truly worthy recipient of this award.

And I’m sure many Bathonians will be cheered to hear of Loraine’s MBE. Her incredible enthusiasm for everything she does and her overriding passion for her home city has made her one of the most effective and engaging ambassadors we have. Her public role as a councillor and a campaigner would be enough for most people but beyond that she works for so many other charities to try to raise their profile that her fingerprints are on many of the city’s success stories and she has the ability to lift the spirits of all around her. I know this award means the world to her – and she deserves this timely recognition.

Well done to our award winners.

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