Image demonstrating Duchess presents British Empire Medals to dedicated residents

Duchess presents British Empire Medals to dedicated residents

The recipients were awarded their honours at a special investiture ceremony at Alnwick Castle by the Duchess of Northumberland, in her capacity as the Queen's Lord Lieutenant for the county.

The British Empire Medal (BEM) was revived in 2012 for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Year after it was disbanded in 1992. It is given  to those engaging in voluntary work who have made a ‘hands-on’ contribution to their local community and recipients are entitled to use the post-nominal letters ‘BEM’.

Janet Jackson, 73 from Hexham was  awarded her BEM for services to bereaved families in the north east of England. Janet has provided bereavement support to families in the county for over 30 years and has used her skills and experience as a chaplain to set up group facilitation support networks. She set up a dedicated child bereavement group called ‘Rainbows’ providing a lifeline for children who have lost siblings, and given invaluable support to parents in dealing with the loss of a child whilst continuing to raise surviving children. She also set up a group called ‘Forever Parents’ which is dedicated to providing bereavement help to parents whose child has died and actively encourages parents struggling with grief to come together and provide support for each other. Janet also set up and ran a yearly Christmas service called ‘Light up a Life’. Understanding the difficulties faced by bereaved families at this time of year, the service is able to help bereaved families come together in remembrance of those who have been lost.  She has also shared her knowledge and expertise widely, training and supporting new practitioners, volunteers and clergy in child bereavement.

Peter Robertson , 76 from Haydon Bridge was awarded the BEM for services to Rugby in Scotland and  North East England. Peter played rugby to the highest of standards. Throughout his rugby career he worked as a volunteer coach at his local club, Tynedale RFC and upon retirement  became more involved in the development of the club and its players to such an extent that it reached the third tier of English Rugby. The improved standards and growth of the club resulted in the need to relocate to a larger ground which he was instrumental in planning for. He became President of the club in 1990 and continued to serve on the club’s management committee until 2015.   Alongside his coaching career, Peter is also a widely respected referee. He has travelled nationally and internationally as a representative of Scotish referees. On retirement from being a referee in 1989, he volunteered to become an elite refereeing assessor for the Socttish Rugby Union, a role sill undertaken today. He provides support to new referees and has been commended for the significant difference to the standards of professionalism over the last 28 years. His success in this role, led in 2012, to him being appointed a Scottish Rugby Referees Performance Reviewer, a role which requires expert, in depth analysis of referee performance.

Kenneth John, 81, from Wylam was awarded a BEM for services to the community of Wylam.  A former Justice of the Peace at Tynedale Magistrates Court, he is a tireless volunteer for numerous organisations in Wylam, which have improved the facilities in the village and enhanced the quality of life for residents. As a Trustee and member of the Management Committee of the Wylam Community Playing Fields Association which provides sporting and recreational facilities for children and adults, he has  secured a number of significant grant applications enabling the Association to install play equipment for disabled children and a multi-user games area. He has helped out at many fundraising events and behind the scenes painted the pavillion and kept the fields free of rubbish and the gardens tidy. Kenneth is also a committee member of Wylam Community Orchard to help establish wildflower meadows. He is also a caring member of the community, helping to transport less mobile people to church, taking part in community litter picks and supporting local campaigns. He’s been a fundraising co-ordinator for Cancer Research UK, an active supporter of St Oswin’s Church and the local cub and scout groups. He has also taken a major interest in education having served as a Governor of Wylam First School and Prudhoe Community High School.

Diana Robison, 81 from Haltwhistle has been awarded her BEM for services to the community of Haltwhistle.  Diana has thrown herself wholeheartedly into supporting church activities for over 50 years, in the parish church and the wider community. She delivers the parish magazine and during Christian Aid week collects for appeals going door to door. She spent a decade visiting patients in Haltwhistle War Memorial Hospital, sometimes twice a week. She has been incredibly kind and caring towards the elderly, making hot meals for the disabled, cooking and sharing her Christmas dinner and delivering meals to housebound neighbours.  She has been an amazing support to the Haltwhistle Dementia Support Group for over 40 years, working with those with Dementia and supporting carers. She has worked tirelessly for every good cause imaginable. Her motivation in all she undertakes is her belief in, and affection for her home town.

David Anthony O’Connor, 80, from Fenwick Northumberland has been awarded a BEM for services to the community.  For over 15 years he offered his services voluntarily to the Holy Island community. The Island was in need of a community hall fit for the 21st century. Having been a warden of the National Nature Reserve for many years, he volunteered as a member of the Holy Island trustees with the task of replacing the village hall built in 1930.  In 2000 he took over as Secretary of the committee set up to help raise funds for the new hall. With great dedication he inspired the local people to raise money; he also approached the lottery heritage fund, government bodies and charitable institutions for funding for the £1million project. He had, over a period of 15 years faced up to and succeeded in the daunting challenge of fund raising, archaeological surveys and digs, planning and construction which he managed successfully culminating in the opening of the village hall in 2016. Towards the end of the construction period he was also extremely hands on,  participating in the physical work of decorating, window cleaning, grass cutting and finishing trades. He now manages the day-to-day running of the hall which has been hugely significant for the communal life of the village on Holy Island. Without his total commitment and wholehearted efforts the project would not have been completed.

Alan Geoffrey Bell, 63 from Morpeth has been  awarded the BEM for services to Flood Risk Management in Morpeth. Alan has worked for many years to better protect the town from flooding, challenging and working with Risk Management authorities to get things done.
Following extensive flooding in the town in September 2008, members of the community came together to form the Morpeth Flood Action Group to address flooding issues and provide a voice for the community. Alan played several key roles over the years as Chair and Secretary, as well as being actively involved in reducing flood risk and the impacts of flooding. He was actively involved in the Mitford storage scheme, the town Flood Alleviation scheme and Cotting Brook flood alleviation.  As part of this work he and his group campaigned for change locally and nationally and in 2012 was heavily involved in hosting a visit from Richard Benyon MP, Minister with responsibility for flooding at the time. Alan was also involved nationally with trying to find solutions for people who were unable to find affordable property insurance. He participated in several National Flood Forum conferences, met ministers and participated in several working groups to find new solutions. More recently Alan has been involved in advocating and developing proposals for property protection for those houses at residual risk, working with local insurance brokers to provide property insurance where it has been difficult to obtain for individual households and working to ensure that maintenance is undertaken to minimise flood risk.

Her Grace The Duchess of Northumberland said:  “To receive a British Empire Medal is a fantastic achievement and I am delighted to be able to present these awards to six very worthy recipients. Their determination, hard work and dedication to their communities is truly commendable. They are a credit to Northumberland and an inspiration to us all.”

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