Honours for our community heroes

Val Nixon of Pateley Bridge was awarded an MBE after more than 40 years fundraising for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (s)
Val Nixon of Pateley Bridge was awarded an MBE after more than 40 years fundraising for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (s)

A DEDICATED deputy headteacher and a long-serving music teacher were among those from the district recognised in the New Year’s Honour’s List.

Stephen Hatcher was awarded an MBE for his services to education after spending 22 years serving as deputy head at St Aidan’s School in Harrogate.

Mr Hatcher, who lives in Ripon with his wife June, said he was honoured and humbled by the accolade.

“Working at St Aidan’s I worked with the best colleagues and the most lively students, and that in itself is reward enough,” said Mr Hatcher. “To receive an MBE as well is very humbling.

“I have been overwhelmed with best wishes from former colleagues and friends, and I am very grateful to all my colleagues and friends, and students past and present.”

Joining St Aidan’s from Nidderdale High School and Community College in Pateley Bridge in 1989, Mr Hatcher said he only intended to stay for “a few years” but ended up staying until his retirement in April last year.

Music teacher Mary Webster, 82, of Kirkby Overblow, was awarded an MBE for her services to music and education in the village and in Harrogate.

Mrs Webster was given the honour after a career that started in 1950 and saw her teaching at St Peter’s Primary School in Harrogate as well as All Saints’ Primary School in Kirkby Overblow, where she still holds recorder classes, even after retiring in 1989.

“It is an amazing surprise and I am a bit embarrassed really,” said Mrs Webster, “Teaching is the most rewarding job in the world, I have never thought about doing anything else.”

Valerie Nixon, from Pateley Bridge, was awarded an MBE after more than 40 years as a fundraiser for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution.

Mrs Nixon joined the charity at the age of 16 and worked there until she retired on her 60th birthday in 2011, during which time she raised substantial amounts of money and supported countless other volunteers.

The second-longest serving member of staff in the RNLI’s 187-year history, Mrs Nixon said she was delighted, but “a little embarrassed” by the award.

“The MBE was a lovely surprise and it really is a great honour, but the people who deserve recognition are the RNLI’s brave volunteer crews who go out to sea in all weathers to rescue total strangers,” she said.

“I was sad to retire but the RNLI is still a part of my life, and probably always will be.”

Jacqueline Gant was awarded an MBE for services to the community in Bishop Thornton and Warsill.

“I was totally surprised, I never expected anything like this,” said Mrs Gant. “They tell you in November, but you’re not allowed to mention it to anyone until December 31.”

Mrs Gant, 52, who in 1978 was the first disabled child in Harrogate to achieve A levels, has served on Bishop Thornton Parish Council for 20 years, given 20 years of service to the samaritans, and worked on the board of governor’s at Bishop Thornton Church of England Primary School.

“I am still really shocked about it,” said Mrs Gant, “People have brought me flowers and cards, it’s really taken my breath away.”

John Peter Coulson, 61, received an MBE for services to the Ministry of Justice and his work at Wetherby Young Offenders’ Institute, turning the lives of young criminals around.

Mr Coulson was honoured after he set up an Army Cadet course, The Lifestyle and Citizen Award, in October 2009, teaching 15- to 17-year-old boys life skills from surviving outdoors to paying bills and budgeting.

Mr Coulson, who has worked as a prison officer for 20 years and previously worked in the Royal Engineers for the British Army, also won the Regional Prison Officer of the year award in 2011.

Mr Coulson told the Advertiser the award was a “huge honour”.

“It is a huge privilege and surprise to be nominated. It’s fantastic that Wetherby Young Offenders and Wetherby itself is recognised now for this.”

Mr Coulson, who lives in Ripon, said the MBE for his services was still sinking in. “It was a very big shock when I received the nomination letter, but being on the honours list will take a long time to sink in.”

Patricia Ann Ross was awarded an MBE for her services to carers working with Crossroads Care.

Mrs Ross, who lives in Harrogate, has dedicated around 33 years of her life to various areas of charitable and voluntary work.

For the last 15 years, Mrs Ross has worked as the chairman of Crossroads Care, an organisation supporting and providing respite to carers in Harrogate, Craven and York.

The chief executive of Crossroads Care, Liz Winship, said: “The award is really very well deserved and it recognises the total commitment Patricia has given and particularly to the carers, who are the unsung heroes of our community.

“She has often gone beyond the call of duty to attend meetings away from home, and dedicated her time selflessly to supporting the organisation.

“Crossroads services have grown and grown over the years and that’s in no small part due to the time and effort Patricia has given.”

Harrogate woman Shelagh Morris, allied health professions officer and occupational therapist at the Department of Health, was honoured with an OBE.